Muslim scholar catches flak for serving on new State Department rights panel

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Source: Religion News Service

By Aysha Khan

(RNS) — One of the world’s most prominent Islamic scholars is drawing criticism from some Muslims for participating in the State Department’s newly announced Commission on Unalienable Rights.

Sheikh Hamza Yusuf, an influential Sunni leader who co-founded Zaytuna College, America’s first accredited Muslim undergraduate college, will be joined on the commission by Rabbi Meir Yaakov Soloveichik; Stanford professor Russell Berman; Notre Dame Law professor Paolo Carozza; Harvard sociologist Jacqueline Rivers; Katrina Lantos Swett, former chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; philosopher Christopher Tollefsen; and UC Irvine professor David Tse-Chien Pan.

“Despite Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s rich, robust and arguably unparalleled contributions to Islamic thought in the West, it pains me to see him collaborate with the most Islamophobic administration in American history,” said Hamzah Raza, a graduate student in Islamic studies at Harvard Divinity School. “Donald Trump is a president who asserted that ‘Islam hates us’ and incited violence against Muslims as a tool to get elected.”

The panel will be led by Harvard law professor Mary Ann Glendon, former ambassador to the Vatican under George W. Bush. A prominent social conservative voice known for her opposition to same-sex marriage, Glendon impeded efforts to define abortion as an international human right at the 1995 U.N. Women’s conference.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the commission on Monday (July 8) as a panel examining human rights through a “natural law” lens. The panel, which includes human rights experts of “varied backgrounds and beliefs,” will help guide foreign policy commitments by determining what the U.S. considers a human right, particularly when human rights claims seem to be in conflict, he said.

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