The Western Association of Schools and Colleges has bestowed "initial accreditation" on Zaytuna College, a Muslim institution in Berkeley, California, making it the first accredited Muslim college in the nation. The association will permit the college to offer an accredited "Bachelor of Arts in Islamic Law and Theology," according to the College Fix.
The president of Zaytuna College, Hamza Yusuf, celebrated the Western Association's decision, writing on the college's website:
Five years ago, we introduced an undergraduate liberal arts program inspired by the idea of restoring the holistic education that had been offered in the great teaching centers of Islamic civilization.Today, Zaytuna's accreditation roots this vision in a reality recognized within American higher education. It gives our community its first accredited academic address in the United States. And we hope, God willing, that there will be more such Muslim colleges and universities to come.
The website added that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Yusuf, who was named the most influential Muslim in America by the Muslim 500 website, recently signed a highly-praised letter condemning ISIS but also endorsing rebuilding the caliphate and sharia law, including hudud punishments, according to the Clarion Project, a website that documents Islamic extremism.
As Clarion points out:
An example of a hudud punishment is the death penalty for apostates (Muslims who leave Islam). The letter does not dispute or oppose that. It says that labeling Muslims as apostates is only permissible when an individual "openly declares disbelief." The signatories are not condemning the execution of apostates, only how the Islamic State is deciding who qualifies as an apostate.
Clarion gives another example of the letter's hidden dangers, noting that Point 7 states Islam forbids the killing of journalists, among others, but then states, "Journalists—if they are honest and of course are not spies—are emissaries of truth, because their job is to expose the truth to people in general." Clarion adds, "This is actually an endorsement of targeting journalists that Muslims feel are unfair. Islamists, including Islamic State supporters, often claim that the journalists they kill are propagandists and/or spies, meeting the letter's standards."
As far as the letter's endorsement of the caliphate, Clarion quotes Point 22 of the letter, which states, "There is agreement (ittifaq) among scholars that a caliphate is an obligation upon the Ummah. The Ummah has lacked a caliphate since 1924 CE. However, a new caliphate requires consensus from Muslims and not just from those in a small corner of the world."
Clarion writes succinctly, "A caliphate is a pan-Islamic government based on sharia;virtually all Islamic scholars agree that this objective requires the elimination of Israel. It is also fundamentally (and by definition) expansionist."
Among the signees of the letter was Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, who has called for Muslims to attack U.S. soldiers in Iraq, and supported Hamas and the destruction of the state of Israel.
Hatem Bazian, who founded the rabidly anti-Israel UC Berkeley group Students for Justice in Palestine, said he was one of the co-founders of the college, with Yusuf and Imam Zaid Shakir. He wrote on The Berkeley Blog, "at a time of such extreme negative news cycle focusing on Muslims, the initial accreditation vote is a most positive development for a community that has been battered for more than a decade." He added:
Muslim intellectual pursuit in the contemporary world, with a robust and broad conceptualization of Adab which 'includes decency, comportment, decorum, etiquette, manners, morals, proprietary, and humaneness. The purpose of Zaytuna education (and I would argue of Muslim intellectual pursuit) is to bring forth a conscious human being possessing agency that is directly and foundationally connected to the Divine."
Bazian spoke at American Muslim Alliance conference in May 1999, where he reportedly stated, "In the Hadith, the Day of Judgment will never happen until you fight the Jews. They are on the west side of the river, which is the Jordan River, and you're on the east side until the trees and stones will say, oh Muslim, there is a Jew hiding behind me. Come and kill him! And that's in the Hadith about this, this is a future battle before the Day of Judgment."
Zaytuna College's website noted that the college gave its first undergraduate degrees last spring.