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Transcript for Between Militarism & Extremism: The Excluded Middle

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Event Name: Between Militarism & Extremism: The Excluded Middle
Transcription Date: 4/13/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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OhSelam aleykum, Like i said, first of all i want to thank everybody for coming out on a Monday night, Bay Area traffic, Berkeley parking .  And I want to thank the president the GTU dr. Munir jeewa also for honoring us here on the hill, sandy for coming up on very short notice from a very busy schedule the

obviously this is an event that's

happened we've been here before in fact

when the Danish cartoons happened I

actually went to Denmark and I met with

the prime minister's office I spoke to

the Danish people I actually spoke on

Danish television reminding them that

the Arabs loved Danish cheese and that

it actually harmed their economy believe

it or not it harmed their economy

because there was a boycott on Danish

cheese which sells very well in the Arab

world and economics is very important

right people like good ties with other

places because they can make money in

fact one of the worst things for

business is war unless you're in the

business of war business people do not

like instability they like stability

these are very destabilizing events that

are happening I want to just look first

of all at a few ideas and then we'll get

into the conversation one of them I

spoke here on this lectern a while back

before I even knew that we would one day

own this building not even a thought in

my head but I spoke about economic

injustice and I used Dante as a

springboard to talk about that and

during that talk actually mentioned and

I used the word defend and I that

because Dante according to the inferno

has a character that he calls Mohammed

oh and an ally another character and

it's believed that these are meant to

portray the Prophet Muhammad and his

cousin Ali as schismatic s-- anyway I

use the word offend pointing out to a

lot of Christians most of the people in

the audience were Christian that the

that Dante did not put the Prophet with

the false prophets but with the

schismatic s-- so i was pointing out

that nuance about the inferno well lo

and behold a remark really off-the-cuff

I didn't wasn't prepared but a group in

England actually anemone for that

statement saying that I was no longer

Muslim that I need to make public Toba

which is repentance because I had

defended somebody who had insulted the

Prophet which was certainly not my

intention but I was pointing out at

nuance well we're living in a world

where nuance is no longer in our

vocabularies right we are in the cartoon

world of black and white it's not even

color cartoons so I want to talk a

little bit here about the idea of

freedom of speech because certainly in

the West this is one of our most

cherished rights is the right to freedom

of speech I will guarantee to you I've

been all over the world literally you've

lived in many different places

freedom of speech exists all over the

world people speak very freely in fact

in some places they speak far more

freely about things than they do in the

United States but there are two areas in

many places that people are not free to

talk about one of them is religion and

the other is politics but in the United

States of America freedom of speech

means being able to say whatever you

want about religion and whatever you

want about politics generally this is

the idea and these are hard-earned

people died there was bloodshed to to

acquire these rights but we also have

certain laws that prevent certain types

of speech and we know that you cannot

shout fire in a crowded theatre Oliver

Wendell Holmes we also have the

Brandenberg standard if there is a clear

and imminent danger in speech that

incites to hatred

Brandenburg versus Ohio case and there

are other cases like this that tests the

limits of freedom of speech

unfortunately we have now people

insignificant people really and I would

say and you know everybody's significant

in their own way but I'm talking about

people that you know really it's quite

stunning that somebody you know who

lives in a house with wheels and has a

car in the front that has no wheels and

he's able to literally create riots on

the other side of the planet who has a

church with 15 people right half of them

are his own family and then and the

other half are our friends right that

really can affect global situations I

mean this is really extraordinary the

internet the internet right really I

mean I call evil email evil mail because

it causes so much problem now we have to

have these little happy faces just to

make sure people know that I'm not being

offensive right I mean this is the type

of world we're in there's no nuances

people can't speak any more freely

everybody's afraid right so you know we

have to think about incitement to hatred

and what that means and being realistic

about it nobody argues that Germany is

not a free society but they have a law

there that prohibits denial of the

Holocaust there's a law that prohibits

denial of Holocaust there are laws in

certain countries in fact in Denmark

there are not laws denying the Holocaust

and one of the things that I tried to

point out one of the nuances in the Arab

world when I was there because I was

interviewed during that time I went to

the Arab world what I tried to point out

was when the Danish people said they

supported because that the Arab

newspapers would say 80% of the Danish

support the cartoons they didn't support

the cartoons they supported the right of

the person in fact most of the Danish

people were actually offended by the

cartoons and so these are the nuances

that get lost in these things

unfortunately we had

a presidential candidate say we should

never apologize for American values

supporting the film people hear that in

the Arab world and they say it's an

American value to to denigrate our

religious sensitivities he was obviously

saying speech freedom of speech but the

point is as Americans do we really want

to say it is an American value to

denigrate other people's face other

people's beliefs we can criticize those

belief right intellectual tones about

why Islam is not a true religion there

are many books like that and nobody gets

upset Muslims don't get upset you can

write all you want of why you don't

think the Prophet Mohammed is a prophet

but to mock to denigrate to make fun of

somebody who's dearer to the hearts of

the Muslims and this includes Jesus the

Muslims feel the same way about Jesus or

about Moses about any of these prophets

really this is where we have to ask

ourselves is this the type of society we

want we have risen above racial

denigration in this country in the

public space if you denigrate somebody

racially in the public space you will

lose your job you will lose your job

there are consequences to saying kike to

saying mick to saying spick to say

nigger all of these things have

consequences why because we recognize

that people have sensitivities if you go

down to east oakland right now if you go

down if you go down to east oakland

right now and and you shout the n-word

as a white man in East Oakland and

somebody comes and stabs you is any kind

of anybody going to be surprised

seriously is any got anybody going to be

shocked no but what the problem is

we don't recognize that for believers

when you die you lose your racial

identity but when you die you maintain

your religious identity this is this is

how the Muslims understand it now I'm

not going to justify anything the most

did in their reactions I'm not going to

justify that the Prophet Muhammad never

never ever attacked any ambassador in

fact when a false prophet sent his

ambassadors he actually honored them and

sent them back

he never denigrated ambassadors in the

ancient world it was a declaration of

war to kill an ambassador this is a

wretched thing that happened but a small

minority of people and let me remind you

that there were Libyans who died

defending that embassy trying to keep

the Americans safe and they are recorded

there are recordings of them saying


who should America and awesome who

should I marry kind of get a move on

protect them make sure they're inside

and they lost their lives and they would

see that as a martyrdom in their faith

just like Amira the father of Josiah D

defended the Christians and the French

Legation in Syria against the riots in

which they were attacking Christians he

went out and defended them the French

sang his praises even though they had

conquered his country and driven him out

of his own country he defended them in

Damascus he was honored in this country

kadar Ohio is named after Iowa is named

after him because he was honored as a

noble human being this is our prophet

this is how we see our prophet now I

would argue that there is an element III

called this years ago I gave a talk at

the Globe Theater about a fellow it was

after 9/11 and I argued that Othello you

know Iago Santiago Matamoros was the

patron saint that drove out the Moors

from Spain and so Shakespeare called

this character Iago write the Spanish

advisor to attend the the moor and there

there's an argument that Iago was

actually represented a certain voice

inside England that wanted to prevent an

alliance with Queen Elizabeth and the

Moroccans against the Spanish because

Mansour adhabi had argued for that

alliance we have Iago's working on both


whispering trying to get us to kill each

other to strangle the Desdemona of hope

I mean this is what's going on and we

have to be very careful about that I

want to argue that when the the first

amendment which is such a beautiful

testimony to the ideals of this country

when that was enacted we tend to forget

there were dueling laws in the United

States of America the dueling laws were

actually a caveat to make sure that you

did not use freedom of speech to abuse

other people you could actually demand


we have one of our founding fathers was

killed in a duel because his honor was

disparaged honor is something real

people hold to honor I I'm actually a

Kentucky kernel right and in Kentucky if

you're sworn in to a state public

service you have to swear that you've

never been in a duel because Kentucky

was the last state to outlaw dueling now

in place of dueling they brought in

defamation laws defamation laws to

prevent defamation of character

unfortunately during the Warren Court

they had pseudo Matt Sullivan versus the

New York Times to remove defamation from

public officials and public characters

so my wife is protected under the

defamation laws but I'm not it's not

equal I don't think it's fair you can't

mess with my wife you can mess with me

it's not fair she does it all the time

but I want to say honor is an important

thing and anthropologist sometimes

divided societies into honor societies

and into law societies honor is

sometimes in place of law when you don't

have a strong legal system honor becomes

the way that people redress problems

that's why in the ghettos often where

you have a type of lawlessness there's

codes of honor right you don't step on

people's toes because there's constant

quinces to doing that you don't diss

their mothers you don't diss their

fathers right because there are

consequences to that right you talking

to me you talking to me you must be

talking to me I don't see anybody else

here you talking to me right that's how

it works in the hood that's how it works

in the hood right so it's very important

for us to really think deeply about

these things and the harm that these

things caused right and finally I want

to say that if this country would only

apply the advice of the United States

Army from 1943 we could end all of the

problems all right so I want to read

from instructions for American

servicemen this was during the Iraq when

they were in Iraq in 1943 okay page 12

no preaching this isn't preaching you

probably belong to a church at home and

you know how you would feel towards

anyone who insulted or desecrated your

church the Moslems feel just the same

way perhaps even more strongly in fact

their feeling about their religion is

pretty much the same as ours toward our

religion although more intense if

anything we should respect the Moslems

the more for the intensity of their

devotion that's the u.s. government in

1943 I mean where the hell are they and

not in 2012

right if you should see grown men

walking hand-in-hand ignore it they are

not queer be kind and considerate to

servants Iraqis consider all people

equals avoid any expression of race

prejudice 1943 avoid any expression of

race prejudice the people draw a very

little color line yeah so finally we're

living in the age of mockery one of my

favorite poets Yeats wrote a poem about


come let us mock at the great that had

such burdens on the mind and toiled so

hard and lay to leave some monument

behind nor thought of the leveling wind

come let us mock at the wise with all

those calendars whereon they fix told

aching eyes they never saw how seasons

run and now but gape at the Sun come let

us market the good that fancied goodness

might be gay and sick of solitude might

proclaim a holiday mock mockers after

that that would not lift a hand maybe to

help good wise or great to bat bar that

foul storm out for we traffic in mockery