YOUSSEF AL QARADAWI: From the most compassionate, peace be upon you and the blessings of God be upon you, ladies and gentlemen. It's my pleasure to welcome you today to the state of Qatar to engage in dialogue together with an open mind and an open heart. We Muslims are ordered by our religion to engage in dialogue. We have no choice in this; this is part of the Islamic proselytizing.
As God Almighty says, call to the cause of your God using good and appropriate methods and the best methods of dialogue, and whoever reads the Holy Koran will find that it's a book of dialogue of the first order and first class. There is dialogue between God and his creatures, God even engages in dialogue with Satan in long conversation or dialogues, which is repeated in many verses of the Koran.
I would like at the start of this seminar to say to you, ladies and gentlemen, that we are ordered to engage in dialogue, especially dialogue with the people of the book, i.e. Christians and Jews. And the Holy Koran orders us that we should not engage in dialogue except using the best methods available and says let us come to a mutual dialogue and agreement upon logical basis, taking into account what is common ground rather than what differentiates between our positions.
We Muslims believe in the humanity, in the common humanity, which common in one thing, to be worshipping the one God and be sons and daughters of Adam. This is quite clear and evident from the last sermon given by the prophet Mohammed before his death when he says, "You are all sons and daughters of Adam and there is no difference before the sight of God between Arabs and non-Arabs except by how pious they are," and the Koran also reminds us that God has created us from men and women and made us into tribes and peoples so that we engage in dialogue and get to know each other.
I would like from this platform to make quite sure about one thing that the world seems to be engaged in, and that is the question of terrorism and violence, to say to you that we are against terrorism and violence. This is what we owe to God and through our belief in Him. This is the dictate of our religion.
But it's very important here to decide and give definitions to what's meant by terrorism and what's meant by violence, because leaving such grave issues vague, with the ability to each party to interpret in the way it sees fit, is of the utmost danger.
I would like here, in accordance to the fundamentals of my religion that I understand, to give you a definition of terrorism and violence. Violence is to use force, material force wherever possible instead of using the means of dialogue and conviction, and to use this force without any control by religion, law, or any system of ethics.
As for terrorism, this means to use this kind of violence with people with whom you have no quarrel. People who hijack airplanes, for example, they have no quarrel between them and the passengers. They only use the hijacking as means of applying pressure on governments. People who take hostages like the Abu Sayyaf group in Philippines, they have no quarrel between them and the hostages they take. People who kill tourists -- as what happened in the Luxor massacre in Egypt -- they have no quarrel with the tourists. People who killed the tourists in Bali, in Indonesia a few days ago, they have no quarrel with these tourists. The problem is with others, in fact. But when the problem is missing between you and those upon whom you inflict harm, this is terrorism because you are terrorizing them.
I would like to say that we condemn this terrorism and this violence. We condemn violence and we condemn terrorism more than what we condemn violence because terrorism uses violence against people you have no relationship with whatsoever. The people who hit the Twin Towers in New York on the 11th of September in the United States, did they have any problems with the people who occupied these two Twin Towers? And the planes that were used, the civilian passenger aircraft that they used as means and turned into a missile, they had no quarrel with the passengers on these planes. Therefore, this is terrorism. We condemn this violence. And even more so we condemn terrorism.
And I personally have condemned in the past and issued a Fatwah, a religious decree 16 years ago when the Kuwaiti airplane was hijacked and the passengers were kept for 16 days on board and two or three of the passengers were killed. I said this is Haram, this is unlawful in Islam because no bearer of sins should bear the sins of others and you cannot hold into account and punish people who are not responsible.
I also condemn taking hostages and the Abu Sayef group and I have also issues a decree when the 11th of September events happened. I condemned the perpetrators regardless of their religion or their nationality or national identity. We condemn the act itself, which is illegal and unethical and illegal, regardless of the perpetrators.
So therefore this is what we believe in. It is very clear in this regard and in this issue.
I would also like to say that there are groups who try to mix between the concept of Jihad and terrorism. This should not be so. Some people want to accuse Islam as being the cause of terrorism because Islam calls for Jihad. Islam is not alone in calling for Jihad. Moses' legal system and law also made legal Jihad and also Moses' Sharia is far more strict than what the Koran says in this regard. The Sharia of Moses allowed the killing of every living soul, and the Old Testament says "Do not leave any living soul breathing, alive." The Koran does not say this. What the Koran says is attack and kill them but once you make them weak enough take them captive and do not kill them afterward. Spare their lives, in other words. The Jihad in Islam is a defensive Jihad and the Koran says fight those who fight you and do not transgress against others. It also says to fight on the path of Allah to achieve the right of religious freedom on earth.
Islam is not bloodthirsty as some people may think. In the al-azhaab Soora when the Battle of the Trench has ended, the Koran said God has spared the believers, the evils of a fight so thank God that you were spared the fight.
Can we say after all of this that Islam is a bloodthirsty religion? Mohammed, who was one of the bravest men, says always "Pray to God that you do not engage in battle, but once you had to, be steadfast in the fight."
And in another saying, he says, "The most loved names to God are the names of slaves; to Allah and worshipper of Allah the names that Allah does not like and loathe are the ones which indicate war and fighting, like it was the custom of Arabs in the days of ignorance to name their children their name."
This is what our religion talks about and when the Muslims get into the truth of (al-her debeya ?) with the unbelievers, the Soora was revealed in the Koran to say that a great victory has been granted to the prophet Mohammed. One of the companions said, "Can we consider this a victory? How can it be a victory without fighting and without war?"
This is the concept Islam calls for and from this platform I would like to reiterate that our case and our issue with Israel. We did not start this, we did not start the fighting, we did not resort to violence. We were attacked in our very homeland and the state of Zionism started on blood and violence right from the day one. And unfortunately the West until today supported Israel, and still supports it. We have bitterly contested time and again that our war with Israel is not a war of religion and doctrine. We are fighting them for one reason: because they usurped our land and made our people homeless and spilled our blood.
We do not fight them because of their religion. There were Jews who lived amongst us for hundreds of years when the Europeans chucked them out of their countries and when they did not find a refuge anywhere except in the countries of Islam. We welcomed them and they lived in a dignified manner and they were amongst the richest people.
We do not fight them because they are Jews. We do not fight them because they are Semites, because we Arabs are Semites. And we Muslims we do not care about racism. If they think they are the chosen people of God, we do not believe in such concepts and we do not put priority to one race and we think before the sight of God, the most noble amongst people are the most pious. And all people have mixed with each other now.
So here remains a question: Are they martyrs or murderers? If we are talking about people who are our brothers and our sons in Palestine who are defending their country, people like Hamas and Jihad and al-Aqsa brigades, they are not murderers, they are not killers and it's a transgression against them to call them so and label them so. They are people who are defending their homeland and their holy rights, which were attacked and transgressed against. This happens every day; every day they are hit with airplanes and tanks and Apache helicopters. Their sons and daughters and women are killed, their houses are destroyed, their farms are destroyed. They have every right to defend themselves and to stick their necks out for the sake of their freedom.
People who call them suicides are committing a transgression against them. This is a wrongful description. They are not suicides. They are the furthest away from the concept of suicide. The psychology of a suicide is totally different. A suicide is someone who is desperate and gives up hope on life and God and does not believe in the mercy of God. They are totally against that. These are people who can never be called murderers.
Yes, it's true sometimes children are killed as a result of their actions but this happens not intentionally but unintentionally and it's part of collateral damage in a situation of war. In Afghanistan in the latest war, which America is waging, many civilians have been killed. What did the Americans say? They said this was by mistake and this is collateral damage. This is what can be applied to every war.
Here remains an important question that was posed to me in Switzerland once. They said, "What do you have against American foreign policy?" My reply was, first of all, when there was a struggle between the two camps, two international camps, the West and the East, our inclination, Muslims and Islamists, was with the Western camp because the Western camp is in our opinion the camp of the people of the Book, the Christians especially, unlike the other camp, which was based on atheism and denying the existence of God, so therefore our inclination and our hearts were inclined toward the West.
In the early days of Islam when there was a war between the Persians and the Romans, the atheists were usually inclined towards the Persians. The Muslims were more inclined towards Romans because they were people of the Book, they were Christians and also the Koran was revealed in this, making quite clear that the Romans were defeated in a battle but they would soon regain the upper hand and this would please the believers.
So therefore the believers felt happy when they heard that the Romans were the victorious party. Our inclination and our hearts are inclined this way as well towards Christians, Christendom and the West, not the atheist camp.
But unfortunately what we have against American foreign policy, and let me be frank here with you that this policy is biased completely and utterly towards Israel against the Palestinians. It supports Israel in an unlimited fashion with American money, American weaponry, American vetos. The last veto when the Palestinians called upon the Security Council to send observers to quiet things down, the American veto was there and stood between them and achieving this goal.
I'm also against the American foreign policy, which responded to political scientists and philosophers who nominated Islam as an alternative enemy to the Soviet camp. When the Evil Empire collapsed unfortunately they nominated Islam calling it the "Green Danger," the "Red Danger." The Soviet danger is gone now, they are faced with the Green Danger.
Islam is not a danger. Islam is as the Koran calls itself, the mercy of Allah to humanity, and the prophet Mohammed was not commissioned but to be a sign of mercy.
And the American foreign policy in this regard is wrong and it should not look at the Muslims with this perspective. The American foreign policy until now remains ignorant of the passion of the Arabs and Muslims. Three hundred million Arabs and behind them a billion Muslims, now you see the American's latest thing they do is they try to move the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. This latest resolution is an affront to the feelings of Muslims everywhere in the world. We did not wish America to do this and therefore for the sake of this we are trying to say to American politicians, review your stance and take a second look at your position. It's not good whatsoever to harbor all these evil thoughts against Muslims.
Osama bin Laden did this. So should the entire Islamic nation be punished because of the sins of a misguided few? And all Muslims from East to West they condemned Saudi Arabia and disowned Osama bin Laden. His own family disavowed him. The Islamic community, has it given bin Laden an authorization to carry out these acts? The Islamic Umma is not responsible and the way the United States is fighting bin Laden is not the right and proper or productive way. Bin Laden carries an extremist way of thought and this is a kind of thought, which goes through the minds of people.
The problem with al-Qaeda and their likes is not in their consciousness. The illness lies in their minds and we should correct the principles and the wrong principles in their minds. This is our responsibility being thinkers and people proselytizing the call of God.
The American government should review its stance and its perspective and we really hope -- we really hope – its foreign policy towards Islam and Muslims and should stand by the Muslims against the Sharon policy. America should open the door to a real and balanced dialogue, which does not impose its will but listens and exchanges views and asks and replies. America should not agree with those who say it's inevitable that there will be a clash of civilizations.
If the intentions are hard and according to the golden rules, which we believe in, which says that we cooperate in what we agree on and be tolerant on the things that we disagree on, we really hope that the American policy should change so that our tomorrow will be better than our yesterday and we hope and pray to God that that should be the case.
And thank you very much indeed for your kind attention.
KHALED ABOU EL FADL:
The issue of terrorism and more particularly the provocative question of whether martyrs or murderers -- like all provocative questions they intend to generate discussion. But the question itself is far too imprecise and generalized to identify what we should precisely be thinking about.
Some givens are important to remember before we start thinking about a coherent way to address this significant issue. It is undeniable, and I think it would take a particularly deluded person to deny that the field of terrorism and the field of writing and thinking about acts of terror is a highly politicized field that is full with intellectual hypocrisy. Furthermore it is full of diplomatic language that as a lawyer and as someone who teaches in a law school, and who is primarily is concerned about legal categories, finds that perhaps it might be good politics but it's quite often bad law.
So that is one element we are talking about something that is severely emotionally charged.
The second element is at least among the people attending today, and in the serious intellectual currents in the world, that there is anyone who is arguing that violence in all cases and under all circumstances is illegal. So I would like to get beyond the issue of hypocrisy and also the issue of whether someone is pro-violence or anti-violence. I think that's an unhelpful way of thinking about this problem.
Furthermore, as the UN charter and general human practice has long recognized, most legal systems and most legal thinking and most political thinking recognizes a right to self-defense.
So we're not really talking about violence per se and we're not talking about self-defense. But we are talking about the appropriate means for pursuing certain ends, whether these ends are self-defense or not, that are either something we can identify as moral or immoral. So in other words this is in legal terms the old category of the means for pursuit in warfare, whether there are certain means that transcend the bounds of propriety.
Now, in the Islamic context what troubles me as a Muslim intellectual and as someone who engages Islamic paradigms in a very different context than the context of Qatar, primarily in the United States, is that as a Muslim intellectual I recognize that core to the Islamic ethical paradigms is their universalism. And I'm not talking about universalism in the imperialistic sense, in the sense that they must dominate and be supreme. That is another rhetorical discourse that I find very unhelpful. But the fact that they must be accessible, to put it very bluntly that the morality that Islam speaks of by virtue of the category of Dawa or under amr-bil-ma'roof and nayha 'anil munkir or the advocacy of (hsen ?) or the vast array of moral imperatives that one finds solidly in the Koranic text, such as (in Arabic) and (in Arabic) and so on, these various ethical categories or ethical imperatives that constitute the moral universe of the Koran, including things such as (in Arabic) or (in Arabic) and so on, that the Islamic charge is to find the means to talk about them that are accessible to the non-Muslim and absorbable in the sense that a non-Muslim can engage in a discourse with Muslims about these moral categories.
And here is the problem of terrorism becomes the most difficult. I will focus on the Islamic discourse itself -- and quite often there is a tendency for the politicization of the Islamic discourse and the supremacy of political categories in a fashion that marginalizes or sidetracks the ethical imperatives that Islam is charged with engaging the world with. So it would make very little sense to me to speak about an insular Islam or an Islam that only makes sense to Arabs or to people living in the Middle East or people living in Qatar alone. The very notion of a universal or an international religion puts a very serious burden upon Muslim intellectuals to find means of transcending political divides and this process of politicization.
Here there is enough blame to go around on all sides. Most definitely, for instance, right before I came to the United States a well-known Jewish intellectual deemed it fit to call me in his journal a Muslim extremist. So that's on the side of the West you often find again this process, and we also witness a similar process on the Islamic side, particularly -- particularly when it comes to the issue of Palestine and Israel.
Let me say here that having lived in the West for the past 20-plus years there is definitely a tendency among Westerners, particularly Americans, to see Islam as beginning and ending only in the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; in other words, to engage Islam as if it historically, theologically, metaphysically, epistemologically it begins and ends with how it impacts upon the Palestine-Israeli conflict.
Quite often I have found that in teaching my law classes I tell students that take my courses, especially my class on human rights or my class on Islamic law, I tell students I intentionally will not discuss anything pertaining to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict because I want students to get into the practice of thinking about Islamic doctrines and engage the tradition Islam outside the highly politicized context of Palestine-Israel, beginning and end.
But I also must confess that there are plenty of Muslim intellectuals who assist the West in adopting this highly simplistic way of thinking. So in other words whatever they say about the Palestinian-Israeli context one finds much difficulty in situating it in light of the overall intellectual tradition of Islam.
And let me be very concrete here and get then more to the point of discussion. We know that Islamic law has developed a tradition, a remarkable, fascinating tradition, which I have spent about ten years of my life studying and writing a book on that was published by Cambridge Press, a juristic discourse on the institution of Hiraba. What seemed to trouble Muslim jurists most in this rich and diverse historical debate is the practice of what they call (in Arabic) or targeting those who do not have the means for defense or do not have the means of taking, being on guard against an attack. The concept of (reela ?) itself morally is intimately tied into the notion of victimization, and the notion that it's derived to good measure from Arab notions of chivalry: that if you are going to attack and target someone they ought to know that they are the subject of attack and ought to be given due notice to defend themselves and so on.
The discourse on Hiraba with its multifaceted aspects, has created incidentally a strong Islamic moral imperative against the practice of mutilation and torture, (in Arabic) or (in Arabic), the idea that a Muslim is beyond mutilating and beyond torturing and beyond engaging in certain practices that would, from the point of view of Muslim jurists writing in the pre-modern era, be considered uncivilized, and (in Arabic) was what it means to be a Muslim. The spreading of a state of general insecurity and terror is something that is not to be taken lightly. It is contrary to the notion of Muslim appropriateness, or ethical appropriateness in that a Muslim does not stab in the back, does not commit acts of treachery, does not target the defenseless and so on.
I often hear from those (like the example of Daniel Pipes, for instance, in his recent article about me) who out of ignorance essentialize the Islamic ethical tradition by calling every Muslim who has an intellect an extremist. But when I hear Muslim intellectuals speak about the issue of suicide bombing, I am not sure how their statements fit in with the juristic, ethical, moral tradition of what I will call Islamic notions of Chivalry, and rejection of certain forms or certain means of prosecuting warfare as fundamentally unacceptable to Muslim ethics.
In other words, I sometimes feel that when it comes to particular political issues the juristic, the moral, the ethical discourse is suspended, the systematic paradigms of discourse are suspended and it all becomes about politics, whether we can achieve a political end or not achieve a political end.
I approach the issue of suicide bombings distinctly from that perspective. For instance, whether that makes me a Muslim extremist or not, I fully recognize the right of Palestinians to defend themselves against violence, and I do not have any idealized visions of Israeli policy towards Palestinians. But when as an intellectual living in the United States I hear about a group that goes in during a bar mitzvah and slaughters a group of religious practitioners I cannot fit it within my readings in Islamic ethics or Islamic law, and I find a very difficult time deferring to political paradigms because it offends me and it offends me to the core as a Muslim and as a Muslim intellectual.
And ultimately I ask myself this: It seems to me that the real conflict in the modern age and the real battle is not a battle of sovereignty or territory but it is a battle of morality. Real victory, in my view, is a moral victory. The moral victor’s ethical perceptions and paradigms will, a hundred years from now, be read, absorbed and shape the world. I do admit that often as I look at specific political acts I feel that they come at the expense of a Muslim, let's even say Islamic moral victory a hundred or two hundred years down the road.
Thank you very much.