Rethinking Reform

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Event Name: Rethinking Reform
Description: The Rethinking Islamic Reform organization transcribed their own event. Better to follow the link above, as their website has everything formatted nicely.
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 3/29/2019 8:41:04 PM
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aid there was a multi-dimensional approach to that problem. One of them was curtailing the violence which was a criminal justice problem. But he said the other one was addressing the real issues that were creating the violence. And as long as we don't address a lot of these issues… And I’ll just give you one example – I’ve read in so many articles …you know Mortimer Zuckerman or whoever arguing that 'Palestine isn't really an issue blah blah blah it's just an excuse' -  Rubbish.




YUSUF: I was just in Morocco which is at the edge of the Arab world - it's the furthest Western Arab country - in Fez, in one of the most traditional cities *[78]  in the Muslim world. The khateeb, who was well into his seventies, he ended his khutbah by praying for Quds, by liberating Quds, by asking God to help the Palestinian people in their oppressed conditions. This is happening all across the Muslim world every Friday. Until people really, seriously address this issue - and the British of all people should be addressing this issue because a lot of the problem stems from early British problems in that area [APPLAUSE]. My country inherited the problems [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] 02:28:09-1


AHMED: and thirdly to Shaykh Hamza - can a Muslim be a neo-conservative and a good Muslim at the same time? 02:28:14-3


YUSUF: I you know - a neo-con is like - Con is where we end it in America. You know. And then you could say "por que neo." Why not neo-fascism? Why not just call a spade a spade. So I think it's impossible for somebody to be true to any real humanity in their hearts to follow a completely patently disingenuous political discourse. Really, disingenuous. They can still be a Muslim though [LAUGHTER] . I don't excommunicate. [LAUGHTER] 02:29:06-8


RAMADAN: Yes, *[79]  just to go for - I think that once again I think it's a serious discussion about Al-Azhar, like what you said. Because I think that when I went there and I had the chance to go to Azhar and follow the tradition and to go with one to one courses - Shaykh Ali Goma’a and others who were teachers and professors there and ulemma at Al-Azhar - I decided to go for this on a one to one courses with all the scholars. Because I think that there is something that should be come which is still the tradition and the pillars. This is very important. now, once again the methodology - when it comes to the way we are teaching by heart when you repeat. You know, I was within ‘usul ul-fiqh’ for example and we had to repeat all this ‘qawa’id’ [principles]. And you get the knowledge when you know it by heart you are not sure to understand the substance and the critical discussion on this. I think that there is a problem of methodology there is a problem of substance.


There is a problem of the critical mind - which was to learn to ask questions - which is the very tradition of Islah, to ask questions. To question the scholars. I agree that we have a problem with authority. But the problem that we also have now with authority is just this blind authority. When we have a Shaykh – it’s just don't ask the question, just follow. I'm sorry this is not...and this is why when this one to one course which I had every morning with Shaykh Ali Goma’ was a discussion, it was taking and giving.  And I think that this is what we need to come to.


Once again what Mohammad Abdou said when he was coming back to Al-Azhar was something of this kind when he said we need other disciplines, but he was also talking about the way things are taught. And I think that this is what we need: now, in the West, in Muslim majority countries. We need to do this in Muslim majority countries. But we need now to institutionalize our presence with institutions in the West doing the job. So, to have this credential now, by having scholars coming from there and working here. Because in our  environment we need this. It's impossible to be a scholar, a Muslim scholar, knowing the state of affairs in our countries in the West if we don't get this critical thinking, understanding. And it's vast. And this is why it's not one who can do that. It's not two. It's something which has to be a collective. We need to make it clear for the Muslim community: don't only put money in mosques but put money in institutions. And put money in things that are how we're going to teach. This is something which is essential [APPLAUSE]. 02:31:53-1


Let *[80] me tell you something here which is - you know - you spoke about Palestine. You know I was in the task force in this country. And I was also when for example banned from the United States of America 80% of the question that I got from the American Embassy in Switzerland were about my position on Iraq and my position on the unilateral support of the United States towards Israel. It has nothing to do with the money I gave. It has to do really with political position. So there is only one way forward. If we accept critical discussion in politics - being able to say [that] there is a lack of consistency in the West with our values - this is the only way for us to be heard by Muslims when we say you can't kill innocent people. This is not Islamic. What I said straight after July the 7th is ANTI-Islamic. When I was in the states in New York just after what happened on September the 11th it's not only non-Islamic it's anti-Islamic. We cannot support this 02:33:01-3


The point is for us is to know where we are, with whom we are talking. So when now we have some Muslims, some Muslims, being able to work with the government *[81] and supporting the inconsistency of the government when they are saying 'condemn violence and don't speak about other things.' No, I'm sorry. That is not going to work. There is no way for us to go towards peace if we are not serious about consistency in politics. Meaning the blood of an Iraqi man is the same as the blood of an American man. [APPLAUSE] 02:33:37-4


This is the starting point of our discussion. It's the starting point of the discussion. I'm sorry to say that some in our government - just I’m finishing on these two points - but this point really - I think that it's very serious. It's very serious. Because you're not going to solve the problem if every time you come with this discourse, our loyalty to the country is challenged and questioned. It's questioned. It's *[82] said, 'Oh you're not a real British' , 'You're not a real American.’ I think it's wrong. This is where we are. The dignity of Britain - the dignity of the United States of America - when we are able to say this as Muslims. So this is our contribution.


I would say that if you deal with governments, if you deal with the Labour party in this country, just to say: 'I’m sorry, what you’re doing is wrong.' So you had the prime minister of this country saying there is no connection between what happened in the streets of London and what we are doing in Iraq. So how can you start a discussion when there is such a state of denial that it's wrong what was done in the state of London but please say that's wrong what you're doing in Iraq and what you are forgetting in Palestine. But now, only by the way - I’m of this opinion: I really want us as citizens not only to speak about Palestine not only to speak about Iraq and Afghanistan but also to speak about Africa, but also *[83] to speak about the fact that people are being killed in our name. In even what happened in Haiti, for example, it's just before the natural catastrophe. The way we are dealing with the government and corrupt people. There I think that this is where we have to be involved. And this is for me a shift in understanding. But I want the government and our fellow citizens to understand what we are talking about what we are doing talking about this.


And then one thing which *[84] is important. I completely agree - a neo-con and being a Muslim is problematic in my mind - I don’t get it. But there is something which is going to be very difficult for all of us. In our involvement in the West - and this happened in Muslim majority countries in a way which was problematic, because when you were following Islamist trends, this is where you were a good Muslim and it's as if all the others were bad Muslims - ... We have to be very cautious here in this political discussion because today we have Muslims who are not going as extreme as neo con or far party or populist. But we will have people in the Labour parties - we will have people in the Lib Dem and in the conservative. We have Muslims *[85] as citizens now. They are everywhere. And we need to be able to get to that level of political understanding of citizens that we may have the same faith we don't share the same opinions.


So there is something here which is very important in our way of dealing. We have to deal with this political diversity as something which is a potential richness and not a liability undermining our community of faith. It's not easy; it's really not easy. Because this judgmental attitude that we can have on the name of our religion because we come from something which is a very specific understanding of Islam - could be very problematic in the political field. In our life in the west this is the challenge also of diversity that we have to deal with 02:37:03-2  [APPLAUSE]


AHMED: Thank you. Our stewards have negotiated a little more time with the theatre so we do have time for maybe one … let's start with one [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] 02:37:24-8



STEWARD: This is a very direct submitted question but no less pertinent. Do both speakers believe that the relationships fostered under the new Labour to counter extremist think tanks such as Quilliam have been productive or counterproductive and is it something that the coalition government should put efforts in pursuing? 02:37:43-0


AHMED: Okay, let's start with Professor Ramadan. 02:37:48-9


YUSUF: I'm from America… [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER and APPLAUSE] 02:37:58-6


RAMADAN: Look. My position on this, it's not a black and white. Because today with Quilliam I am differentiating between people and the objective. There are some people I don't want to talk with them because I have no trust. That's over. I saw, I heard, thank you. Some others that I think that are trying their best in between, so I would say I’m not against the fact that we are in touch with the government. It depends on your intention and what you are producing and delivering on the ground. Today, for me, some of the things that are done by, for example, the Quilliam Foundation are completely counterproductive; completely counterproductive.




RAMADAN: No *[86] , that's not right. It's something which - this is exactly the opposite of what I wanted. I don't want this kind of just throwing away something which is a project. I think that some things are counterproductive. And I think there are other things, other questions that are very, very important. I think that some of the questions which are coming from the Quilliam Foundation and others are very important to listen to. So I'm against this attitude that sometimes we have – ‘Oh, it's coming from Quilliam, so throw it away.’ no. Listen, listen. So, for example, let me tell you something which is not only coming from within the Muslim community but we have for example you know Brigitte Bardot, she's from the far right - very bad - she doesn't like the Muslims. She's clearly a racist. She's a racist. And say they are staring with the sheep and then they will end with us, by slaughtering us. This is what she's saying


But there is something which is very important for me. I was not going to react emotionally. I was going to tell her: ‘look, look you are racist. The way you are dealing with Arabs and Muslims I will never accept that.’ But at the same time she is saying something which is important. Which is: ‘look, Muslims, the way you are dealing with the animals when it comes to Eid-al-Adha is just not respectful - you are disrespectful’ - and I listen to this and I say in all of these you are wrong and in this you are right. I will listen to this and forget about all that. And I think it's exactly the same with the Qulliam Foundation. I’m ready to throw away 90% because I think it's counterproductive and the 10% - welcome to the discussion. 02:40:39-2


AHMED: Thank you very much.




AHMED: Shaykh Hamza 02:40:45-6


YUSUF: On that question… [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER]. I agree about the sheep. They should definitely be treated with more… [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER, SCATTERED APPLAUSE] Really. And I saw Brigitte Bardot when I was a kid…what happened? [LAUGHTER] 02:41:07-3


AHMED: Okay. We have one final question. Please, a quick question and a quick answer. Can I take it from the lady here please? Thank you. 02:41:21-2



AUDIENCE MEMBER: Asalaamu Alaikum. It's probably not a very sophisticated question; it's more of a practical, real question. I've been just listening trying to take everything in that you’ve been saying, but at the same time, as someone who is very active and has been very active in both Ireland and here and at the grassroots level working with Muslim women's groups and non-Muslim - and the youth..My own experience -if that's anything to go by on activism has left me quite soured and disappointed actually. And how do you reconcile...I suppose that's the question: how do you reconcile the prophetic injunction to plant saplings in the middle of the Hour with the reality that actually for a lot of Muslims it's very hard? The reality of raising children here it's very hard. You know, some people can tell us go back to your own countries.  Well, I don't belong anywhere, or I belong as much here as I belong anywhere. And I find it hard - I find that engagement genuinely hard. And I think that reflects the reality of quite a lot of people - younger and older - trying to raise children, trying to communicate with children, values….when everything else around you says - you're an outsider [voice breaks]- it's very difficult 02:42:49-3


[APPLAUSE] 02:42:50-7


YUSUF: The Prophet sallallahu alayhi wa sallam said that Islam - it began as an alien thing and it will return to being an alien things, so blessed are the alienated ones. The world's an alienating place. We're all going to be dead in this room within at least the maximum 100 years and there will be a whole new group of people debating and discussing . Maybe, maybe not. But you know it is very difficult.


I was on an airport going to Kuwait and I sat next to Muahammad al- Awadi who's a famous presenter there - a very brilliant Kuwaiti guy - and the stewardess came - and she had Ayesha on her name tag. I asked her where she was from, she said Senegal. And then Muhammad al-Awadi said - she didn't  have a hijab on  - but he said, “are you able to pray on the plane?” And she said, “yes.” And then he said, “Can *[87] I ask you a question.” And she said, “yes.” And he said, “How do you feel about serving wine on the plane?” She said, ‘It's really hard.’ [voice breaks] “but I always use my left hand.” And…you know, I was so moved by that - that attempt - in such an incredibly difficult circumstance - to be as true as she could to what she believed was right. Because Muslims do deal with foul things with their left hand and um… there are a lot of people struggling out there. So God bless you. 02:44:35-8




RAMADAN: There is no way to deny the fact that educating our kids… and you know today - to be a couple is a jihad. To be a father and a mother is a jihad. And to be a kid to be a boy *[88] or a girl is in itself a jihad. The starting point is exactly this one - is just to acknowledge the fact that it's very difficult. But now there are also conditions. And I would say that in the West, it's very difficult today to be a father and a mother. But there are conditions and we have to come back to this. When I wrote the book on "The Prophet," peace be upon him, the point for me was really to look at the way he was and to extract from his behaviour principles.


There is something which is very problematic. When you are scared from the environment, you know when you are full of confidence. It's different than when you are scared. When you are scared from the environment you come with rules because you think that rules are protecting you. But when you come with a state of confidence you know that it's going to be difficult. But you say "natawakkalu ‘ala Allah" [meaning] we rely on God and we go for it.


There is something which are conditions*[89] and the first one is look at the way the Prophet, peace be upon him, was with his wife and with is kids. The second thing which is important is communication and there is no way today in our schools  - or supplementary schools are sometimes Islamic schools - we come with the rules and we forget the fact that we need communication - we need to let the people express. So I would say that in our family there is something which is quite important which is communication - which is  to listen. It is to be able to look and have this - the signs which are coming - and I think this is what is missing today - lack of communication.


The third things which is important in the way that we deal with our kids here is critical thinking. It’s also to let them ask questions - and sometimes make mistakes and try to deal with the environment.


And the fourth thing which is for me important is not to cut them from the surrounding society - is to equip them with critical thinking and allow them to make some choice. It is not going to be easy. No one said that. Critical thinking and then communicating and then trust. Trust. You know I always say something which is a part of my personal experience when my own father. Once when I asked him something he gave it to me. He gave me money and said: ‘Don't do something which is displeasing God.’ And he was sending me a message which I’m not able myself to do with my own kids. Which is trusting the relationships with your conscious.  02:48:00-2


So*[90] I think once again we need to do this - within our family. We need institutions. We need places where we can talk about this. And sometimes there is nothing wrong with having people helping us or mediators or even psychologists. Sometimes when it comes to… we need this.  And these Muslims would say, ‘You know, the only answer is go to pray.’ That's fine. I know that I have to pray, but you are not solving the problem. So I would say that once again it's a question of - it's difficult - but we have the responsibility to find the right means where we are to solve the challenges. When we are living in the West it is a community responsibility to try to find these ways. And sometimes you know you are dealing with the exact same answers that I have, which is that we are very far from understanding the problems and coming with the rights answers. So I would say that, yes. But once again, there is something which is today helping us. When you’re looking at the last 30 years, the Muslims today are doing much better than before. So we have to carry on and to try to find the right institutions and the right way to deal with the young girls and the younger ones.


And please don’t only come with halal and haram, [the] ‘don't do this, don't do that.’ While we still have to come with something that has to do with authority…and I would say something which is ‘you are women and you talk about this.’ And one of the most important problems that we have today in our families has nothing to do with women. It has to do with men; it has to do with fathers. 02:49:38-7


[APPLAUSE] 02:49:40-0


No, I’m not saying this to please anyone. I'm just saying that we are not serious about this challenge. We are not. There is something which is very deep here, which is the father - the role and this relationship. And I would say that this is something that we all have to keep in mind.  02:49:58-8


[APPLAUSE] 02:50:03-0



AHMED: Thank you very much. We really have come to the end of our time today. So can i just ask our media representative Myriam to sum up - to give some instructions for the proceedings for the night - the closing. And once again thank you very much Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and Professor Tariq Ramadan.  02:50:23-6


[APPLAUSE] 02:50:31-9


CERRAH: Wow, what an insightful journey we've been on tonight. We've laughed; we've cried. We've done perhaps a lot of the in between. And I think that the breadth of emotions that we've possibly been through tonight is somewhat testimony to the vast array of issues that we're facing as Muslims.


I'm just going to ask of you five minutes so that we can thank everyone for their involvement in tonight's event as you can imagine it wasn't a one man show. We'd obviously like to thank our speakers Shaykh Hamza and Professor Tariq Ramadan for being with us here tonight.




We'd like to thank you the audience because of course you're a major component of the show and you've made it what it is. The ISoc team – in particular, Imad Ahmed, for heading up this gargantuan operation and taking it from a seed to the fantastic event we've had tonight, Alhumdullilah.  Reem Rahman, for being our management whiz, Nawaz Ahmad, Sazan Meran, Kawther Alfasi, Imran Mahmud, Arzoo Ahmed, Amir Shaheen, and so many others for their delightful phone manner and powers of persuasion - not to mention tenacity and resistance to sleep deprivation. Salman Farsi and Ruhul Amin for being technological genii, all of our stewards here tonight. Shaykh Babikir for being an inspiration to us at all times.


And everyone who made this evening possible – thank you. Thank you so much. Asalaamu Alaikum. Peace be upon you


[APPLAUSE] 02:52:05-7