Hamza Yusuf, a U.S.-born Islamic scholar and founder of the first Islamic university in America, has joined a panel on human rights in Washington’s foreign policy, hosted by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday announced the creation of the “Commission on Unalienable Rights” which is made up of human rights experts that would advise the secretary on human rights and how it relates to American foreign policy.
The leader of the commission is Harvard University professor Mary Ann Glandon, who had been part of the effort against supporting abortion as a human right in the 1995 UN Women’s conference held in Beijing, China.
Yusuf came under fire for choosing to be a part of the U.S.’s human rights panel.
“For one of the West’s most recognisable and once almost universally esteemed Islamic scholars to throw in his lot with the most venal and Islamophobic administration in American history will be viewed by many Muslims as an unforgivable lapse in judgement which will not easily be forgotten,” Dr. Usaama al Azami, a lecturer in Islamic Studies at the Markfield Institute of Higher Education told Middle East Eye.
Yusuf, 61, founded the Muslim liberal arts university Zaytuna College in 2008.
He has come under criticism before becoming Vice President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, a religious institution funded by the United Arab Emirates.
He described the UAE as a country that is “committed to tolerance” and supports civil society, words that he was heavily criticized for by rights groups.
In 2017, the Human Rights Watch said the UAE had been silencing people for speaking up against human rights violations since 2011.
“UAE residents who have spoken about human rights issues are at serious risk of arbitrary detention, imprisonment and torture,” HRW said.
“Space for civil society remained nearly non-existent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with the country’s most wellknown human rights activist behind bars and high levels of fear dissuading victims of human rights violations and dissidents from speaking out,” the rights group Amnesty International said about the country.