Sheikh Hamza Yusuf Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Transcript for Doha Debates


Transcript Details

Event Name: Doha Debates
Transcript Author: Doha
Description: Doha Debates
Date Transcribed: 2/28/2006 12:00:00 AM
Original URL: http://www.thedohadebates.com/debates/debate.asp?d=33&s=2&mode=transcript


Transcript Text

Doha Debates Special Event: Extremism

Tuesday February 28 2006

Transcript

Order of speeches

Doha Debates Special Event: Extremism

 

Introduction

TIM SEBASTIAN
Ladies and gentlemen, a very good afternoon to you and welcome to this special session of Doha Debates sponsored by the Qatar Foundation. It coincides with a meeting here in Doha of the Alliance of Civilisations - the UN initiative set up to combat extremism wherever it appears, and that's our issue for today too. But who can define extremism for the rest of the world? Look at the difficulties in defining terrorism, and as we've seen in the current controversy over the Danish cartoons, who's going to listen to any pleas for calm or moderation? Just some of the questions that are going to be asked today by our student audience coming as they do from many countries, but predominantly from the Arab world. Well, as you can see, we have a distinguished panel bracing itself to respond to their questions: Desmond Tutu, who as Archbishop of Cape Town, was one of the chief architects of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and a Nobel Peace Prize winner; Diana Buttu, a lawyer by training and a former legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organisation during peace negotiations with Israel. She also helped to set up an outreach programme speaking directly to ordinary Israelis about the effects of occupation. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, a leading and outspoken Muslim scholar. He travels the world giving talks on Islam and is the founder of the Zaytuna Institute dedicated to the revival of traditional Islamic study methods and the sciences of Islam. And Dr. John Esposito, Professor and Founding Director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University. He's also served as President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America, and is a prolific author with some 30 titles to his name. Ladies and gentlemen, our panel and welcome to all of you. What we're going to try and do first of all, and maybe this is very ambitious, but we're going to try and get the issue of definitions out of the way so that it doesn't dog our discussions for the rest of the afternoon, so could I please ask Nasser Al Thani to give us the first question.

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Definitions of extremism and terrorism

Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (M) 
I would like to see an internationally agreed-upon definition to extremism and terrorism. Does the panel think this can ever be possible?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Desmond Tutu, can we get definitions of extremism and terrorism? We haven't had much luck in doing that so far, have we?
DESMOND TUTU
Extremism. What is the norm? I have a large nose but the norm is maybe a nice aquiline nose. Maybe people who are passionate about their faith, but extremism is when I think you do not allow for a different point of view, and when you hold your view as being quite exclusive, when you don't allow for the possibility of difference. How's that?
TIM SEBASTIAN
So being dogmatic is all that is extremism, is it, to that extent?
DESMOND TUTU
Yes. I think, I mean, it's good to be clear about your point of view, and even to be passionate about it, to say, 'I believe very firmly in the fact that each person is of immense infinite value,' and to hold on to that, but to say perhaps you have a different point of view and I must make space for your different point of view. My father used to say, 'Don't raise your voice, improve your argument.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
Sshaykh Hamza Yusuf, do we need a definition?
HAMZA YUSUF
I think extremism is very hard to define, because extremes are on some continuum and it depends on who's defining that. So for instance, someone like Noam Chomsky is considered extreme left in the United States, whereas in England he's not extreme left, he's something Guardian (UK newspaper) readers or Independent (UK newspaper) readers would see as a reasonable argument. In US mainstream media, he's considered extreme left in his political views, not his linguistic views. So I think that's a real problem, defining extremism. I think it's maybe a little bit like obscenity. You know I know when I see it but it's one of those nebulous terms. I think terrorism is also in some ways difficult to define. For instance the Baader-Meinhof or the Red Brigades in the 1970's are terrorist organisations that were working from a Marxist premise within a society that was not occupying them or it was a response to expressing their political views through violence. In the Muslim world, terrorism is almost entirely directly associated with occupation, and it ends up being tactics of people that are powerless against very, very large military might, so if you look at Chechnya, if you look at Iraq, if you look at Kashmir, if you look at Palestine, I think you're going to see that terrorism is directly related to occupation of powerless people. If you remove the occupation, I think the terrorism would go.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But without a definition of extremism, how do you know what you're combating?
HAMZA YUSUF
I think the best definition that I can come up with is Caleb Carr's definition which is that terrorism is the use of violence against civilians in order that the population that's being aggressed upon forces their government to the table of negotiation or to some change in their policies. I think that at the end of the day if we define it as violence against civilians, certainly A.C. Grayling, the British historian who's just written a book asking whether or not the carpet bombing of Germany and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki were war crimes, or were they acts of terrorism because they were largely against civilian populations. Today in every war that's being fought in the modern period, for every one combatant that's killed, there are ten civilians, over 100,000 by Johns Hopkins' reckoning, over 100,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the bombing. Now, you can call that collateral damage, but for the Iraqi that's facing that, it's terror.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, definition of extremism.
DIANA BUTTU
I think it's very difficult to come up with a definition of extremism because again, it implies that there's a norm and unfortunately we see that norms are shifting and changing, just in the same way that the Archbishop has said that in some cases his nose would be considered large, in other areas it wouldn't be considered large at all.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But hopefully people wouldn't fight over his nose.
DIANA BUTTU
No, I hope they wouldn't fight over his nose! But that's why I think because we're in a changing world that it is very difficult to make definitions of what extremism is.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But don't we have to if we're going to fight it?
DIANA BUTTU
I think it's important to understand what the cause of it is rather than to make a definition of what it is.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But it's not an abstract concept, it's propagated by people.
DIANA BUTTU
It is absolutely propagated by people, just in the same way that terrorism is propagated by people, but so is war, and unfortunately we've gotten to a point where terrorism is the new bad word rather than the word 'war'. There was a time when I was growing up when the word 'war' or 'apartheid', those sorts of concepts were much worse than terrorism, and I think now because we don't know exactly who it is that's carrying out these acts, or why it is that they're carrying out these acts, we suppose that we don't know, that that's why it becomes a much more looming term than that of war, but as Shaykh Hamza Yusuf just said, there are far more people who are killed by war than there are by acts of terrorism, and I think that it's much more important to understand why all of these acts of violence are taking place in the first place.
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito, are we starting with a muddle where definitions are concerned? Is that a major setback?
JOHN ESPOSITO
I think I'd want to clarify something and that is that as members of this side of the audience can attest to, the Archbishop is incorrect when he talks about the fact that he has a large nose compared to anybody else on this panel. As a southern Italian, I'm very competitive, I win on that one. I think that what I would say with regard to where we're going with this though is, the characteristics that you describe for extremists are right on the mark. The problem when we apply the term is we need to know the specific context. That's the issue, and the same thing happens with the word terrorist. We can agree, as it were, in the abstract on a definition of what terrorism is, but when we go to apply it, for example, Nelson Mandela was seen as a terrorist leader of a terrorist group, you know, Arafat and the Palestinians on the one hand, Begin and Shamir at one point seen as leading terrorist groups but then they became established, so we can talk about the characteristics, we can come up with definitions but actually the only way we can talk about it seems to ....
TIM SEBASTIAN
But we can't apparently come up with definitions, can we? This is the problem.
JOHN ESPOSITO
We can come up with an abstract definition but when we want to get specific, then we have to look at a specific political or religious context.

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Is the Israeli government an extreme government?

TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, well, we have a second questioner who wants to get quite specific, Omar Alouba, could we have your question please?
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (M)
Does the panel consider the Israeli government extremist in that it kills innocent Muslim women and children in Palestine?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, do you want to take that?
DIANA BUTTU
Yes, I do consider that the Israeli government is an extremist government in that it has maintained an occupation now over the Palestinians for close to 39 years. It has carried out immense acts of aggression against the Palestinians including the killing of innocent civilians, the demolition of homes, the deportation of Palestinians, the denial of natural resources, and most importantly the denial of freedom. All of this has been done for a political purpose, and the political purpose is to try to rid historic Palestine of the Palestinians in order to create Eretz Israel, the larger Israel, so yes, I do consider it extremist.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Do you consider Hamas an extremist movement as well, blowing up civilians on buses?
DIANA BUTTU
I think that the acts that Hamas is carrying out would in fact in my definition of extremist, be labelled extremist, but I think it goes back to the problem with definitions. Definitions are like laws, they're created by the powerful to be used against the powerless, and so by and large when we talk about definitions …
TIM SEBASTIAN
But we have the Alliance of Civilizations High Level Group going to battle with them, so they have to have the definitions, don't they?
DIANA BUTTU
What's that, sorry?
TIM SEBASTIAN
The high level group from the AOC, they need to have a definition.
DIANA BUTTU
Yes, they do.
TIM SEBASTIAN
They don't want to oppress anybody, do they?
DIANA BUTTU
No, they don't want to oppress anybody, but I think it is important to understand the context in which international law and international relations take place, which is there, is a powerful and there is a powerless, and it's by and large the powerful who are making the definition to be used against those who are powerless.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Desmond Tutu, the Israeli government.
DESMOND TUTU
One has to be extremely careful when you are speaking into a volatile situation such as this, and to say I mean that there are actions that are reprehensible, but again, when you use certain terminology, you exacerbate an unfortunate situation. I think, I mean a lot of the action by the Israeli government is reprehensible and it is something that some of us have certainly criticised, but you see, we are always trying to ensure that what you say doesn't pour oil or petrol on an already volatile situation. I think, I mean that if we are going to be trying to resolve a problem, then you want to be careful about the epithets that we use of the protagonists.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, I think governments have municipalities. I don't know whether the municipalities are extreme. So they might have extreme garbage men, then I don't know, but certainly in their policies vis-à-vis the Palestinian state, I would have to absolutely assert that they're an extreme government. Collective guilt is not recognised by any law tradition on this planet that has any weight, and so destroying people's houses because they happen to be related to somebody that supposedly committed a crime or is an extreme and gross aggression against all sense of international justice.
TIM SEBASTIAN
So you would want to see the AOC Group going to the Israeli government and saying on behalf of the United Nations that this is reprehensible behaviour and you should stop?
HAMZA YUSUF
Absolutely.
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito.
JOHN ESPOSITO
I think that to start with the Archbishop's comment, I think that one does have to be careful about what one says, but I think that one can talk about and make statements by referring comparatively to both sides, so for example one can say that Israel has an absolute right to exist in safety and security, but so do the Palestinians, to a state, etc., and when it comes to acts of extremism and terrorism, the position that I've basically taken publicly is that just as suicide bombing from my point of view, however much one may understand the agony from which it comes and is motivated, when you're targeting civilians, it's an act of terrorism. Similarly, not all but a fair number of the actions and policies of the Israeli government, whether it's collective guilt, targeted assassinations, etc. are also acts of terror.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Rabbi Schneier, would you like to come in on this? We can get a microphone to you, please. All we would ask is if you could stand up so the cameras can see you, that would be great.
RABBI SCHNEIER (Alliance of Civilizations member)
We can go on with finger-pointing back and forth. That is not going to get us anywhere. There's a very basic premise, and the basic premise is mutual acceptance, or in my words, to live and let live. I want you to live as a sovereign, independent state of Palestine, and I want Israel to be a sovereign, independent Israel. Mutual acceptance, it's the only way to go, and I think that the road map adopted by the United Nations along with the European Union and Russia is the goal, but we're not going to get anywhere beyond finger-pointing if we concentrate on definitions. We need to build trust and eliminate the hatred and the violence and then we can…Look, I'm a firm believer, every conflict comes to an end. The Hundred Year War came to an end, the Thirty War came to an end, World War 1 came to an end, I'm a survivor of World War 2, it came to an end, and the Korean War etc. And I tell you young people, it's in your hands, because you control the future, we're the past, you control the future. If you reach out to one another in terms of mutual acceptance, you can build a glorious future, and that's the way to go, and I'm convinced that this conflict will come to an end just as any other conflict.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can you have mutual acceptance though of people who commit atrocities or other extremist acts?
RABBI SCHNEIER
Do not stereotype and do not generalise, and above all, it's very interesting, by the way in Judaism, in the Bible not once, 36 times it's repeated, 'Love your stranger,' not once, because it's the tendency of the human being to be suspicious of the other. What are we talking about, xenophobia and anti-Semitism or Islamaphobia, what is it? That's what we're talking about, so the way to go is really respect for the other, respect for human life, respect for the stranger. You talk a lot about democracy. You want to have a definition of democracy? How the majority treats the minority, whether it's politically or religiously speaking, that is a barometer, how the majority treats the minority.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Thank you very much. Diana, can you live with that?
DIANA BUTTU
With the definition of democracy?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Yes.
DIANA BUTTU
I think it's a test of a strong democracy, litmus test, is how is it that we do treat the minorities, this is something that I've always been advocating and looking towards is, how is it that we treat the weakest elements of our own society? Are they treated with respect, with dignity, or are they treated as though they're second-class citizens, and unfortunately in the case of the Palestinians, they haven't been treated with dignity or with respect, and there are Palestinians who are citizens of Israel who are minorities, who are second-class citizens, who are not treated with any dignity, respect, and above all have been denied their freedom, so in that respect it's not a strong democracy.
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito.
JOHN ESPOSITO
I would agree with what you said, but I think that one of the challenges that we have which grow out of what the rabbi said, in my own understanding of democracy is to step back when we're doing this, and always realise that part of the problem most people have in communicating from my point of view is that they compare their ideal to somebody else's ideal, of reality rather than ideal to ideal, reality to reality. And while we can talk about the situation of the Palestinians in the way in which you articulate, I would agree with that part of the challenge in terms of democracy in the broader region of the Middle East is the question of other minorities, and the extent to which for example in many Arab and Muslim countries, the space is created for minorities. Just ironically for you the audience - many of you would know this but others wouldn't - as a result of the fact that in the last 30 or 40 years, Muslims have gone from being invisible in the West to being the second or third largest religion, you now have the situation where a reverse situation has happened. Muslims now are dealing with and Muslim thinkers are dealing with the whole question of minorities not only in terms of, as it were, the Muslim world, that they have to deal with what does it mean to be a Muslim minority and to develop if you will a kind of theology of minorities.

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Political extremism and religious extremism

Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
Can I just give a reminder that we do want to hear also from you, our student participants, and also from the UN group as well, so please if you have any feelings to share them with us. Lady in the fourth row, we'll get a microphone to you, please.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I guess you're being, in trying to define what extremism is and what's terrorism, I think that there is a difference between the political extremism and religious extremism. I think that religious extremism is going beyond the fundamentalism. For example sharia for Muslims is doing it exactly the way God has asked us to do it, and for me, religious extremism is going beyond that, it's trying to impose it on others to be like them, and it's before terrorism. I think terrorism is linked with violence. But if you're an extremist, you're not necessarily a terrorist. This is what I think personally, and I think that political extremism is like wanting to impose your opinion on the other parties, like in government or …
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, I mean, I think I agree with that in terms of extremism. For a lot of people in the West now in a society informed by secularism so the fact that I pray and wash five times a day would be seen as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to some people, you know, like a pathology, so I think people will consider a lot of Muslims religious extremists because they pray the minimum five times a day. For a Muslim, it's actually, it's interesting in Islam, the definition of extremism includes also lack of religion, so people that are not religious are seen as extremist in that they're not fulfilling a basic human function. So again it's about definitions and who's defining them, and I think different cultures will define things very differently. You know, Foucault says ultimately it is the powerful that define things, and right now Western civilisation has an immense amount of sovereignty on the planet, and so in that sense it has framed the discourse, and all of us are often stuck in this position of reacting to an already framed discourse and not allowing our own terms of debate to be allowed into the discourse, so we Muslims have to constantly define ourselves, 'I'm not an extremist, I'm not a terrorist, I'm not this, I'm not that,' as opposed to being able to be in a more positive position which is always taken by the powerful. They're the ones that tell us who they are and they force us to tell them who we're not.
JOHN ESPOSITO
I think the danger of religious extremism can be, even though it's not necessarily violent, when it becomes exclusivist in which is basically says, 'Not only is my faith right, but your faith is absolutely wrong, and not only is my faith right, but my faith position within my faith is right, and so another Muslim who disagrees with me is wrong,' then you're moving into a very dangerous position here because you're bordering on what I would call theology of hate. That kind of mentality can easily be used by some, and it has been used by people like Osama Bin Laden, to legitimate military action at a certain point. You can easily slip over the line once you're into that realm of what I would call theology of hate, and we see that with elements of the Christian right, the Jewish right, and with elements of the Muslim right. I'm avoiding the word fundamentalism here, but you know what I mean.

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Danish cartoons

TIM SEBASTIAN
Right. I want to move on to one of the most controversial issues of all which is the Danish cartoons, and we have a question from Lenin Dias, please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
How can a Muslim ever explain to a Christian the reason of the uproar over the cartoons? I am a Christian and I understand that the Prophet should never be drawn or pictured, but I don't understand why so many people have to be killed because of it, and so aren't there any Muslims who see this as extreme?
Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
OK. You say you understand that there shouldn't be a drawing of the Prophet, but why would so many people want to kill because of it? Aren't there any Muslims who think that this is extreme? Hamza Yusuf.
HAMZA YUSUF
First of all I think that the reactions in a lot of places were certainly extreme reactions. I mean, nothing would warrant the violence that occurred in Pakistan or Nigeria or other places. Over 40 people have been killed as a result. On the other hand, I think one of the things for the West, particularly Western Europe and probably less so in the United States, is that it's very, very difficult for people to realise now that religious identity in the Muslim world is far more important than racial identity. Racial denigration is not tolerated in the West. It's considered completely unacceptable and it's condemned. That doesn't mean that the extreme right don't have rights, they do. The ACLU in America defends the right of Nazis to congregate and they spew out their racist diatribes, but nobody will defend it, you know, the right to insult, the right to gratuitously attack peoples of race and colour. On the other hand, religion is just fair game. I think what we need to do globally is conflate race and religion because at the core of race is identity, and at the core of a true religious experience is identity. I am identified as a believer first and foremost. If you denigrate my religion, you are doing something far more grievous to me than attacking my race, and that's where the response to the cartoons came from.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me bring in Desmond Tutu here. How do you stop legitimate anger turning to extremism, like in the case of the cartoons?
DESMOND TUTU
I myself have appealed to our Muslim sisters and brothers, having been offended as they were, and I was among those who did make the appeal for the demonstrations to have been dignified and peaceful. But I think we particularly Christians are incredibly arrogant to actually sometimes even suggest that you have no reason to be hurt saying, I mean, how can you be hurt just by a cartoon? And I think it's an incredible arrogance on anyone's part. I mean, some people said, 'Well, we are sorry that we offended you, but you had no right to be offended.' I say, just try and say that to your wife, if you are married! I think we ought to be looking to ourselves, because you see, if we had a slightly different power disposition, we wouldn't say that.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, were there Muslims in the Gaza Strip where you live who thought the reaction to the cartoons was extreme?
DIANA BUTTU
I am a Muslim and I do live in the Gaza Strip and I thought the reaction was extreme, but at the same time it was understandable, and why do I say this? I didn't want to see people killed, I think it's reprehensible and I'm very sad that so many people died, but unfortunately in the minds of many of the people who were protesting, they had no other means of actually expressing their discontent over the idea of the cartoon, over the actual publication of the cartoon. And many were actually focused on the fact that the newspaper had just a couple of weeks before said that they would have never issued a similar cartoon that had depicted Christians in a similar manner, because of their readership, or they would have never depicted another cartoon depicting Jews in a similar manner, because they knew what the backlash would be, and yet they didn't care about depicting Muslims in this manner, because they didn't care about what the backlash would be…
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you're offering understanding for an extremist reaction?
DIANA BUTTU
I understand why it happened. I don't agree with it. I think that the reason that the protests were happening is complex and there was a question of freedom of expression within the Arab world itself, whether these were really spontaneous outbursts of anger and so on and so forth, but I think that for those who were actually protesting, it was by and large because there is no other means of expressing their discontent with the Danish government and other governments.
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito.
JOHN ESPOSITO
I think there are a couple of things that come into play here. I think one clearly, there was a strong religious motivation for that reaction. As somebody who's studied with Muslim teachers and mostly Muslim students, although at a secular university in America 35 years ago, that was driven home to me. But I think the reality of it is, was that the cartoon and the reaction to the cartoon, the roots of that rage and anger run much deeper. It has to do with the political and social situation of many Muslims in many parts of the world, and particularly among other things - setting aside the question of the Arab/Israeli conflict - looking at the fact that for many Muslims, the war against global terrorism increasingly looks like a war against Islam and the Muslim world, the same dependency, humiliation etc. and then to see your most sacred symbol ridiculed … It'd be different if you had the cartoons dealing with Zarqawi or Osama Bin Laden, but the idea that one would associate, as it were, this most sacred symbol of Islam, the Prophet, with acts of terrorism is in effect saying, 'This is a deliberate attempt to provoke,' . I think it's very interesting that in America last weekend, on 60 Minutes, they interviewed the editor of a Dutch newspaper who on the one hand clearly defended the other newspaper in terms of freedom of expression, then immediately said himself this was clearly intended to provoke and to test Muslims and to test their position, and that is why it's not only a global thing but it says something even within Europe, its intent is also to say, 'If you really want to be a citizen, then we're going to set the norm or what citizenship means.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Let's go to a related question from Sarah Nader, please.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Do you believe that the Muslims took the cartoons too personally, and if so explain, and if not, explain?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf.
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, again I think one of the things that a lot of people of other faiths don't understand with the Prophet Mohammed is that Muslims still adhere to the first decalogue in the Ten Commandments, that you can't make graven images. So Muslims aren't even supposed to draw human beings, full stop, even in the most orthodox form of sharia, so drawing the Prophet, just drawing him is anathema to Muslims. I mean, they really see it as something …
TIM SEBASTIAN
But do you think they took it too personally? That was the question.
HAMZA YUSUF
I think, you know, when you have riots in Indonesia because of the fresco at the Supreme Court that honours the Prophet Mohammed, I think you've got a problem.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is this a yes or a no?
HAMZA YUSUF
I don't think they took it too personally, because it was deeply offensive to me as a Muslim and I entirely understand the response, I don't justify some of the results.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Can I ask you, Sarah, whether you think they took it too personally?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I'm a Christian, so of course I'll be offended if there was cartoons of Jesus or God or any prophet, because I respect all religions, but I think they have the right to be angry and offended, of course, because it's very disrespectful, because the Prophet is very sacred for them, but they could have dealt with it in a better way.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can we hear from some other voices around the room? You sir. Do you think Muslims over-reacted or took the cartoons too personally?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Yes, yes. They did.
TIM SEBASTIAN
You think they did?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I mean, everybody would take it personally.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Where are you from, can I ask?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
From Lebanon, and I took it personally but the problem is how they reacted because things could have, like in Qatar for example, some places chose to boycott Danish products, and this is a good way, but in Lebanon, they burnt the Danish embassy and they burned also a church, and this is just wrong, because they could have dealt with it in another way.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Another voice from over there. Lady in the fourth row.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I don't think they took it personally but I think the problem here is with their reaction. I don't justify the reaction in any way, but I think they were trying to find justice, and I don't think anybody actually went up to this producer or the people who were drawing these cartoons and in any way condemned them or punished them in any way, and so I think, you know, they were just trying to get the justice. I don't think they got it in the right way, and I agree, I think by boycotting products would probably be a more reasonable way of dealing with it, but I think these people just really wanted to get justice.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, what do you think?
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, personally I felt that the boycott was basically collective guilt. It's the same thing that we're troubled about in other places, and so I personally was very opposed to the reaction against the Danish embassy. The Danish ambassador to Syria who just left a few months ago is a Muslim Dane, who rode his bike from Riyadh to Mecca to do Umrah "????", is a very wonderful man, Ambassador Olsen, and he was just outraged by that response, and it actually harmed a lot of Arab business people who have trade and commerce, so I just feel that it was completely unfair to blame the Danes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Lady in the second row there, if we can get a microphone to you please.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
People say that the reactions were very extremist. However, doesn't the Western world view the drawing of the cartoons as an extreme way of showing hatred towards Muslims?
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito
JOHN ESPOSITO
I think one can't generalise about the Western world. I think that the problem is that some of the people that I would consider extremist and who would support this, they don't realise they're extremist. I mean, that's the difficulty. It's not as if these people were saying, 'We're extremist.' I also think one has to note that there are differences in the way in which people in the Western world responded, whether you're comparing Europe to America, or sections of Europe, in fact Hamza and I were talking about, he was with the film crew in Denmark, and you may want to just tell that story.
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, we did go there and what we found out was, the majority of Danes were actually very offended by the cartoon, and I think it was misrepresented in the Arab media when they said that they were supportive of it, they were supportive of the right to freedom of expression, but they were actually deeply offended by the religious and racial implications of the cartoon.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, we'll take one more view on that from the back, and then we'll move on to the next question. You, sir.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
My question is to Shaykh Hamza. Don't you think that the actions of the Muslims around the world portray an image that Islam encourages violence in a way?
HAMZA YUSUF
You know, it's really fascinating, in the 8th century Ibn Taimia (author) "??? ?????" in a book about Christianity said that one of the tragedies of the Muslims of my time is that when Christians in Syria, there was still a lot of population of them there, ask troubling questions about Islam, they say the only answer we'll give you is the sword, and he said this is the very thing they attack us of, of having our religion spread by violence, and our religion does not spread by violence, it spreads by proofs and by reason and by example. I think until the Arabs change the grammar books, Tharaba Zaidu Amrun "??? ??? ????" which means Zayd hit Amron, and is the way every Arab child learns grammar. In America, you know, 'Jane sees Dick,' which is another problem, but I think the violence, you know, the thagafat alunf "????? ?????" you know, the culture of violence is unfortunately I think it's a little too widespread globally but in particular I think a lot of Muslims have real misunderstandings about Islam and the role of violence.
TIM SEBASTIAN
We're going to take another question please from Ahmed Somay. Would you stand up please. We'll just get a microphone to you.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The cartoon crisis did not develop all of a sudden. They were first published in September. What does the panel think about this? Why hasn't the Muslim world reacted to it more immediately?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, do you think that the delay meant that people were orchestrating the response to it, that various people wanted an extreme response? Is that partly to blame for the delay?
DIANA BUTTU
I think in some instances, yes. I think that the fact that it, first of all, I don't think the cartoon was very well known in the Arab world when it was first published in September. I think that when it began to be known a little bit more, it was largely because there were people who were interested in having it known a little bit more, and so in that regard I'm not entirely convinced …
TIM SEBASTIAN
And in ramping up the reaction?
DIANA BUTTU
… in ramping up the reaction too, but that said, even though the reaction may have been ramped up, I go back to the point in saying that by and large the Arab and Muslim world has no other means of actually protesting against the policies of the West or in particular this particular cartoon, or in general about what is going on in the Arab and Muslim world, and so this was largely a means of actually protesting against a large number of issues, not simply the cartoon but a number of things, and it's the same case in Palestine that we saw with the occupation. The occupation has been going on for nearly 39 years. The Al-Aqsa uprising and it's interesting that it's called the Al-Aqsa uprising, started five years ago, not because the occupation started five years ago, but it was a culmination of years and years and years of oppression, of anger and so on and so forth, and that all that Israel had to do was hit a religious chord and it burst into this uprising, and similarly when it came to this cartoon, I think that there was a lot of anger brewing over what's gone on in vis-à-vis the West and the Middle East, and all that really needed to happen was hit a religious chord.
JOHN ESPOSITO
What really set things off, I think that there were people who definitely wanted to exploit the situation, but it was the spread among later European presses and it caught on. I happened to be in Denmark about 6 or 7 weeks ago, maybe 8 weeks ago, I forget, one of the books that I did on Islam came out in Danish, and what struck me was, a group of people took me to dinner at night and I was talking about Islamophobia in other parts of Europe, and they said to me - and these are people who also deal with the Middle Eastern Muslim world - they said Islamophobia here is growing very strongly, and they mentioned the cartoon, but even if they mentioned it, it was, this is a man of station but they weren't even taking it seriously. It was almost as if this is past, and certainly in America and many parts of Europe, it hadn't been noticed, so I think as we get to see European presses jumping on board, that simply stoked the fire and the reaction.
TIM SEBASTIAN
I'm interested in how people in the audience found out about the cartoons first. Was it from some Western media or from Arab media, how did you find out first of all? From the Arab media. And at what time, what point did you find out about it? How long after the cartoons? Can we get a microphone to you, yes, you.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Actually we heard about the cartoons from the Arab media and we heard about it one month after they were published in Danish newspapers, and we don't like it at all and we find it very offensive, although that the Danish were thinking, 'This is the freedom,' but isn't any freedom actually.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Did you find it more offensive the more coverage was given to it, or did you find it pretty offensive the first time?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I found it myself very offensive from the first time, because they shouldn't put a prophet, whether he's Mohammed or Jesus or any other prophet, they shouldn't picture him that way. That was a very offensive way. If it was Jesus, we would also feel offended, because it's still prophet, so yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Lady at the back has a comment. Can we get a microphone to you please. Can you stand up please and we'll get a microphone to you.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
I think that many Western people saw us as extremist because, you know, they have cartoons of Jesus and not all Christians, you know, they're OK with it, but when they saw the cartoons on Prophet Mohammed, they went, 'Oh, they're extremists,' because you know at first the cartoons about Jesus they didn't mind, and we really went wild when we saw the cartoons about Mohammed.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Desmond Tutu, Western hypocrisy I think she's talking about.
DESMOND TUTU
I wanted to say, may I say what I wanted to say?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Please.
DESMOND TUTU
Thank you very much.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Who am I to deny you?
DESMOND TUTU
Freedom of speech. I wanted to say what Professor Esposito said earlier, that in fact you want very little to provoke reaction when you are carrying the burden of an anguish, when you have a resentment at being humiliated and treated as if you were nothing. It takes very, very little. In the United States if sometimes they've been shocked at their race riots and you ask, 'What provoked it?' and you find that the provocation actually was almost insignificant, and you say, 'Yes, you are going constantly to be shocked by these outbursts because there is a pain sitting in the tummy …
TIM SEBASTIAN
For a long time.
DESMOND TUTU
… of all, or of most African-Americans and native Americans and until you get to exercise and bring it out with people being able to express that pain. You are constantly, constantly going to be shocked and we are going to get a kind of pain, but it's a pain that you take in with your mother's milk, as it were. It's a pain that is not cerebral, it is almost tribal. It just goes on and on until someone says, 'Let us lance the boil, let us try to deal with this and pour balm on the wound.' We are constantly going to find things that happen, outbursts, and you say but why, and many will say, 'Yes, no, we didn't think the reaction should have been so-and-so,' but that reaction is not related to the immediate cause, it is, 'I am hurting, please, I am hurting, I have been treated as if I was nothing. Can you take note of me.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, thank you very much. Let's move on to another question, this was from Eisha Waqar. Please, could we have your question? And this is the last one on the cartoons.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
When the Danish government eventually met with Muslims in Denmark, they chose only to meet with the moderate Muslims. Isn't some of the extremism in Islam a result of the frustration born out of the West's desire to have dialogue only on its own terms?
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito, is that a fair comment?
JOHN ESPOSITO
Yes. I can expand on that. I think that part of the problem that we have historically, I've seen it over the years, we hold conferences, whether it's governments, whether it's non-government organisations, in universities, and often we talk about people who are not in the room, and we don't invite them in the room, the alternative voices. I'm not just using the word extremist here, but alternative voices, and there are all kinds of explanations for that. 'Well, we don't want to offend their government,' or 'Well, we don't want to run the danger that they might be extremist.' This is a real issue. To give you the most bizarre example post 9/11, from my point of view, is the situation in the United States at times when you will get a phone call and somebody will say, 'We want to meet with a group of moderate Muslims, can you give me a list?' as if it's a shortlist. 'Or we have a group here that wants to go up to Congress and they're Muslim leaders. Can you look it over and let us know whether or not they're moderate Muslims?' The reality of it is that what we have to learn when we deal with situations is that we have to talk to a broad spectrum of the population, so it means that some European countries have to talk to the Tariq Ramadans of the world, or America has to, because it's not very clear. It's one thing if you say, 'We don't want to talk to X because he actually has committed acts of, you know, terrorism against innocents,' but when you're talking about often many Muslim leaders, or just personalities whose position you don't like but they're not extremist, you really run a risk of sending in the wrong signal. If there's a dialogue, dialogue implies that it's going on between two people and if it's about a hot issue, we need to be talking about the people who are at the heart of the hot issue and not simply talking about them.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, you find the West picking and choosing its interlocutors and only the moderate ones?
DIANA BUTTU
Absolutely. In fact that was the point I was going to make is that often times, particularly for those who live in the Middle East, our interlocutors are chosen for us rather than the ability to choose the interlocutor, and hence the case right now with the Palestinian elections where the Palestinians have overwhelmingly chosen Hamas, and yet there is nobody who is willing to talk to Hamas, despite that this is now the voice of the Palestinians in terms of the Palestinian Authority, and so there's a lot of, 'Well we'll talk to this person, he's much more favourable, we'll see eye to eye with him,' but what they're doing in effect is they're actually ignoring a large census or a large segment of the population for who Hamas does represent …
TIM SEBASTIAN
You think they're just talking to them quietly behind the scenes? All the evidence suggests they are talking to them quietly behind the scenes.
DIANA BUTTU
They probably are talking to them quietly behind the scenes for reasons that I think are not necessarily in order to engage in dialogue but to calm violence down more than anything else, but I think that in so doing, what they're doing is alienating a large segment of the population, whether it's in Palestine or other parts of the Middle East or Arab world.
TIM SEBASTIAN
There's a lady two rows from the back who has had her hand up, then I'll come back to you.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Muslims who responded so chaotically to the cartoon didn't probably have a clear idea of Islam as a religion itself, of Islam and being a spiritual religion, so I personally see it as a failure of the Muslim leaders. I think that if the Ummah was led more towards a specific point by the actual Muslim leaders, the response would not have been that chaotic, because Islam itself does not teach extremism.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What do you think Muslim leaders should then have said?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
They would probably have taught the way to respond to such things, they would probably have pointed out the correct direction or the correct way to respond.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is the problem a lack of central authority in Islam?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Islam gives authority to people like mullahs and so if only those people took part and they led the population towards the right direction, I think there wouldn't have been such a chaotic response.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, the lack of central authority.
HAMZA YUSUF
It's a major problem because Islam in its classical formation recognises the idea of a caliphate. In the absence of the caliphate, it's just open game in terms of religious authority, so it's a real problem and we're suffering from it. My understanding in the Islam that I studied is there is a normative Islam. There is an Islam that is agreed upon by what they call the Sunnis ("??? ????? ? ???????) as well as the Shia formation, they have their own sharia, have their own understanding of that and authority, and the ayatollahs are doing a better job. I mean, you can see that Ayatollah Sistani, for instance, has had an immense influence in Southern Iraq in terms of maintaining some order. On the other hand, the Sunni tradition has in a lot of ways been deracinated by the fact that the great teaching institutions like El Azhar university (??????) and Al Qarawe'en institute (????????) although is being reinvigorated by the Moroccans, and Zaytuna in Tunisia, these great teaching institutions that produced really high calibre scholars no longer exist, and so people in the Arab world know that you get great grades you go to medical school, good grades, engineering, reasonable grades do agriculture or political science, and really bad grades, you go to Islamic sharias, college. So we've got a lot of third-rate unfortunately, and with respect to people and their abilities, but we have a lot of people that are just not up for the level of challenge in the religious sphere.

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Are the extremists ever right?

TIM SEBASTIAN
Can I just say also that we would like to hear from the UN panel as well, so if you have comments to make, please don't be shy, we'd very much like to hear your views as well. One final view on the cartoons. You've got another view, OK. All right, we'll move to another question please from Muna Babikir.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
My question was, what about extremism. Do you think extremists like all those extremists are wrong or are they right at some point?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, you seemed to suggest that they could be right at some point. At least you were offering understanding.
DIANA BUTTU
I think I go back to my initial point, which is I think it's very difficult to define what
extremism is, because it implies that there is a norm and that norm is normally set by the more powerful party. That's how I think that it's understandable why certain acts take place that people would define as extremism, and it's understandable, particularly in the place where I live and where I see such acts taking place, I do understand why it's happening. It's happening in a political context, it's not happening in the absence of a political context. It's happening because people have been denied their freedom for such a long period of time, and so while I understand it, that doesn't necessarily mean that I agree with it, and I think that the key to actually ending acts of extremism, if there can be such a definition, is to understand it and to try to put into place measures to actually address people's grievances. And unfortunately what we've been caught up in is definitions and more and more definitions, rather than a lack of understanding and an attempt to actually address it in a means that will address and underline causes of extremism.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, Desmond Tutu, you were labelled as an extremist in your time, weren't you, plenty of times?
DESMOND TUTU
Yes. I think again Professor Esposito was right in saying, I mean, contexts are important but the question was, are the extremists right? I think there is a measure of truth and often a great measure of truth. It is that it tends to say it is the only truth and everything else is wrong, and so I would just hope that one day we can become the kind of people who say, 'Yes, I don't actually agree with you but I will defend your right to your point of view and I won't want to clobber you for holding your point of view.' If we could, what an incredible world, how incredibly rich this world would be if we got to accepting that none of us can ever be totally self-sufficient. The way God created us was deliberately to create us as those who need one another. We were created for interdependence. You have gifts that I don't have, and I have gifts you don't have,' and you could almost see God rubbing God's hands and saying, 'Voilà! Now you know that you need the other in order to be fully complete.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
Right, there's a gentleman up there, could you stand up please, sir, and we'll get a microphone to you and then we'll come to the panel.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I would like to see the UN treating the problems. For example when treating the disease, an illness, you don't want to ameliorate the problems, you want to treat it, you want to eradicate it. All this time we're talking about extreme actions, we're talking about Muslims going extreme and killing, and of course it's wrong. We're talking about Palestinians blowing up innocent civilians, we're talking about, why don't we talk about why is that happening, why don't we talk about for example what happened in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 1992 to 1995. Now, why did that happen? I would like to say, and this can be argued, but as was suggested on the floor, the acts of extremism come from two directions, either from those who are extremely anguished, trying to achieve their freedom and rights, or from those who have huge amounts of greed, so ladies and gentlemen, I would truly and honesty like to see the world treating the problems at their roots, not actions that come as a result of them.
TIM SEBASTIAN
And how would you suggest the UN group therefore goes about its work?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I'm currently studying so I'm acquiring intelligence, I'm learning how to treat these problems. I have my own opinion on it.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Well, they're here, you have a chance to give them some advice.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I would like the world to realise why Muslims are angry. I mean, as was suggested, it's been bottling up. There's a lot of oppressions of Muslims all around the world, not only Muslims, I mean, Christians also, as you said, minorities, how we treat minorities is a degree of our democracy, and I'm sorry to say but I have experienced it first-hand. I am a Bosnian and I have seen, even though I was a majority, I have seen how I was treated.
TIM SEBASTIAN
John Esposito.
Audience questionJOHN ESPOSITO
I take very seriously what you said and I think there has to be a kind of two-pronged approach. I think one, you do have to look at what the root causes are, and often the way people get around dealing with serious situations of injustice is to just say they're a bunch of extremists, as if therefore they're just irrational. You have to deal with root causes and I think that members of the Alliance certainly are concerned about this as many in the room are, but I also think that something that, to follow up on what Archbishop Tutu said and also what the rabbi said earlier, there's the positive constructive side. If we're going to talk about creating a better world and it's for your generation to do it, on the one hand, when you see injustice, you have to look at what are the political, socio-economic root causes. At the same time we have to begin to promote a world that takes globalisation and pluralism very seriously, a world in which we really do be able to say we can agree to disagree, a world which can say, 'You can hold your beliefs as firmly as you want, religious, political, and I can hold mine, but I can also understand where you're coming from, I can make that effort and I can respect your right to believe that way,' and so it's got to be a two-pronged approach, it seems to me, in a sense, you know, an immediate as well as a long-term.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let's go on to a question from Ayesha Butt please.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Do you not feel the whole generation has been lost to extremism because extremism is seen as a logical response to the injustices suffered by Muslims at the hands of the West, and do you also not feel that until those injustices are addressed, extremism will remain a part of the Islamic identity?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, that follows on from what Desmond Tutu was saying.
HAMZA YUSUF
Yes, I think it's a good question. I think in some ways, you know, we're still dealing, just as the native Americans in the US are a traumatised nation still, despite the fact that, you know, a lot of that trauma occurred over 100 years ago, but it's still going on, and I think a lot of people are very unaware of actually what took place and what continues to take place, and if you look, you know, and excuse the use of this, but in a Marxist analysis, you know, the idea of power is in the means of production and the state, and Gramsci, the Italian, added the hegemony of culture, and I think that one of the things that's really overwhelming for the Muslims and why you're getting really radical responses is that the culture of the West which was not really, it never colonised the Muslim world in any real way, there was a military presence, but the Muslims still had their culture intact. Now you have a real onslaught of culture and there's an incredible amount of cognitive dissonance amongst Muslims and a lot of the more religiously informed, they just don't know how to deal with it. How do you deal with MTV? You know, how does a devout Muslim deal with MTV and the fact that his children are watching this, I just, I don't, you know, there's a beautiful Arab poem, you know, "??? ??? ??? ???? ????? ?? ?? ??? ?? ???? ?????" We're living in an age of such extremes that the one who's not driven mad by it is not sane.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me go back to the question and ask you whether you feel that the generation has been lost. Could you stand up please?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Well, partly. I mean, like you said, through MTV and everything, everyone is influenced by these things, specially through Western clothes and stuff like that, so yes, partly it has been lost. I mean, we try to keep our Islamic culture in there but with influences like from TV and from Western culture, things keep coming in, you can't stop that, you can't stop the changes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
There's a gentleman four rows back, could you stand up please, sir? Lost generation?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
The problem is that I don't think the youth today have meaningful avenues and forums where they can carry out meaningful debate and discussions much like this forum here. I think that's a major problem. The Muslim youth can't express their frustration in any other way except violence. I think the main point that we should bring out is that we should foster an environment that encourages this debate and not necessarily saying that I agree that you're right, which is what Mr. Tutu was saying, but 'I think that you're wrong,' but in a respectful way. For example a Muslim can never accept that the Trinity is the truth, but somebody may hold that to be a truth but at the end of the day, we should be able to walk away as human beings, as brothers in humanity, so I don't think that eliminating this form of extremism is necessarily accepting that every truth is correct, it's just fostering an environment that allows debate.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK. Diana Buttu, how much possibilities are there for open debate in the Gaza Strip?
DIANA BUTTU
Debate in the Gaza Strip is becoming very lively. It was something that, in Palestine in general there's always been a very lively discussion over politics of the area and politics of the region, but largely what you saw happening was that it was mostly about politics of the region and not internal domestic discourse. There was no real dialogue or debate about what was happening inside Palestine and more about the Israeli occupation, the larger Arab world and less about internal debate and discourse. What's been very interesting over the course of the past few years is that as Palestinian society becomes more fragmented and separated from Israeli society as a result of the occupation and so on and so forth, that there is becoming a much more vivid internal debate and dialogue that is taking place on different levels, everything from the emergence of Hamas and why it emerged, to what's happening with the other political factions, to the role of Islam in the state and so on and so forth, and so it is a very lively debate, despite the fact that Palestinians are by and large denied their freedom.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Desmond Tutu, you wanted to come in here.
DESMOND TUTU
I want to say two things. I am glad that young people like you are outraged, are outraged by all of the awful things that do happen. It's fantastic that you care, and I would say, yes, I mean, you have many things that are against you, but one of the most wonderful things about young people, yourselves, is that you are such idealistic creatures, and why you care, why you are outraged is your belief that this world can be in fact a better place And I'm glad that there are young people like you. I'm appalled, I mean, that you should be talking of lost generations and things of that kind. You ain't lost generations, you're fantastic people and I'm glad you're around and I wish I was maybe like, no, no, you know ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
You 're going to hold that thought, are you?
DESMOND TUTU
No, no, I really want to say this to you. You are God's most outstanding collaborators for turning this world into a better place.
(APPLAUSE)
JOHN ESPOSITO
I would just note that the Alliance in our discussions just yesterday recognised the importance, not only importance of young people but what we said earlier, that young people need more situations in which they can talk about what's important to them and which they can take, as it were, have more input and take control, so I think the more you assert that, realise that that's important but also realise that there are those who recognise that avenues need to be opened up for that, just as this kind of programme.
TIM SEBASTIAN
On the subject, question there from the panel. If you could stand up.
KAREN ARMSTRONG (Alliance of Civilizations member)
When I talk to British or American youth, what I say is that perhaps my generation can't sort this out. I've been in the business now of talking about Islam to Western audiences, and every time something happens like the cartoon crisis, we go right back to the beginning again, and have to start answering the same old questions, nothing ever seems to stick, our minds are set, but the good news is that we are being gradually, by natural processes, phased out, and you are young enough to change your minds, to have new thoughts. You've seen what extremism can do, you've seen it at first hand. The Chinese call the insistence that only one point of view is right 'obsession', these are the Chinese religious thinkers, to have only one point of view, to say, 'This cannot mean that, there can only be one right, this is an obsession'. You are young enough to have a new idea, to change the world by thinking critically and participating. We should give you more avenues to speak and to think and make your views heard. We are very concerned about this on the Alliance and it's been wonderful to listen to you today, with views that you can share with us, but go on thinking, don't ever stop questioning.

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What can Muslim women do to fight the rise of extremism?

TIM SEBASTIAN
I want to go to a question which actually follows up exactly on that thought, and this is from Amber Tariq please.
Audience questionAUDIENCE Q (F)
What do you believe that Muslim women can do within their communities to fight the rise of extremism within this region?
TIM SEBASTIAN
What can Muslim women do in their homes and in their communities to fight the rise of extremism? Diana Buttu.
DIANA BUTTU
Women can do a number of things. One is to be engaged in their communities and in their societies.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Engaged in what way?
DIANA BUTTU
Engaged in all different types of levels.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Some examples.
DIANA BUTTU
For example, on a political level. Women's involvement does not have to end at a certain area and begin in a certain area. For example, women can get involved in the political spectrum. I've been involved in the political arena. You can get, women can get involved in social arenas, community service, charitable organisations. They can get involved even just on the level of home maintenance, of maintaining and raising children who are going to then become also productive members of society. I think there's a number of means of combating what is largely defined as extremism, but the real challenge is, is that space going to be provided to women or are they constantly going to have to fight for that arena, to be able to have their voices heard.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, advice to Muslim women in their homes.
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, I think that one of the most important things to recognise is that we really get our humanity from our mothers. In Arabic the word for mercy is rooted in the word for womb, and Islam is a mercy, and I think that that starts with particularly the mother, so it's really important to empower our women and create environments in the home that are nurturing, and also one of the major problems that is directly related to this is the alienation that a lot of extremists feel. There's an immense amount of alienation vis-à-vis the other, and this is a problem within modern theological Islam, the idea of the 'kafir' who is, his rights are almost entirely removed, the idea of what some of the jurists call ibahat aldam ("????? ???) or the permissibility of shedding blood. I mean, these are real problematic issues.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But some concrete advice to Muslim women in their homes.
HAMZA YUSUF
Well, I think it's important there needs to be deeply nurturing environments, but also there needs to be from the husbands and the brothers, there also needs to be that nurturing. The Koran says, when the daughter is asked why she was buried alive, there's more ways to bury a woman alive than physically. You know, a lot of our women I think are buried alive in the Islamic community and that needs to change.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Could we hear from some young Muslim women perhaps involved in their communities in fighting extremism, anybody who particularly feels they should get involved in fighting extremism, can we hear from anybody who might have a view on that, anybody got a view on that?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Well, I'd like to get involved but the thing is, I don't know how I can get involved without going around offending someone or like within the rights of my freedom. Like with my Dad it was very nice of him to allow me to come here today, but I don't know how much further I could actually go without offending anyone or being allowed to.
TIM SEBASTIAN
This is a common problem, isn't it?
HAMZA YUSUF
I think it is. You know, our societies, Western society is very different in a lot of ways, and the Arabic word for woman is hurma (????) which is like a sanctuary, it's something seen by the Arabs as something you protect, and the worst thing you can call an Arab male is dayuth (????) which is somebody who has no concern for women, so, you know, traditionally Arab culture is a very chivalrous culture. Unfortunately chivalry can become something else. It can transform into quite negative, you know, this mad jealousy and this kind of insane desire for this authoritarian despotic model which is very common, and I think that we need to undermine that model, because I think that the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) was not a despotic person. His women spoke back to him and he did not rebuke them for it. Aisha is a startling and stunning woman, if you study her life, his wife was a very vibrant woman, and I think if we study the early women of Islam, you will really find that they were just dynamic women. They were out there, you know, leading armies. They were fighting in battles, they were establishing charity organisations. Over 40% of the Ottoman endowments are endowed by women, I mean, we have this as record, and Sheikha Mozah, I think is very much in that tradition and we honour her for that.
(APPLAUSE)
TIM SEBASTIAN
Are there any other women who would like to get more involved in combating extremism but don't feel they can, they feel restricted?
AUDIENCE Q (F)
With me it's probably cultural restrictions. I personally come from Pakistan where people are religious but on the other hand, when religion allows a certain thing, the culture comes back and says, 'No, you're not allowed to do that,' so for me culture has a bigger influence. I'm now currently involved in the Reach Out to Asia charity team and I might be going to Pakistan. My parents allow me to go. On the other hand, my other family members believe it's a bad thing, me as a female going with males alone in another country, so it's more of a cultural thing as well when it comes over religious beliefs.
JOHN ESPOSITO
But I think one of the realities of empowerment, if you look at some Muslim women today, is that there are two general ways you can be empowered. One is to wait for men to empower you, the other is to realise that part of the way in which you become empowered is to empower yourself, and that's one of the I think ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
Easy for you to say, isn't it?
HAMZA YUSUF
There's a really important point, the Koranic language was almost entirely male until one of the women actually complained about it. She went to the prophet and she said, 'Why are these verses all talking about men?' All the verses that came after that complaint were men and women, believing men, believing women thakar and untha (??? ????? )and so I think it does take, I mean, I agree that it's going to take some effort, but it also needs to be done with cultural sensitivity, so it's not, you know, it doesn't create fitna ("????" ) or social disorder.
JOHN ESPOSITO
And there are models across the Muslim world, so you know, if you look around, there are Muslim women there who demonstrate this as a form of empowerment whether it's Koran study, whether it's prayer groups, whether it's NGO's, whether it's education. I think that, you know, you can see that, you can see it here, if you look at the role of women, the emerging role of women in this society.

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On what basis does the UN think they will listen to this new forum?

TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, we've come to a question which puts the UN on the spot here. The question is from Grant Guenther, could we have your question please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Since extremist groups operating in the world today pay so little heed to what world leaders say about extremism, on what basis does the UN think they will listen to this new forum?
TIM SEBASTIAN
Would anybody in the front row like to answer that? On what basis does the UN think they will listen to your new forum? Would anybody like to take that question?
FEDERICO MAYOR - Co-Chair of the Alliance Of Civilizations
The UN is United Nations, it's not an institution, in the Manhattan Island, and very often we address the problems of the world and immediately we say United Nations is not doing well. Those that are not doing well is those that represent in the United Nations the most important nations of the world, and precisely at the initiative of the Secretary General, we are now trying to reinforce the role that the United Nations have. I like to repeat very often that the charter of the United Nations starts saying, 'We, the peoples, we, the peoples,' not 'We, the government' or 'We, the winners of the war.'
TIM SEBASTIAN
There's no shortage of fine words, is there.
FEDERICO MAYOR
Yes.
TIM SEBASTIAN
This is the point.
FEDERICO MAYOR
The fine work must be done by the nations that instead of weakening the United Nations as an institution, instead of not following the resolutions of the United Nations and not providing the resources, human and financial resources, this ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
But fine words are not enough, are they, as the United Nations has proved. You have a fine charter to which all the members have signed up, but 50% of your member countries allow torture on a daily basis.
FEDERICO MAYOR
No, I disagree. The United Nations is a design of one President of the United States, of Roosevelt, and in the system they have nutrition, health, education, so it's a fantastic design, and it's based on some principles that were enshrined in the Declaration of 1945.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, but to go back to the question, what makes you think that people are going to listen to you? You come up with ideas to combat extremism, what makes you think that anybody is going to listen?
FEDERICO MAYOR
Yes, precisely I was trying to answer to this because what we cannot imagine is that to combat extremism, one of the audience said what are the roots of what we are saying? Here we are talking about extremism, this is the first thing, and I as a scientist, I say you that only 3% of the young people has been extremists or violent in the case that we are discussing. 97% of the young people, and these were some data that were given to us yesterday, have been of course offended but they have not been violent.
TIM SEBASTIAN
What I'm trying to discover is what your group is going to do that will be different, and
why your group will be listened to when other groups haven't been in the past. I think that was the nature of your question, wasn't it, really?
FEDERICO MAYOR
Yes, but this is his question that I'm going to answer but when you talk about United Nations, we are one group that has been the result of the Secretary General appointment but we do not represent the United Nations. It is for this that I was talking what is the United Nations and why we must reinforce the United Nations. Now, concerning our group, we have been this morning established very clearly that what we want is to link and to establish bridges with the divide that exists today.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Such as? What kind of bridges?
FEDERICO MAYOR
For example to know better the other. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu said before, first of all we must consider that we have not all the truth, and the first action is to listen to the others, and for this we must consider many misconceptions that today we have from the others, and when we are talking for example about Islam, we must not talk only about the Arab countries, but the Islamic ...
TIM SEBASTIAN
So when you submit your report, what is the best that we can hope for from you, what is the best that the world can hope for from you?
FEDERICO MAYOR
I think that the most important thing that we are going to suggest to the Secretary General to recommend is to make a very vast interchange of young people of universities, of scientists, of the media, of all those situations in the world that today are isolated.
TIM SEBASTIAN
OK, let me ask the questioner if he's encouraged by your answer. Are you encouraged by that answer?
AUDIENCE Q (M)
I'm encouraged by that but I'm also encouraged by some other ideas in the room, like I'm trying to foster, you know, talking between other people in the region and trying to understand one another, because I think that's one of the main problems is that people don't understand, they don't accept, and what they don't accept, they fear. And so I think combating that will help us resolve much of the problems that we're facing today.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Would you like to have a final word on this?
DESMOND TUTU
I think the world is aware it is in a mess, and because it is in a mess, they are going to have to listen and they are going to listen in part because what we are seeking to communicate is what we have lived as a group. See, this group (the AOC) is not monochrome. This group does not come from one country. This group does not represent just one philosophy, religion. It's people with very diverse views and you would have thought that they would not even make it to first base in terms of being able to understand one another. I am a Christian, there's a Muslim, there's a Jew, we speak all kinds of languages, but if you take my language, being colonised I could understand English, and yet we were able to come to a consensus. We disagreed, I mean, we spoke vigorously. I mean, today actually I thought somebody was about to chew up the co-chair, because I mean, this day they were really insisting this point and this point must be in your community, but in the end, it's remarkable, I mean, that we kept being able to find one another, and if it can happen, yes, it happened at a small scale, the chances are that it can happen on a broad scale. And there are other examples that each one of us is able to bring. I can bring the example of a South Africa that people thought was going to explode, but there we got an example of people finding each other, so one is able to say, you know, an enemy is a friend wanting to be made, and that's not just a facile sort of slogan, it is for real, and if the world doesn't know that it is in a mess, wow!
TIM SEBASTIAN
Diana Buttu, a brief word.
DIANA BUTTU
I think that in this age, we've been largely examining what's wrong with the UN, and we focused on is it the right mandate, is it the right this, is it the right that, but I think if I were to sum up what I think can happen with the UN is, if we transform the United Nations from being the United Nations to that of United People and take the words of the charter and rather than having the charter focus on United Nations being a collective group of nations that implement or don't implement in that case the will of the people, that we actually transform it from being the focus on nations to that of the people itself, and I think once we're able to focus on what the needs of people themselves are, then I think we'll be able to create a much more different world. How can that be done? I think if we ignore the nation state model that has been largely focused on over the course of the past century, instead start focusing on the needs of people. Unfortunately in this era that we're facing now, the needs of many people are not in fact addressed by the United Nations because it is a form that solely focuses on the rights of one state versus another state, and the impact of one state's actions on another state's actions, and I think that we really need to go down to the grass roots level and start focusing on the idea of the United People and that is a global people.
TIM SEBASTIAN
All right, we're running out of time and my panel is telling me that they have to get away. It just remains for me to thank all of our distinguished panellists for coming today. Thank you very much to the audience for coming, and hope to see you again. Thank you very much indeed.