Everything in Zaytuna’s publicity history indicates that it is intended as a religious facility to train preachers and clerics in Hanson’s fundamentalist brand of Islam rather than, as it is portrayed on NPR, as an ‘Islamic liberal arts college.’ Hanson had a long and ugly career as one of the most radical Muslim speakers in the U.S., which he abandoned after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Yet he still advertises his attachment to the Saudi-based cleric Sheikh Abdallah bin Bayyah, who was born in Mauritania in 1935 and is a member of the European Council for Fatwas and Research, headed by the notorious Egyptian-born and Qatar-based fundamentalist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Al-Qaradawi, for his part, is distinguished by his fatwas in support of wife-beating and female genital mutilation, as well as Islamist radical positions in general.
Al-Qaradawi has praised bin Bayyah, Hamza Yusuf Hanson’s mentor, and the legal authority to whom Hanson and students at Zaytuna will turn in their teaching of Islamic jurisprudence, as “between Salafism and Sufism.” “Salafism” is a term appropriated from a group of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Muslim reformers who were pro-European and non-jihadist. The term is currently used as a cover for the Wahhabi sect in Saudi Arabia, the most violent, exclusionary, and fundamentalist phenomenon in the history of Sunni Islam, and the inspirer of al-Qaeda. Al-Qaradawi, soon after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, praised Osama bin Laden as “a symbol of the world uprising against American hegemony.”
Zaytuna’s “academic” apparatus, as catalogued on its September 2010 website, details no more than Hanson and his cohort had offered students in the past through his “Zaytuna Institute.” As a college, Zaytuna includes only four faculty members: Hanson; Shakir; UC Berkeley adjunct professor Hatem Bazian, who bears the title of chair for Zaytuna’s “Academic Affairs Committee”; and Abdullah bin Hamid Ali. An American-born Muslim, Abdullah bin Hamid Ali was formerly “assistant head chaplain for 5 years at the Chester State Correctional Institution” in Pennsylvania and claims to be “the only Western graduate of the Shariah Faculty of the University of al-Qarawiyin located in Fes, Morocco.” Bazian, unlike Hamza Yusuf Hanson, remains an unapologetically radical exponent, perhaps best-known for his 2004 summons to an “intifada” in the United States.”
Velvet Hammer has more information on this college.