Islam & the Western World - An Interfaith Dialogue

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Event Name: Islam & the Western World - An Interfaith Dialogue
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 6/13/2019
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welcome this morning and thanks for

coming here the hush come across the

room so I might as well get started but

on behalf of the Islamic Institute the

Congressional Muslim Staff Association

and Islamic a magazine allow me to

formally welcome you to this special

discussion entitled Islam and the

Western world an interfaith dialogue

welcome to Capitol Hill those of you who

are guests from far and abroad and while

we're in the Appropriations Committee

room we can't have food in here pork or

otherwise so we'll have lunch afterwards

right after the event that'll be served

in the hall but again thanks for taking

the time to join us you probably heard

that the bells rang just before we sat

down and so there's a series of votes

with the members right now for about 20

minutes so congressman keith Ellison

from Minnesota who's our moderator for

this evening will join us just as soon

as they're finished with those roll call

votes but let me take a moment to thank

JLA Williams of Congressman Meeks office

Mubeen Saifullah with his a tuna

institute Sara columella

of Islamic magazine and Catherine gates

of Park Avenue partners for their

gracious assistance and making a

Savannah reality and I'd like to also

recognize a few special guests that are

here today including Colin Hanna of let

freedom ring Imam Muhammad module of the

Adam Center just joined us from Sterling

Virginia and we have Paul teller from

the Republican Study Committee and we'll

be joined by several members who also

would like to join us and even say a few

words once again those votes are

complete in the Quran we read and

Muslims are told in the second chapter

indeed b-day Muslims Jews or Christians

those who believe in God in the last day

and who do good have their reward with

their Lord they have nothing to fear and

they will not sorrow and again in the

29th chapter in the 46 verse we read do

not contend with the people of the book

Jews and Christians except in the

fairest way in Psalm 34 14 we are


turn away from evil and do good seek

peace and pursue it and again in Matthew

5:9 we read blessed are the peacemakers

for they shall be called the sons of God

all faith traditions and joined

followers to worship God to do good and

to strive for peace and yet in today's

turbulent and often troubled world we

find that religious religions often

appear to be at the intersection of

mistrust strife and violence has faith

exacerbated and even caused violence as

Christopher Hitchens asserts is one

faith particularly violent or does the

solution of the world's many conflicts

rest with the truly faithful these

questions and others such as Muslim

immigration terrorism the successes and

challenges of Muslims living in the West

are just some of the issues that our

guests will tackle this morning and

again while we are waiting for a

congressman Ellison to moderate this

important session let me begin by

introducing our guests to begin that

discussion my our first guest is

ambassador Doug Holliday I've met Doug

Holliday just very recently and was

taken by his sincerity and willingness

to work with people of different faith

traditions and when we were beginning to

organize this event it became clear to

me that ambassador Holliday was the key

person and the right person to engage in

this dialogue to talk about some of

these important issues

ambassador holiday is a general partner

and a co-founder of Park Avenue Equity

Partners with offices in New York City

in Washington DC previously he was a

senior officer with the international

investment banking firm goldman sachs

and company and held senior positions in

the White House and State Department he

recently completed the four part PBS

documentary the question of God with

Harvard psychiatrist and friend dr. Amon


he holds degrees with the University of

North Carolina Princeton and Oxford

University he serves as co-chairman of

the Bucks and initiative I noted noted

author Gail Sheehy in her bestseller

pathfinders described ambassador

Holliday as an influential layman who

excelled in all that

touched and our other partner this

morning for the discussion is Sheikh

Yusuf Hamza Yusuf was described in The

Guardian as arguably the West's most

influential Islamic scholar after

studying Islam with some of the most

notable scholars in the Arab world for

over a decade mr. Yusuf returned to the

United States and earned degrees in

health care and religious studies he is

one of the most recognized Muslims in

both the Arab and Western

english-speaking countries and the

Guardian poll on influential Muslims in

Engel England ranked him as one of the

highest and most influential Muslims in

the British Muslim community in Eid

Hussein's recent book published by

penguin about a radical Islamist journey

to moderate slam the Islamist why I

joined radical Islam in Britain what I

saw inside and why I left the author

states that mr. Yusuf teachings were a

major influence in his personal

rejection of radical Islamism

he has also advised several members of

various governments about Islam and is a

member of the c100 a division of the

World Economic Forum a high-level group

to strategize in ways which bridges

could be built between the west and the

Muslim world he was also a special

adviser to United Nations high-level

Committee the Alliance of civilizations

and was a discussion leader at the UN's

meeting in Doha Hamza Yusuf continues to

lecture and advise leaders in several

countries and is also running a globally

recognized Muslim Seminary in Northern

California there's a tuna Institute he

has written three books and is also the

student and personal translator of

Sheikh Abdullah bin byah the former vice

president of Mauritania and one of the

most knowledgeable and respected

scholars in the Sunni Muslim world

Sheikh Hamza currently resides in

Northern California with his wife and

five children so we'll begin with

ambassador Holliday who will share some

of his thoughts and then go to Sheikh

Hamza and then we'll proceed with a

conversation at that point hopefully

congressman Ellison will take over the

moderator duties Thank You ambassador

thank you so much well it's wonderful to

be here I I'm I was trying to think of

an inspirational thought and all that

came to me was a t-shirt I saw recently

it said what am i doing in this room and


I kind of feel this way with Iman Hamza

he's he's a incredible scholar and

person he's none of the rock star status

of the Dalai Lama but he's getting there

and it's but it's an honor to be with

him my wife also had another t-shirt she

bought one time they said my next

husband will be will be normal but

that's another story anyway I thought it

might be helpful before we got into some

of the substantive issues to give you a

little sense you know it's always good

to know where someone's coming from a

little bit about my spiritual journey I

grew up in a family where my father was

a very aggressive atheist and so

religious kind of exercises were not

really that practiced in our household

and and part of it he was reacting we're

all product of what we've embraced by

our parents and reacted to various

things but he grew up in the South where

the Bible Belt kind of he took it as

something that just was uncomfortable

for him wasn't a lot of thinking going

on him just embracing a kind of certain

approach that he wasn't comfortable with

so I came to faith really on my own

through some mentors and a grandmother

who really I saw it in her life and it

really was really really powerful for me

now if I had been grown they had grown

up in Morocco or some other place would

I have followed different course I'm not

sure but all that I know is for me as a

teenager I saw lives that were really

attractive and they seemed to be

followers of Christ and in the world

that I was in that was very very

important to me

this began to animate pretty much

everything in my life and I I had these

grandiose plans to change the world then

I moved down to North America then to my

state in the city and then I finally got

to the point of saying my my greatest

focus for change spiritually needs to be

myself and I I think of that great you

know the literary critic GK Chesterton

in London one time I think was in the


a hundred leading people were asked the

question what's wrong

the world interesting in here all these

people comment on that and he wrote back

on a postcard just a few words he said

what's wrong with the world

I am and increasingly I see that my

biggest challenge is conforming my own

life to the dictates of my faith and I I

haven't used Christianity because I feel

like Christianity has so much pejorative

baggage it cysts all kinds of things I

choose to use almost biblical biblical

language which strikes me you don't find

the term Christian but once that's when

non-believers were describing what was

going on with with believers I choose to

say that I'm a you know follower of

Christ and want to conform my life to

his dictates so so how did I get into

this whole dialogue matter as a as a

reformed investment banker and a private

equity guy you know I've never never

been really qualified for anything I've

ever done so why stop now but after 9/11

I met a remarkable man dr. Akbar Ahmed

did some of you know a former high

commissioner from Pakistan to the UK and

he's he's a scholar and American

University a friend of mine said you

should meet him and so I went over to

you know the National Press Club he was

he was holding forth that day and I

really was taken with him and we went

back to my office and we spent about an

hour and a half just talking and I I had

just a lot of questions and kind of like

having the privilege of you know

interacting with you you kind of say I

need a human being to talk with about

these things because I I there's so much

I just don't understand

so we began this interesting journey

that didn't start out as to start an

organization or Institute of any sort in

fact I think this city has too many of

them or China they're kind of like

rabbits and Replace you turn there's a

new Institute a new organization I guess

where we're doing the same thing but but

what we did was

we started to meet he and I regularly

and then we expanded the circle you know

he brought a few of his friends I

brought a few of mine and then one day

we had a very important conversation at

the Department of Treasury I brought

some friends together who happened to be

very senior in the CIA FAC they ran

these things FBI and all this and I said

you just got a here with this man has to

say you might not like it but you should

hear this and I said the ground rules

are you won't shoot the messenger here

and he would say things and they'd get

crazy and say but we're Americans we're

the Marshall Plan people is it okay

timeout everybody let's get cool

everybody relax we're just trying to

learn so it was a very it was a

remarkable time so then we started this

kind of conversation where we expanded

it so about every month we'd have at the

Egyptian embassy we'd have a dinner or

the cases home we'd have a dinner so we

go back and forth and a Christian Muslim

and we would just what I would call

create a safe table where people could

begin to connect on a human level and I

think what's a little bit different

about what we're doing with the buckston

initiative there's a lot of places where

people are debating policy and and

that's important to do but I almost

liken it to billiard balls you know that

kind of they smash into each other and

go their separate ways but we decided to

do was really try to get to know each

other as human beings you know what

makes you tick your family how do you

view prayer so we would have

increasingly over time we developed a

level of comfort and trust so that we

could ask the harder question what's

going on with this Danish cartoon thing

what's going on things that Christians

are doing you know what what does all

this mean this Jerry Falwell a spokesman

for four year belief and this kind of

thing so we were able to really talk

very honestly and I remember and we had

a range of people in that room all the

way we you know and and what was also

distinctive they weren't clerics they

were people in pretty key positions that

had real influence you know ambassadors

senators CEOs different people and I

remember one time we talked about Prayer

and we had two Muslims share their

perspective and two Christians one of

the Christians who shared was Ken Starr

and that was interesting you know so he

shared his thought but you know what we

went away with saying isn't this

interesting because I'd never ask a

Muslim you know questions like you know

when you're praying five times a day and

there's a real crisis in your family

does that help you you know I mean I

just kind of thought it was a

ritualistic thing so so because we had

the type of relationship we could really

learn and talk so that I'd say that's

what's been unique about what we're

doing with with buckston you know trying

to find a way to develop deeper better

relationships so that we can learn from

one another now the last point I'd say

with what we're doing the buckston

effort that is really unique we're not

trying to either I think there are

religious groups that kind of sit around

holding hands singing Kumbaya and they

kind of avoid all the uncomfortable

issues and so we've decided that we want

to learn to live with our differences I

mean there's a lot of things we're never

going to come together on you know if

you know our brothers here trying to

convert me and I'm trying to convert

them that's kind of a you know

somebody's gonna either have a stalemate

or when but if we have a relationship of

love and respect you know we're able to

kind of see a lot more movement I can

learn from them and you know who knows

what will happen so I think this idea of

learning to live with differences and I

I really challenge a lot of my Christian