What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf

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Event Name: What Conservatism Really Means - Roger Scruton in Conversation with Hamza Yusuf
Transcription Date:Transcription Modified Date: 3/29/2019 8:41:10 PM
Transcript Version: 1

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mal'>you know that that idea that there is a

an order which reveals itself through

free gestures that's really what you are

saying about those old Mediterranean

style of styles of dance yes I think

it's also rhetoric was like that I mean


Miriam Joseph wrote a dissertation

Shakespeare in the arts of language

where she proved that he had mastered

all of these rhetorical treatises of of

his of his time and and knew over 200

tropes and and and schemes it's amazing

that and and often borrowing from the

very text that he that he had mastered

so the artifice which used to be a kind

of positive term in

in in in the past this idea of craft

yeah of a real craftsmanship and I think

the two areas where we still see it in

our culture to a certain degree I mean

popular music is is is very troubling

and in a lot of ways but I think you

still see it in in music and sports

athletics you see it in jazz

improvisation yes yes

which which doesn't make sense at all

until you've mastered the chord

sequencing right and can hear the hidden

melody in the improvisation yes so in in

in in in sports people go to these

stadiums or they watch on television

what they're waiting for is that magical

moment you know the triple play in

baseball I don't know what they have the

equivalent in cricket is I think

pitching something for six but but

there's a moment where and people look

at each other as if they've just

witnessed a miracle or something but

that that can only happen because of an

immense discipline that occurred and and

and we've lost that we've lost that in

so many other areas of being human but

again we can get it back where we got to

be we have got to be optimistic about

this well we for us for in our tradition

it's it's considered an obligation to be

hopeful yes well of course

likewise for Christians faith open

charity of every fundamental values

meaning by charity love certain kind of

love yes but that's another problem that

that idea of love has become so

corrupted well it's you know it's the

grease and that nice distinction yeah

between agape and eros and all the other

sorts of love to Arabs do that as well

yeah Arabs have ten different types of

love all right the highest been cuddler

right the lowest being ish which is well

actually it's yet desire yeah euros yeah

but is still quite a good it's a

beautiful thing yeah and it's it's

related to this cognitive another word

which is see

mmm that love is something that is

nurtured and and Rose because hub is


yeah and hub is love right yeah you know

one of the things that that that the the

traditional world ICS Lewis talks about

this but one of the things that the

traditional world really understood was

the wheel of fortune which has really

been removed from from our culture this

idea that that there is this cycle yeah

and and you're talking about optimism

when you're down at six o'clock which in

the wheel was traditionally the

corresponding emotion was was despair

yeah right so nine o'clock was hope

right twelve o'clock joy and then three

o'clock was fear yeah but that you know

Bowie theus in that the consolation of

philosophy that second chapter where he

talks about this you know this this

wheel of fortune and and our culture is

you know it doesn't allow for that that

recognize because it doesn't it doesn't

allow for the idea that ultimately we

must be reconciled to things rather

because there's always going to be it's

always going to be someone else's fault

right if you're in trouble and it's

always gonna be the case that that

someone's going to step in and give you

what you need I mean what what brought

my attention to that was there was hope

you know how does because the in in in

the in the Islamic tradition the way to

get out of the wheel was to get into the

hub right yeah you know to to get out of

the yes so you're not spinning you're

not spinning anymore that things around

you can can happen the still pointing

turning world is to said it says yeah

yeah well you know one of the things in

in trying to revive a civilization is


Toynbee talks about a civilization with

its back up against the wall and and he

says that there's different responses to

that one of them is what he called to


in response and and I think you see that

in in places like Malaysia and and other

Muslim cultures where Morocco is a good

example of that of just recognizing

we've lost sovereignty we have to live

in the world and let's do our best but

then he says there's the zealots who

refused to accept it's kind of the

Masada complex where where where instead

of trying to grapple with what's

happening they end up just reacting

against it and and and and fighting it

even to the death so it becomes a kind

of knee allistic response to to a crisis

of civilization but then he talked about

the Pharisees the kind of Benedict

option yeah which is to to try to

preserve getting back to conservation to

try to preserve the best of a

civilization I think what one of the

things that I'm trying to do and that

we're trying to do here at Zaytuna we

have a an extraordinary civilizational

tradition in in both the west and in the

Muslim world and Muslims living in the

West are very often unaware of how

powerful Western civilization and the

idea is that many of them I mean I in a

lot of ways the modern world to me as a

Christian heresy because many of these

extraordinary ideas the rights of man

you know the idea that everybody should

be free you know the use of byproducts

of the Christian life yeah and and and

Locke and Hume all these people they

were informed by Christianity so their

ideas didn't simply come out of some

kind of philosophical vacuum that these

were people that were in societies that

were deeply dyed-in-the-wool Christian

societies but yeah one of the questions

that people we in Europe in particular

have is what happened to Islamic

civilization in the Middle East you know

we you know those of us who study these

things to do recognized that there was

an incredible and inheritance of

philosophy law literature and then

suddenly nothing yeah and now you go to

the Middle East era of course you meet


people there very very few and far

between yin and the and nobody seems to

be concerned to teach this and when you

get the radical movements like Isis it's

not the knowledge and beauty of Islam

that appeals to them but rather the the

ease with which it can justify their

murderous rage sure you know and that's

something which I feel not enough is

said about this and in particular we we

need Muslims to speak out about this and

say look you guys Islam is not about

justifying these primitive emotions of

not belonging you have it's about

something else it's about an inheritance

I don't know whether you feel the same

about that well I mean I would say first

of all one at one of the things that

stable Muslim societies despite the the

the the political problems despotism is

certainly a problem in many parts of the

Muslim world but stable Muslim societies

what struck me and I lived in in several

Muslim countries for many years I was

over ten years in the Muslim world what

struck me actually was just the

incredible goodness of so many Muslims I

mean I really I found the generosity the

hospitality the incredible the eccentric

worldview that informs them and the

ability to withstand incredible

suffering I mean I'll give you an

example when I when I was in West Africa

I I was trained as a nurse so when I

when I when I was in and I lived in West

Africa when I was in West Africa

I went with a physician and we would see

patients and one of the things that was

so amazing was people would tell their

symptoms but they would they would

always preface it by saying I'm not

complaining hmm I'm just you asked me

what I'm feeling so I just want I want

you to know I'm not complaining and then

they would just say ahem duty let you

know praise be to God and because they

really were afraid of complaining just

the gratitude was so so powerfully

embedded in a lot of these traditional

cultures ice I literally saw Morocco

when I first went to Morocco in 1977 on

more than one occasion if they saw bread

they would pick it up and put it on

their forehead and then put it in a in a

high place you know and Ezra Pound has a

wonderful statement he says that I he

said I don't know what power exploded in

the seventh century of Arabia that

spread to the libraries of cordoba but I

got a glimpse of it in the way the more

walked in 1913 in Tangier and and and to

me there's I loved so much about the

Muslim world and there's so many things

that I see in the Muslim world that that

when I come back to the west I I really

get a bit depressed yeah what are you

you're talking about piety and its

widest sense exactly a sense that your

gestures your words your way of being

towards others all fit into a kind of a

pattern which is not just you but also

is informed by courtesy as well as

obedience and I just saw so many

examples of that yeah I'll give I'll

give you just one I was we were on a

trip in the Sahara and our in our car

got stuck and and we had to seek refuge

in a in a Bedouin there was some Bedouin

staying there and it was incredibly

windy night and they literally

sacrificed a lamb for us they cooked it

they fed us and and and these are

incredibly poor people and and then we

went to sleep and and because there was

so much wind the man was holding up the

the central pillar of the tent so they

didn't collapse when we woke up about

four hours later he was still there

holding it and and and I was with an

Englishman who just said to me did he

stay up the whole night do it and I said

yeah he did and and I just saw so many

examples of that and that's of course is

that that Bedouin hospitality that the

sense that the stranger is more

important than you that is something

which is it not only is Lama his part of

the desert way of life

no I agree and I think many traditional

I would say I would argue that if you go

to Mexican villages you're very similar

and it's something about traditional

cultures right this breeze that but I

think Islam definitely inculcates that

in its followers when it's practiced

properly now as to your question what

happened I think the same could be asked

about the West because I mean if I look

at what's happened to family if I look

at at the fact that pornography is is

the main entertainment medium now in in

the West I mean it's quite incredible

the the industry of which you and I are

very familiar with just from that that

what we happened to be a part of it the

Witherspoon but I think two things

happened that that are tragic in the

Islamic tradition one is somebody like

Al Farabi who was ignored or Aveiro is

is another example of that that the the

the influence of a kind of eastern

despotism which was actually very alien

to the Arabs the Arabs were far more

democratic so the prophets Eliza damned

I mean there's a chapter in the Quran

called Shora

chapter 42 which is mutual consultation

and and and so the idea of having a type

of parliamentarian government would have

been very natural to the Arabs because

that's the way they tended to it was

more like a thei nian democracy in a lot

of ways in fact when I took my teacher

share Abdullah bin baya to the

Parliament in England he was very struck

by the House of Lords he really liked

the idea of having what in in in the

Arabic version are called a little

Hollywood happened the people that can

unravel and and put back together again

and these are like notables in a culture

that have a lot of life experience and

so they have a wisdom that they can help

guide a society he was very struck by

that but but he he and this is something

you bring up I mean he felt that a

parliamentarian government would be

perfectly consonant with an Islamic now

way of ruling that there isn't really

any fixed type of Islamic rule and I

think what happened in the Muslim world

is despotism a kind of of an Eastern

despotism became a model and and I think

it really stifled a lot of the

incredible intellectual and spiritual

growth that occurred in the early part

of the song it was also the collapse of

the Ottoman Empire wasn't it the well I

mean that was a huge yeah yeah which led

to the new kind of kind of criminal

apparatus that advanced through the bath

party and things like that take out take

over this ripe fruit and but yes I mean

politically obviously things went

terribly wrong but what was always

concerned me is the cultural aspect

where where is that you know what has

happened to the the great universities

and where do we find a proper articulate

discussions in literary form and all the

things that actually and the Islamic

civilization really needs I mean well

that's what we're trying to do here yes

we and and I think there are people

within the Muslim culture I mean I have

friends in in Turkey that are trying to

do the same thing and I and and they're

there are attempts but again if you if

you look at at the the Muslim world has

been hard hit for several hundred years

I mean there's been a continued there's

an argument now among certain

Orientalist tradition about that there

wasn't a kind of stagnation or

ossification which I think to me is

absurd I mean I can clearly see that

that the the incredible interest in

science and technology in in in early

Islam was amazing and and I mean if

there was a Nobel Prize a thousand years

ago it's been said every name on the

list would have been Muslim so so that's

something that I think we as a as a

religious tradition and Ummah that we

have to think deeply about and

and I think it's very important I mean

we called our journal Renovatio or tis

deed in Arabic which is to make new

again to renovate the idea and this is I

think a very conservative idea the idea

that the house is there and instead of

tearing it down and rebuilding a house

if it's a beautiful house with with with

a solid foundation we need to renovate

it to make it new again absolutely

well it's that's the same task that we

have in the West but of course there is

we have the freedom to do it that's the

important thing that many people worry

about about the Muslim world do people

have the freedom to do what do you want

to do well I think you're certainly

doing your role in in promoting the idea

of conserving the best of the past my

last question to you one of the things

that troubles me most about a lot of

attacks on conservativism is the idea

that the best of progressivism like the

elimination of slavery the the the the

idea of getting rid of racism as you

know the this this idea of somehow that

there can be ethnically Pirie or 'ti of

one people over now I believe that there

there are civilizational aspects that

are certainly I think I would much

rather have freedom in than despotism

and this idea that we can relativize

these type things is wrong but the idea

that one group of people is better than

another group is a very audience idea I

think to anybody that has thought deeply

about that problem but this idea that

conservativism is conserving the worst

of the past as opposed to the best and

and is not also acknowledging the idea

that there are things that have to

change and then it becomes what are the

strategies to bring about that change

that that are going to go I would say as

I understand it of course human beings

are imperfect that's the whole reason

why they need institutions in order to

mediate between them and overcome

conflict without violence you know

but we have inherited those sort of

institutions institutions that enable us

to rectify problems and make things

better we're never going to make them

perfect but that's why we what we should

be conserving there is procedures the

things that that enable us to relate to

each other in a humane and civilized way

and that's that for me is what it's all


all right well on that note I want to

thank you just for coming out and

gracing us with your intelligence and

and and you've been supporting our our

work with the journal the Renovatio I

hope you're some of the people that

enjoy reading yours will also benefit

from from our journal I surely will yeah

maybe you could give a little plug yeah

I will definitely I think cytuno is one

of the points of hope in the world in

which we live now well thank you all

right well god bless you and and thank

you and I'm going to look forward to a

continued discussion




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