(update: For some reason, this item was removed from Zaid Shakir's web site, and also from several other sites - this letter will remain here as a matter of record, especially since it is already in wide web circulation, and squarely in the public domain.
update 10/3/08: Imam Zaid has written another post clarifying reasons for why the original post was removed from his website. Further down this entry, you can find Imam Zaid's original statement, that (for now) will be kept here as a matter of record.
HOWEVER, it is clear that the sponsors of the Tony Blair Foundation event are not in any way to be blamed for Hamza Yusuf's participation, there was no treachery on their part. I assume that, with this statement, Imam Zaid and/or Hamza Yusuf are taking full responsibility, while also explaining the reasons, for Hamza Yusuf's erroneous participation at the event in question.
Click here for more information on the group Malaria No More that organized the event with the Tony Blair Foundation.
Misunderstanding Not Treachery
By Imam Zaid on 03 October 2008
The blog entry I wrote several days ago in defense of Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was based on my misunderstanding of the events leading up to Shaykh Hamza’s participation the malaria eradication program sponsored by the Tony Blair Foundation in Los Angeles, September 25, 2008. In reality, it was a lot of misunderstanding and a breakdown in communication that led to Shaykh Hamza’s participation in that event and not any treachery or deceit on the part of the organizers. The organizers tried to communicate that the venue, sponsorship, and participants in the program had changed due to the cancellation of the original host. Unfortunately, due to the fact that Shaykh Hamza was traveling right up to the day of the program, he never received the above information.
As soon as this was clarified to me, I responded by immediately removing my post from the NID website, as what I had written did not accurately reflect what had actually happened. Although that message was only posted for a few hours, it spread far and wide. I now encourage anyone who still has that message posted on their websites to remove it, and replace it with this one.
To reiterate, there was no treachery on the part of the organizers in their dealings with Shaykh Hamza. No matter what your opinion of any of the organizers, you should not allow a false accusation against them to stand uncorrected. To do so is to deviate from the teachings of our religion.
I further encourage anyone who has been involved in the vital work to eradicate malaria, one of the few remaining public health scourges on this planet, to continue that work with anyone who is making a difference. This is an issue that should transcend politics, and it is an issue that Muslims should be highly motivated to be involved in because of the disproportionately high numbers of Muslims who are suffering from it.
At the end of the day, we have to be submissive to the truth and the pursuit of good and justice, wherever they are to be found. We have to work hard not to allow our passions, especially those that are stimulated by the fleeting vicissitudes of the world and time to move us away from the truth. Let us be ever mindful of the commandment contained in the following verse:
O you who believe! Stand up firmly for God, as witnesses to fairness, and let not the hatred of a group of people lead you to deviate from justice. Be just! That is closer to piety, and fear God. Surely, God is well-informed of all that you do. Qur’an 5:9
A couple of comments regarding this letter by Zaid Shakir.
1. The news of who the event was being sponsored by was broken at least a week ago, not only by this site, but also by other Islamic forums. I do hope that, for the sake of minimizing any potential fitna, that in the future, better investigation about the sponsoring group will be done (I appreciate Imam Zaid's acknowledgment in this regard).
2. Please, Imam Zaid, don't patronize those of us who took Hamza Yusuf to task for his participation at this event - it is not about "political passions" it is about caring about the millions of human beings who have been victims of the likes of Tony Blair and Bush and others...
THAT is what moves those of us who question Hamza Yusuf, not only in this particular instance, but also some of his other affiliations and actions. And being moved and detesting oppression, and oppressors, is very much a part of Islamic teachings.
3. Finally, lets be clear, no matter what Hamza Yusuf has said at that event, it does not mitigate the reality that he gave credibility to Tony Blair by the very fact that he showed up. This indeed *is* a political issue, and something that the likes of Tony Blair, and those around him, are masters at... it would be useful if Muslims (especially those in leadership capacity) would also have some basic understanding of these kinds of politics, so as not to fall in this kind of a trap.
However, Imam Zaid's letter does indeed help clarify, and help minimize the damage done - and that is a good thing, and well appreciated.
Inshallah, this incident will serve as a lesson.
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and the Tony Blair Faith Initiative
*******Note that this letter contains erroneous information - there was no treachery involved, and the organizers did indeed attempt to inform Hamza Yusuf about the venue and sponsorship of the event. This error has been, acknowledged, clarified and corrected by Imam Zaid (see above).
As such, one can assume that Imam Zaid and/or Hamza Yusuf are taking responsibility for the erroneous participation at the war criminal Tony Blair's event.*********
By Imam Zaid on 29 September 2008
Insha Allah, This message finds you all in the best of health and spirits and enjoying the blessings of the last days of Ramadan. There is something you should know about Shaykh Hamza’s participation in the Tony Blair Faith Initiative Program recently held in Los Angeles. He was manipulated and set up by the organizers. He had absolutely no knowledge that the program was being sponsored by Tony Blair’s organization. I know because I was used by the organizers to help facilitate the set-up.
I had been working with an organization called “Malaria No More,” to help get Muslims involved in an effort to eradicate Malaria in Africa, a laudable goal as a majority of those suffering from Malaria in Africa are Muslims. Saleema Abdul Ghaffur works for that organization and had approached me about the issue several months ago.
I was asked by Saleema to help Malaria No More and the UN Development Fund to help get Muslims involved in the effort through a program they were sponsoring in the Los Angeles area to expand the effort at eradicating malaria. They also asked me to put them in touch with Shaykh Hamza because they wanted him to speak as a representative of Muslims, to be joined by Rick Warren as a representative of Christians, in an effort to raise awareness around the issue.
There was no mention of any involvement of Tony Blair’s organization as the sponsor of the event. In fact, Saleema knew that I would not help in any way if Tony Blair’s organization was the event sponsor because I had been invited to the launch of Tony Blair’s organization in New York a few months back, and had flatly refused to attend stating that Tony Blair was in part responsible for the murder of over a million innocent Muslims in Iraq because of the role he played in the current war there. Shaykh Hamza would not have agreed to participate either under those circumstances because he has consistently and vociferously condemned that war, which is part of the public record.
This is the background for Shaykh Hamza’s involvement with the event. All of this transpired over a month and a half ago. I stopped monitoring the events after that. In the couple of weeks leading up to the event Shaykh Hamza was in Morocco and assumed that the event was proceeding as a joint effort between Malaria No More and the UN Development Fund, and that it was timed to coincide with the convening of the UN General Assembly in New York, September 25, 2008.
Three days after he arrived back in the States, Shaykh Hamza went to LA for the event. Rick Warren had canceled at the last minute, something he was not informed of. He was taken to a hotel meeting room, having never been informed, or even it being hinted that the event was sponsored by Tony Blair’s group. When he arrived at the hall, he realized he had been manipulated by the Tony Blair people in order to attempt to give some type of legitimacy for his work among Muslims. He was constrained and did not wish to be there, as is clear from the footage of the event. I told him he should have left, but he felt he had given his word and preferred to take the risk of the kind of abuse he would receive for attending than to break his word, as he had promised to attend.
That is what happened and that is how Shaykh Hamza ended up at the program. He was set up and all of us involved should have been more diligent in monitoring the event and investigating the sponsors. However, the last thing any of us would have suspected is this type of treachery.
Since he was there, Shaykh Hamza condemned Tony Blair to his face and warned him of the sad fate he would have when he met his Lord, precisely because of the role he played in the war. He does not endorse in any way the work of Tony Blair’s organization, nor does have any past (or future) connection with Saleema Abdul Ghafur. His only intention was to help eradicate malaria, a disease he was personally afflicted with during his years of study in Mauritania, and a disease whose devastating effect he has witnessed first hand during his years of traveling and studying is West Africa.
Shaykh Hamza has not asked, nor would he ever ask that I write these words. I felt that I am obliged to write them because I was instrumental in getting him involved in this mess. I would caution those critics whose political passion moves them to cast aside Islamic teachings such as verifying news or having a good opinion of other Muslims or respecting scholars, as I would caution myself, to fear Allah.
These are the days of praying for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness, not the days of blind condemnation of other Muslims. Allah will treat us during this month as we treat each other. If we do not beseech Him to be merciful and to forgive others, He will not shower His mercy and forgiveness upon us. What we receive from Allah is a reflection of what we offer Him. Is there any among us so secure with Allah that we do not need His mercy and forgiveness? Is there any among so sure of his or her standing with Allah that we can squander the precious moments of this blessed month in slander and scandal-mongering, as opposed to trying to do some good for our souls?
I might add, that because of this treachery, I have ended my relationship with Malaria No More, and have already initiated an effort to explore how Muslims might effectively address the disease through the auspices of Islamic Relief.
May Allah bless us all during the balance of Ramadan, and may He bring our hearts together and guide us to understand who our real enemy is.