Outrage as Hamza Yusuf releases video mocking Syrian refugees
American Muslim cleric Hamza Yusuf has caused outrage after a YouTube video in which he mocked the plight of Syrian refugees emerged this week.
In a three and a half minute video posted on Monday entitled "We Have Humiliated Ourselves", Yusuf mentioned one of the early slogans of the Syrian revolution "the Syrian people will not be humiliated". He mockingly asked, "how's that revolution looking for you, huh?"
Yusuf continued, "now all these poor innocent people are BEGGING non-Muslims to let them into their countries".
The video appears to have been shot in 2016, during a Sufi retreat trip to Turkey known as the "Rihla". It was released on Monday evening by Deenstream, a video service featuring Islamic scholars and speakers.
Yusuf was speaking in the city of Samsun in Turkey. Over three and a half million Syrian refugees have taken refuge in Turkey from a brutal war waged by the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Over 500,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced in Syria, largely as a result of the regime’s use of barrel bombs, missiles, chlorine and sarin gas on civilian areas.
Yusuf appeared to justify the Assad regime's actions by saying, "Allah can humiliate whoever he pleases. If you humiliate a ruler, God will humiliate you."
He tried to qualify his statement by saying, "you can blame the ruler all you want. The guy's a bad guy I'm no fan of that man… I’m no fan of the rulers there… I was no fan of Saddam [Hussein of Iraq]".
But he continued, "now we see the wisdom of why those people were in those places".
Yusuf also suggested that Syrians and other Muslims are not capable of governing themselves.
"We don't have civil society. We can't even wait in line for buses."
Syrian civil society groups have been active ever since the Syrian revolution began in 2011, providing education, medical, charity, and local government services in areas no longer under the Assad regime's control.
Hamza Yusuf was born Mark Hanson in the United States in 1958. He converted to Islam in 1977, and has since become a prominent Islamic scholar and public speaker.
He is often described as the "most influential Islamic scholar in the Western world". However, he has recently expressed support for US President Donald Trump, likening him to George Washington despite Trump's racist tweets and remarks about Muslims.
Yusuf has also worked with the UAE's controversial "Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies" and praised the Emirates as "one of the safest countries on the earth" despite the UAE human rights abuses and support for dictatorial regimes across the Muslim world.
Twitter users reacted negatively to Yusuf's remarks, accusing him of white supremacism and noting that he could stir up more anti-Syrian racism in Turkey, which has recently seen a wave of anti-Syrian incidents, including hundreds of forced deportations of Syrian refugees to war-torn Idlib province in Syria.
Other tweets were even more unflattering to Yusuf and used colourful language to describe him.