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Hamza Yusuf is no brother to the Muslim Brotherhood

Image of Hamza Yusuf [5Pillars/Twitter]
Image of Hamza Yusuf [5Pillars/Twitter]

In all the anger over Sufi Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s comments about the Black Lives Matter movement, we seem to have forgotten that he linked the Muslim Brotherhood to Daesh terrorists.

 A furore has surrounded Western Islamic scholar Hamza Yusuf’s comments at the Reviving the Islamic Spirit (RIS) convention last month. As the internet maelstrom lashed the Sufi sheikh for his comments about the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Toronto, I was somewhat surprised to see how little reaction there was against his morally, intellectually and spiritually bankrupt linkage of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood with terrorist groups like Al-Qaeda and Daesh.

After being prompted and questioned by presenter Mehdi Hasan regarding exactly who Yusuf was referring to in one of his Facebook posts where he said that “a plague was upon us”, the theologian proceeded to say that the Brotherhood were the beginning of a “chain” that eventually brought forth groups like Al-Qaeda. Being a Sufi who is obsessed with the concept of an ideological silsila, or chain, of learning and ideas passed on from a font of knowledge, Yusuf’s comments can be directly interpreted as meaning that, in some warped way, the Muslim Brotherhood actually gave birth to Al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorists.

 I have waited weeks to write this article on purpose, in order to afford some time for Yusuf to backtrack on his highly politically charged statements that places innocent lives in danger not only in Egypt, but further afield. Unfortunately, the Sufi cleric has failed to clarify his comments about the Brotherhood, merely stating after the RIS controversy exploded in his face (albeit mainly due to his maligning of the BLM movement) and that he did not wish harm to come to members of the Brotherhood.

But that is exactly what will happen. Yusuf has not backtracked and said that he did not mean what he said about the Brotherhood. He has only stated that he does not wish harm on them in order to deflect from the very same criticisms that are being levelled at him here, which is understandable as humans have a propensity to try and shield themselves from fair comment and criticism.

The complicit ‘apolitical’ Sufi

I was tempted to ask, “How could he say such a thing?” but the answer to that is so readily apparent that I dispensed with my own enquiry. Yusuf represents a politicised strain of apparently apolitical Sufis, to include such characters as Habib Ali Al-Jifri, a Yemeni Sufi who resides in the United Arab Emirates under the patronage of the virulently anti-Brotherhood and anti-freedom Emirati ruling class. These preachers say that they are against political Islamic movements, and regularly reduce Islam merely to a personal quest of self-betterment or, at the very most, a “healthy” Muslim community in touch with their Lord and acting like good citizens.

Like Yusuf, however, guess who Al-Jifri criticises the most? No prizes for reaching the obvious answer which is, of course, the Muslim Brotherhood. It seems that, with the right prodding (maybe UAE petrodollars), people like Al-Jifri can be convinced to become temporarily politicised before retreating to their lavishly furnished spiritual monasteries.

Sufi preachers like this are absolutely adored by tyrannical and despotic regimes, as they advocate a weak and flaccid version of Islam that does not hold power to account. Unlike classical scholars such as Ibn Taymiyyah (a man who is often maligned by people who have not even read his work, a topic for another time) who spoke up against the corrupt and the wicked, the political-apolitical Sufis err on the side of cowardice for the sake of maintaining their air of infallibility.

While garbing themselves in the aloof armour of being apolitical and distancing themselves from the impurities of the gutter politics, Sufis like Al-Jifri and Yusuf quite often make politically charged comments. By declaring that the Brotherhood are the source of groups like Daesh and Al-Qaeda, Hamza Yusuf is providing additional ammunition to tyrants such as Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi who is already responsible for a campaign of mass murder.

As someone who is called “sheikh” by many in the Muslim community and with a global presence and reach, one would have thought that Yusuf would realise the extent of the damage that his words may cause. One would also expect him to show some respect and sympathy for the thousands that the Sisi regime has killed just to ensure that freedom is annihilated in Egypt. Saying that he simply wishes no harm to come to supporters of the Brotherhood is neither here nor there, especially as there are thousands of graves filled with the corpses of those whose dead eyes would be looking accusingly at Yusuf for his dangerous and irresponsible comments if they could.

Why are they so dangerous and irresponsible? What one must ask themselves, immediately, upon hearing what was said about the Brotherhood is the following; would Al-Qaeda or Daesh ever have stood for free and fair elections as the Brotherhood did in 2012? Would Al-Qaeda or Daesh ever have peacefully demonstrated at Rabaa and other places as the Brotherhood did following Al-Sisi’s coup in 2013? Do Al-Qaeda and Daesh even believe that human beings, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, should have a say in how the state in which they live is run?

The answer to all three of those questions is a resounding “no”. So how on Earth can the likes of Yusuf, living in safety, security and freedom in the United States, defame those who died fighting for the same things he enjoys and takes for granted every day as those who spawned Daesh?

In the interests of being balanced and fair, however, it is important to stress that Yusuf is not in the same league as the likes of the Sufi chief of Egypt’s Al-Azhar, Ahmad El-Tayeb, who actively and directly cheerleads for the murder of his own people. In fact, on a grassroots level, there is much to praise about how Yusuf’s style and approach over the past couple of decades have done much for the betterment of the Muslim individual. This is even if many, including myself, would disagree with his school of thought and some of his more controversial decisions such as acting as adviser to former US President George W. Bush while he was making his plans to erase Iraq.

However, his previous service does not excuse what he said, and Yusuf needs to come out immediately and without delay and say that there is absolutely no linkage between the extremists of Daesh and the moderate Muslim Brotherhood. Any less than this makes him complicit in the violence inflicted upon those Brotherhood supporters who are being slaughtered en masse in Egypt just for saying “enough” to tyranny.

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  • mushi

    Too full of hatred to read. I dont know about the brotherhood but Hamza Yousuf is not an apolitical sufi.

    • A. Hu

      …which is what the article has stated – he has political biases whilst putting on an apolitical facade.

  • Nazim Baksh

    Hamza Yusuf said the following when asked to explain what he meant in the Facebook post that Mehdi Hasan quoted in his question: “I have a pyramid; the base of the pyramid is ossified tradition and political tyranny. These two things created reactions. One of the reactions was a puritanical movement that emerged, that basically attempted to purify Islam of all of the degraded elements that had come into it, and polluted it, and tainted it. These are puritanical people, and they tend to make takfir, or anathematize other Muslims. That’s one strain. But that’s not the whole problem. The second strain was the loss of Muslim sovereignty because of colonialism. And what emerged as a result are political ideologies such as that of the Ikhwan al Muslimeen which originally started as a reformist movement in Egypt, became a political movement, and then actually was engaged in political activities to try to get power. The coup that overthrew the King, which Gamal Abdel Nasser was involved in, was an alliance with the Ikhwan. They later betrayed him, and from them broke off Hizb-ut-Tahrir and other groups. And Al-Qaida is at the extreme end of that strain. So when these two forces converge – the puritanical element and the political ideology – you get Da’ish.”

    • Daesh does not fit in the background of Ikhwan ul Muslimeen… or its divisions. Daesh is the extension of Al-Qaeda which was created by US/CIA & Mossad with the approval of Pentagon. Osama b Laden, being a corporate family/ entity was an old CIA Friend and ready to do any thing for CIA since 1980s. CIA created Al-Qaeda and later on the Daesh to implement N.W.O conspiracy – Greater Israel … with secret support of captive kings; KSA, Jordan, UAE, Qatar etc. Al-Qaeda started its working from Afghanistan, the poorest & weakest Muslim country otherwise there was nothing to conquer!! The main targets were Iraq, Libya, Syria, Iran and Pakistan who could resist the Target. Saddam was blamed for WMD and UN could not find any sign yet Iraq was toppled then Qaddafi and Bashar ul Assad at the point… Iran and Pakistan took political advantage of the situation and saved themselves for the time being… until Iraq is divided in 3 separate entities with independent Kurdistan. Ikhwans never killed Muslims because they are not controlled by America…!

      • Fasdunkle

        “Daesh is the extension of Al-Qaeda which was created by US/CIA & Mossad with the approval of Pentagon.”

        lol, crazy person

        • What America is doing in Middle East? Why America destroyed Iraq? You seem to be a Media victim!

  • BuzzK

    I have never seen an article use “Sufi Scholar” as a stealth insult and undermining of authority….
    before this one. The author has more issues than Hamza Yusuf. I admit that he has said some stupid things.
    But there just seems to be a mob with a cross and nails….forming. Did Hamza plan 9-11 too?
    Burn him! Burn him with fire! He’s a witch.

    • Kevin Dawud Amin

      again an example what i say above, rejection of perceived innovated practices makes you a “wahhabi”. and have “sectarian hatred”. but if you call a shia a rafidah they howl like wolves. perfect example of this attitude

      • BuzzK

        And his wahhabi brother yappin on about who is less Muslim than they are…total bullshit. And hypocrisy. Isn’t there a suicide bomb that needs exploding, Kevin? Strap on! Enjoy your 40 hooris.

        • Kevin Dawud Amin

          wow even more ignorant than i imagined

          • BuzzK

            You don’t have an imagination. If it is not sunna, it is bida’at you munafiq. Next you’ll tell us you have no beard!!!

    • Sorry to interfere! I see another side of Wahabism (KSA) support in 9/11 game … by providing 18 Muslim Passports which established evidence of Muslim attack on America and justified US aggression on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria & Iran.. basically all enemies of KSA. It is some sort of fulfillment of the 18th century Agreement of Muhammad bin Wahab wherein he promised to divide Muslims through sword of confusion and destroy every effort of Muslim unity & Caliphate in Muslim World. unable to understand as to how come Sufism is promoted in Wahabism?

      • BuzzK

        I don’t think it is too hard to understand. Most of those 18 passports were not “Muslim” or Afghani or Iraqi or Iranian…They were Saudi. That never seemed to bother the Bush administration nor Israel (both have tight relations with Saudi Arabia and the Bin Laden family). The War on Terror is political theater at its most farcical. And these meathead fundamentalists who run around calling other Muslims munifiqun are the worst hypocrites and errand boys of Western hegemony.

  • Mohamed Sajid

    Hamza Yusuf, a state Scholar…

  • Kevin Dawud Amin

    i disagree that the author is full of hatred, there is a phenomena whereby adherents of tasawwuf claim the title of ahlus sunnah and every one else, especially the ones who speak against their practices like “grave intercesion” visits, group “dervishing”, “chanting”, etc. They do cooperate with the authorities and claim they ar the real or moderate muslims. this cannot be denied as there are many examples in many countries. so lets be honest on that point. also the situation in egypt is a bad one that should have our attention and concern. this is apparent and a modus operandi for any group like shia and or sufi who chafe when a sunni reject their lets say questionable practices only supported by a minority of the muslim ummah/scholars.

    • Fasdunkle

      Do you support the muslim brotherhood?

  • Azam Khan

    Typical garbage from Middle East Monitor a Wahabbi/Salaffi trash and this idiot “journalist” Tallha Abdulrazaq.

  • Fasdunkle

    MEMO supporting fascism again

    • You are supporting State Terrorism of USA which toppled elected Govt of Morsi….!

      • Fasdunkle

        Nope, I am not.

  • Abdulrahman Ahmed

    If a million elections were held in Egypt the brotherhood will win them all. In a million years alqaeda or isis will never win a single vote let alone an election. So how can any sane person compare them? Sad to say but the truth is Sufis have caused Islam the greatest damage throughout history. May Allah guide them.

    • Zev_disqus

      The MB is Egyptian, alqaeda and isis aren’t.
      That’s why MB would get far more votes than the others in a free election.

  • gloschtla

    How can Muslims become political, when they are still not ready for it? If you force it, then you will get embarrassing results.
    Sheikh Hamza Yusuf prepares us to become political, starting with the basic problems in our wannabe Ummah.

  • Nasrudiin Abdirahman

    In my view, Sh Hamza made mistake in linking MB with AQ and ISIS. It also seems that there is no healthy debate here. The repeated use of “sufi sheikh” did not make your case. You should have discussed the origins of Daesh and their discourse. You failed to critique his points.