In communicating with Hassan Shibly, it's hard to see why this frequent guest speaker at schools in New York would be embroiled in a controversy. He's easy to converse with and kind. He passionately condemns terrorism (including the 9/11 attacks) and sings the praises of America. But shortly after January 10, when he gave nine presentations during his fourth visit to Clarence High School, he became part of a controversy when a mother of a student that listened to Shibly reported that he blamed the 9/11 attacks on U.S. foreign policy, specifically support for Israel. The mother later found out that he doesn't consider Hezbollah to be a terrorist group. School officials defended Shibly in emails to the mother and he defends his position by saying it is backed by top political scientists.
Shibly says he has spoken to over 40 high school classes in New York. He claims that he only focuses on the basics of Islam and avoids discussion of political issues unless asked during the Q&A session. Shibly engaged in a back-and-forth with Nonie Darwish over what he was alleged to have said (it can be read here). He attributes the criticism of him by the mother and Darwish to an anti-Islam agenda. The mother says her 14-year old son lacks the political awareness to make up the statements he said Shibly made, and indeed, background research on Shibly does show that he has controversial beliefs that parents should be aware of.
Shibly is not shy about stating that "Hezbollah is absolutely not a terrorist organization." Rather, he says the group is a "resistance movement" and "any war against them is illegitimate." On his Facebook page, he posted an interview where Norman Finkelstein praises the group. In his extensive communication with me, he has refused to condemn Hamas as a whole or refer to them as a "terrorist" group, saying such labels are too simplistic and would write off the group as a peace partner that could be negotiated with. He instead condemned violence against innocent civilians by both Israel and Hamas, and said that he would not describe Israel as a "terrorist state" for the same reasons.