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Deen Port Interview

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Event Name: Deen Port Interview
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/9/2019
Transcript Version: 1


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I don't even think you can compare the

two what what 9/11 what differs about

September of 2001 is that it was a

spectacle that has been unparalleled

probably in human history and nobody you

know Hiroshima was the scene that

mushroom was pretty extraordinary but

nobody has ever seen civilian airplanes

plow into some of the tallest buildings

in the world explode in an extraordinary

display of fireworks and then watch

these extraordinary Towers just come

tumbling down

it was an event filmed for everybody to

see that was just so spectacular from

that point of view that it does have a

unique element that is unparalleled in

terms of the actual suffering in our

lifetimes there there have been much

greater events of human suffering you

know there's no doubt and and I would

say in some ways

certainly Rwanda certainly Chechnya I

mean the entire city of Grozny I was I

saw film of that just what the Russians

did had bombed it with plane after plane

an entire city if you look at Hamburg

what the Allied forces in world war two

did to the German cities raised them to

the ground some of those Allies when

they came in they could not believe what

was down those are crimes against

against humanity which that was part of

the irony of the Nuremberg trials is

that who was the war criminal the

Germans the British I mean the Holocaust

is is a horrific event one of the worst

in human history there's no doubt about

that but in terms of just suffering

there's a lot of suffering going on in

the world and a lot of different places

and for America it was very profound

because it it brought home some very

powerful messages and that a lot of

people don't like us some people have

legitimate reasons but that does not

legitimize using illegitimate means to

express that dislike or loathing so and

I think that's where the Muslims have

made major mistakes in what's wrong has

to be condemned simply as wrong there's

no justification you cannot justify it

there's no justification and even though

an explanation of why things happen is

not necessarily a justification in other

words like when Colombian happened a

slew of social scientists went in

psychiatrists to try to work out why did

this happen and that's important for us

to do that in terms of 9/11 which is

what some people like Michael Moore and

other people that's what they attempted

to do is just look at it like why did

this happen what did why I mean why

would people want to do this so that's

important that it doesn't necessarily

justify it but I think that the Muslims

is

for me there were many lessons but I

mean this idea somehow that some Muslims

have who are familiar with me I mean

there are some Muslims that are aware of

my work and others that aren't but the

overwhelming majority have never heard

of me and probably will never hear me

but for those people here in the states

in particular who are familiar with my

work amongst some of them there was this

idea that I made this 180-degree turn

and it's simply not true

it really isn't and for people that knew

me before closely they were very were

well aware that it was actually very

consistent with what I think and what I

believe so I was thrust into certain

situations that I personally don't feel

that I was prepared for I really wasn't

I mean to use a sports metaphor it was

it was like something in Little League

suddenly getting thrust into big leagues

and without having any training and the

speed the speed of the pitch was so much

faster because I certainly did not have

any media understanding of how

manipulative I mean I did theoretically

but I'm talking about actually living it

experiencing it seeing how your words

can be mangled and turned around I I

hadn't experienced that before as an

individual I'd read about it I'd heard

about people that had happened to but

actually experience it is very different

and and most people part of empathizing

is trying to put yourself in another

person's shoes which we do too little of

in the world it's just trying to imagine

being in another person's shoes what

does that mean to be in front of

millions of people what does it mean

when CNN's got a camera in your face and

they're asking you a question you're

realizing this is going out to millions

of people and I have to say what is

going to be the most judicious statement

that I believe and and the least harmful

to the muslims overall so you know i was

putting into a position that i probably

you know and i don't say probably i was

certainly not neither ready for nor

fully cognizant of its import so that

was a major lesson for me is that people

are being paid these interviewees

interviewers are being paid several

hundreds of thousands of dollars because

they're very clever people that when

they want something they know how to get

it they know how to elicit it from you

and if you're not prepared if you don't

know how that game works you can be

abused and manipulated and that was a

lesson but overall i think i mean

certain things that in the 90s

particularly the the later part the

latter half of the decade of the 90s

about ninety six onward i mean i was

having a lot of introspection about the

state of the muslim community and you'll

see that on top in talks that i gave in

that later portion i mean i think a good

one is the Stations of gratitude and the

duties of brotherhood where i did talk

about certain things that were very

troubling in the muslim community and

that was long before 9/11 so when people

saw me suddenly people that didn't

follow a lot of my talks or really know

what i was all about they might have

seen me once at isne or heard me a few

times or sorry really didn't follow my

thought you know as because i've been

teaching for a long time and i have a

lot of material out there particularly

recorded material i mean not enough

written material which is part of the

problem because in written material it's

very it's much less difficult to

misunderstand oral speech is actually

very complicated because the grammar is

not in the speech it's in the

understanding of the person you don't

see the pyramids the commas the

semicolons the dashes

the question marks you there are a lot

of nuances in in the spoken word that

are not picked up and unfortunately a

lot of Muslims do not have a level of

English that enables them to pick up a

lot of nuances there are also people

that are not accustomed in because the

speech is very different from if we're

just shooting the breeze as they say a

speech is very different because you

have you have arguments that are being

setup you have logical transitions you

have premises and and conclusions and if

you're not vigilant and listening to a

talk you can completely misunderstand

what a speaker saying because you might

have just your mind might have wandered

for 30 seconds or 60 seconds or a few

minutes and suddenly you didn't hear

what that person had prefaced his

remarks by so a lot of misunderstanding

occurs and and that's always problematic

with language now for me I think it's

it's probably exacerbated by the fact

that I am NOT a structured speaker and

there's benefits to that but there's

also the benefits are I'm a more

spontaneous speaker so people sense that

when they hear me talking it's not

coming from a prepared script it's

actually it's coming from my heart you

know and it's it's what I'm talking to

you people feel that it's not stale in

that way so a lot of people respond to

that that that is a benefit but I the

harm that goes with it is that sometimes

I say things that I might not have said

in the best way I also might have

regretted later because it was

spontaneous like one of the Arabs said

nah that's cool to happen where I can my

could go hop in your pod oh I said what

was true but sometimes not every true

should be said and also that if it can

actually be tangential to the point

where it does get hard to follow and

that's why you know some people who

listen to me actually will listen to it

more than once and I've heard many

people tell me that I had to listen to

that three times before I actually got

it now those are my shortcomings and

I've tried to remedy those to the best

of my ability but I usually I lose more

than I gained when I've done that in the

past so that's been a problem for me but

I'm very aware of that shortcoming and

and I'm very aware that some people have

a really hard time listening to me for

that reason because they are more

structured in their in their thinking so

I mean that that that's something you

know it's a problem I think that's

honestly something that struck me about

a lecture that's available on the the

Zaytuna site give and take for God's

sake where I thought that was very

strong mix of an outline that seemed to

be there but also that fresh mix of from

the heart a lot of strong responses in

that particular talk personally because

of the combination of those two elements

how important is it for Muslims in the

West to develop new art and media as an

alternative to what is already out there

in the mainstream media

well yeah being somewhat of a

traditionalist you know art is a very

interesting thing because in tradition

art is something you learn it's not

something you innovate your innovation

comes within the art so for instance

poetry means learning prosody it means

learning how to put another thing has to

do it some people just have those gifts

but for most people it means learning

how to to write the antipas the back

tail the iambic and then tip diameter

pentameter hexameter and then once

you've learned that once you've mastered

that that's when your innovation comes

it's it's how you bring that now in in

the modern world most of that is people

turn their back on that you see so for

instance classical music very structured

you have to learn certain things once

you've learned all those things then you

usually play what's already been written

I mean there's not very many classical

composers whereas if you look for

instance a popular music for instance if

you're playing country music I mean

everything's going to be you know GDC

and there's just this handful of chords

that the majority of country music is

working in or if you go to rock you know

da e I mean you're just working in these

kind of basic chord patterns and

progressions and so the the talent

needed to produce that type of music is

is insignificant compared to the effort

and talent that goes into producing say

for instance traditional classical music

so in art form the same is true of

painting if you're doing abstract

painting

I mean abstract painting is you break

all the rules whereas if you're doing a

type of classical painting which is is

more mirroring reality as opposed to

interpreting reality so you get the

realest school like Rembrandt everything

Rembrandt does is very real you look at

it I mean that's and one of the things

about Rembrandt is he was one he was the

first why he's so extraordinary is you

know are the first people to put warts

on people's faces I mean suddenly he was

showing people how they really look

instead of having these kind of

classical pictures of perfect people so

art is a very interesting thing because

it's obviously humans are artists we are

people that express ourselves and that's

what art is really about it's about

expressing oneself in the best way and

so all of us by the mere fact that we're

talking were artists you see by the mere

fact because speaking as a creative

event I mean if I say my son said to me

yesterday we were sitting and he's 12

years old and

he asked me about something and then I

said oh well it's it's only up to that

point he said oh it's no more and no

less but that was the word he used the

phrase he used it's no more and no less

and I said right no more and no less and

it was a serum and there were just those

things smiling you know masha'Allah

because it was was a use of an eloquent

phrase cuz he didn't have to say that

but he embellished it and it was wasn't

really intentional it was just simply

the words that came to his mind so

that's the type of expression now he's

memorized a lot of poetry so he's he's

got some motifs that he's working with

when he speaks so he'll come up with

very interesting syntactical structures

when he speaks that I've noted so we're

all artists in that way that we are

expressing ourselves there are people

that the way they dress the way they

walk the way they write but what the

artists in other words the person that

is engaged at the deepest level in that

activity what that person is doing is he

is consciously expressing himself in

other words it's it's a much more

conscious effort and experience and

that's why what we recognize when we

recognize the artist is that he's

speaking for us and and what happens is

artists taste is how how close that

artist is coming to expressing your own

experience of the world or your own

feeling so if a poet if I read a Frost

poem you might not like it but it might

speak to me if you read a Shakespearean

sonnet you might not like it but it

might speak to me might speak to both of

us some poems are universal it is so

powerful almost everybody that hears

them is moved by them at some level so

the artist then is he is speaking on

behalf of others he is expressing what

others are feeling and that's why the

shout in Arabic is the one who feel

shot out on means to feel so the Shia is

the one who's feeling things and

expecting them for others and so it's

very important that the Muslims have

people that do that historically Muslims

were great artists and our our art the

Islamic art is some of the most profound

if not I mean I would argue that Islamic

art is the most profound art certainly

in architecture certainly in calligraphy

and in many other things I mean I would

argue that the Islamic clothes are some

of the most extraordinary clothes the

embroidery patterns the the types of

textiles that were manufactured in the

Muslim lands I mean goz is from the

Muslim world it's an Arabic word as

God's lace and all these things so I

think it is important that we do that

what are the short and long term

strategies that Muslims need to deploy

in order to bring back any sensibility

to our approach as an a damn it

community in the 21st century well I

think it's it's very important that the

Muslims see themselves within the

context of the greater human family that

we are all done Oh Adam and Ben Oh Adam

is a family I mean Ben Oh Adam means the

tribe of Adam so we're all in the same

tribe which is from different clans we

believe that Islam is that is the Adamic

nature but people deviate from it now

part of the problem I perceive one of

the major problems is that the Muslims

believe now and even though if you

really press them they'll have to admit

this isn't true but they believe it that

they are Muslim and the problem is is

that indeed we're Muslim as a

sociological category in other words

when you categorize people out there you

have Jews Christians atheist Hindus

Buddhists Muslims

that's a sociological category of people

if we but our lasses hell and too

loosely moon are you Muslims he's

talking to the Muslims that's a question

in the Quran are you in a state of

submission Ben monestime Allahu Teala

the one who has submitted his entire

being to God she that aspect of Islam is

completely lacking and and what happens

is because we start we conflate the

sociological category of Islam with the

spiritual state of Islam

what happens is we fall into the pitfall

of spiritual pride and we begin to see

ourselves as better than other people

when in fact they may be better than us

because some of them just might be

ignorant they don't even know that Islam

is a revelation from God and that's why

when Islam came to me I really thought

this is true even though I was raised a

Christian I thought this is true and so

I had to become Muslim now when I became

Muslim what I was really trying to do

was enter into a state of submission

that's what I wanted I wanted to be a

submitter I didn't think I was joining a

tribe

Benny Islam and then I have to be with

the tribe right or wrong you know my

tribe ride around like Veniamin Rica

they say my tribe right or wrong my

country right or wrong love it or leave

it

that's tribal they're not truthful and

so that's where I have a real serious

problem is that people expect me to be a

spokesman for the tribe and I can't do

that

because if the tribe is wrong and I'm a

spokesman for the truth I have to say

the tribes wrong even against yourselves

that's what our law says what oh I'm

comb and I think we need people to

do that and we need more of them because

I really think we need to look at

ourselves and that is not to say that

what's going on what I mean them there's

there's so much

down so many terrible things being done

to the Muslims I'm not denying that but

what I'm saying is that's been going on

for a long time and the strategies we've

been using so far have done nothing to

alleviate that so I'm just wondering

maybe we should reassess maybe we should

actually try to develop new strategies

for changing our condition and and I

think one of the first and most

important is is to reflect on the fact

that the Quran says when Europe you when

you were afflicted with calamities you

asked why is all this happening to us

old woman and the emphasis come Said's

from your own selves that's one thing

another thing when was it a high-density

remedy let whoever find good let him

praise Allah but whoever finds other

than good let him only blame himself

that's inaudible in olia so it's right

there you tell me I mean do we take that

seriously does that mean what it says I

was once in Folsom Prison and there was

a sign we were in the mess hall is for

Eid and there was a sign that said

warning shots will not be fired and I

looked up and I turned to this man he

was in prison Muslim man next to me I

said what does that mean

and he looked at me and he said it means

exactly what it says

do you see because sometimes you you you

read something and who does that mean

so when when the Prophet SAW license

said whoever finds good that him thank

Allah and whoever finds other than that

let him only blame himself what does

that mean it means exactly what it says

so just do it

stop trying to philosophize yourself

into a corner with God submit let the

tears fall show some contrition I mean I

think we as Muslims we should be walking

around bowing our heads in contrition

and begging the non-muslims to forgive

us for being obstacles to seeing the

beauty of Islam I mean I'm serious I

feel like we should be growing up people

say what

these people what did they do to deserve

our presentation of Islam to them when

if you look at the public forum he was

patient with people persecuting him

throwing things at him spitting on him

throwing stones at him for 23 years and

then when a few of them actually finally

come to it Abu Sufian after 20 years he

and his wife who ate the liver of his

uncle bit into it and spit it out

washy who threw the spear from behind

his back in treachery and killed him and

the prophet saw him give Shahada to all

three of them sat with them in the same

way he couldn't even look at washi but

he sat with him you tell me what where

is that understanding of this long

because I want to see it where is that

20 years of persecution and he's still

saying welcome welcome into the fold

because he wanted good for people and

Iman only in his shot let me know

article hat tell you HIPPA via Heaney

MIOSHA pudina Seanie none of you truly

believes until he loves for his brother

what he loves for himself email no he

says in his commentary and I and I have

two versions of it one a more recent one

from Lebanon they removed this whole

thing from his original commentary

because it's it's politically they don't

want it they don't want this

understanding he said well hot wood

owner on your arm women Oh who wa this

should be interpreted first and foremost

as universal brotherhood in other words

the Muslims should love for his brother

the kaffir and his brothers are Muslim

what he loves for himself and then

listen what he says he says and this

love is spiritual love not human love

because humans do not desire good for

their enemies they desire harm and they

desire to discriminate against people

who are not like them and therefore

spiritual love which transcends human

love is for the sake of God you're going

against your nature for the

of God and that is why he said it is

Mustafa hab it is is not only rewarding

with God but highly encouraged to pray

for your enemies and he said therefore a

man should go against his soul and pray

for those who harm him where does that

understanding you see where is that

I mean I'd really I'm serious why is

that in our books why is that email no

way I mean are you gonna tell me that he

didn't know he didn't understand the

hadith that he didn't know the messenger

of our loss Elijah and what he meant

seriously but that goes against your

nature that's what he's saying you

desire harm for your enemies but if you

recognize that your enemies are just a

test from God for you and the point is

is to guide them that doesn't mean you

don't fight them if they're fighting you

I mean that's not what it said but don't

fight them with a hatred that you don't

want them to be guided fight them to

remove the blinders from their eyes to

remove the veils on this and that's why

when you conquer them you forgive them

and show them largess and that's when

they become Muslim I mean that's what

happened when the pulverizer marched

into Mecca he forgave them and they

became Muslim because they couldn't

understand it did he's going again

that's the power of Jesus because those

early Christians they were being eaten

by lions and they were praying for their

enemies people couldn't take it because

they were superhuman they were going

against human nature and they were

invoking angelic nature people forget

that why did Christianity spread it

conquered the Romans why the Romans were

had conquered the Christians they ruled

the Christian why how is it that the

conquered people conquered the

conquerors how because of morals that

their moral state and because of the

fact that they they didn't allow the

fact that they were being persecuted and

defeated by them to destroy their hearts

and cause them to lose their humanity

and that's why when the mongols came in

and destroyed two million muslims killed

two men

Muslim and who loggers brother ahmed

became a muslim within two years of the

conquest of baghdad and I'd be like Jeb

Bush today becoming Muslim you know sure

that's what it would be like if you like

Jeb and they're not impossible don't

think that's impossible if you think

that's impossible you know I don't think

you believe in God because he's a human

being he's facing his mortality just

like everybody else and if he reads a

sound version of the Quran if he hears

somebody speaking the truth and

realizing my god this could be another

prophet like Jesus like Moses because

they're all brothers moving to the next

question you have said that we are

living in trying yet interesting times

and that the age we're in is either

birth pains or death throes can you

please tell us more about what you mean

by this and your views on the nature of

this age well what I meant by that

statement is that on the one hand if we

look on the one hand unless eyes worked

at we're at this endgame it looks like

it's coming down they're telling us 85%

of the fish that we eat is gone it's

just gone that we've over fished all

these areas in these great oceans and a

lot of providers they're telling us the

polar ice caps are melting they're

telling us that the water is rising

right that our major cities have such

high rates of pollution that it's not

safe on some days in Mexico City or

Tokyo to go out for children because

they'll get asthmatic attacks in 1945

one out of 16 Americans got cancer today

it's one out of three so what's going on

aids aids is 50 million people so far

have died from AIDS 50 million you're

talking about the plague of the Middle

Ages the Middle Ages took 25 million

people

we're already double the number with

aids aids isn't a plague it's not a

plague on humanity so on the one hand if

you look out there it looks grim

it's high water everywhere I mean the

flood has has come the dam has broke and

and that's that's what the death throws

and looks like his we're in our death

throes on the other hand if you look out

there it looks like we're on the birth

pangs of an extraordinary Renaissance so

it is interesting that right on but

they're interesting times and I really

mean that for the first time in human

history

racism is seen by the majority of

humanity as a blight even though we're

still suffering from racism all over the

world it is no longer an accepted idea

it is rejected by all thinking people

across the board in in much larger

numbers than has ever existed in human

history 71% of Americans in a recent

poll said that they not only were not

opposed to mixed marriages but would not

be troubled if their own children

married outside of their own race I mean

that is amazing and it's happening and

we're seeing it in in in my children my

children are there Brown my when we get

to get family reunions my mother and

father's generation we had an entirely

white family now there are more mixed

children in our family reunions than

there are white children so what's going

on and that's not a novelist that is

actually becoming increasingly a norm

that in 50 years 50% of America is going

to be brown not white this is no longer

a white country it's no longer also

increasingly so it is becoming less and

that's a Christian country so we have

also the possibility of the plurality of

races and religions in conviviality

which is extraordinary

for the first time in human history

people are not being persecuted for

proselytizing I mean all over the world

people couldn't think they were allowed

to think now you can actually you can

you can choose your religion people can

choose their religion

chose to become a Muslim and this is the

first time in human history that you've

had that type of a freedom of choice

because there was a time when I would

have been burnt at the stake for

becoming a Muslim burnt at the stake so

that is an extraordinary many many

extraordinary aspects to the modern

society that we have to recognize the

tools that we have now to illuminate

people unfortunately they're largely

being used to foreign document not for

illumination but rather the opposite but

they're there and they could be used and

potentially their immense I mean even

though you know there are many things

that troubled me about Fahrenheit 9/11

just from a Islamic point of view of how

how we engage people we disagree with I

still think it's very profound event

that a film like that has grossed over a

hundred million dollars and it's only

been out for a few weeks it's what it's

going to be one of the loves grossing

films in history and it's a documentary

telling people that we did something

that was really wrong

just wrong so I think that's that's I

think there are many reasons why we

should be optimistic so this is the

paradox of our age it's an age that on

the one hand it really looks like we're

dying on the other hand looks like we've

hardly been born that brings us to the

last question from Dean point many

Muslims are suffering today the OMA

seems to be in a state of helplessness

what can we do as individuals to make

positive changes and also where are the

pros and cons of working as individuals

for this change as opposed to in groups

well for now the first thing that I

would say is about that is that our

helplessness is a gift from God

because we have to see that it's from

God God has removed our power partly

because we started thinking that it was

our power and not and not God's power so

it's a gift from God I don't think we

should see our condition as anything

other than an opportunity from Allah

Subhan Allah tada

to truly submit because the world is so

beyond it's like Robert McNamara said

one of the lessons that he learned and

this is the man who was in charge of the

Vietnam War who lived through the Cuban

Missile Crisis one of the lessons that

he learned was rationality will not save

us because he said Kennedy was rational

Khrushchev was rational

Castro was rational and yet they brought

us to the brink of destruction rational

men rationality will not save us so

that's a lesson and if that's Robert

McNamara saying that I mean how

shouldn't Muslims learn that lesson

because that's an Islamic lesson

rationality will not save us nothing we

can do what will save us nothing we

cannot do anything that will save us it

is Allah alone our Creator alone that

can save us and that's what we have to

call on Allah Subhan Allah Tala that

that's the only thing that we can do

like like one of the poets and Muslim

poets he said I bring you something God

that even you don't possess my

impoverishment that's the only thing I

can bring to you that you don't possess

everything else you have but that's the

one thing I can bring you that is

uniquely my own to give you because I

can't bring you my my strength you've

got that and and it cancels my now I

can't bring you my intelligence you have

that and it cancels my now I can't bring

you anything I can't be in you my wealth

you've got that and it cancels my now

but the one thing I can bring you is my

helplessness my impoverishment because

you don't have that that's what one gift

we can give to God that is uniquely our

own to

yeah and and and that's that's why it's

a great gift from Allah helplessness but

we have to see it as that in terms of

working in groups or not groups working

and I would say that allows with the

Jana you had a line now Jenna that's a

good Heidi so it's important that we

work together as the best of our ability

and there's some people that will never

be able to work with groups there's

personalities that that's just and those

people should find the best way that

they can do that and and that's from the

there's a chapter in variable cytosine

removing one cells from P from people to

protect them from his harm so there are

certain people that they're just they'll

sabotage everything they get into they

can't help themselves so if that's your

state then just don't don't don't block

other people from doing good work well

we thank you for your timing you're

hungry enough economy