RCR: Aren’t the ascendant voices in Islam now the anti-Mu’tazili, anti-reason, Salafists and Wahhabists?
FAS: This is why the West separated Church and State. When religion becomes politicized and when a particular interpretation of religion becomes supported by a political power, it can push its particular view all over the world. This what has happened in much of the Muslim world.
RCR: How can we reengage the Muslim world with these Mu’tazili ideas?
FAS: I wouldn’t try to bring back these terms of Mu’tazili and others because they are fraught with certain connotations within the Muslim intellectual arena. Their ideas were perfectly rational and reasonable. The reason why they lost is because they didn’t align with the political powers of the time.
Now, there is a lot of rationalism within the Muslim world today. The problem has to do with the marriage of political power with religion.
He doesn’t, you see, want a return of a rationalist understanding of the Qur’an.
RCR: What did you mean when you said the United States “has more Muslim blood on its hands than al-Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims”?FAS: I didn’t say those words.
Oh, yes, he did. Pamela Geller uncovered it and has it all here. He said: “We tend to forget, in the West, that the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims.”
RCR: What did you mean when you said Osama bin Laden was “made in the U.S.A.”?FAS: Osama bin Laden was trained by the CIA to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. And after we won the Cold War, the unfortunate thing that happened thereafter was that the United States did not continue engaging with those elements and those countries to develop those countries in a positive way.
Bin Laden was not actually trained by the CIA. Certainly other mujahedin were, in a spectacularly short-sighted policy. But not OBL.
A lot of what has happened and a lot of the negative sentiment, which exists in various parts of the Muslim world, has to do with our very heavy presence in the Muslim world. Now, it’s not because of our cultural differences. The French women go bare breasted on their beaches, but there’s not as much angst about France because France is not as politically involved in the Muslim world as America is.RCR: If America were to retreat from the Muslim world, would the jihadist attacks stop?
FAS: It has to do with how we are perceived in the Muslim world. Are we perceived as people who are helping those countries develop and empower themselves? Or are we seen as a factor for things that are undesirable?
The short answer to your question is that the solution is not to withdraw. The solution is to make our engagement more properly nuanced.
FAS: It’s like a relationship between a man and a woman. They both love each other, but seem to say the wrong things to each other. They love each other, but if a man says something wrong, he’ll get a slap in the face from the woman and he’ll say, “Women must be from Venus.” It is the same kind of thing. You have to understand people’s sensitivities and how you promote certain things.
If we understand the aspirations of the Muslim world, we should be able to frame our language in ways that make them respond positively. President Obama took ideas from my writings and went to Cairo, Turkey, Indonesia and spoke in that voice. Look at the response he got!
RCR: Yes, look: the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt; a dead Ambassador in Libya; civil war in Syria.
Beautiful answer, Mr. Hahn. Spot on.
FAS: Well, the problem was with the follow through. They had high expectations because [Obama] said all the right things, but the question is: did he follow through with actions? Doing that is where the rubber hits the road. There are people who know how to do it. But for various reasons, words are not being implemented.We have to engage properly.
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