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Rethinking Reform

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Event Name: Rethinking Reform
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Transcript Version: 1
Original Reference URL: http://www.rethinkingislamicreform.co.uk/transcript

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ess the divine by the limitations of language, but Muslim theologians  were always clear that there was no gender to God - God is neither male nor female. Transcendent. #00:37:00-7#


YUSUF: So that aspect cannot change. What changes then? The changes are our understanding, but*[12] those understandings have to be based on following rigorous principles. The first and foremost is they have to be within the context of the language in which the revelation was revealed and this is why, as opposed to living constitution, the idea that the language and the intent of the framers of the constitution have no relevance to us today - this is a debate - this is a very important departure for the vast majority of Muslims with certain reformist movements today, the idea that somehow we can reinterpret the Qur'an in the light of 21st century language. The Qur'an was written in Arabic of the 7th century. That Arabic was preserved to a degree by only people who really have studied this tradition understand. It is one of the great human achievements, the preservation of the Arabic language; the exact meanings of every single word that is recorded in the Qur'an, of all the words that are recorded in the hadiths and having to prove what those words mean, and on rare occasion saying 'we can't ascertain the exact meaning of this word, or the multiple possible meanings' like the word 'ib' which is in Surat ‘Abasa. So the Muslim jurists traditionally believed that you cannot go outside of the language; you were confined by the language.




Now, the other aspect of this which is very important is that they were always aware of the ambiguous nature of language; that the Qur'an is open to multiple interpretations and multiple meanings and will be until the end of time. Verses can be re-interpreted in the light of new knowledge and have and will continue to be. So the Islamic reform or ‘tajdeed’ that's happened in the past, we have many, many examples of that but I would look at a few that occurred in the 19th of century - in the late 19th century with the colonial incursions there became a response to the *[13] Western colonisation of the Muslim countries:


Some of those responses involved attacking Muslim spirituality because they believed (like Muhammad Abdu and others), they believed that the Muslims were far too 'otherworldly' - that the Sufi's had taken hold of their understanding to such a degree that they really forgot about the world itself! So the emphasis then was to focus on the political and economic dimensions that had been ignored for so long; and so you've got these reformist movements that were essentially political and economic attempts at re-addressing the real problems in the Muslim world: Educational problems; the fact that things like engineering were so widely ignored; attempting to re-address the problems of Muslim Universities – Al-Azhar is a good example of that. Al-Azhar was traditionally only where people were trained in Islamic tradition and now it is a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted university. That was an attempt at reforming the problem of limiting to limiting Islamic universities simply to the subjects of Islamic tradition. Then you had the political movements of which Dr. Ramadan's grandfather was involved in on his maternal side, Hassan al Banna; who was part of that tradition of Rashid Rida, who was also one of the reformist trends that occurred in the Muslim world, then Ben Badis who is affected by that in Algeria, so you have a complete reformist agenda in Algeria; and then you have Al al-Fassi in Morocco - these are all happening on top of the Wahhabbi reformist movement that was happening even earlier than that in the 1780's and 1790's, and then it's re-invigorated with King Abdul Aziz's conquest of the Arabian peninsula - these are all attempts at Reform, of dealing with the collapse of the Muslim sovereignty and the Muslim ethos.


One of the great traumas of the Muslim world was in 1924 when the Ottoman Caliphate officially dismantled. There was a conference in Mecca that was done to re-establish it; to appoint a new Caliph. The head of that conference was Muhammad Zawahiri, who was the grandfather of Ayman Zawahiri - the companion of Osama Bin Laden. He was the Shaykh Al-Azhar at the time. I mean, this is quite extra-ordinary - Ayman Thawahiri's grandfather on his maternal side wrote the Egyptian constitution! He was one of the most important people in designing the Egyptian constitution; he comes from a very traditional, very aristocratic Egyptian family. #00:42:08-6#


YUSUF: So, what happened between Muhammad Thawahiri and Ayman Thawahiri? I mean, how did that chasm occur to where you end up responding instead of the famous statement of Muhammad Thawahiri in 1924 after they couldn't elect a Caliph in Mecca he said ''Let's do the Janazah prayer over” - which is the funeral prayer of the Muslims – “...over the nation of Islam.'' That was Muhammad Thawahiri, his grandfather's response to the inability to elect a Caliph.


Now*[14], what's happening now as you get this extra-ordinary post-modern environment that we're in now; where the internet has opened up extra-ordinary exchange of ideas and you have many, many Muslims who have migrated to the west, have imbibed western liberalism, have imbibed many of the concepts of the west, they're struggling. There is a lot of soul-searching going on. We have, for instance, Gay and Lesbian people in the United States - and I'm sure here - but in the United States we have Gay and Lesbian people who are born into Muslim families, that want a Gay and Lesbian Islam. They want an Islam that is big enough to include the Gay and Lesbian community, and so there is a movement now there. You have people like Irshad Manji who is also calling for this reform, the misunderstanding...I think,The Trouble With Islam today becoming a spokesman for a certain type of progressive movement


The question is 'Why*[15] is there so much distrust and trepidation by the Muslim grassroots?' I would say that the fundamental reason is that - Lord Cromer - and I don't know if he went to Oxford - but Lord Cromer, who was the governor of Egypt, a close friend of Muhammad Abdu's, said a reformed Islam is not Islam. I would argue that that is true, and that's not true. It's true in that the fundamental thrust of Islam is that it was a reformist movement to begin with. Islam was re-addressing the problems that they saw inherent in Christianity; the sectarianism - people have no idea, the number of sects of Christians that existed in the Middle-East at that time: the Nestorians, the Jacobites, the Aryans, the Byzantine Orthodox, the Catholics - all of these different groups! The Mali Bari Nasrani's who are still in existence in India, had to flee to India, who were Semitic Christians like Ebunites - all of these differences; and also the Jewish rejection of Jesus. So the Prophet Muhammad saw himself as coming to really reform the Abrahamic tradition.


He put in place several constraints in his faith, and also in the Qur'an you will find many verses warning not to change the faith. There are many warnings about this. One of the most fundamental concepts in Muslim consciousness is the idea of 'Bid’ah, is the idea of innovation - of changing the structure of things, and this is why the Muslims are very wary of messing with the calibration of this religion. This is why when they see new ideas like this, they tend to react. This is the Grassroots of Muslims. This I do not believe will change for any time soon, I really don't. I think that you will find - and in the Muslim world this is particularly acute, far less so here I think; western Muslims are extremely tolerant of many diversion of opinions, even the spectrum of our understanding is quite broad in what we allow to go under the umbrella is much broader than in many places in the Muslim world; not all places, but in many places in the Muslim world. But the Muslims historically have been very tolerant of dissent.


YUSUF:  Now*[16], there is an argument here about British Islam, I wanted to talk about that and then make my closing remarks. #00:46:19-0# There's an argument somehow that the British Muslims need to 'assimilate.' They need to 'fully become British' and there's this problem with multiculturalism; multiculturalism is threatening the cohesion of our society. I'm amazed by the idea of cohesion - I'd like to see it, where all this wonderful cohesion is! I think people who are in their seventies in this room can remember how "cohesive" neighbourhoods were sixty years ago/seventy years ago, they're much less so today; and I'm old enough to remember how my neighbourhood was and how my neighbourhood is today. So we have - social fragmentation is a problem everywhere. Now, the argument that America - and I find it extra-ordinary that Brits will tolerate this from your politicians! - of saying ''Look at America! How cohesive they are! [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] They all pledge allegiance to the flag, y'know they have Thanksgiving! Everybody has a national Turkey day, and y'know... why can't we have a national Pheasant day...? Or maybe that’s too upper-crusty, maybe a national Shepherd's Pie day...?''


So, what's fascinating to me about this is first of all America has always been a multicultural society, we have never been a cohesive society. We have people in America that speak their own forms of English! Really! And British people would say we all speak our own form of English in America but (laughing) y'know... look... we have people  - I can't understand them - we have a language called 'Ebonics'. We have a 'Gumbo' language - Jambalaya and a crawfish pie and filet gumbo? 'cause tonight, I'm gonna meet, ma cher amio?'' I mean, do you understand...? I don't understand it, it's a Hank Williams song... I mean he knew what it was about because it's a Louisiana dialect; I don't know what it is! And I'm sure you've got people up in Yorkshire that you can't tell what they're saying (laughing) y'know, but look, the reality of it is America - we have people in America driving around in buggies! In buggies! They're debating whether or not to put rubber tires on those buggies! That's what they're debating in their community, and I'm not making this up! America has - we have places in my state that says ''Siabla Englais.'' That means ''We speak English here.'' I'm not making this up! We have seven generation Chinese in San-Francisco China Town that do not speak English. They have been in the United States for seven generations - this is America! So this idea - this fantasy - that some of these British politicians have of bringing this 'wonderful cohesive America' over here? Good luck, my friends. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] Seriously.


YUSUF: But one of the things that I love about England is that you've always tolerated eccentric uncles! Why can't you tolerate eccentric religions? Really! I mean, what's so wrong with that? This country was forged in religious wars; religious and tribal wars to a certain degree, it was forged in that - you've learned the lessons of those wars. Britain is one of the most tolerant societies in the world, it really is! [APPLAUSE] And like Dorothy Sayer - Dorothy Sayer is one of my favourite theologians - she's a mystery writer too, but she was a good theologian. Dorothy Sayer said 'the British people are slow to anger, but when they get angry they behave like fools,' and there's probably a lot of truth in that, but the fact that they're slow to anger; that's one of the most precious virtues in the Islamic tradition - 'hilm', which is the ability to fore-bear others; to be slow to anger. 00:50:22-3


YUSUF: In terms*[17] of what role should governments play in Islamic reform, I would argue that governments are... one of the most important things that Muslim jurists attempted to address was the limits of government, and Muslims traditionally were very libertarian in their approach, they did not like - our jurists did not like - they didn't work for governments and we had a separation of powers in the sense that the legislative body was in the jurist and the jurists were independently working. Islamic Sharia arises completely independent of government support; the great jurists actually - Malik, Ahmad Ibn Hanbal, Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi’i - all spent time in government jails; all of them, and these were the great founders of the Sunni tradition, and the Shi'a also have a tradition of persecution at the hands of government as well; in some ways far worse than anything the Sunnis ever suffered; so Muslim Jurists were always very wary of Government.


YUSUF:  One of the things about...nothing taints a reputation more in our community than an association with the government. You lose your credibility. When I went into the White House, and I was just a guest, I wasn't...They didn't pay me, you know, I didn't get any money, you know. Maybe I should have asked for something, because it just...[AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. But that did more to tarnish my reputation amongst a large segment of the Muslim community, because Muslims are very wary of any scholar who associates closely with the government, and they always have been. And there's a reason for that. Because governments never do that out of the graciousness of their goodwill. They co-opt [APPLAUSE]. And when George Bush made a reference to 'we're not at war with Islam', the CNN camera immediately flashed on me [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. Which made me realise that was pre-planned. So, we do have a state press. You know...They called it Pravda in Russia, we call it CNN [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] 00:52:41-8  But these are the problems that we have to deal with.


Now, our Prophet said the worst scholars are those at the doors of rulers, and the best rulers are those at the doors of scholars. My own teacher Shaykh Abdullah bin Baya said the first is restricted, and the second is absolute. What that means in 'usuli' language is that the first is not an absolute statement because it's dependent on the intention of the scholar. When the Prophet said the worst scholars are those at the doors of the governments, wanting some personal gain from them. If they go there for the sake of God to advise those governments, then they're not falling amongst the worst scholars. 00:53:24-2  This is the type of understanding that needs to translate.


Finally*[18] in conclusion, I would argue that some of the most important things that have to take place in the UK and in the United States, and really in Europe - we have now thirty million Muslims, in Western Europe, according to most statistics. We have probably between six to ten million Muslims in the United States. We have about three million Muslims I think in Canada...maybe two million in Canada. But we have close to five hundred thousand in Toronto. They make ten percent of the population in Toronto. In Philadelphia, America's first capital, we have ten percent Muslims now. In New York City, the Eid where the...The City Council of New York voted to make the Eid holiday a holiday in the city of New York, largely because twelve percent of Muslim children in the New York City school district are Muslim. Twelve percent. That's the largest city in the United States of America, and twelve percent of its children in its public school system are Muslim.  00:54:39-9


This is an immense opportunity, but it's also a crisis, and we know that in the Chinese ideogram means both crisis and opportunity. It's a crisis if we don't somehow come to terms with the fact Muslims do not have the intellectual tools to navigate their religion in uncharted waters, such as these that you are in now. If these tools are not presented in an intelligent way, that's rooted and founded in the Islamic tradition, then we have a very serious problem.


And*[19] this problem right now we're only seeing slight externalities, and I'll use that term... 'Externality', as you know is...a negative externality of a corporation is the toxic by-products that come out of it. So like, BP, the positive thing was drilling the well; the negative externality is the fact the well didn't work out. Well, religions have negative externalities as well. Things go wrong. People go wrong. We have Muslims that are negative externalities for the social body. Now, people leave it up to BP to deal with the problem, but sometimes the problem is bigger than BP. Sometimes you do need governments to come in.


When the FBI came to me - not to question me, they never came to question me (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER). I mean they have at the airport at things, but not...but they never came to my house to question me like was reported in the press. And Dr. Ramadan knows about press. I don't believe press anymore. Because once you read about yourself in the press you know it's just rubbish [APPLAUSE]. And Wikipedia...my goodness, you know [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER].  01:04:20-1  So, the FBI...I said, look. My wish, you know, really, is you guys get it right. Really. This is a criminal problem. These are criminals, and they need to be stopped.


Extremism is as American as apple pie. We have extreme sports. We jump off buildings, you know, with bungee ropes and things. We have extreme eating. We had a woman die recently in a water-drinking contest. We have hot-dog contests where they eat a hundred and fifty hot-dogs. People from Egypt would never do that, you know [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. We, we have extreme music. They used our music to torture people at Guantanamo Bay [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. Seriously. They used is to torture. In fact, the heavy metal bands actually protested against their music being used as torture [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. We have...extremism is as American as apple pie, really. The problem is not extremism. Extremism is a human problem that has always been there, it will always be there. The problem is violence in a civil society. And this is what we need to address: the problem of violence.


And*[20] at essence, Islam is an irenic religion. It is a peaceful tradition. Our prophet was not a warmonger. He did not like war. He disdained war. He said never hope to meet your enemies, but if you're forced to meet them be brave in the battle field. He prohibited the... [APPLAUSE]. 00:56:52-1  He prohibited the killing of civilians. He prohibited the killing of women and children. In the 'Maliki' fiqh that I studied, if you're...the only time that you can fight a women is if she's a combatant on the other side. The Maliki jurists were so troubled by the hadith that they said, if you see a woman on the battlefield, run away from her [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. Because they did not want you to fall under that hadith because it's a 'mutawatir' hadith, it's a factual hadith that has the same strength as a verse in the Qur'an.


Now*[21], I want to close and end this is by saying one of the greatest problems is we have what I call Shaykh Googles'; 'Weekend Muftis'. We have now a loss of authority in our tradition. This has led to people like, what they call Shaykh bin Laden. Somebody called me up on a recent Arabic programme and said: 'What do you think of Shaykh Osama Bin Laden?' And I just said, first of all, what do you want from the question? Do you want me to be, if I answer 'oh, he's a great guy', to be in Guantanamo Bay tomorrow? [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. I mean, is that kind of the idea? Or, what you want is that, you know, I think he's terrible? But, who made him a Shaykh? Really. Who made Shaykh Osama bin Laden a Shaykh? Osama bin Laden is an accountant [APPLAUSE]. Ayman al-Zawahari was a paediatric surgeon. And these people are giving fatwa from caves in Afghanistan telling people to kill people.  00:59:24-7


Now,*[22] their fatwa is based on a famous fatwa from Mardin. The fatwa that killed Anwar El Sadat is the same fatwa. My Shaykh and teacher, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, recently held a conference in Turkey in the city of Mardin, which is where the fatwa, was..the fatwa was addressing an issue in that city. The fact that the ruler of that city was a Muslim but not applying Islamic law, and he was under the influence of the Moguls who were not Muslim at that time. He was asked, is this an abode of war or an abode of peace? He said, it's neither one or the other. It's a hybrid because it doesn't have the qualities of the abode of war; it doesn't have the qualities of the abode of peace. And then he said something very interesting. He said, therefore, the believer should be treated in accordance with the fact that he's a believer, and the disbeliever should be fought: ‘yoqatalo al-kharij 'an al-sharia be-ma yastahiqoh’.The disbeliever should be fought because he's left the Sharia, and as he deserves to be. Now, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, when that fatwa was read in Mardin, he said that can't be right, the text.


The 'uluma' that were in the audience - some of them the biggest 'uluma' in the Muslim world -all said SHAYKH, don't change the fatwa. It's Shaykh al-Islam's fatwa. We can address the problems of the fatwa, but don't change the text of the fatwa. Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah insisted. He said, no. Something is wrong with that text. It doesn't work in the Arabic language like that. When he got back to Jeddah, he went to another text and found that it did not say that the one who left the Sharia should be fought. It actually said, instead of 'yoqatalo', it said, 'yo'amalo'. He should be treated in accordance with him being a disbeliever. In other words, there are many rules that relate to disbelievers. Then he asked for the oldest copy in the 'Zahiriyah maktaba' in Damascus, and it came back saying, in fact, that he should be treated, not killed, or fought. That fatwa was published a hundred years ago and has been replicated in countless editions of his ‘fatwas’, saying that they should be fought. That is the basis of Abdul Salam Faraj's ‘fatwa’ to kill Anwar El Sadat. It was the basis of bin Laden's fatwa to kill the Americans, and also to overthrow the house of Saud in Saudi Arabia. It's a misprint. They've based an entire philosophy on a misprint in a text that occurred a hundred years. This is a crisis in our community: the crisis of authority. Who can read these texts and who can determine what they mean? Thank you very much [APPLAUSE].  01:02:12-3


Question / Answer



IMAD AHMED: Thank you very much professor Ramadan, you raised a number of fascinating points. Our time is short now so we are going to launch straight into the question and answer session. We are first going to take our questions from the floor. If you would like to ask a question, please raise your hand and one of the stewards will come to you with the microphone. So, do we have any questions on the floor? Can we have the gentleman here please? 00:50:27-7




DR SHEHAB, SAUDI ARABIA: Assalaamu alaikum. This question is to Ustadh Ramadan. I like what you said, but I need a plan. What you said is very good, but what is the plan to face the challenges and to teach the world of what you said about ethics and about... So we need a plan, not just to talk more and more. So i hope you have something to offer in the plan. 01:51:07-9


TARIQ RAMADAN: 01:51:27-1 I think that many things are already done in some fields, for example I will take the example as I said in medicine, that these councils where Muslim scholars of the text with medical doctors are working together and they are able *[55]   to come with very interesting things on euthanasia and cloning and all that. What I would like is to open up and be effective on this and this is what I want to translate into councils where we are able to come with scholars that are dealing with the text, but more specialised issues. 01:51:51-9


And for example some of the economists - and once again on the knowledge of the world, we need sometimes people who are not Muslims, who are coming and sitting and they can come with for example this economy, from the east and from the west, sitting together. So I would say that we have to go a step further now. It is time for us to call not just the scholars to do the job, but also to the Muslim communities - don't blame the authority when you are not playing the game, you are not accountable, and you don’t understand in which way you have...because we have lots of people in many fields.


For example, in education. That's very good. To think about Islamic schools, and that's fine. Over the last 30 years for example, the Islamic schools are doing much better now than they did before - they are improving, but we need much more than that now. When we deal with acquisition *[56]   of knowledge, and how do we deal with the surrounding world, in Muslim majority countries as well as here. So we need to have things on this where the Muslim scholars should be involved in this discussion, I think that the halal and haram business, was something which is far from - now we live in a very complex world, education is a very complex challenge now.


And women*[57], for example: I’m sorry you cannot just as Muslim scholars, sit as men together and ask for women to give you a report on the situation of women and say okay we are going to change the situation. So in many things we have to come back to the traditions, because many things are done today which are not respecting the Islamic tradition, from the very beginning. Even in our mosques there are things that are unacceptable, not because we are not dealing with the challenges of today, but because we are not respecting what is the Islamic tradition on the firsthand. [APPLAUSE] This is the first thing.


The second thing is really to have scholars and women coming also with this knowledge in our circles, where they can come with this and also understand things - you know - this is something which, we *[58]   are very much integrating in the West and you can show the people are very much integrating with the rate of divorces. This is where we are the best, and are coming very close to what is happening in the surrounding society. But many Muslims are saying yes it means you are lost here, but in the Muslim majority countries, we don’t have so many divorces. Ask yourself why? Is it because it's better? Any one of us who is serious about the issue is just knowing that what is going on now in Muslim majority countries is also problematic when it comes to the way we deal with families and the way we deal with women.


It's not for us to push to do it as it is done in the west, but to be critical enough to come to something which is how do we deal with the right status of women in our societies today? And it means not headscarf and not headscarf. For me it is clear, the headscarf is in the*[59]   Islamic prescription, and after that it should be the right of the woman to wear it or not. This is her free choice. But it is an Islamic prescription and then you decide what you want to do. Now this is not the main concern. The main concern is how do you deal with the family, how do you deal with the husband, when you deal with the kids, how do you deal with your rights, how do you deal with the surrounding society and the public sphere. These are questions that are deeper than that, when you speak about something that is so obvious for us as Muslims you know same skills, same salary.


Let us come to this. Let us come to these deep discussions and not just following the footsteps of “Oh I want to please the west, and say OK remove the headscarf and show that you are liberal Muslims” - what's that? This is not reform. This is just an awareness. This is just silly. This is not what the Muslims need today.


AHMED: Thank you. 01:56:19-6




AUDIENCE MEMBER: Assalamu alaikum. If I could ask the question to both of you, that would be really helpful. How do Muslims have meaningful engagement with the government as active citizens in this country? I know you both touched on it but if you could elaborate, that would be very helpful. 01:56:27-1


AHMED: Thank you. Shaykh Hamza if we could start with you. 01:56:27-1


HAMZA YUSUF: Bismillah. The first thing is that the Muslim community has to understand the concept of citizenship. In the pre-modern tradition there wasn't a concept of citizenship. There was a concept of ‘haakim’ and ‘mahkum’, which is the ruler and the ruled. So the idea that *[60]  people that are under a government can actually participate in the framing of the government itself is a relatively new idea itself, and Muslims in the west are learning this, I mean we now have, it's quite extraordinary, that there is a minister who is from a Muslim family, and some MP's who were elected in the recent election who are from Muslim families, so it is happening here in the UK. But I would argue that the concept of ‘muwaatana’ which is citizenship, the idea that we are not a minority community in the ideal state of western understanding of citizenry, that we are actually fully enfranchised citizens and have all the rights and responsibilities that go with that citizenship - that has to be inculcated into our youth and into our communities. I think the older generation are excused in my estimation, because they came from a very different background. But the younger generation really doesn't have an excuse. I think it's very important that they recognise the importance of fully integrating at that level.


For example in my country, in the United states, especially at local government, you can enact radical changes in your local governments. You can ban alcohol. You can ban gambling. You can do a lot of things. And Muslims, and I agree with Dr Ramadan fully on this, that Muslims need to be productive members of their community. They really need to be engaging the community fully.


One of the biggest problems *[61]  that we have is the concept of ‘al-walaa’ and ‘al-baraa’. The idea, of, there's a certain segment of the Muslim community that teaches this idea, that any allegiance, you have to have allegiance and enmity, allegiance to Islam alone, and enmity to anything other than Islam, and therefore to vote is an act of ‘kufr’ in a non-Muslim state.  And we have people here that get public airspace to expound these ideas on a regular basis. These ideas are sectarian and a very very marginalised view in Islamic history.  Allegiance to a state is not kufr by any means, and Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah, argues that the classical formulation of what was called ‘dar al-harb’, ‘dar al-islam’ and ‘dar al-ahad’, or ‘muwada'ah’, those are the three classical formulations, the abode of war, the abode of peace which was the Islamic world, and then the abode where you had treaties with the people.


YUSUF: He argues that there is a new abode, which is what he calls the ‘dar al-muqam’, or the ‘dar al-muwatana’, which is the abode of citizenship *[62]  , which is where Muslims are citizens. And a Muslim can technically become a Prime minister, or at least a President in the United States. And that was argued 200 years ago, it was actually in the constitutional debates, one of the issues raised was that if there were not religious tests, a Muslim could eventually be elected President in the United States. That was argued 200 years ago, by the founding fathers. And the argument was overridden because Iraton argued that if the American people elected a Muslim it would be for one of two reasons - either the Americans had all become Muslims, and then that was their democratic prerogative, and he said that's highly unlikely. And then he said, the other would be that they found in a Muslim all the virtues that they wanted to lead their society, and in that case again it was their prerogative. So they actually voted early on, based on a Muslim issue, so Barack *[63]  Obama has a Muslim grandmother, and he is president of the United States. His grandmother was there, in hijab sitting next to him, at the inauguration.


So we now have a paternal side of the family in the white House that is Muslim. So I mean that is quite extraordinary as an event. And i think we can't underestimate the election of Barack Hussein Obama, because that election first of all signals that the name barrier no longer exists in the United States of America, so if your name is Mahmud or Hussein or Abdullah - it is not a barrier anymore. That is the first important hallmark. The second is that he does openly have Muslim relatives, and that is an incredible statement. And the third, and this is what I find most extraordinary, he is from the Lu'o tribe, in Kenya. In Kenya, had he ran for president of Kenya, he could not have been elected because of the tribe that he is from. And that is a fact that Fuad Nahdi will confirm.  The Lu'o tribe is a weaker tribe. But he overcame tribe and race, in the United States and became President.


So I think it's very important for Muslims to recognise that we do have vital contribution. And finally in Manchester, Bradford, Sheffield, Birmingham, in these cities, we are moving into numbers of Muslims that if the demographics are correct - and they often aren't - So I do put that caveat out, but if the demographics are correct, it won't be long before some of the largest cities*[64]   in the United Kingdom have majority Muslim populations. The Muslims need to very seriously consider the fact that they will have to be running city councils, that they will have to have police stations that are under a Muslim constabulary, all these things really have to be taken into consideration. And Muslims instead of rioting need to think seriously about establishing think tanks, where they can think seriously about their presence in the United Kingdom, and in the United states, and in Canada, and in Germany and all of these places because we need to address these real issues and we need to alleviate the very serious and real fears, and it's not always phobia because phobia by, in a classical metaphysical definition is an irrational fear but the fear of Muslims is not necessarily irrational for many people: The high crime rates that are in our communities in Europe are cause for concern for many, many people in these countries so its very important that Muslims address these issues and one of the most important ways of doing that is through civic engagement.


RAMADAN: *[65]  02:03:23-9 Yes. I want to say something about this because I agree with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf about this, and I have been saying this for years now and I wrote the book 'To be a European Muslim' and said that we have to stop, the very understanding of citizenship is to stop speaking about minority and minority citizenship and not to put ourselves in a situation where we speak as a minority. When it comes to citizenship, of course a religious minority is there, but when we speak about citizenship, we have to be involved. Now the point is, I am not myself against anything that has to do with government, I have been sitting in many councils and committees with governments, and talking and listening and sharing views. But once again as i said, it is really to ask yourselves, what is the intention? What do we want to achieve? Because at the end of the day, you know, for example when I studied all of what was said by scholars about ‘dar al-harb’ and ‘dar al-islam’ and all that, I ended up saying that in the west and also in Muslim majority countries, we are facing something which is ‘dar al-shahadah’. Meaning that we bear witness, in the sense that: li takunu shuhada ‘al an-nas, in order for you to be a witness to your message before people. This is where the world is. I want to be a witness. So ask yourself what is the intention.  02:05:11-8


So there is something which is very problematic, is that some of the Muslims that are dealing with the governments are acting as though they are representing*[66] all the Muslims - and you are not. So first is to say that you are not representing all of the Muslims, and second is to ask yourself what is your role. And this is where the point is for me - the contribution. An ethical contribution. It is to help the politicians and to help the government to come back to politics and not emotional politics *[67]  and not racism, and not discrimination, but to just be there for all citizens. And to be there for all the citizens, is just to be the witness of your message in the way you deal with politics. It doesn't mean you have to be naive and not to calculate, it means you have to be aware of the game and the rules of the game but at the same time, show in which way when you are dealing with the government: you don't represent the Muslims, and second you want to spread around a better understanding of what is happening at the grassroots level, and then to be able to say to the government that you don't only deal with the people you like, but you have to deal with all people. 02:06:20-4


And the last point is never let them think that you can be bought. And I’m sorry there are people working for the governments, getting money from the governments *[68]  and the only thing they are doing is following exa