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Dr. Heather Laird: Critically Dissecting a White Muslim Woman’s Defense of Hamza Yusuf!

 

 

In a recent article, titled “It’s time for Muslim Americans to condemn Hamza Yusuf,” Dr. Maha Hilal called for Muslims to boycott conferences and events where Hamza Yusuf is scheduled to speak. [1] Such a call is long overdue. Black Muslims have been “making it plain” concerning Hamza Yusuf’s  wholesale disrespect of the Black community for a long time.

 Let us rewind. In 2016, Hamza Yusuf told a Muslim audience that the problem facing the Black community was not institutional racism but the breakdown of the Black family.   In his inability to recognize causality between institutional racism and the Black family, Hamza Yusuf directly insulted the legacy of Abu Bakr, an enslaved Black Muslim scholar who was kidnapped from Africa, forever  forcibly separated from his family, and whose slave narrative literally laments about the fact that Islam may not be in his family in future generations due to the oppressiveness of slavery.   Hamza Yusuf disrespected insulted Omar ibn Said, an enslaved African Muslim who could not maintain a family on the slave plantation because he and his children could be sold off to another slave plantation on a whim by the slave master. 

Hamza Yusuf directly disrespected Malcolm X, whose father was kidnapped by the Ku Klux Klan, tied on a railroad track, leaving the train to mutilate his body and decapitate Malcolm X’s beloved father.  This action left Malcolm X’s beloved mother Louise Little so mentally distraught that the last time Malcolm X visited his mother in a mental hospital, Louise Little was unable to recognize her own son. Unbeknownst to Hamza Yusuf, the breakdown of the Black family has historically been a product of institutional racism. 

In a later interview, Hamza Yusuf gave the non-sequitur response of “black on black crime” when asked about police brutality. In doing this, Hamza Yusuf disrespected the memory of Black Muslim slave rebels who were massacred by Police chief, Gonclaves Martins in the Bahia slave rebellions. Hamza Yusuf directly insulted the memory of Ronald Stoke and William X Rogers, Black Muslims who in an act of police brutality, were killed by Los Angeles Police officers, leaving Malcolm X completely distraught. Hamza Yusuf directed insulted the memory Amadou Dialla, a Black Muslim whom the New York Police Department shot at over 41 times. Black Muslim women such as Safiya Bukhari joined the Black Panther Party for Self Defense to combat police brutality.

Despite the fact that president Donald Trump endorsed stop and frisk against Black men, called Black countries shitholes, and advocated capital punishment for the innocent Central Park 5(whom DNA evidence exonerated), Hamza Yusuf called Trump a “servant of God.” Hamza Yusuf spoke of Donald Trump, despite his anti-black policies and serial adultery, as though he is somehow a man of taqwa or God-consciousness As an icing on the cake of Hamza Yusuf’s abominable anti-black track-record, Hamza Yusuf has now decided to join forces with the former director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo to serve forces with the Trump administration as a human rights adviser. For the sake of being brief, I will not recount the CIA’s long history of destabilizing black governments, its carrying out of assassinations of Black freedom fighters, or its  COINTELPRO program which sought to inhibit black liberation. 

Nonetheless, Black Muslims, including myself, rightfully spoke against Hamza Yusuf’s track record of white supremacy. As such criticisms were taking place,  Hamza Yusuf had an ardent defender in the Muslim community come to his defense. Her name is Dr. Heather Laird. She is the president of the Center for Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology. In this article, I will respond to her criticisms. 

      

Wow! How can a Black Muslim critique of Hamza Yusuf’s racism be equated with “colonization” of Hamza Yusuf? It appears as though Dr. Heather Laird is trying to make Hamza Yusuf out to be some sort of “anti-colonial figure” up against a boogey-man black Muslim somehow trying to colonize him through a critique of his racism.    

 I am a Black Muslim.  I am critiquing political propositions advocated by Hamza Yusuf for upholding white supremacy. I am not reducing Hamza Yusuf to his skin color. I am speaking against political proclamations of Hamza Yusuf’s that reinforce negative stereotypes against Black people and which would maintain Black people in a state of subjugation.

Instead of acknowledging the racism of Hamza Yusuf, Dr. Heather Laird somehow insinuates that I am seeking to colonize him. Dr. Heather Laird does not know what colonization is and is simply throwing out terms without any regard for their meaning. In doing so, she downplays and minimizes the actual violence of colonization. 

Colonization is not Black people speaking against racism. Rather, colonization is the violence process by which a person’s land is usurped, their resources are siphoned, and their labor is exploited. Dr. Heather Laird’s sloppy usage of the term “colonization” in this manner underscores how destructive and violent colonization actually was. 

European settler-colonialism in the Americas resulted in the wholesale destruction and extinction of entire Native-American languages. European Zionist colonization of Palestinians violently removed entire people from their historic land and create an apartheid state. African tribes who were forcibly taken to the European settler colony of America had their languages and religions violently stripped from them. 

In How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, Walter Rodney accurately pinpoints how European colonization significantly reduced the quality of life in Africa and sets the precedent for starvation and other economic ills facing African countries today. Thus, the legacy of European colonization is that it fostered an asymmetrical relationship in wealth between Africa and Europe and destroyed cultures and languages. 

Dr. Heather Laird argues that I am exercising racism against Hamza Yusuf because I am a born brown Muslim and Hamza Yusuf is a white convert who is not  “willing to do exactly what you as a born Muslim want him to do.” To be clear, I’m not trying to micromanage Hamza Yusuf ‘s life nor do I seek to dictate every part of his daily routine.  I want Hamza Yusuf to stop being complicit in the oppression of Black people. I want Hamza Yusuf to not obfuscate police brutality against Black people. I do not want Hamza Yusuf to provide a token Muslim face to an anti-Black regime. This is consistent with the Islamic injunction forbidding oppression. Dr. Heather Laird is conflating a critique of white racism as somehow perpetuating racism. This fundamentally demonstrates that she neither understands racism nor colonization.

Strangely, Dr. Heather Laird is insisting that I am exercising racism against Hamza Yusuf yet she herself refuses to acknowledge Hamza Yusuf’s racism against Black people.  She insists that Hamza Yusuf remarks were taken out of context. Perhaps,Dr.Heather Laird can provide us with a proper context in which responding with black on black crime to police brutality should be viewed as anything other than reinforcing white supremacy. Lastly, Dr. Laird makes a particularly egregious statement: 

 

 

Dr. Heather Laird descended to vulgarity to imply my criticisms of Hamza Yusuf’s complicity in white supremacy is just “masturbat[ion] on social media.” As a Black Muslim, it is important for dawah purposes to restore Islam image within broader Black America. The Black Community must know Muslims are invested in confronting white supremacy and standing up on behalf of Black people. Dr. Laird decision to equate a Black Muslim male’s critique of white racism with an act of sexual self-stimulation for the purposes of ejaculation reinforces a litany of white supremacist tropes against Black men.  Dr. Heather Laird decision to reduce my critiques of Hamza Yusuf to just “masturbation”  inherently rely upon stereotypical tropes of black men as being the hypersexual brute.

Dr. Darrius Hills, a scholar of Black males studies, writes that white supremacy has reduced black men to the “mythic black phallus, implicating and reinscribing a racial legacy that frames black men as both hypersexual and perpetual rapists.”      In Dr. Heather Laird mind, my critiques of white racism cannot possibly be based in a desire to intellectually challenge white supremacist ideology. Rather, it is just a form “masturbation’ something which is rooted in sexual gratification.  White racism deserves to be critiqued when promulgated by Muslim public figures.


 

[1] I largely agree with the general call to boycott Hamza Yusuf. One of the many reasons the author, sister Dr. Maha Hilal,  cites for why the committee Hamza Yusuf is joining is problematic is that an individual on it opposed enshrining abortion as an international right. I do not agree that abortion should be enshrined as an international right. Nor do I believe that this is a valid criticism of the committee. As to the rest of the article, I am largely in full agreement. 

 

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Comments

  1. Information on Abu Bakr:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Bakr

    • I am not referring to the Sahabah Abu Bakr, (RA) but an enslaved African Muslim scholar named Abu Bakr. Had I been referring to the sahabah, I would have have included (RA). If you bothered to read the source which I hyperlinked you wouldn’t be confused.

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