Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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3/18/11: Yasir Qadhi ’09MPhil

One of his former students is the accused underwear bomber of Christmas 2009. Another was convicted of training with an Al Qaeda offshoot in Somalia. A third is charged with plotting sniper attacks at an American mall.

In fact, “countless” former students of Yasir Qadhi ’09MPhil—though none of those three—“have come to him with questions about the legitimacy of waging jihad,” the New York Times Magazine reports in a long feature article on Qadhi and his fundamentalist Al Maghrib Institute. His response: American Muslims should wage “jihad of the tongue, a jihad of the pen, a jihad that is not a military jihad.” For Muslims in other countries, “their responsibilities would be different.”

The Texas-born, Saudi-raised Qadhi has become “one of the most influential conservative clerics in American Islam,” the magazine says, “uniquely deft at balancing the edicts of orthodox Islam with the mores of contemporary America.” A penitent ex–Holocaust denier, he is now living in Memphis and writing his doctoral dissertation for Yale, where he was the religious studies department’s first Saudi-educated student. “You admit someone from Saudi Arabia,” Islamic studies professor Frank Griffel told the magazine, “you don’t know how much intolerance you let into an American university.” But, the story goes on, he found Qadhi “profoundly intelligent” and “willing to engage in critical thinking.”

These days, Qadhi is preaching ballots, not bullets: “American Muslims are at the forefront in battling Islamic extremism,” he declares, “because they have everything to lose.”

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