BBC Interview: Asian Network - BBC Hardtalk 2001

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Event Name: BBC Interview: Asian Network - BBC Hardtalk 2001
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 4/9/2019
Transcript Version: 1
Original Reference URL: Youtube Transcript

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welcome to hard talk I'm Sara Montague a

few weeks ago the FBI turned up at the

home of my guest today he's a

high-profile Islamic leader his wife

told them he was with the president they

thought she was joking

she wasn't he was indeed at the White

House advising George W Bush on Islam

Hamza Yusuf Hansen welcome to hard talk

thank you what were you advising the

u.s. president I was invited to the

White House through some Muslim contact

people in Washington and I'm I did meet

with the president there was about

thirty some-odd religious leaders

religious scholars that were brought to

the White House among them a small group

was met with the president in the Oval

Office and we were allowed to voice our

opinions he expressed some of his

general reasons for bringing us there

his concern about the importance of

religion at this time in America and the

necessity of religious leaders really

helping the American people through the

crises what I put forward were certain

points that I thought were very

important I think the most salient ones

were the the absolute essential

separation between the acts that

occurred on September 11th and Islam and

I think that they knew that before I

made that point that III and yet this is

a president who uses the word crusade

sure I think crusade I I think that's an

unfair thing to say I think crusade is a

word that would easily come to my mind

it's a legitimate English word and for

most Americans and British people it

doesn't suddenly inspire images of that

night's going off to Jerusalem it really

does it given who well he's probably his

most important audience was in the

Islamic world exactly and I think he

jihad is a legitimate English word right

now so I think that it could have been

used in that way that this is jihad

against people that are subverting

social order something like that I mean

I I think that it's as Ed wasn't just

stupid I don't I don't think that he's a

stupid man

what do you think of him I think that

he's he's a very intelligent person I

think that

like many Americans he's probably not

really aware or as aware as Americans

should be of what goes on around the

world I think that was one of the

criticisms about him before he came into

public office in or at least the highest

public office in the land so I think

that that that is something that the

administration in Washington really

needs to to to bone up on so to speak

they need to do some serious homework

about Islam I think that generally in

the Muslim world quite a bit is known

about American foreign policy in America

very little is known about how American

foreign policy is perceived most

Americans think why are they so angry we

give them food all the time we're always

giving aid we give billions of dollars

in aid why are people upset with us I

think a lot of Americans really do

genuinely feel that and I think there's

a lot of goodwill in America and yet you

say the first piece of advice you give

him is that this must not the the fan of

his terrorism must be separated from the

fact that these were Muslims who carried

out these acts like that do you think

that this is a war whether whether the

intention was that what you think it is

in danger of becoming a war if it isn't

already between the Western izi I think

that there's people within the Western

academia in the political environment

that do perceive Islam as a very serious

problem it goes you can read Arnold


in the civilization on trial he has a

section in there he wrote in 1947 called

Islam in the West and in there and many

of these people read Toynbee still in

there he says that well unto the West

paraphrasing well into the West if we

awake the sleeping giant of Islam as it

has been awakened in the past so I think

that there is a real concern there has

to be do you think therefore that the US

government is at war with Islam I think

that it's very very complicated and I

think that in reality we have to accept

the fact that America on September 11

something very profound happened and

America was attacked I think to call it

a war is very dangerous because a war is

a sovereign state aggressing on another

sovereign state here we have a cry

committed I think it's really a crime

that was committed in the state of New

York and has federal implications

because the the primary suspects are

from other countries but there is no

state declaring war on Japan declared

war on the United States after after the

attack on Pearl Harbor but since that

event there has been another significant

event which is that the u.s. a sovereign

state is attacking another state another

southern state Afghanistan and this is I

think the real tragedy I think that this

is a tragedy because I think what it

does is it begins to polarize the Muslim

world and I think that we're in danger

of falling into this self-fulfilling

Clash of Civilizations prophecy III

think that Muslims in the Muslim world

and I lived there for over ten years

I've gone back a few times a year for

the last several years and I've made the

pilgrimage to Mecca several times the

Muslims really do feel that the West has

been relentless in its attacks that that

is the perception whether it's valid or

not that's for people to decide but that

is the perception of the man on the

street okay explain something please you

we have the call for a jihad as a result

from the Taliban from al Qaeda saying

all good Muslims must rise up yes I'm

sitting looking at someone who's

speaking an American accent with white

skin speaking on behalf of the Muslim

world can you explain that call to arms

that seems to resonate around all all

all Muslims I think most Muslims that

there is a tradition in Islam that's

that says that the Prophet Muhammad

peace be upon him said that the my

community my nation is like one body if

part of it is suffering the whole body

suffers and and I think that this is

difficult in the West we've been very

secularized we're distant from religion

I don't think that type of Christian

solidarity exists that you find in the

Muslim world amongst Muslims when we

read about Chechnya when we read about

Kashmir when we read about Palestine

when we see these as isolated parts of

the geographical map

for Muslims it's not really like that

they read about it with with deep pain

feeling that these are their brothers

and sisters and they all

so feel impetus in that they're not

doing enough for them so there's a real

feeling of impotence in especially

amongst the male population when bosnia

I remember when the women all those rape

stories coming out of Bosnia I remember

the pain that so many Muslim men felt

and a lot of Tears a lot of real grief

and pain and I think what happens we

tend to forget that the West we numb our

pain with intoxicants we in the West

most Western people have the option of

taking drugs of alcohol just to kind of

numb that that angst you know that that

difficulty of life in the Muslim world

sorry you can't say that this is a

humanitarian thing is well hold on what

I can hold on what I'm saying is in the

Muslim world intoxicants is not really

an option for many many Muslims there's

a lot of suffering and I think one of

the ways that that's a all the West just

drink to get over problems I think that

we have very serious problems in the

West one out of 10 people in Washington

DC according to us today is addicted to

drugs I mean we have serious problems we

really wish you don't extraordinary that

almost a stereotype that the West are

taking drinks look we're look where we

have the most serious problems in the

underclass of the West in in in America

in the african-american communities in

the Hispanic communities these people

tend to be the underbelly of our

societies there's a lot more pain in

those communities I think in in the

Muslim world you have very similar

situations you have very critical social

conditions that that are really subhuman

in some areas you have a lot of

repression people don't realize this in

the West there's a lot of pain what what

what a lot of human beings tend to do is

I hold on I'm gonna finish the thought

what a lot of people tend to do when

they have pain is numb that pain anger

is an opiate for pain and I and I think

that underlying a lot of the anger that

we're seeing in the Muslim world is real

grief with the one thing that occurs

maize is saying this and we're slightly

getting off the point is that

Afghanistan is one of the world's

largest producers of the drugs that

you're saying isn't that ironic isn't

that ironic don't you think that's very

ironic do you think that those people

really want to produce opium do you

think that most people there was a on a


a documentary they had one of these

farmers who told this BBC interviewer

and it was shown just recently he said

we don't want to grow these drugs but

help our country so that we can grow

wheat help us this country was destroyed

let's get back to their idea of the the

division between Islam and the West we

have these military strikes in

Afghanistan now do you think that they

will act as a recruitment drive for the

likes of our al Qaeda

I think that they have that potential I

think that there's a lot of very

confused people in the Muslim world

right now I really do I think there's a

lot of confusion I think unfortunately

that many Muslims feel betrayed by their

governments by their leaders they feel

humiliated betrayed betrayed because of

what because they are so slowly they're

not defended because they watch their

their countries being attacked they

watch Muslims on television being beaten

they watch these things and they don't

feel that anybody's really sticking up

from I think a lot of what Muslims feel

is that blood is is worth a lot in the

West that human rights are worth a lot

in the West but I'm talking about how

they feel I mean I'm just trying well I

think what we need to do here really is

we need to listen to what people are

saying one of the things about conflict

resolution and we know so much about

these things when we ignore our social

sciences in these areas just listening

to somebody and just legitimizing their

pain legitimizing their grievances by

just nodding your head but to ignore it

to say it's us versus them

we're in dime novels we're in cheap

novels look look at you look at a hero

in a Shakespearean tragedy a hero in a

Shakespearean tragedy you wonder if he's

actually a villain in disguise okay

because this is what great literature

does it brings out moral ambiguities and

I think none of the moral ambiguities

here are being brought out we need to

bring out these these moral ambiguities

I don't explain them for anybody who

could listen or or read the Testaments

left but the testimonies left behind by

the suspects in these bombings on in

these hijackings on the 11th of


they claimed they were being carried out

in the name of Allah now people in the

West listening to that trying to

understand why can you explain how they

can be carried out money I think it's a

deep aberration I think there's a real

pathology here I don't think these

people are insane because they're

capable of obviously functioning in the

world and and and the definition of

sanity although in legal Western legal

theory it's it's the ability to

distinguish between right and wrong but

I think that these people are acting

with reason however if we look at what's

going on I think really you're dealing

with very serious psychopathology in in

Islam suicide and homicide are two of

the gravest sins in Islam the reward of

which according to the Quran and the

prophetic tradition is hell and so I

think it's very ironic that they're

committing two crimes at one time both

suicide and homicide because there is no

justification for the taking of innocent

lives and and and as I've been flying in

the last few days I did quite a bit of

flying in the last few weeks I'm looking

at these stewardesses you know and just

thinking my god you know what

what can legitimize in anybody's mind

the right to take a human beings like

the Quran says if you kill one human

being without right it's as if you've

killed all of humanity how can somebody

who believes in that book with such

arrogance arrogating to themselves the

right to be judge jury and executioner

they have no legitimacy whatsoever so

how can the Quran be perverted in some

in the same way that the Christianity

can be perverted in the same way Christ

says in Leviticus we or Deuteronomy

we've got verses that say go into the

villages and kill everything breathing

kill every man woman and child that's in

the in the in the Bible in the Psalms

Psalm 137 smash fit babies of babble up

against the rocks and I don't have many

suicide Christian we we have in our

history as you see we're not religious

anymore you know don't forget that

really we're not religious anymore the

Muslims are still devoutly religious

people we have Psychopaths we have

people that go into into schools and

shoot little children we have people we


people going and blowing up things but

there was a man who recently who slit

the throat of a bus driver a Greyhound

bus and seven people died on board what

caused him to do that I mean these are

problems aren't they they're human


unfortunately religion is a wonderful

wonderful refuge for psychopaths so what

is the role of Islamic clerics here I

think the role is to clarify to the

majority of Muslims the vast majority

are a statistically insignificant group

of people they don't represent point

zero zero zero zero one percent of the

Muslims twenty percent of US population

is Muslim I mean we cannot afford in

this late time to isolate these people

to alienate these people I think this is

absolute madness we have to deal with

the the seriousness of what we're in

have it's not attacks not done enough

right I think they need to do more I

think that these issues need to be

understood so you saying they are they

too partly to blame well no I think that

a lot of people don't realize that in

many Muslim countries clerics have no

freedom they do not have freedom of

speech I think also that there is terror

people are assassinated people I mean

this is the real world hold on a second

this is a religion this is their

religion they they've surely other

people who should be guiding yeah you

haven't lived in the Muslim world that's

all I can say I've lived there I've seen

it I know what's going on what are you

saying I'm saying that the voices of

religion have been intimate voices have

been stifled to such a degree in many of

these countries that these type of

people begin to speak for the Muslims

and that is a tragedy this was this was

reported in US News and World Report by

a professor from Duke University a

Christian professor who said we have not

done enough to put pressure on on Muslim

lands to encourage the promotion of

traditional Islam people don't realize

that most of the traditional teaching

institutions in the Muslim world were

dismantled surely it's not if the mad

mullahs as you seem to be saying have

control of the image of Islam around I

don't they're not mad mullahs are these

people aren't scholars they really

aren't I mean some of them memorize the

Quran but they they don't understand the

source and then why isn't the rest of

the Islamic faith saying hold on a

second coming

at what I mean this it's something that

Margaret Thatcher made the point about

the British Muslim clerics should have

come out more strongly and I know you

had sympathy with that view I what I

said was that I feel that that when we

you see if I come out and say yes we

condemn these absolutely but we have to

realize that what causes these things

that begins to sound like justification

in the minds of a lot of people and I

think that's very dangerous I think yeah

you know I went a few days before the

hijacking you said in a speech that the

u.s. stands condemned it had a great

great tribulation coming to it this is

something that I've heard from my

Christian father for years he read a

book by Ramsey Clark the former attorney

general on war crimes in Iraq this is

something that is known today you're

telling me that kind of talk is

dangerous was it not dangerous

two days before I and I think I think

that it is legitimate for anybody in

America who wants good for that people

to remind people of their moral

obligation I think that American people

have a moral obligation to understand

things at a deeper level it's a

representative government we pay taxes

we have to realize that many of the

weapons that are flooding the world are

coming from France from England from

America from Israel I really do not

understand the contradiction between the

fact that a moment ago you're saying

that there is a danger in explaining the

fact that it's us farm yeah hold on yeah

I think you're really mixing words here

what I was saying was what in sympathy

with Margaret Thatcher that when she I

think when we look at some Tavor 11th I

have no theological authorities say that

was a punishment from God I don't know

the mind of God I can't say that that's

a tragic event it should not in any way

what I was speaking was in general terms

that I think that there are many things

happening in the world and I have not

just said that about America by the way

I've said it about Muslim countries I've

said it about my own self I stand

condemned I mean in theological terms we

all fall short of the glory of God and

and and you might be hearing me speak as

a politician right now or in political

terms but don't forget I am

theologically trained I speak in

theological language Abraham Lincoln in

his second inaugural address

said to the American people the Civil

War is a punishment from God for the

treatment of African American people

knew he called them in the United States

why could he say that to the American

people and they didn't all get shocked

because they were people very fluent

with the Bible if you read the Bible it

talks about that if you transgress the

boundaries of God you're punished for it

now for me to say this is a punishment

that's not my role but I think we need

to reflect on what's going on in the

world not just in America I'm interested

in your role because here you are as we

say you're brought up as a Christian you

convert it you're now a tithing no

president I didn't abandon my core

values when I when I entered into this

well nothing my parents taught me my

core values none of them were abandoned

what I'm wondering is why it is that the

president can come to you almost one

time I don't think that wants me to be

called a presidential adviser you have

been Bush's pet Muslim a collaborator

Western Patsy I think that you're always

going to find that Muslims that that

really attempt to go out and do

something I think that there are there

is a provincial ISM amongst certain

segments of Muslims that there's a

provincial ISM that's very dangerous I

think we find it in the West I think

that in the time we're living in we need

to break this stuff down we need to

build some bridges I think the world is

is too polarized right now I think

bridges need to be made we have to get

out of this type of language because

it's a very dangerous language black and

white us versus them the world's a

little more interdependent I think the

fact that over a thousand Muslims which

is probably 20% of people killed in the

World Trade Center that were Muslims

which represents their statistical

numbers out in the real world 200 of

which were illegal Bangladeshi

immigrants which is also a tragic

metaphor for for for what's going on how

easy is it as a Muslim and presumably

strive to be a good Muslim to live in a

non-muslim country I think that the

freedoms that exist in America in

Britain I think they're extraordinary

and I don't want to lose them I really

don't I think the Bill of Rights of the

United States of America is an

incredible document I think that that

much of what is in the Constitution is

very consistent with Islamic legal


and yet also turn on the television guru

walking past bars I mean that well you

have a choice nobody I've never

nobody's ever put a gun to my back and

said go into the bar and have a drink

nobody never put a gun to my back watch


nobody's ever but if there is a thinking

among the Muslim community that to be a

good Muslim it is easier it is best to

live among other Muslims you know it's

interesting that I've met many

immigrants who said it's much easier for

me to be a Muslim in the West than it is

to be a Muslim in the Muslim world I

swear to God

I've met many Muslims and because

there's there's more freedom in this

country I don't think you realize I

would hope because you seem a very

intelligent person but there's not

freedom of assembly in Muslim countries

Wilson's can't even get together people

can't in most Muslim countries there's

not freedom of speech really do you

realize that are you aware of that I'm

seriously I've lived there do you know

that I visited people in the Muslim

country and there visited by secret

police to ask what we talked about what

type of terror is that I mean isn't that

is not when it I believed her what about

that said what is your view of the

Taliban regime they said I think the

Taliban is a tragic result of the fact

that that Afghanistan was in a it was a

victim of the Cold War it was invaded by


it was used militarily by America in a

sense America did them a great favor by

helping them get rid of the Russian

aggressor but after they did that at a

cost of 1.5 million Afghani lives

imagine that suffering 1.5 million

people the mining of their country

millions of mines everywhere hold on and

then America their own CIA analysts in

the administration have admitted that

they warned them don't walk away from

this there was no martial plan think

about Nazi Germany the Nazis went in the

Germans went insane 13 years after the

Versailles Treaty out of the humiliation

of the Versailles Treaty the Weimar

inflation the country went insane the

Muslims have been living in a lot of

humiliation for over a hundred years

I've explained it to me just just

briefly if you you are a nit Muslim

living in the West and you're yet you're

saying that all these Islamic countries

all of them because not all of them know

they've got it wrong I think a lot of

them do and there's a lot there's a lot

of good in the Muslim world there's a

lot of being arrogance in that in what

in my position

yes it's using its the Western culture

system value system is is fine and good

and the right way to do things I think

you know I think hold on I did I'm not

melodramatic all right things are

black-and-white really I don't see them

I think there's a lot of problems in the

West I really do I think we have a lot

of very serious social problems I think

the Enlightenment ideals the things that

we're committed to ideologically most of

them are very consistent with Islam and

I think that's the best of the west and

that is a tradition I grew up in my

father was a humanities teacher and and

and I'm committed to many of those same

ideals on the other hand there's a lot

of decadence there's a lot of things

that troubled me greatly about the West

the breakdown of family all of these

things Muslims Muslims are as distressed

as many Western people about these

things in these societies I think good

Western people are as distressed about

these things I think television a lot of

what's on television bothers many many

good fair-minded Western people for the

Muslims a lot of this stuff is shocking

because they still live within the

framework of a traditional ISM that has

become rather quaint in the West as the

use of handsome alright well thank you