This House believes that the war on terror has become a war on Islam

Thursday April 28 2005
MOTION REJECTED by 50% to 50%

Transcript

Order of speeches

This House believes that the war on terror has become a war on Islam

 

Introduction

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, good evening and very warm welcome to the latest in our series of Doha Debates sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. Ever since the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Centre, the so-called war on terror has been a dominating feature of international relations. It spawned new alliances but also new violence and new hatreds, so is it a fight to protect Western freedoms, or a battle against a religion and ideology that the West doesn't understand? The motion tonight is that 'This House believes the war on terror has become a war against Islam' and you'll hear some pretty impassioned arguments both for and against that proposition. But as always at the end of the debate it's you, the audience, who will give your verdict and have the final say. On my right and in favour of the motion, Anas Altikriti. He's a founder and former president of the Muslim Association of Britain. He campaigned actively against the war in Iraq and is a frequent commentator and writer on Middle Eastern affairs. Also in favour, Dr. Mustapha Ceric who is Grand Mufti of Bosnia and needs very little introduction. For two million Muslims in the Balkans, he is the leading Islamic legal authority, but tonight he's content to just fight it out as a panellist. Against the motion, we have from New York, Feisal Abdul Rauf. He's author of the book What's Right with Islam. He's also founder of the Cordoba Initiative designed to improve relations between the US and the Muslim world, but his day job is Imam at a mosque just a dozen blocks away from Ground Zero. With him to oppose is Ramzi Khoury, a former editor of the Arab Daily. He's now a communications adviser to a number of Arab governments. Let's hope that doesn't make him too careful about what he says tonight. Ladies and gentlemen, our panel.  Now let me call first of all on Anas Altikriti to speak for the motion please.

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Anas Altikriti

Speaking for the motion
Anas Altikriti

ANAS ALTIKRITI
Thank you very much. Whilst the war on terror may have started with multiple objectives, several layers of aims and targets and such, there can be little doubt that over recent times, possibly over the past 2, 2 years, all those have gone to the sidelines and what is left is a predominant objective and that is to fight not only Muslims in their physical presence and existence, but also Islam in the set of principles, its codes, its essence and its contents. Now, whilst I'm the first to admit that this is a very complex issue, I would like to try to simplify it as much as possible by referring to three matters that drive this war on terror, the first being the ideology. There can be little question that when the likes of Henry Kissinger, Richard Perle, Daniel Pipes and such speak of the necessity for the West to recognise that it is fighting a set of ideology, not just some savages that are hiding in caves, we have to pay attention. It is essential that we realise that this is an ideological, idea-driven war against Islam, and there is a recognition and acknowledgement that Islam represents not only physical presence but also that set of ideas and principles. The second matter is the discourse. Who amongst us can actually turn the other way when the British Prime Minister or the United States President states that it is the extreme strength of Islam that represents the actual enemy to the West, an enemy to the ways and life-styles of the West? Who of us can actually turn the other way when the likes of the Italian Prime Minister says that Western civilisation is superior to Islamic civilisation and that it is going to defeat it? We can't. And finally practice. However loud I speak tonight, I will never be able to speak louder than the guns, the fighter jets and the bullets and the presence of hundreds of thousands of American and Western troops in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, and guns that are targeting other countries such as Iran, Syria, Sudan, Pakistan amongst many others. My friends, there can be little doubt that this war on terror has gradually but surely changed and transformed into war on Islam. Thank you very much.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Anas Altikriti, thank you very much indeed. You talked about a predominant objective to fight Muslims. Was it a hostile act to arrange free elections in Afghanistan and Iraq when there weren't any in Iraq for decades?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
In a sense it was neither.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're going to sit on the fence.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
I'm not going to sit on the fence.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You accuse the West of waging a war on Islam, but when I give you two examples, you sit on the fence and say it's neither.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
No, an election whereby the voters have no idea who the candidates are is not an election, with due respect, Tim.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Millions of people in Iraq voted, didn't they, millions.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Well, they voted simply because out of hope and desperation rather than anything else. The reality is ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
I mean, everybody voted.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
... if I was going to be voting for a number rather than a name and a face and a manifesto, I wouldn't be pleased at all. Why is it that the Iraqi people or the Afghanis should be pleased that they vote for a number? I don't think they should be.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is it a war on Islam for the West to pour money into the Palestinians, pay the salaries of the Palestinian Authority for instance, is that evidence of a war against Islam?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
There are huge amounts of money being funnelled in order to condition Islam. The problem is not the existence of Muslims. Where do you take 1.3 billion Muslims worldwide? But if you condition them so that basically they accept every single thing that you have, if ultimately you have Imams and such that are conditioned to portray a particular form of Islam ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying Muslims are conditioned, so they're not free-thinking? You have a pretty low opinion of Islamic thought.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
In fact I think that what we're seeing throughout not only the Arab but the Muslim world, and particularly in Iraq and such, I see that there is a wave of not only intellectual and liberal thinking in order to face and to counter that campaign, but also there is another force that is resisting that kind of imposition of the westernisation of Islam and Muslims.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You talked about comments by Tony Blair and President Bush. Let me just run a comment by you. 'We cannot clear our names unless we own up to the shameful fact that terrorism has become an Islamic enterprise, an almost exclusive monopoly implemented by Muslim men and women.' That's not from Tony Blair or President Bush, that's from the boss of Al Arabiya, Abdul Rahman al-Rashed.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Well, I'm pretty sure that Mr. al-Rashed and I would differ immensely on various issues. However, I would be the very first to admit that every single ideology, every religion has its three streaks. It has liberals, it has its fundamentals and it has its mainstream moderates.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What about the extremists and what about militant Islam? What about violence and so on?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
We deal with them but we don't deal with them, with the other, with extremism. What we're dealing with, what we're seeing today is another form of extremism, and that is a military campaign, an ideological campaign as well as a commercial campaign. That's as extreme as the other side that you're trying to portray.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Anas Altikriti, thank you very much indeed. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, please. You speak against the motion.

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Feisal Abdul Rauf

Speaking against the motion
Feisal Abdul Rauf

FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
In the name of God, all-merciful and passionate, the God of Abraham, the God of Moses, the God of Jesus, Mohammad, peace and blessings be upon them. I'd like to begin, Tim, by pointing out that terrorism has been defined by experts of political science as the targeting of innocent civilians in order to achieve political ends. This has happened since the beginning of time, even since the beginning of the Roman Empire. Our role, as religious voices, is to be the conscience of our communities. We have the role to identify those who commit terrorism, be it committed by state actors or non-state actors. Terrorism as defined by political science experts is anathema to all religions, and our role as Muslim spokespeople in particular is to educate and to inform the whole world, be they Muslim or non-Muslim on the authentic teachings and the genuine principles of Islam, whose ethical principles are common to all of religious traditions. In the Abrahamic faith traditions, we are taught that the two greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your mind, all of your soul and all of your strength. And the second commandment equal to it is to love your fellow human beings as you love yourself. This is embodied even in principles of Islamic law, Shari'a, which is called the (Arabic) and (Arabic), acts of worship and acts of ethics of how we are to relate to our fellow human beings. In fact the great scholars of Islamic jurisprudence even point it out that the purpose of all of Shari'a is (Arabic), which is the improvement of the interest and the well-being of human beings, and to elevate it in both of these two areas, acts of worship and in all the areas of our normal life. There are two Islams, you might say. There is the Islam that was taught by the prophet Mohammad, by his companions Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali, his noble companions, what we call the (Arabic), the pious predecessors, and we have the Islam of the (Arabic). The Islam of the Prophet Muhammad is based upon the Qur'anic commandment to him and the statement that God did not send Muhammad except to be a mercy to humankind, not a terroriser of humanity. Very briefly, Tim, the Khawarij was the first phenomenon in Islamic history. It was a group that developed a taqfir, or political philosophy, which identified anyone who disagreed with them as being unbelievers and created a political philosophy that justified murdering fellow Muslims including their innocent wives and children. But the Prophet's Islam and the Prophet's son-in-law and cousin, Ali, had to fight this group militarily in order to protect Islam. Ultimately they assassinated him, but very simply, Tim, this is the outline of the battle that currently is waged within the Muslim ummah, the battle between the Islam of the Prophet Mohammad and the Islam of the 21st century kharijis who have waged terrorism under the veneer of Islam.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Imam, thank you very much indeed. You haven't explained to us why you're against the motion.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
I'm against the motion because terrorism can appear in many forms, Tim.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You do not believe that the West is waging a war against Islam.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Not at all. I don't believe that the war is waged against Islam as a religion. Islam as a religion, as you pointed out, is based upon the five fundamental acts of worship. When the prophet was asked, 'What is Islam?' by Gabriel in the Hadith that Muslims all know, he was told it was the belief in God, the practice of prayer, giving charity, fasting the month of Ramadan, going to Hajj, in some versions of the Hadith. There's no war against this in the West.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What are Muslims then to make of the discrimination that they've suffered, like racial profiling for instance in the United States, what are they to make of that?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, that is certainly one of the things we have to combat, because as you very well pointed out, Tim, you quoted the editor of the newspaper who said the majority of terrorism is done today by Muslims, and therefore there is a perception, and we have to de-link the notion of terrorism done by Muslims from the vast majority of Muslims in both the Muslim world and in the West, who are practising their faith who are protected, and who are embraced within Western society.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What are Muslims to make of being thrown down the legal black hole in Guantanamo Bay, for instance? What are they to make of...
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, that is something that we are working towards.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Or abuses in Abu-Ghraib, in the prisons.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, that is something which Muslims and non-Muslims in America are completely up in arms against. I mean, this is a violation of human rights.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But these are cited as evidence that there is a war against Islam. You can see why, can't you?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Absolutely, but this is like saying ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you sympathise with that view?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
No, not at all. After 9/11, Tim, there were a few incidents of Muslims being shot at and killed and every single incident was put on television, on the media, but what is not mentioned in the media, that there were hundreds of thousands of people who came to support us, who wrote us letters. There were cases of American girls, you know, wearing mini-skirts, blondes, knocking on the doors of their Muslim neighbours saying, 'I understand you're afraid to go shopping, can we go and do your shopping for you?' This was not reported.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Imam, thank you very much indeed.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Grand Mufti, may I ask you to speak for the motion.

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Mustafa Ceric

Speaking for the motion
Mustafa Ceric

MUSTAPHA CERIC
Thank you Mr. Chairman. I feel like an old sheikh that used to ask his audience, 'Do you know what I'm going to tell you?' and they would say no, because they didn't know, and then he'd say, 'If you don't know, it is useless to talk to you anyway.' So the next day, half of them would say, 'We know' and half of them would say no, to see what the sheikh will say, and they said it and then he said that the half that knows should inform the half that doesn't know. And the third day, the sheikh said, 'Do you know what I'm going to talk to you about?' They said, 'Yes!' and he said, 'If you know what I'm going to tell you, then there is no need to speak to you.' I have no way to escape, Tim, from talking to you about very sensitive and very important issues of today regarding where is the Islam and whether Islam is attacked, or whether it is a war against Islam after it was war against terror. I don't believe that anyone can fight Islam and can win against Islam, but I do believe that the context in which we have the war against terror is implied the war against those who said that they were acting on behalf of Muslims, committing certain terrorist attacks in New York, Washington, then Madrid 2004, and in Holland in November 2004. Here, because I am here to inform you, especially those who don't know, I would like to give you five facts that show that Islam is a victory, but not only of the West but also equally by the East. First, today Muslims make up almost billion and a half of the world population, but have no permanent chair in the Security Council of the United Nations. Is it necessary that one be an enemy to the West so to become a permanent member of the Security Council like in the case of the former Soviet Union and China? The fact two, not being permanent members of the Security Council of the UN, Muslims have no veto power over the issue of war and peace in the world, but still they are accused to be the cause for world conflicts from Palestine to Chechnya and from Kashmir to Darfur. Who is then responsible for the war and peace in the world - those who have the power to win the peace, or those who have no power to start the war? The fact three, out of the world refugees today, 70% are Muslims. How is it then that we are faced with a logic that says, although not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims including those refugees who are asking to be free to go back home. The fact four, the fact four says like this. If you ask a Western student who was Ibn Sina or Ibn Rushd they wouldn't know, but if you ask him who was Avicenna or Averroes, they would know. Why? Because they changed their names, and you don't know that they are Arabs or Islamic, but if you ask them who is Osama Bin Laden, everyone will know that he is an Arab and an Islamic terrorist. I suggest that the West change the name of Osama Bin Laden, and call him 'Smith'. The fact five is, finally coming to Bosnia, you know that Karadzic is a Christian, Orthodox Christian, he committed genocide, on 11th July 1995, despite the Security Council resolution of the safe zone of Srebrenica, but on the third anniversary of the genocide of Srebrenica, Karadzic is free, and the Chief Army General Razim Delic that was fighting for survival in Bosnia is in The Hague, and you tell me who is fighting whom, and who is against whom. Thank you very much.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Grand Mufti, thank you very much indeed. You talked about your own home ground in Bosnia. Was it a war on Islam for the West to bomb the Serbs after they had been massacring Muslims? Was that evidence of a war against Islam?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
No, no, no, that was against the Serbs and thank you very much for asking me, and I use the opportunity to thank the American people whose sons are still in Bosnia and Herzegovina and making it possible to live in Bosnia and Herzegovina peacefully, and I wish that they will stay.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So one moment it's a war against Islam and the next moment it's not?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
There is another phase, there is a phase of that story, which means that the intervention came after four years of the concentration camps, of the Auschwitz of Sarajevo, and after the massacre and genocide in Srebrenica. It came, but it was too late, but anyway, I wish that 10,000 Muslims were still alive so that I don't need now to argue whether somebody helped me or not, and you should know that we were under the embargo of the arms. We were not able to defend ourselves. This is not correct, not right.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you know as well as I do that the Americans secretly dropped arms supplies to the Bosnian Muslim forces.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Yes, they did, and thank you very much.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Despite the embargo.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Despite the embargo.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So that's not evidence of a war against Islam either, is it?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
The weak don't have the right to be hypocritical, but the strong, they can.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Was it a war on Islam for the West to go into Kosovo and stop the slaughter of Albanians there?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Not, but of course I'm again grateful. I'm not defensive, but I am grateful in an honest way, but ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you're acknowledging all these examples of there not being a war against Islam.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
But we paid, we Bosnians paid a price and this is why Muslims in Kosovo were luckier than us.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Does the West not have a right to wage a war against Islamic militants if the West is coming under attack from Islamic militants?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Yes, they have right to wage the war and to defend themselves if they are attacked, but unfortunately the context in which this war against terror is being done, I think peaceful Muslims are very much confused. It is one thing to go after people in Afghanistan, it is another thing to punish or torture people in Abu Ghraib prison, so we have to distinguish. Of course I appreciate that the Americans did recognise that. We have some Muslims who will never recognise that they did commit something wrong and say, 'We did wrong,' but still I believe that the way we are now perceived, especially in the Western media, I think that Muslims are very much embarrassed and very much afraid, and many Muslims believe, afraid of enslavement in a way, and they feel that they are not treated equally according to the facts that I mentioned, especially the fact that Muslims have no representation in the Security Council
TIM SEBASTIAN
But India has no representation in the Security Council either with a population of well over a billion.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
India will get it very soon. Unfortunately for Muslims, I don't know when they will.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Isn't it true that hatred has been preached, I put this to you as Grand Mufti, from too many Islamic pulpits by too many Islamic clergy?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
I would not say too many, but there are some people who are frustrated, who are unhappy and who don't know how to act ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
It is hatred that is being preached, isn't it?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why do the Saudi authorities feel the need to sack some of the Imams?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
I don't want to justify the hatred of some Muslims by saying that we hear the hatred from the Christians and Jews. I think that we have to stop hatred from all sides, from Muslims and non-Muslims, but of course I am more embarrassed when I hear some Muslims are spreading the hatred against others. We don't need to do so because the Qur'an has told us that there are people who are different from us and we don't know to go to the United Nations and Geneva Conventions to learn that we have to be tolerant of others. We have that in the Qur'an and we have to follow the Qu'ran, not a political agenda.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Grand Mufti, thank you very much indeed.

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Ramzi E. Khoury

Speaking against the motion
Ramzi E. Khoury

TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm going to throw the questions open to the audience in a little while, but first let me ask Ramzi Khoury to speak against the motion.
RAMZI KHOURY
Well, Tim, I am against the motion because this war is all about oil. This war is all about furthering the interests of Israel, whether they may be security interests or geo-political interests. This war is about expanding the American military presence in this region. To say or to suggest that the war on terror has become a war on Islam is to say that American foreign policy in the region has changed. There is absolutely no proof of such change. American foreign policy has always been steadily a policy of double standards when it came to Israel, a policy of 'I am the power and you are the underdog.' This is American foreign policy. Nothing has changed, but the war on terror that started...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are you speaking for the motion or against the motion?
RAMZI KHOURY
There is no war.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You appear to be speaking for it.
RAMZI KHOURY
No, absolutely not, I'm all against the idea that the war on terror has become a war on Islam. The war on terror may have become a war on Iraq and that is unfair. It may have started with good merit going after Osama Bin Laden and those people who committed 9/11, who chopped people's heads off on television, those people who ruined the name of Islam, it's a war that is being conducted today by Muslim nations. It is not an American war against terror. It's an international, multi-national, multi-faith war against terror. This is what is going on. This is not a war against Islam. There are many problems with America. There is a huge problem with American foreign policy, Tim, and most importantly is how the neo-conservatives are running this administration in Washington D.C., and let us take a look at their doctrine. Their doctrine is not a doctrine of religion. They have absolutely nothing against Islamists. For the first time ever in history, these neo-conservatives have put their hands with what is unheard of, the Islamist Shi'ites in Iraq. It's never happened before. These neo-conservatives, according to Gilles Keppel in his new book The War for the Minds of Muslims, Keppel proves in his book that in 1996, the toppling of Saddam Hussein was concocted by Benjamin Netanyahu. It was presented by the neo-conservatives on a national security agenda. Also he says that before that, in 1980, when Saddam Hussein waged war on Iran and he had the full support of the Reagan administration, it was the neo-conservatives who actually pushed the Reagan administration to support Saddam Hussein in that war. These people are not people who are waging a war that has to do with religion and God. This is a godless war.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ramzi Khoury, thank you very much indeed. You say it's a godless war but can you understand why Muslims are particularly angry that the Palestinians have been left to rot in refugee camps decade after decade while the West bangs on about protecting its freedoms and values?
RAMZI KHOURY
Of course, of course I can understand why the Palestinians are angry.
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's not a war against Islam?
RAMZI KHOURY
No, that's a war against Palestinian independence. The American administration ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's not the view that's shared by many Muslims around the world, is it, your view is not shared by many Muslims.
RAMZI KHOURY
Oh, come on, Tim. Here I am, I'm a Palestinian Christian, sitting here, I have suffered because of Israeli occupation, I have relatives who are paying a major price on Palestine, some of them have died and have been killed by Israel. Shall we say today and declare today that Israel is the enemy of Christianity, that this is a war against Christianity?No, I'll tell you, Israel is a state of apartheid and Israel's war is that of a war against humanity.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But I'm talking about the attitude of the West. Take Chechnya, for instance, the blind eye that the West has turned to the human rights violations carried out by Russian forces in Chechnya. You don't see that as aimed against Muslims?
RAMZI KHOURY
Oh, I think that some of the acts of the Chechens who went and took over the school in Russia and didn't allow the kids to have water all throughout their siege is an act against Muslims.
TIM SEBASTIAN
That's not my question, that's not my question. It's the blind eye that the West turned to Russian atrocities and Russian violence against Muslims in Chechnya. You don't see that, because it's cited by many Muslims around the world as evidence of a war against Islam.
RAMZI KHOURY
This goes back to national interests and foreign policy. It does not go back to a religious war. There is no religious war. These people are not sitting down there, using the bible or the Torah in order to wage war. Israel is a secular state, so is America. The neo-conservatives in my opinion don't seem to believe in God.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ramzi Khoury, thank you very much indeed.

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Audience questions

TIM SEBASTIAN
Audience questionNow I'm going to throw it open to the audience. If you have questions, and I certainly hope you do, you've never been shy in putting your questions beforehand, please raise your hand and we'll get a microphone to you as soon as possible. Gentleman at the back there. Please just one question each.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Being a Bosnian, I have witnessed that the worst was observing the suffering of Bosnian Muslims for four years, depriving them from the basic right to defend themselves, to defend their lives by putting the embargo on the weapons for Bosnian Muslims, and help from the West came only after 200,000 people have died from suffering, by being slaughtered, women raped, children killed. I was just wondering and asking Dr. Feisal, Dr. Feisal, wouldn't this be a good example how the West had allowed Muslims to suffer by portraying their attitude towards Islam? Actually my question is, would you think that the same thing would have happened if the victims of the war were Christians, Serbs and Croats and not Bosnian Muslims?
TIM SEBASTIAN
You're saying that you believe it is evidence of a Western war against Islam.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Yes. And I'm asking Mr. Feisal, does he ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Imam.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, certainly we were very concerned about the mistreatment of the Bosnians, and we've worked very hard at that, but the reason why we were not able or we did not succeed to do it quickly enough and in time is because the American Muslim community has not yet been sufficiently empowered. We need to build further coalitions with many other people, Christian and Jewish people, who were very concerned about the atrocities committed against the Bosnians. But again, as Ramzi pointed out, US foreign policy is primarily dictated by policies of interests, and the alacrity and the quickness with which for example the US came to the aid of Kuwait during the first Gulf War is because of their interests of oil. The issues of religion in religious war tends to intersect issues of interest, and they're governed by issues of interest. Is there a sense in the Western world, a fear of Islam? Yes, there's a certain fear of Islam, and we're working very hard to combat this fear, but the fact of the matter remains that the vast majority of Muslims in the United States, in Europe, want to live there and want to be integrated into the Western fabric of society.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Does that answer your question? Are you satisfied with that answer? Can we get the microphone back to you, please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
You mentioned that the US bases its policy on their interest, so I was just wondering what interest could have been there for the West in the dying and suffering of people? They could have stopped it if they wanted to, like four years before the genocide, so many sufferings happened in 1995, so I can't understand, are you trying to say that it was in their interest for the Bosnian Muslims to die?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
No, that's not what I'm saying, sir. What I'm saying is that US foreign policy is to a large extent guided by US domestic policy, and when you have certain constituencies, the nature of the US democracy ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
It wasn't much help to the Bosnian Muslims though, that's the point that he's making.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
No it wasn't, but it was not a war, in other words the fact that there was something against Muslims in Europe, we had to lobby very hard to get the US policy to wage hostilities, and had Bob Dole won the election, because he was one of those who was talking very, very urgently, in a very strong manner against the human rights violations against the Bosnians, but it is the fact that United States policy, as I said, is dictated by local interests, and because Muslims in the United States were not strong enough as a pro-active lobby, to urge the United States to act more quickly is the reason why, but the United States policy is not driven by religious interest or religious objectivities. In fact the notion of church/state relation separation in the United States forces the United States policy to be relatively blind when it comes to issues of religion.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, let's bring Anas Altikriti in.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
If I may, the bringing in of the issues of Bosnia and Kosovo is one that I'm very uncomfortable with for several reasons, the first being that firstly this happened during the mid-90's when the present format and the structure of the war on terror was still undeveloped. This developed towards the 1998 and 1999, towards the new millennium, and therefore that was outside that context. Plus we have to realise a very important fact: Bosnia was not the first time this had happened, it wasn't the last time this has happened. The reaction of the world was for several reasons. Firstly it was at the doorsteps of the West, that was very, very dangerous. There was a war, an all-out war happening between a country that was threatening to spill out to Europe, to create a massive economic-socio-political-religious crisis. Another important point, something that I feel uncomfortable saying, but I have to, I'm sorry, but our brothers and my sheikh from Bosnia, is white, he's fair-haired, he's blue-eyed. It matters. What happened to Rwanda? What's happened in Southeast Asia? It doesn't matter that much. It's far away, we don't go to holidays over there, the Olympics weren't held over there a few years ago, it doesn't really matter. Our humanity is being judged, and I think that our humanity doesn't really stand a chance before that. Plus I think that we need to really analyse the issue of either absolute goodness and absolute evil. We don't have that. There is always a bad element within Muslims or within Christians or within Jews or within any human trait.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me ask the Imam to answer that. I mean, you made a number of points. Let him answer.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, the basic issue that I see is that the war on terror as it has been prosecuted is not a war that is driven by religious animus primarily. It is driven by geo-political interests, it's driven by economic interests, by the desire to control oil, by the desire to have an expanded strategic location in the world.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you're saying there's a pattern here, aren't you? You're saying there's a pattern against Muslims, time after time.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
I am, absolutely.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
But there's a partnership to counter that, there's a partnership between the United States and many Muslim nations. There's been a partnership between the United States and Saudi Arabia. There was a partnership with the United States and the Afghans to fight the Cold War. The Mujahideen in the 80's were brought and feted and feasted in the White House as being heroes, whereas when the United States interests were partnering with Muslims as it is right now in Iraq, in fact the situation in Iraq today has expanded the position of Islam or Islamists if you will, in the world. The point we're trying to make here is that the prosecution of the war on terror is not predicated on an anti-Islamic agenda primarily. It's not driven by that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You say primarily. So there is some element of it.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, no, I'm saying it's driven, there is an element of fear in the West about Islam, there's no question about it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is that justified for you, Anas Altikriti?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Absolutely not. I think that if we read through history books, modern and ancient, I think that we always have this dissident element within all sects and ideologies. We have never had this draconian practice against an entire community of faith around the world wherever they may be. Describe to me this: why is it that the West now has reneged on its most passionate and more precious possession and that is civil liberties? In my country, in the United Kingdom, where now draconian anti-terror legislation has taken away everyone's civil liberties, not just Muslims'. It is tailored for Muslims but now it's targeting everyone.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
I'm not qualified to speak about civil liberties in Britain perhaps, but I can tell you that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the West. It's the fastest-growing religion in America, it's the fastest-growing religion in ...
ANAS ALTIKRITI
That's despite all of us.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
That's despite all of us, and that's the reason for, that accounts for the fear. The fear is based upon the fact that by the year 2010, the four largest cities in Holland, Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht are going to be majority Muslim cities.
Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
Anas Altikriti, a little theory is understandable, isn't it? If 15 American hijackers for instance had crashed planes into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, for instance, there'd be a little suspicion of America, wouldn't there?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
As would the Iraqi people's fear when cruise missiles fall on them from afar in the hundreds.
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, but I mean, address the point that I've made.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Well, absolutely. The thing that I'm rejecting, if I may, the thing is that if I am describing this campaign as being a war on Muslims, then I am somehow siding with people whom I reject entirely, and I have been rejecting, by the way, for decades and decades, and no-one has been listening to me, and that is where the suspicion arises from the West, because we are telling them the moderate mainstream of Muslims have been speaking out against these dissident elements, in fact they've been attacked even by these dissident elements for decades now, but no-one gave them the pleasure of daylight. Now...
TIM SEBASTIAN
You're saying that the Egyptian weekly Al-Ahram said last year, 'Muslims must no longer remain silent. Our fear of speaking out has become the terrorists' fifth column.'
ANAS ALTIKRITI
What I reject is that we haven't been speaking out. I as a person, I'm only 36 years old, but 20 years of my life I've been going around preaching modernism, preaching interaction with the West, so I reject entirely the suggestion by the United Kingdom, by the United States, by the West generally that I have been silent all this time and how come, you know, I've always been relaxed and you know, my legs straight out and never said anything and now we've come to defend you. I've always been speaking.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ramzi Khouri.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Hold on, Tim. But that point is a function of the media. We have this battle within America today. I'm continually, continuously banging against the media. They don't give adequate coverage to us Muslims, and the Muslim moderates. They give undue attention to those who give a negative image of Islam, but those of us who try to give a positive image of Islam are sidelined.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So it's all the media's fault.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Not a policy issue. It's a very important difference. The majority of Westerners, the majority of Americans and US policy is not guided by anti-Islam and Islam but guided by other factors.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ramzi Khoury.
RAMZI KHOURY
I believe that a lot of what Mr. Altikriti said today proves that national interest is what is ruling the game. Now, 9/11 was committed ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
He doesn't quarrel with that. He just says national interest is anti-Islam.
RAMZI KHOURY
9/11 was committed by Muslims. The acts that came after 9/11 in the name of security has robbed the American people, whether they were Muslim, whatever their race, whatever their religion, it robbed them of their freedom. If anybody paid the price, the American people paid the price. I believe that America, just like the Grand Mufti said, not only the Grand Mufti, said that America cannot win a war or will not win a war against Islam and against Muslims. America will not even dare win a war against a fifth of the world's population. That is a ridiculous notion to start with and Muslims are sure being profiled today, not only Muslims, Arabs, I get profiled, I have American citizenship, when I go to America, I get profiled, I just have the features. Now, these acts have robbed the American people of their freedoms, whatever they are.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Grand Mufti, you want to say something quickly, and then I'll take a question from the centre over there.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
It is our difficulty that Islam is somehow reduced or the only religion that is associated still with terrorism, because some Muslims have committed some wrong. Why don't we say that Hitler was a Catholic Fascist? Why don't we say about the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin, that he was a Jewish terrorist? Why don't we say about Timothy McVeigh that he was a Christian terrorist? Why don't we say about Karadzic, that he is an Orthodox terrorist? It is only when we come to Islam and Muslims that when somebody does wrong, as a Muslim, then the media, the politicians, no, I don't think that it is only the media, media also has sources to come out and speak certain things from the politicians and politicians are feeding media and media feeds politicians.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But when people cut other people's heads off and they shout 'God is great!', it's a difference, isn't it, because they claim to be speaking for their religion.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
You heard about Milovan Milanovic, a Serbian who killed the foreign minister of Sweden and who said that Jesus ordered him to do so. Why don't you call him Christian terrorist, and then he was proclaimed to be insane because only Muslims are associated to Islam. What I'm trying to say to those who want to help us Muslims, who are moderate, peaceful and so on, why don't they save us and spare us from this embarrassment when they call Islamic terrorists, they include me, my daughter, my wife and everyone in Sarajevo and all around the world, and this is exactly what the terrorists need, that they be associated with a billion people around the world, and we are constantly saying, 'Don't call it and don't label it Islamic terrorism,' but somehow in the Western media, this is a very happy or very pleased statement when you say Islamic terrorists, and then you have heroes in the West who are saving the Western world against these Islamic terrorists. This is wrong.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. All right. There's a gentleman up there who's been waiting very patiently, sir.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Thank you. I appreciate all your comments. I think that the war on Islam is actually a war against a particular brand of Islam. You've called it a separation of church and state, but yet the US funds, you know, Al Hurra TV, Radio Sawa. They have a Muslim World Outreach project; this is the specific brand of Islam that they want to fund. They've funded various different brands of Islam, but haven't let Islam come as its own self. Muslim moderates like Tariq Ramadan were denied a visa.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Do you have a question please?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
So, my question. The war against terrorism has become a war against certain types of Islam. The US wants to dictate which Islam it wants to enter the country, which Islam they want to put on TV, which Islam they want to talk about, which Islam is to be in the books, but the other types of Islam, the people who are speaking moderate Islam in other places, they don't have US interest, they don't get any voice.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You don't think they have a right to fight militant Islam, Islam that crashes planes into the World Trade Centre?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The Muslims should themselves fight the militant Islam, and they should do that through a Muslim discourse. Someone coming outside and dictating the terms will not do anything for the Muslim extremists. They will just breed more extremism.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you're saying that some of the Islamic clergy should have done more?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I believe so. I believe it's the responsibility of the Grand Mufti and other people like him to speak out. Imam Feisal speaks out, I know, I'm from the city and he speaks out against these things. We should do so.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let the Grand Mufti answer that point. He says you should have spoken out more.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
I think I'm speaking very loudly but it depends whether somebody wants to hear. What I believe, it is for the media to make news at night, better to have some Hamzas who will tell that Muslims should kill Christians and Jews, than to have a moderate, boring Muslim clergy to speak about peaceful Islam, and this is what media is making. I don't want to sound like to blame the media, that's the easier way. There are some people who are behaving irresponsibly on behalf of Islam. I believe, yes, I agree with you that we should be louder and tell them that they don't do this on our behalf. We Muslims want to live in peace with other people, and we have proven this through history that we are capable to do so.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is that loud enough and clear enough for you?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I'm sorry, you've missed the point. The US, United States government itself funds through initiatives within the Muslim countries and within the Muslim discourse that they want to have. Some people are given the voices like the Grand Mufti is speaking, I agree with him totally. I think people, for example Tariq Ramadan, wasn't allowed to come to the States because they don't want that type of Islam. I think the government is funding Al Hurra TV because they want Al Hurra TV, they don't want Al-Jazeera. They want Radio Sawa, they don't want a Muslim people talking about this.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Imam.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Why you are opposing what the Americans are trying to do for Muslims? I don't think that anyone can change the content of Islam, even Americans or anybody, but if Americans don't do anything, we blame America, because it didn't do anything, but if it does something, then we blame it because it is doing something. The United States is the only country in the world that can do and wants to do something in the world. There are some people who can do but don't want to, and other people want to but they cannot. I think we should be more reasonable and open for others who want to help us, but of course provided that we help ourselves.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Because how can somebody help me if I cannot help myself?
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, let me bring, Imam, just very quickly.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Tariq Ramadan was prevented from entering in this particular case because he made statements against Israel, just a point of the Israeli connection. However, having said that, the issue, we are challenged in the West. A friend of mine, a journalist who really is very sympathetic to our situation, says the problem that the West has, they're confused. They can understand political liberation movements, they can understand for example The Political Front for the Liberation of Palestine, but they cannot understand Jamaat Islami, Hizbollah. Why is it, they say, that throughout the Muslim world, political liberation movements use the vocabulary of Islam? Until and unless we Muslims can help them de-link this link, it is hard for them not to see Islam as militant, so part of the battle that we have both within our own tradition and vis-à-vis the West is to make these de-linkages, if you will.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Question from the front, please.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Mr. Altikriti, early on you were saying that there is an ideological campaign against Islam in Afghanistan, that was one of the mentioned states. Now, I don't understand how it could be an ideological campaign against Afghanistan by the West if these people were allowed to vote after the terrorist regime of the Taliban.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Thank you very much. Firstly can I just mention one thing. It seems that we have extremely short memories, and I speak of myself first. The Taliban government was officially recognised by only two countries in the world, the United Arab Emirates and the United States of America, so the Taliban government wasn't something that appeared just out of the blue. The Taliban government was sponsored and funded by the Americans and certain states, and this is where I come in to respond to one or two of the comments that came in. The pattern that Tim spoke about is the fact that over the past three or four decades since Islam has emerged as a political movement, the West has constantly, and by the way I also reject the notion that the war on terror means the United States of America. I know very, very well that there is a very strong, you know, ideological anti-campaign to what's going on in the world, and I also think, and Ramzi mentioned this, the war on terror can be perpetrated by Muslims, Christians and atheists and the such, and the victims can be Christians, Sikhs and the such, OK. A Sikh friend of mine who was simply seen to be wearing a turban, some idiot in the streets of London took him for an Osama Bin Laden and battered him to death. He is a victim of the war on terror. The horrid word used is 'collateral', I hate that word but nevertheless that's what's going on.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
The issue is that the West has constantly ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Briefly please, briefly.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
... supported, over the past 30 or 40 years, has constantly supported and made the extreme elements of Muslims either to fight the Cold War, or now to fight them in the name of the war on terror. The mainstream, the 99.9% of Muslims in the middle are being battered both ways, and that is what's very difficult.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right. Question at the back, please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I have a question for the Grand Mufti. He had mentioned the UN Security Council, that Muslims are not represented in the Security Council. The Security Council is not a religious body.
TIM SEBASTIAN
He's got a point, hasn't he?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
You are right, you are right, but this is not also the Western Security Council, because you have three members of the Western countries, United States, Great Britain and France, and you have Russia and China, and then now when we have the issue of the war and peace, Muslims are accused of being the cause for war, and they are asked to participate in the peace. I think that not Muslims in particular but why Indonesia cannot be a member of the Security Council with the large number of its population? Why Pakistan cannot be a member because it has now the nuclear power? Why Saudi Arabia cannot be a member of Security Council? I think that Muslims have to go to the Security Council for two reasons. One, to learn the process of building peace around the world, and the second to take responsibility for the global peace in the world.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Just to remind you that we are discussing the motion 'This House believes that the war on terror has become a war on Islam.' Can we get a microphone please to the gentleman there.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Yes, I have a question to Mr. Ramzi. You said that the war in this region, in the Middle East, is for wealth or geo-political reasons, is that right? OK. Do you think that it's a coincidence that they only want the oil of Afghanistan or the oil of Iraq, oil resources in the other Arabic or Islamic countries, and why not they take the other resources in different places in the world?
RAMZI KHOURY
Oh, oil is extremely important, energy is extremely, extremely important, and oil has always, I will actually go ahead and quote Paul Wolfowitz, he's a fantastic icon of the neo-conservatives. Paul Wolfowitz says oil fuels an economy. There is no question in my mind that oil is a major, major reason why the Americans want to be here, want to control here. I actually have the text of a letter that Paul Wolfowitz said to Dick Cheney when Dick Cheney was the Secretary of Defence at the time of Reagan, and at the time Paul Wolfowitz was the ambassador...
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, but how does this relate to the question that he's asking?
RAMZI KHOURY
I want to prove that, I want to quote the Americans on this issue, on the issue of the importance of oil and the importance of energy to the United States of America.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But your point is that America's interest in oil is because it is in Islamic states.
RAMZI KHOURY
No.
TIM SEBASTIAN
They do happen to have a preponderance of oil.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Yes. What I mean is like, it can't be like a coincidence that all the wealth that they seek is in Islamic states. Like there is oil, as you say, oil is important, but there is also oil in other countries in the world.
RAMZI KHOURY
The vast majority of oil reserves are here in this region, and this is extremely important, this makes this region extremely important. But I want to also look at the American foreign policy. The friends of yesterday are today's enemy. The Americans supported the Mujahadeen in order to attack the Soviet Union. They gave them arms, they gave them wealth, they opened the door for them and then when they became strong, they didn't need them any more, they became their enemies today. Those Islamist Shi'ites in Iraq who are allies of the United States in Iraq today, only a couple of years back were the enemy of the United States of America.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Anas Altikriti, you want to come in here.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
I think one major problem that I agree entirely with Imam Feisal what he mentioned and that is there is a problem within the West in regard with when the rhetoric that we emit and we broadcast contains Islamic references. The liberation efforts and the such are fine, as you said, although I also have my reservations regarding that, but the problem is, this inter-linking, inter-relationship between Islam and politics, Islam needs liberation movements, I think that we have tried, and this is where I say that we have failed time and time again, the media is part of it. It's not just the media. There is a predominant ideology there that wishes...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we get back to the motion in hand?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
... than the moderates mainstream. The issue is that we, as Muslims, the vast majority of the Muslim public, whether the Arab World or beyond, have chosen to exercise politics with the Islamic reference. Now, if that is going to be rejected, then I'm sure that we're going to be in this for a long haul.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Let me take a question from the lady up there.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
It may be that the intention of this war is not exactly a war on Islam itself, maybe not the intention, but the fact is that many Muslims, many women that wear the hijab and many men that have beards in the United States or in other Western countries feel discriminated against and feel as if their name, just because they are Muslim, that they're discriminated against and that they should be out of this country. My family relatives left the United States for this reason, because they're discriminated against just because of the hijab or, you know, their beards. My question is, the intention of the war may not be the war on Islam, but it appears as if, that this war is against Muslims. The intention may not be so but it is so, in the present situation this is how it appears.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You're talking about perception. You don't believe that yourself.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Well, it is though, it is a war on Islam.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You said it was a perception, but you see it as a war against Islam.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
The intention may not have been to be a war on Islam, but in the present situation now it is a war on Islam because people that wear hijab are being discriminated against, and these people are Muslim, so how do you define this as being not a war on Islam. Maybe the intention wasn't that way but it is, so how do you define that?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Imam, how do you answer that?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
I was on Court TV not so long ago where an American convert to Islam, an American white woman converted to Islam, wanted to insist on her right to drive in the State of Florida with full niqab where even her face could not be seen. Now, the fact of the matter is that in the United States, our civil rights laws permit a person to dress the way they can, and our many institutions including the Council of American Islamic Relations, and Islamic Democracy Group has fought to protect the rights of Muslim men and women to dress the way they want, except there are certain limits that have to be taken in terms of that. However, the underlying question you point out is an important one. That's the difference between perception and reality. What we have tried to show thus far is that what drives US policy is not anti-Islam as such. Are there certain individuals, perhaps individuals in positions of influence, who have a fear of Islam? No doubt about it. But you have to look at the preponderance of evidence, the preponderance of evidence, the preponderance of what the US policy is driven by, very clearly indicates that there is not hostility to Islam as such, but things that are offensive to Islam that are there. Is there a perception in the Muslim world that there is? Yes, there is, but perceptions are not reality, and it's very important for us to advocate against the linkage because we're going to make this a war on religion.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, let's ask the questioner whether she accepts what you've been saying.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
OK, so you're saying, you agree that the perception of the world is that, you know, for example the woman wearing the hijab is discriminated against. If these people are being discriminated against, does that not mean that this is a war on Muslims, therefore if it's a war on Muslims, it's a war on Islam. How do you define that in the United States or in other Western countries?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, that's too simplistic because even the Muslims in France, for example, supported the government in its position. The issues within these particular nations, well, they didn't want the interference from the outside, of non-Muslims, on this internal issue between French Muslims and their government. There is an issue of how to integrate Muslims within Western societies, and that is part of what we have to do, but the big important point which we really have to remember very much is that we can shape this war the way we want. If we are more pro-active, if Muslims are more pro-active, if they are able to advocate their issues well in Washington D.C. and be stronger in our lobbying capacity, we can shape this war. If we allow this to slip into a religious war, it is going to be dangerous.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, question from the lady at the back.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Yeah, I have a question. I'm wondering if anybody on the panel up there thinks that the majority of the people in the United States even know what Islam is or the difference between Muslim and Islam.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could you stand up and ask the question, sorry.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
OK. I'm wondering, anyone on the panel up there, if you think that the majority of the United States thinks they know what Islam is or what the difference between Muslim and Islam is?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Would you like to take that?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Yes. I can ask another question, whether Muslims know what's the difference between United States of America and the Americans, who are I believe an example of goodness in the world, and I would like Americans not to lose faith in helping the world, because Americans can do a lot. I am not here to advocate American policy or to say anything, but I think we should go a little bit to Europe and to see that it is not only perception. I would agree that there is a perception of the Muslims, majority Muslims, that they are not wanted as they are today in the Western world, but there is a paradox. Even though they are not wanted, they still come to the West, so if this West is not good, why they are coming, why they don't leave the West and go to the Muslim countries? This is one point.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
This is one point. The second point which is I would like to say, that's not perception. We have the case of Turkey. It is not any more a secret that politicians in Europe say Turkey cannot be a member of the European Union because it is Muslim country. Even the new Pope, Benedict XVI says that openly, that he is against Turkey's membership because Turkey is a Muslim country. Now, tell me now as a European Muslim how I feel in that Europe that I should share with...
TIM SEBASTIAN
I think we've got a little bit away from the question, Grand Mufti. Can you just explain what was behind your question originally?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Well, I'm just thinking if we're discussing waging a war on an ideology, then you would have to have an understanding of that ideology to do that, and I really think myself personally that those people in the United States don't even understand what Islam is, or the difference between Muslim and Islam.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Yeah, I agree with you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So no war on Islam. I'll go to Ramzi Khoury, he's been sitting there patiently.
RAMZI KHOURY
The question is extremely important, and the reason is because the American people have never really thought about Islam until suddenly they started getting a communication on Islam that is a very dangerous communication, because what really creates perception are events. Now, 9/11 happened in the name of Islam. Then suddenly people's heads were being chopped off on television in the name of Islam. A school gets taken over by people who are raising the banner of (Arabic) and unfortunately now those people who are doing these acts and those people are committing these atrocities are a fraction, a very small minority, they are actually a small group, yet that small group with its big action has managed to communicate in an enormous manner to the American people, to the Europeans, to the West and to the non-Muslims. Muslims know what Islam is.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Anas Altikriti wants to come in here. Very briefly, please, because we've still got a lot of questions to cover.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
There are two points. Between 9/11 and the chopped heads, there were two wars, in which more than 150,000 people were killed, so I think that we needn't forget that part. Secondly I agree entirely with the lady about ideology, and I think that to promote a war, I think that's absolutely correct. The issue of perception is that however we overstate it, the events on the street, when someone is picked out from their homes in Britain for instance, that is a reality, it's not a perception. There's a common saying that if something walks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like a duck, the odds are it is a duck, and the reality is that what's going on, the events throughout the world, not just the Muslim and Arab world, but even in the United States, the United Kingdom and Western Europe, and by the way, the issue of hijab is a side issue. It's one of the features and the problems. In Turkey and Syria and Tunis we have no hijab so ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please, keep it brief because we've got a lot of questions ...
ANAS ALTIKRITI
... the events on the street, on the ground, they actually prove that there is a war, it's not just a perception.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, gentleman at the back.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Thank you. This is a question to the two gentlemen that are in favour of the current motion. So your notion that the war on terror has become a war on Islam goes back to the notion that there's a Western disdain for Islam, so my question is, and you seem to focus on 9/11 as one of the starts of this supposed war on Islam, so my question is, would the Western reaction to the atrocities of 9/11 and Madrid have been less forceful had it not been a Muslim faction that had accepted responsibility for these acts?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Grand Mufti, do you want to take that question?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
I think that even before 11th September, and Madrid and Holland, I think some Muslim would complain, but 11th September gave the courage to other people around the world to somehow develop something against Muslims and Islam that we didn't see before.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you think people are using that as a pretext?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Probably. Most of, specially those dictators around the world that wanted to please President Bush's determination to go after those who have committed this terror or terrorism in New York and in Washington, and then unfortunately I think that President Bush apologised later on when he used the term 'crusade'. I know that for many Christians, the crusade means good things, a lot of good things, crusade for education, other things, but for Muslims it means only one thing, the war against Islam and Muslims, in the same way as the jihad for Muslims means many good things, but for the Christians and Jews and other non-Muslims, jihad means only one thing, violence against them. My proposal is that they should avoid using both 'crusade' and 'jihad' in order to avoid the embarrassment of all parties.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You're going to impose that in Bosnia, are you?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
We are imposing already.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You're imposing it already?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Are you satisfied with the answer you had?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
What's that?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are you buying what the Grand Mufti has told you?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Not really.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Why not?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I mean, I just personally think that if it had been another, just any other, maybe if it were another country that Americans see as a problem, like North Korea, if it had been North Korea that had done the attacks on 9/11, it would have been just as forceful an act against that country as any other, it's not just solely because there's this perceived disdain for Islam in America and in Western countries.
Can I ask the gentleman a question?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please do.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Do you realise that the vast majority, if not every single Muslim state, condemned out rightly 9/11, including the Taliban government themselves? Does it make a difference in our perception, in our minds, that every single mainstream Muslim organisation living in the Muslim world as well as the West, has condemned time and time again for the past four years 9/11, and they will continue seemingly to do so for the next 10 or 15 years? Does that make any difference? But the reality is...
TIM SEBASTIAN
But let him answer that. You've posed him a question, let him answer whether he thinks ...
ANAS ALTIKRITI
... it's not against Osama bin-Laden, it's against me as a Muslim.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Mr. Altikriti, let him answer there. You asked him a question whether it made a difference, let him answer.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I accept that, yes. I believe that, yes, that everybody has condemned it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But does it make a difference to you, which was the question, does it make a difference to your view that they have condemned this?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I think so.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So he's brought you round. He has or he hasn't? Are you going to go on or are you giving up? You're giving up. OK. There was a question along here somewhere, gentleman there.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is to Mr. Khoury. I'd like to ask the question that the gentleman just asked you before, that you said earlier that the war on terrorism is a war for oil, and also for the interest of Israelis and the expansion of the American power in the region. My question is, what are the countries of the region, what is the religion of those countries? What is the interest of the Israelis? Isn't it in their interest to launch a war against the countries that are in conflict with them? Is it a coincidence that all these countries are Islamic countries? I agree with you that the policy of the United States hasn't changed, but the reason for that is because the war on terrorism was a war on Islam from the beginning. Thank you.
RAMZI KHOURY
I think that as long as you believe that the policy hasn't changed, then the proposition is incoherent, because the proposition is 'The war on Islam has become, the war on terror has become a war on Islam' so there must have been some sort of a change. Yes, I agree with you, it hasn't changed, but again, you are not being fooled by America, you are not being made to pay a price because you are a Muslim. On the contrary, those who are allied to America in the region, in your own region, also happen to be Muslim. These people, Muslims who are called terrorists today and who are blowing up places and killing people, were the allies of America at one point during the Cold War. Today they are the enemies. America's allies today in Iraq used to be the enemy only a few years back. Why? Because it's an issue of national interest. America will put its hand with those who will give her what it wants.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So it's got nothing to do with religion. This is your point, is it?
RAMZI KHOURY
It absolutely does not have to do with the religion, in my opinion. As for Israel, again Israel, and the relationship between Israel and the United States has been a relationship that has been very strong since the start. Today America continues to be committed to Israel's security. America seems to be committed to Israel's orders at the expense of logic when it comes to the Palestinians.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, OK. We're running out of time and I want to take a selection of questions from the people who still want to put them, so if we can have quick questions and some quick answers, please. Gentleman over there.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Good evening. I have two questions.
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, only one, I'm sorry, only one.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
OK, I have a question for Mr. Ramzi. You're arguing that this is war against oil. Wouldn't you agree with me that this is just a new episode of new crusades because I'll ask you to comment me on this fact, that because you're saying that this region is filled with oil, so that's why America is doing the war, so how do you comment on the things like the agreement that happened in 1914 when the oil was not yet discovered here, when France and Britain agreed to divide the territory? How do you explain the Balfour Declaration? How do you explain the breaking up of Ataturk and his secularising regime...
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, that's about five questions, let him answer those. You thought you'd sneak them in anyway, didn't you? OK.
RAMZI KHOURY
Again I go back to the national interest of the imperialistic power of the time, just as the national interest of the imperialist power of today. The United States today is the Roman Empire of yesterday. The United States today is the British Empire of yesterday. A lot of wrong has been done to Muslims, a lot of wrong has been done to all underdogs around the world, but is it really wrong that is done to them because they are Muslims? Where is proof of this anywhere? There has never been a war on Islam as a religion or in theological terms. On the contrary, in my opinion, the attack that the Muslims have raised on the hands of America has created more Muslims from that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, we want to take some more questions. Gentleman towards the back there.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Thank you very much. My question goes to Imam Feisal. The fact is that I'm European and I'm a Muslim, and I'm actually studying in a Western college, and I know the fact is, I could come up with my own question but I'm just compelled ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please do, please do.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
... I'm compelled to find refuge in Dr. Ceric's arguments and I just have to use his examples and his points as my question. The question is, what if I was a citizen of Turkey, how would I feel if my country was not allowed to enjoy the benefits of the European Union just because the majority of members are Muslims?
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Well, certainly that is the, we agree with you and we agree with the position of Mustapha Ceric on the fact that the perception in much of the Muslim world is the reason why Turkey is not admitted into the European Union is because it is an Islamic nation.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, it may well be admitted into the European Union.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
It may well be yet, so the fact of the ...
ANAS ALTIKRITI
The argument about Turkey, it's very interesting and I think it's proof to our motion, and that is because those who accept Turkey are saying it's left behind Islam, and those who are rejecting Turkey are saying it hasn't left Islam enough.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I don't think that's the argument of everybody, that it's left behind Islam, but it's between Islam and the rest of Europe and a lot of people are citing that as a reason.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
That's a very minute element and I wish that they would have bigger microphones in front of them when they speak.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Gentleman wants to come in there.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
But the fact of the matter is ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we just let the questioner come back here because he just wants to make another point.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I do realise that in time Turkey will hopefully get accepted in the European Union because it's a just decision. The fact that it has not been for so many years been admitted this position, just because of the fact that it's a majority Muslim country ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
It is also its human rights record as well which has come under a lot of criticism, isn't it?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Excuse me, can you repeat that?
TIM SEBASTIAN
It's also its human rights record which has received a lot of criticism, that's also been cited by those who oppose Turkey's membership into the European Union. You have to acknowledge that.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
As Dr. Ceric just pointed out that Turkey should not be accepted because it's a Muslim country, and in fact I don't realise this is, Turkey is not a declared as a Muslim country.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You wanted to make a point.
FEISAL ABDUL RAUF
Yes, two points. First of all that the question on Turkey's admission to the European Union is not yet a closed story, and point number two, that it's not relevant to our discussion on war on terror. The war on terror is a war as we have described consisted of two parts broadly, the war on two fronts. In Afghanistan, as Ramzi pointed out, this war was supported by Yasser Arafat, by the Iranians, by the vast majority of the Muslim nations. The second leg of the war on terror, namely the occupation of Iraq is again not a war against Islam as Muslims, because the end result is that in fact the Islamist groups in Iraq today are partnering with the United States, so the proposition of this debate tonight that the war on terror has become a war on Islam, let's define the war on terror. The war on terror, whether in Afghanistan or in Iraq is not evidence of a war on Islam.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, lady at the back, we'll take a question from you please.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Just briefly, I was in Germany when 9/11 happened, and my perception there was that the reason that they chose to dive-bomb the World Trade Center was because for the Islamic world, the insidious encroachment of our American culture is in direct conflict with very many things that they believe, and that that's an impossible thing for them to fight back against, because it isn't a clear war for them. I took it to not be a war about oil but from the other perspective, from the Islamic perspective, a war where they are trying to defend their beliefs in a world where American culture is insidiously eroding every other culture that exists, so my question is, why is it that Islamic people feel it necessary to attack the Western world, and I maintain that that's why.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You say American policies justify the death of 2,500 people in 9/11, is that your point?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
No, that's not my point at all. My point is why ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
It sounded very like it.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
... why do Muslims feel it's necessary to attack the West, go back one step further.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Grand Mufti, do you want to take this please?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
How can we feel, I think the question is too hard on us saying that Muslims feel the need to attack the West. The 11th September, I suffer now as a Muslim in the world more than the Americans are suffering, and because of that, I am against that more than you can imagine, because you know, the Jews were accused that they killed Jesus for 10 centuries, and they suffered in Europe. Now I think the role is of the Muslims, that we are going to be accused for generations after generations after generations that somebody, some Muslims have done, and I don't know these Muslims, whether they are Muslims or not. I am not sure, because if they are sincere Muslims, they are not wise and they would not do that. If they are not Muslims, then therefore they did that exactly against Muslims and Islam, not in the favour of Islam against the West, so I see, if you can get my point, is that I would like you in the West who are friends of the Muslims, don't be impatient or don't lose your patience in saving your friends in the Muslim world. We are here obsessed by a small group that makes us busy, and then we are losing trust in each other, and I believe that there are a great number of friends in the West who don't hate Islam and Muslims, and you have the Muslims who don't hate and don't attack the West, but now our arguments are being weak because some actions of the West against Muslims and Islam is wrong, in the same way as the Muslims did wrong to the West, two evils does not make one good.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you, Grand Mufti. Gentleman in the second row.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
International war on terror is not a war on Islam, Mr. Anas.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could you stand up, please, and make your point so we can see you.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The war is a multi-cultural war and many Muslim nations are part of it. For example the elected Iraqi government is fighting a war against terrorist militants. Is that a war against Islam as well?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
You know, the problem is that now everyone who has a grudge against one of its groups or strains of its community all of a sudden declare that it's a war on terror and you're OK.
TIM SEBASTIAN
He asked you a straight question.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
And that is the problem. And I'm answering a straight answer. The issue is that we get our facts from and we totally read the picture from one side to the other which is totally opposite to what we should do. Terrorism in Iraq, Iraq never ever, despite the dark days of Saddam, never ever had one single Iraqi been implicated in one act of terrorism around the world, not one single suicide bombing happened in Iraq until after the war and the subsequent occupation. The reason why now Iraq is being classified as a bedrock of terrorism is because of the war and the subsequent occupation, and the effort to quell that is an effort that I support if, if it was a sincere effort, but the problem is, it's not, it's an insincere effort.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, you wanted to come back on that. Could you stand up please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
So if Muslims defend themselves it's not a war against Islam, but Western countries do not have the right to defend themselves against terrorism.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Defend themselves in Iraq? No. They don't have the right to do that.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
No, Iraqi government is defending its citizens in Iraq. Is that a war against Islam or not?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
If the efforts by any government instilled were sincere to quell terrorism, not to instil and reinforce the presence of the occupation, every single Iraqi would support that including myself.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
OK, there is no hypothetical situation. There is a current situation right now. Is that a war on Islam or not, that's taking place right now.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Which one?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
We have ...
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Can I just say something?
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, he's just defining his question, please.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
I'm responding to that particular question that he just asked, and that is we mustn't simplify everything and make every single, you know, policeman stopping someone who's driven above the speed limit to be an act of war on terror, please, we're not simplifying issues. We're talking, there are, yes, acts of injustice and inhumanity that are merely for certain reasons, possibly some of them oil, such as Ramzi said, but the predominant element that is happening today, the wars that are being fought, not the effort of Jaafari or Allawi to, you know, to fight some invisible entity within Iraq. Those are wars against Islam.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
So you have told me the story of the Iraq problem. My question is, is fighting militants considered as fighting Islam, fighting militants who are mostly killing Muslims in Iraq, is that something against Islam?
ANAS ALTIKRITI
Who are those militants? I mean, I'm sorry, I don't get the question.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The militants who are bombing Muslim and non-Muslim Iraqis in the street, and who are kidnapping people and chopping off their heads.
ANAS ALTIKRITI
No, those are grave injustices, and that is why, from the very beginning, I said I reject entirely the fact that when I'm talking about the war on terror has now become a war on Islam that I associate myself with those terrorists. I am the very first person as an Iraqi born in Iraq to reject the presence of those terrorists who before the war weren't there. I am saying because of the war and occupation that these criminals have come inside Iraq.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
I'd like to ask him a question.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Grand Mufti, you just wanted to ask a question.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
What do you think about what is happening now in the Masjid al-Aqsa, the Aqsa Mosque, that is threatened by some extremists, and we don't call them terrorists, they are extremists, because there is a difference between terrorists and extremists. What do you think it is, a war against Islam or Muslims or against the Jews, Christians, humanity, humans?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Any person, it doesn't matter what religion they are from, any one who does an act against humanity is a terrorist.
MUSTAPHA CERIC
No, No, I am not talking about generalities. I am asking you about al-Aqsa Mosque. You know today you have news that people, some extremists, have threatened that they will destroy al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuild the synagogue, Abraham's Temple. What do you think about this? How as Muslims should we explain this phenomenon?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
For me it is an act of terrorism of course, but I don't see how...
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Against whom?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ok he is answering your question.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
It is an act of terrorism done by a group of people. It is obviously against Islamic culture, but it's done by a group of people...
MUSTAPHA CERIC
But this is my symbol...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Rhamzi Khoury
RHAMZI KHOURY
I just do not see how Israeli fundamentalist terrorists who want to demolish al-Aqsa, what do they have to do with the war on terror becoming a war on Islam? Now let's go back to our focus because while we are sitting here, we can sit here and we can list all of the atrocities that have been committed against Muslims in history and today, and there will be more in the future as well, but our focus here, our argument here 'This House believes that the war on terror has become a war on Islam'; that gentlemen there said something that is very important. Every single Arab and Muslim country today is fighting the war on terror. They are all partners in the war on terror, all of them. This is not an American war on terror, this international and multi-faith. The Muslim world is always playing a role in it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Ok, we've made that point. We're running out of time now, and I want to put it to the vote in a second, but we have time for one more very quick question, the lady in the second row.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I'd like to ask, what do you think that the West has to gain from the war on Islam. Are you saying the West is trying to eradicate a religion?
MUSTAPHA CERIC
No I said as the beginning there cannot be a war against Islam. This is a misuse. And I don't think the West is solely responsible for misunderstanding and misconception. Islam is a victim both of the East and the West. The West now believes that Islam is a threat to the way of life of the West. And the East believes Islam is the solution. Now the people in the East, Muslims, they believe that Islam is responsible for not having freedom, and they are saying because of Islam we cannot have reform, which I don't agree with. Because of this, Islam is a victim. And in the West, if you open any newspapers tomorrow, they are not saying the names of...for example, if a Christian does something wrong, I don't say Jesus is responsible, if a Jew does something, I don't say Moses is responsible. Only in the Muslim case, when some Muslims do something wrong, people blame Islam. We are trying to say you cannot blame Islam, you can blame only the individual who has done something wrong. He has his name. The individualization of the crime, genocide, or terrorism should be done also for Muslims as well as for the others.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, Grand Mufti, you've made your point.

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Vote result

TIM SEBASTIAN
We're at the point in the proceedings when we're going to ask you to make up your mind about the motion, "This House believes the war on terror has become a war on Islam." Please take the voting machines that you have. If you are for the motion please press button one, the yellow one. If you are against it, press 2, the red button, and would you please do it now. You only have to do it once, you don't have to keep pressing. Would you please press the button now, just once.
RHAMZI KHOURY
Should we vote?
TIM SEBASTIAN
No, you've had your say, you've had your say, it's up to the audience now. While we're waiting for the result to come, just a reminder that this debate is being shown on BBC World around the world. It's going to be shown on 7th and 8th May, the times are still to be announced. They will be on our website so please check on that. The website address is www.thedohadebates.com. Please send us your suggestions, your ideas and please stay in contact with us. We're coming up to the point where we're getting the results developed now. They should be coming up on the screen, and they're looking very even. For, 49.6%; against, against the motion, 50.4%, the motion has been rejected just by a small margin .
MUSTAPHA CERIC
Very, very good, very good, half and half.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me thank our eminent panellists, and let me thank you, the audience as well. We'll be back in a month's time, thank you very much for coming tonight. We hope you will join us again. Have a safe journey home. Thank you very much indeed, thank you.

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