Misreading History with Richard Bulliet

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Event Name: Misreading History with Richard Bulliet
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 5/24/2019
Transcript Version: 1

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was presenting it what one one I just I

would say that you know the the prices

and you point this out in your book

about legitimization and the crises of

legitimization legitimacy is a crises

that I don't think is just in the Muslim

world that's happening here as well it's

happening the whole nation state the

concept of the nation-state is becoming

harder and harder to justify in in in

the type of worldwide

world that we're living in the the

corporate hegemonies that are taking

place now and financing and its central

wall which is actually superseding

politics really in determining what's

going on but the there is a crises of

religious authority and the way the

Catholics dealt with that always was

with the Magisterium Jewish and Islamic

tradition had a very nuanced way of

dealing with that through a type of

process of you know the rabbi is in the

odama would would have these long

discussions about things and kind of

finally come to some either a consensus

or an acceptable disagreement like your

opinions valid my opinions valid God

knows best who's right and heretical

views or views that were to deviant to

be accepted within that were identified

and people were told to stay away and

that that's how orthodoxy was identified

that's no longer the case we have google

Islam today we have mass numbers of

Muslims reading primary text which was

never the case you before you could read

a primary text you had to go through a

training that enables you to access

those texts within the hermeneutic

framework of that tradition now we have

sex emerging in the Muslim world that

are really new and one of them is the

political Islamic sect that's a very new

narrative this idea of the Islamic state

that is a completely Western idea that

Muslims have internalized and not even

realized where it came from they don't

see that it actually is a Western idea

yeah and it's far closer to Zionism than

it is to Islam the idea of creating an

ideological state in which the the

believers can live a free of the

impurity in purities of the disbelievers

so I think the what the West has you

know America to a certain degree in

certainly Europe has has been grappling

with in dealing with is how we create a

pluralistic society where religious

space is protected and is not a threat

to the the civil society itself so

religious violence is is it was a crises

that emerged largely in the 17th century

in Europe which led to these solutions

of how we deal with religion because

people are religious by nature but how

do we deal with that so that religion is

protected in spaces protected and yet

it's no longer a violent threat to the

well-being of society well

the Muslim world is grappling with that

now because religious violence is is

something that's very real now in the

Muslim world and it's it's been alien

really in in the history of something

you said it's far less prevalent in the

Muslim world but I think there we have

to learn how we can live with a

religious space in which people are free

to practice their religion as they

understand it well certainly our

Constitution guarantees that freedom of

practice it doesn't say be that

separating church and state at all the

First Amendment it actually says

Congress shall not you know interfere

with and I'm not quoting it exactly

the free exercise of religion when did

this this split start you had mentioned

that a moment ago because I think it

maybe have a time parallel with this

phenomenon it that dimension I think

this is where Edward say he was was

right in associating imperialism I mean

there's always been an anti-muslim

discourse and also parallel to what in

American academia no I mean in Western

thought from the time of the beginning

of the sloth onward there has been an

anti-muslim discourse and they've also

been individuals sometimes influential

ones who have been much more

understanding but when the discourse

because it was a different religion

because it was a power comedy there was

a power computation

it was both but in this sense more

because apart for example Charlemagne

had relations diplomatic contact with

lead with the Calif and then his his

great-great-granddaughter actually sent

an embassy to the Calif and said look

you rural in the east I'm the ruler of

Rome she was the queen of law Ferengi at

that point said why don't we just have a

permanent peace as long as you want and

you know the idea of there being


peaceful relations was not a mathema it

was a matter of whatever the power

consolation was the time but once you

get to the second half of the 18th

century and you get imperialism shifting

into high gear with the idea of kind of

having state imperialism establishing

colonies in areas with large mussel

populations then you begin to get more

of the systematic demeaning of the

Muslim tradition but but actually what

happens was saying I was in Malaysia a

couple of years ago and the sisters in

Islam which is a feminist group there

are they had a meeting with a couple of

visitors the Grand Mufti of Bosnia and

an amount here from New York City and

they gave wonderful talks and the women

were really appreciated it and so forth

and then after saying how much they

enjoyed their discourse they started

asking the tough questions you know what

can you tell us about child custody what

can you tell us about this how can you

be somewhere problems and then these

guys didn't really say anything and it

became clear in conversation and

thinking about afterwards that the

problem was and the Grand Mufti a

bosnian said you know we have a labor

problem in Bosnia and Sheikh Qaradawi

delivered a fewa and I wrote him a

letter saying in Bosnia

I'm the mufti and you don't write a

letter about Bosnia and here they were

two commands of great of great

reputation but from other places were

they going to say something - - to women

in Malaysia and undercut the local maps

in Malaysia well now this is the problem

is this the nation-state beginning the

system that originated at the end of the

Wars of Religion in Europe is this the

nation-state beginning to impose itself

as a model on Islam will you have an

Islam that differs from place to place

or not

as long tradition one of the obligations

it's a condition for the mufti to be a

resident of the place he gives fatwa

moved he's not actually supposed to give

a fatwa to a place he doesn't live in

because he doesn't know the

circumstances take your first magazine

multi he delivered dealing with but this

is opposed to you know people don't know

what the supposed to Tsar we there's a

beginning of learning and internet is

health and there are a lot of people

studying now there are even Muslims who

are teaching Islamic studies and well

we're like it's the thing is fragmenting

and it's it's a real crises and I don't

think people realize the severity of it

it's fragmenting I mean III was just in

the Middle East and you know people

they're having rave parties in in in

Saudi Arabia you know this is this is

globalization you know I mean it's it's

it's a very different world and and the

older people just they don't know what

to do they they're just you know there's

not even a word in Arabic for rave

parties yeah so but one of the appalling

possibilities there are people now who

work in development and divide and other

place in the Gulf who say that over the

next 15 years they expect a transfer of

capital two trillion dollars into the

Gulf Cooperation Council countries that

is to say the Gulf countries excluding

Iran and Iraq practically speaking two

trillion dollars you know at a certain

point does the Gulf become a center of

gravity around which the Muslim world

begins to rotate and if so what kind of

a society is being created there

it's a good point and it is happening

it's becoming a hub there's an

incredible amount of activity there this

that's and it's very exciting people on

every year there and people things are

happening and an incredibly fast pace

but the disruptions to the society

itself are immense and they damn yet

dealt with that and that's something

Suzanne George talks a lot about how you

no fool in his culture are soon parted

that it's it's very it's very difficult

for people outside of Western society to

realize how much of Western

dysfunctionality is embedded in Western

technology in Western ways of doing

things that it's a complete package

there's there's an idea in the West and

I think the Iranians really were were at

the vanguard of this idea that somehow

we could modernize without westernizing

that was that was a very common motif

and a lot of the writings of the 60s and

70s not being aware at how much of

what's going on here is actually part

and parcel of the you know the breakdown

of the family the the dysfunctionality

with drug use all of these things

because as life gets faster and faster

people get more and more disoriented and

and start having a lot of real problems

and that's already and it's happening

there and and they don't have the social

sciences that we have that wasn't things

I was trying to convince the ministries

start reducing social sciences because

you have to understand your your society

like what's happening interview these

young people find out what's going on

their minds the only people that are

doing that are the marketing companies

and Procter & Gamble did Procter &

Gamble did a study called the emerging

air of the consumer and identified four

types of Arabs in the Gulf region the

wee-wees the wheedies the me wheeze and

knees and they said that actually I

think the guy was from California but

they said you know the wee-wees were the

older ones who were more communitarian

the family and the culture were more

important than the individual and then

the the we Me's were the the culture was

still important the family but the

individual was starting to emerge the

the me wheeze the the individuality was

more important than the culture but the

culture was so important but the the

dominant group that they said that was

emerging was the meanies and they could

they could care less about the culture

they just wanted Prada and Gucci and you

know man on TV this is the area that now

have something like 15 American

universities who have decided is that

like school for satellite schools of one

sort or another and they're being bribed

into doing it and why do I think was

offerin dollars simply to to enter the


so you you set up a branch or university

so do you address the the Mimi problem

by talking about your culture or by

bringing in Western educational

institutions to bring in a Western

culture what really is I most maps the

Persian Gulf but if you're in one of the

Arab countries the Persian part is left

off of the geography have you noticed

that sometimes a coffee Arabian golden

oh yes so can we predict today what and

all the Arabs call it the Persian Gulf

long before it was the Arabian Gulf well

you know the National Geographic put put

out one map it said Arabian Gulf and

version Dolf both and the country of

Iran boycotted it and collected

petitions with tens of thousands of

signatures protesting National

Geographic that canceled all National


mailings to Iran and I was the

intermediary I'm trying to solve this

but the way you solve it is that you

call it Persian Gulf and then you have a

footnote and then a tiny tiny script

elsewhere the map to say also some Arab

countries call it the Arabian I remember

the Iranian bathroom that typeset could

be put the foot over to different page

and it's funny how maps become reality

because if I in the 1911 encyclopædia

Britannica all the maps that have

Palestine as the name and you know you

go before Israel in 47 all the maps have

Palestine but now Americans don't ever

know that there was a country called

Palestine that that was actually a place

people here don't know that that most

Americans actually think Israel was

always Israel I have a friend who said

you know I was born in Israel in 1936

and I said you need to take that off

your resume

but I have a a coin from Palestine and

it says Palestine is expect commercial

but in English very beautiful

there've didn't call it Palestine they

call it Shem was never called titles


the Arabs didn't call Philistines so

even Palestine is is a colonial name it

was given by a fine British that had

they actually wanted the biblical name

that's what it was called in biblical

times and the Philistines are actually

almost called enrollment imperialist and

the Philistines are the bad guys in in

the Bible these are dangerous books the

new Old Testament New Testament the

gospel there and end the farm

they're dangerous books they really are

I don't think people realize how

dangerous they are but I think it made a

very good point when you said that now

people are reading the primary text

without any any introduction you said

Muslims are reading it but non Muslims

are reading it too and raining absurd

commentaries in which they say well I

read it in the Quran and my

interpretation of what it means in

governs which is absurd you say well are

you familiar with the fourteen

succeeding centuries of commentary no I

read the Quran it's as if we've really

made sort of a time warp into the

earliest elements of Protestantism where

you try and erase the entire history of

the Catholic thinking about about Jesus

and Christianity and go back to some

kind of primitive intuitive reading of

lead of the gospel except that at least

the early Protestants usually

well that I'm not the you articulated

perfectly that it to me that is the

crises that without a hermeneutic to

understand these books that's rooted in

compassion and in respect for the other

they become manichaean documents that

can really set people apart and I think

Muslims are susceptible to Manichean

readings of the Quran if they're not

careful just as the Christians and the

Jews are very susceptible to Manichean

readings of their book and that's why

the Manichean heresy is a heresy and

it's a heresy in the Islamic tradition

as well khadiyah

is it's the same idea we have we have

the same heresy so all three religions

share that view that it is a very

dangerous way to read these books but

they can be easily read like that and I

would argue that it's easier to read the

Quran like that than it is for a quick

definition for audience because

certainly I know manikyam manikyam is

there was a prophet named mani who

preached that there was a single source

of good and parallel to it a single

source of evil and they would be

eternally at war with one another and

that you should strive in your personal

life to perfect your your life so you

would become pure good and then you

recognize that there is also pure evil

and then it becomes you as

metaphorically for anything that pits

lighten dark good and bad good you evil

cannot be erased it can be fought but it

cannot be erased I mean just that the

Zoroastrian tradition the Maji and


is it's pretty much the same idea that

you know offering - is you know you have

the Mazda hora Mazda and I'll remind the

God and the God of evil and you know

they're if they're locking heads worse

in the in the in in the piranha canned

the the Abrahamic narrative is that God

created evil with the good so it's it's

seen as be coming from the same source

which gives you a metaphysical framework

to understand evil that it has a purpose

that it's it's uh it's it's something

that's inside everyone it's not

something that is outside of yourself

and and therefore it becomes if you

understand that in any true sense of

that word it becomes very difficult to

objectify evil in the world unless you

take that manikyam approach to religion

which religions are very susceptible to

that at a simplistic reading of religion

though the Quran divides the world if

you read it in that gross literal

reading in the demote me known and the

kaffir own but the deeper you go into

the Quran the Quran saying you'll

Tunisian Haman and mate you know he

takes the living out of the Dead and the

dead out of the living that night is

turning into day and day is turning in

tonight and be careful these things

aren't as fixed as they appear there but

you take you take the simple-minded

reading and you get these distortions

that are very violent in some cases but

then you can do that exactly the same

thing of the Bible so that you can say

well nobody would take seriously a verse

of the Bible that says thou shalt not

suffer a witch to live and yet you had

tens of thousands of women burned at the

stake by Christians are drowned because

they weren't because lepers because

there is a belief that witches were

irredeemably evil they were the agents

of Satan and saw so you know you you

always have to to stand up against the

simple-minded black and white

interpretation of things that are

properly in

preface tradition more subtly though

it's increasingly hard to do in our

society where there's more in black and

white available to us both on in

newspapers on the internet and in a sort

of intellectual black-and-white on in

the television news

how do what do we do you know when

you're demonizing the other and dr.

Bhatt was talking earlier about the slew

of zombie films that emerged after 9/11

and you know the the the in those films

invariably the zombies are slaughtered

with impunity by the good guys and that

you know that he was suggesting that

that unfortunately there are people in

this country that look at Muslims as

zombies mindless and malevolent and so

it becomes very easy to I mean I'm

always amazed that they talk about 4,000

American soldiers have died in Iraq and

never when that is mentioned is the the

I mean let's just have the Lancet report

which is a pretty reputable I'm not

pretty it is a reputed reputable journal

in England using the same criteria that

they use for Rwanda and they came up

with almost a million civilians have

been killed in Iraq but let's just have

that you know to be on the conservative

side and say it was 500,000 that's a lot

of human beings that are just gone from

the earth because of a misadventure that

was entirely predicated on lies and

deception and and people suffer from it

but when you demonize people it becomes

easy for people to read the newspaper

about that and eat their breakfast well

one of the things that that we often

talk about in the war on terror and so

it's called asymmetrical warfare in

which we have a lot of weapons and they

don't but they're winning the waves

constructors but the fact the matter is

that asymmetrical warfare would also

apply to something like the Iraq war

where Americans were never threatened by

Iraq still to this day Iraq has never

heard anybody who was not in the

American armed services or working for

an employer employed by the US


whereas bombings and attacks of all

sorts of affected the Iraqi civilians we

are carrying out what labeled a poem

called total war against Iraq but we're

not having total war as something that

we are suffering on our side that that

disequilibrium and this is the reason we

don't have an anti-war movement in this

country is that we don't sense that

we're at war but the Iraqis know damn

well we're a part and that that

asymmetry is is very disturbing to the

soul of the country I think but there

was that thing asymmetry with regard to

Vietnam we were not under attack her

when we threatened by Vietnam we heard

we've heard a lot about the 50,000

Americans who died and not about the

millions of Vietnamese there with the

content you have a country Walter

Cronkite you know nightly news showing

some pretty horrific images coming in -

that was the first time people had more

images you can see stuff on YouTube but

there's been almost total I mean wearing

almost like a Pravda type of situation

here I think in some ways our news is

becoming more and more like Russian news

and we're even seeing that the

scientists have been censored about

global warming nasa scientists and other

scientists were actually censored and

told what they could you couldn't say I

mean thank God some of that stuff is

coming out but there has been a lot of

censorship there have been no pictures

and I'll allow take those pictures of

the funeral the people come

Oh in in the in the body bags and things

like that

so that that's part of problem and then

another aspect of it is and let's face

it it's it's it's it's the it's the the

poor people that are dying over there

are large then if you look at even a lot

of the names it's Sanchez and it's you

know it's you know African American

Mexican American and then for white

communities that are suffering if you go

into the heartland of America in these

small towns those are the people that

are losing the people and and they don't

have that the type of cloud that you

know but there's an irony is that the

American soldier is recently well paid

now he comes from a or she comes from a

lower social stratum usually but it's a

good job until your killer but but one

of the things that we don't seem to

realize is that you know if we ever got

into a big war and we had a draft

together we can't afford to pay a good

salary because well let me say on behalf

of the sons and daughters of Adam here

today thank you dr. bullet anything come

to you so