Rules of Engagement

Can we influence political authority?

Image of Qamar-ul Huda at podium during an event.

The engagement of Muslim leaders and organizations with political authorities has provoked passionate criticism of late. All minorities, including Muslims, face a series of questions in working for change. What exactly is the change we want to bring about? What is our “theory of change”—or, how does change happen? What is the most effective way to influence political authority? On what basis do we engage with political authorities that are morally compromised? Can supporters of the same cause pursue different avenues—engagement, lobbying, protests, boycotts, political participation, and so on—without undermining one another?

In this compelling discussion, the panelists—Hamza Yusuf, Salam Al-Marayati, Qamar ul-Huda, and Hala Hijazi—share their thoughts on the benefits of engagement and respond to some criticisms. They also reflect on past moments of engagement in times of consequence for the American Muslim community, such as the 9/11 attacks and the invasion of Iraq. This thought-provoking conversation doesn’t shy away from difficult questions (including one from an audience member), and we hope it can help all of us think more deeply about how our collective efforts can serve common goals. 


Hala Hijazi has extensive public service and government affairs experience and currently serves as a San Francisco Human Rights Commissioner and on the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Interfaith Council. She also chairs the AMEMSA Advisory Boards for San Francisco’s mayor, district attorney, and police chief. 


Qamar-ul Huda, a religious scholar and formerly a senior advisor on religious matters to the United States Department of State, focuses on American foreign policy, the Middle East and South Asia, and conflict resolution at the Center for Global Policy.

Salam Al-Marayati, president and co-founder of the  Muslim Public Affairs Council and an expert on Islam and contemporary political issues, oversees MPAC's groundbreaking civic engagement, public policy, and advocacy work. 

Hamza Yusuf, president and co-founder of Zaytuna College, is a long-standing proponent of classical learning in Islam and has served as an advisor to a number of governments and political leaders, educational institutions, and NGOs.