tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN August 30, 2016 4:00pm-6:01pm EDT
observant muslims. this said no, you do it with this, and he picked up his ak-47. he said we will come we are fighting them now. we will come to power it when i got back in september of 1995, the taliban did what they said they were going to i took that as a validation of their worldview. i fell into extremist groups in the global jihadist movement. it was this idea of this grievance-based ideology. ideology without grievances does not resonate. and grievances without ideology are not acted upon. in 1998 i get married. i have a polish wife. [laughter] she is a convert. i went to high school with her -- anyway. 9/11 happened. i hear on the radio a plane has hit the building.
the first word out of my mouth were god is great. i get to my work place and tell a guy, the plane has had the building. a second building. i knew the world would change forever. i rushed back home. my wife makes the door, honey, you don't have anything to do with this? the phone has been ringing off the hook. my muslim friends were calling and saying this is not my religion. this is not what we are about. later that day, i went to see these bad muslims celebrating. later they said it does not make sense to fly planes into buildings. there was an awkward silence. the silence changed my life. i decided i needed to study the religion. i went to syria. i registered with the embassy.
i went through a period of positive reframing. de-radicalization on proper understanding. i come back and get recruited by security intelligence service. i have two years undercover online and on the ground. 2006, and a big terrorism arrest happens and goes public. my identity is burnt. i have to go public. four years of court, 2012, isis online. i am on twitter with isis people. trolling them. [laughter] i can't get rid of these dick pictures. [laughter] i want to come back to that it is not that america has changed. it has changed forever. the whole world has changed.
is it a threat to your way of life? i would say, the threat to your way of life is you removing your liberties, your tolerance that you are known for for immigrants, i'm nonpartisan. i'm not even going to say the other "t" word. i think your way of life, what america is supposed to mean, what it has always meant, isn't that it has only meant that for a certain segment of people? is that what is happening? so, i would not say it is a threat to your way of life. i think our overreaction, our responses to terrorism is what will become your undoing. [applause] karen: i'm not sure which side of the day she should sit on. but that is ok. it puts me in a very important cleanup role.
mia: first of all, i want to thank everyone for coming. i've always wanted to stand in front of a brick wall and tell jokes. [laughter] i'm told i'm not allowed to be funny tonight. i may or may not tell some jokes. but i will be serious for a moment. like mubin and lawrence, who i am humbled to be here with, i've been studying terrorism for a long time. their quote "ed wood," for a long time, no one gave two shits about terrorism when i was starting as a research assistant at georgetown university. our classes had few israeli students, a few arab students, a few military students but it was not packed. it was just interesting because
by 1990, as malcolm described it, it had already happened. terrorism has impacted the united states but not in a way that 9/11 did. i want to give you a quick quote. margaret thatcher -- who i don't often quote -- but she has been quoted as saying that the media is the lifeblood of terrorism. for me, i find it, having studied this for 27 years now, unusual or interesting or disturbing or whatever afjectives you want to give it, that things that are happening 4000 to 5000 miles away affect us more than what happened on 9/11. i don't want to say that we should ignore terrorism. i think terrorism is really important. we have to understand maybe some of the underlying root causes or pathways to terrorism. but stephen, who is in charge of this whole event, asked me if i think the united states is at
the same level of risk. we are not france, or england, or germany. one of the reasons we are not in the situation they are in is because precisely mubin was talking about, the fact that of the 27 years i spent doing this, most muslim americans are americans. they left those countries for a reason and it was not to import terrorism here. so, i have been especially disconcerted for the last 12 months with the campaign because having spent time with muslim americans, having spent time with the security apparatus, with the police, with the fbi, and my peeps from the office of homeland security that i joined on the 12th of september of 2001, i can tell you the days after 9/11 they were maybe 15 of us studying terrorism. two days later, it was hundreds. and so i went directly to work
with the u.s. government to say, ok, this is what terrorism looks like in other parts of the world. and the main thing that we found , first of all, was that it was not necessarily religion. we had lots of nonreligious terrorism. in fact, i had done fieldwork in sri lanka with the tigers who were not muslim. we were doing a great job in the aftermath of 9/11 under george bush. george bush would have communications with mosques and participate with the muslim community, understanding that islam was not the problem. for me, the risk to our way of life is not terrorism, but is comparable to what mubin said -- our reaction to terrorism.
i'm especially concerned that will be up front about this, any crazy individual who decides to shoot up the workplace or behead someone at the meatpacking plant who happens to be muslim is now coded as terrorism, where, if i was to give you the daily crime report of any city and i differentiate these were perpetrated by muslims so it has to be terrorism and these are perpetrated by non-muslims so it is regular crime, of course that would elicit some concern. my concern is the way that -- i'm going to be careful because you have people here -- i was concerned during the attack in france when the attackers, the focus was on the one person who might have been an immigrant. and i felt there was an escalation of the rhetoric. let's not look of the eight of nine as opposed to the one of
nine, who may or may not had false papers. it spiraled and snowballed. and god love them, cnn has been great to me. but -- [laughter] fox news and the other right news organizations, we have to understand a little bit more about terrorism to put it within the context to understand that thank god we are not france and we are not germany. the reason why i said this to my is most in 2000 american muslims have a much higher level of education, better jobs, higher income, all of the things that make america great. in other words, this is a land of opportunity. this is a land of immigrants. this was built on immigration. i mean, other than native americans, everybody's family came from somewhere.
and this is literally the melting pot. my worry along the lines of what mubin was saying is that we are changing the way we understand what constitutes being an american and what is not an american. i think as a non-american, i have so much great respect for this country because what this country symbolizes is that you can go from poverty to president and we have seen that with carter and clinton, bill. and obama. and you can be anything you want to be. this to me, as a foreigner -- because i'm also canadian. [laughter] like the best comics, i'm also canadian. [laughter] but to me, this is the greatest country on earth precisely because of the american dream. i remember saying in 2006, i was
traveling back to the u.k. quite a bit to scotland. i would meet british muslims and day that youthe have a politician whose name is mohammed or ahmed -- by the way, the mayor of london right now -- the opportunity we had whether it was minneapolis or other parts of the united states, american muslims participate in the american dream in the same way that mexican-americans and jewish americans and every other hyphenated american does. to me that makes this the best country in the world. now we have this great disconnect. i don't think it impacts our way of life unless we let it. i understand the media's 24 hour new cycle. i understand the motive and the
click bank and everything associated with it. but i tried to say let's bring the rhetoric down. let's put things into context and take a breath before we start reporting things that exaggerate the threat. i'm going to end here quickly because i know karen wants to move on -- if i was to tell you the statistics for automobile and andn the highways, gun deaths, and regular crime, it so far outpaces what you see from terrorism. when you look at the number of people -- and this is not to minimize people killed in terrorist attacks or crazy people. i don't necessarily believe that being inspired by a terrorist group is the same thing as being directed. we see huge differences between what happens in europe, where
these people have been sent to europe with a plan. and there is pre-attack video and they have been to raqqa or mosul. different than some dude like omar mateen who decides, you know what, i do not like any people. i'm going to shoot them up. that is a huge difference. the problem is that if we look at every criminal activity perpetrated by a muslim and in our heads think, it has to be terrorism. well, we have a lot of crime in this country and some of it is perpetrated by muslims. and if some of it is perpetrated by christians and buddhists and jews and atheists and everyone else. we have to take a step back and not have this moral panic. if we were in france, i would be on the other side of the stage. if we were in britain, i might be somewhere else. at the end of the day, i think we are super here in new york just blocks away from the world
trade center than we would be an in any other place in the world. i am very happy to be in new york. [applause] karen: there are two pieces i want to take on. one is the distinction between the united states and europe. there has been a lot of talk by experts who have a long-standing track record of nonpartisanship. yes we are different, but we are generation or half generation away from where europe is. that is the kind of exclusive policy that are going on to create resentment. that is one piece. are we really different from europe and how does that play out?
and are safer in new york than any place else? one of the reasons we may be safer here is the incredible amount of money we have poured into the military intelligence law enforcement community. how does that play into how we have changed and does it threaten our way of life? malcolm: mia makes a good point about how we play into the terrorist. the goal is to create attention. and it always works. it is very difficult to avoid it. these are barbarous attacks. if you don't pay attention, you become something other than a free society. actually, i am rather proud of the way that americans have addressed their problems. the fact that suddenly hundreds of people are studying arabic.
in the whole country, there were only six people taking arabic as a major in college. can you imagine? there were only eight people in the fbi who spoke arabic. how totally unprepared we were. and then, what a reversal. ok, now we are going to do this. that is a good quality of our country. i think we make a mistake in framing our discussion about terrorism entirely on islam. the truth is, terrorism is a genie that moves around mercury really -- mercurialy. you can't tell where it is going to turn out. to me, one of the most interest groups that we ever might have encountered was the followers of a blind yoga instructor in japan. just to show how anomalous this
is. people that were in it were scientists and engineers. they were caught up in some cold cult based on some isaac asimov novel. they were creating poisons. they poison all those people on the tokyo subway. they were trying to create a nuclear bomb. they were 50,000 members in japan and an equal number in russia. this is a vast organization with goals of world domination and world destruction. had nothing to do with islam. and the reason i think that terrorism should be taken out of that context is that i think what al qaeda has done is to create a template for groups and individuals of the future who are going to be even more empowered by technology. a lot of the technology that we have created.
for instance, drones. now you can can send a drone over to the white house lawn. anyone can do that. that is technology that we have put on the table. it is an interesting and very difficult thing to protect against. when i was writing about the intelligence community, i got to talk to a guy who makes stuff for james bond movies -- he would not show me any of the things he made but -- one thing that really struck with me, he said those high school kids that are now inventing computer viruses will very soon be able to invent actual biological viruses. the democratization of technology has a very dangerous side when combined with the
example that al qaeda and its progeny presents. it is not islam, it is terrorism plus technology is future we will have to deal with. karen: malcolm. malcolm: let me follow up on what he was saying. it is interesting that you brought up that very nasty cult. they sent teams of doctors to uganda and rwanda to try to weaponize ebola. they went there to actually harness and take culture samples and bring it back to japan. they had a farm in northwest australia, several thousand acres. they had 3000 sheep. they were poisoning these sheep with sarin nerve gas. they tried to do an anime-type spraying of tokyo.
they had a truck with a mosquito disbursal been and were spraying nerve gas. i think it was kyoto. the japanese police never cut onto it until they did their failed sarin gas attack inside the tokyo subway. they had used the weight that -- weight of sheep, not the weight of human beings. when i had to do operations early on, iaeda, studied islam. i can pray with the best of them. let me tell you -- i've studied the quron. i understand where it is all coming from. al qaeda,ice about
they were the first group to weaponize, really harness the weaponization of islamic cultism. my first analysis of al qaeda, i broke at the ideology. it became clear that this was not a religious terror group the way we always saw terror groups. i have seen them all from the 1970's. the good old bad days. red army faction. terrible tigers. i love the terrible tigers. these guys mastered suicide bombings. suicide torpedoes, crazy things like that. al qaeda to the religion itself and did a corruption of it. we have missed that. we hear the muslim world saying, that is not islam. it is un-islamic for a reason. they are the fifth manifestation of a major cult in islamic history. the first islamic cult. even the prophet muhammad himself said these young men will come to the east and they
will pray fervently five times a day and when given the opportunity, they will leave islam like an arrow leaves a bow. right? they were the first group to split islam and two. suna andit islam into shia. the power of a small tactical group that has a hard-core ideology. the ideology of al qaeda today and to a certain extent their child, isis, it is almost identical. if you want to piss isis off, these guys hate the word alkawadage. they hate it with a white-hot passion. earlier out a fatwa you syrianny of groups call us [arabic word] we will remember. what will you do? kill us twice? [laughter]
when i first operated against this group in the mid-1990's, it became clear that they were extremely pious. almost an intelligence agency-like organization. there was something about their methodologies and the strategic goals that really made me think of the japanese cult. to think this is not a religious terrorist group, this is an that has comelt up with their own variation of islam. a group of muslims that actually went to mecca in the 10th or 11th century and actually because theyca believed the pilgrimage was polytheism. 1800's,n the late
changed it to say there is no god but god except the successor to prophet muhammad. isis and al qaeda are a cult group. because of that cult basis, this is why you have the saudis refer to them as deviants. they will not use the word cult. the average muslim can't make that judgment. anyone who calls himself a muslim is a muslim. right? they do not particularly care about that. that is the way were resolved -- way we resolve cults. cultism has been weaponized. i went to the terrorist training facility in afghanistan soon after tora bora fell. that is the place where they had videos of them poisoning dogs and sheep.
gote were big holes when i there, but there was enough material around and enough stuff to know these people were going next-generation terrorism. they were fully intending to do that. isis went the other way. it was a smaller, faster group. if al qaeda is the cia, isis is the flash mob. why are they in europe and why are we in the united states not feeling the same effect as europe? because so many of their members came from europe. it is not about whether we have good values or not. i came from a full study in france where went to every one of those terrorist attack sites. charlie hebdo, bataclan, brussels. i went up there and i looked at all the sites. as an intelligence practitioner,
and i was a terrorist for four years for special operations, i know how these guys think. because one -- terrorism is fun and exciting. it gives you a sense of adventure. when you are in paris, what can you do? go to eurodisney? read all day and have coffee. that is paris. these guys were taken the opportunity to become what al qaeda called itinerant islamic knights like the medieval period. that give them a sense of adventure. these guys are promising them to be special forces the day you come. no having to go through p.t., all you have to do is come and go out and grab a gun and start mass murdering people. you will sit at the right hand of god.
this is why our values -- americans, they don't do that. the americans going over there, i can tell you almost to each one, they have had petty criminal records. they do not understand islam or have almost zero understanding of islam. if you understand islam, the first thing to tell you is that all of these things isis are doing is anti-islamic. not even un-islamic, they are anti-islamic. the kids in europe, they are geographically closer. they can get on a train to croatia and then go on a bus and take a taxi over to istanbul and then they can go to the border and a less than 12 hours, they can be in syria. american kids don't even know how to spell syria much less go there. [laughter] trust me. i worked in the military for 20 years.
i'd be like, we are bombing syria. where is that? near yugoslavia? [laughter] the worst part is we just would have left yugoslavia. [laughter] that is why europe has a bigger problem. they are more integrated. the people coming -- it is not because they are first generation. i like to think -- i'll sum up on this point -- when hazir khan and they play the video at the democratic national convention where hillary clinton gives a eulogy about captain khan and his father talked in the video. i do not know any veteran who was not crying at the end of the video. his father said that my son took 10 steps. he was the chief of headquarters company of this unit. he was only doing an inspection of those gates. this is a job privates do. they go up and confront cars that are suspicious.
he said when my son took those 10 steps to his death to save his men, i felt that each one of the steps comprised the 10 values that he had learned in his life as an american citizen. god, i could cry right now. that is the difference between us and the guys who are sitting in brussels for the kids coming over from morocco who can zip back and forth who don't feel that they have had fusion into the society. american societal values are little different than that. i have an iraqui i brought over to the united states. as soon as he got the blue passport, everyone will treat you differently. and he says no one calls me iraqi anymore. sorry, buddy, you are kidnappable now. [laughter] you're in america, baby! all they see you as is a bigkid. [laughter]
atm. when he got his citizenship, he called me crying. but we are not europe. the reason we are not europe is simple. proximity. we have a lot of european-like problems. i think we will have more. i won't take up more time. >> there is a difference between us and europe that we ought to mention. we don't have the colonial heritage that has haunted france and germany and belgium. and, you know, so many of the people that are muslims in those new people that are muslims in those countries -- >> that is because we did the original brexit. [laughter] >> exactly right. >> those postcolonial refugees have never been integrated into those societies.
a statistic, this is a little lose because in france, they don't take a census on religion, but they say 7% to 10% of the population of france is muslim. 60% of the prisoners are. now, is there evidence of the degree of alienation in that society? france has the most muslims per capita of any european country. but that kind of disaffection is common in europe. it is not common here. a large part of it is because we have been more careful in terms of our selection of the populations. they have had a better job. they have been dispersed in the country. although, wherever, even in detroit and places like that, they become far more integrated into our society. that is in part because they don't have that original alienation that you do have in europe. i agree with you that proximity makes a difference.
but europe is in for a very rough period of time. >> mia, i want you to talk a little bit about radicalization and the degree to which would you agree with what the other side has said about this, you know, this revenger, or the cultish qualities about it? or do you think it has changed since isis came along? are there different ways of understanding radicalization anywhere in the world actually, that you want to talk about? 20it is interesting, about years, somebody was talking about the afghan jihad, and they were talking about muslims all over the world were joining afghan jihads the way -- what is it called, west coast connections? -- where after
school you go on traveling. that was their equivalent. the difference is now, this is not helpful to debate with the other side. that there is something to be said for the fact that european muslims don't have the success rate. good luck going to the hospital and finding a doctor who is not a muslim, or good luck going to the dentist, or in orange county, or in dearborn, or in new jersey. the fact remains that american muslims are a fabric of the society. in fact, i even saw, and i am not an expert in civics, but thomas jefferson talked about islam in the constitution, for at least in the constitutional papers. islam has been a part of this country for a long time. this country was built on religious refugees who needed to find safe haven. and so i do think there is something to be said, not only to the vetting processes that immigration -- first it was ims, and that it became the department of security -- the muslims in america would be more wealthier than the muslims
in europe. the most important thing to think about his muslims in europe are a legacy of the post world war ii generation, where they needed cheap later. so what did they do? they went to their colonies, they brought them men in, and somewhere around the late 1950's and early 1960's, they said, "oh, crap, we have all these muslims. what are we going to do?" people have a very short time where they could reunite the families, or go back. the amount of people who emigrated very quickly to assimilate happen in a short time, and this is one of the reasons we see the european muslims are disproportionately poorer, 60% are in jail, even though it is only 10% of the french population. the fact remains, when you look at the european muslims, they are not like american muslims. and they don't identify themselves as american- or
french-. they dressed differently, they won't eat the same foods, they won't assimilate. in other words, assimilation is a negative, whereas in this country, it is a very different situation, thank goodness. i spent a lot of time watching cnn. it was watching cnn, and they had this fantastic story about how -- was it new mexico, and he dance in colorado. in colorado. he heard "baby, it is cold outside." >> in a church. >> first of all, i love that song. but that radicalized him. and i remember thinking, "wow, he must have been really susceptible to radicalization." [laughter]
thank you for the correction -- "baby, it is cold outside" radicalized you. was it 1959, that was not a period of american licentiousness. it is interesting that if you look at egypt or lebanon or syria in that same period of time, very westernized, i myself was in syria. i was traveling in damascus in 1994. and thinking as a western female alone, i should wear a hijab when i am traveling. so i am traveling through syria wearing a hijab, and i realized, i am the only person wearing a hijab. so, in the middle of the market, i just took my hijab off. and it was like i was burning a raw. it was like i was burning a bra.
people were clapping. i did not realize i was making a political statement. [laughter] what we see in europe are attitudinal differences, educational differences, economic differences. and the worry i have, all of the great advances that we have made compared to europe unfortunately -- we have lost a little bit of our progress. and so, what i would say is, there is the issue of colonial heritage. our issue, with regards to the middle east, will continue to be foreign policy, like a -- our relationship to israel, the drone program, which has radicalized. i'd refer to them as the prosciutto eating pakistanis in
lahore, they were drinking wine, eating pork, in talking about jihadism. i was looking at them quizzically and a saying, "can i get you another glass of wine?" these are not especially religious people, but yet they have bought into the ideology. so we have to be very careful about how we conceive of the world and our place in it. i don't want to say the solution to the palestinian issue is going to be the end of terrorism because there was terrorism before the palestinian issue and there will be terrorism afterward. the problem is, in the arabic society, there is this notion of someone who is ignorant. there is a period of ignorance that occurred the koran, before the prophet muhammad appeared. people can be forgiven for their ignorance, but this issue of hypocrisy -- there is even a
special swear dedicated to the hypocrites. and we have seen this time and time again, that on the one hand, american policy talks about human rights and the rights of women and liberation, and at the same time, supports the saudi regime, and supports the israeli policies in the west bank and gaza. it makes the united states look it is speaking out of both sides of the mouth. that exacerbates part of the problem. and so there is no easy solution. i will tell you right now, the people who tell you there is one route into terrorism are wrong. there is not one route into terrorism. terrorism is very complicated. this where i want to make an emphasis. it is a bit of an example from the palestinian case, but i want to talk about it because people will often talk about root causes. my colleague, who is here, will
talk to you about the fact that he is a psychologist. there no such things as root causes, because if there is a root cause, there is a root solution. there is a fantastic example of two palestinian brothers raised in the same family two years apart. the older brother goes off and is actually the founder of a terrorist organization that brings suicide terrorism to the islamic-palestinian jihad. and his younger brother by two years, raised in the same house with the same parents, is a professor at brandeis. the fact remains that at the end of the day, what are the contexts, what are the environments? we have to realize, people are still making choices. this is what i wanted to end with. i sound like mrs. charlie sheen. it is complicated. [laughter]
but it is not simple. i know the media hates the response that it is complicated and messy and people make choices about whether or not they will go right or left. but when i look at the shikake brothers, one who became a terrorist and one who became a peacemaker -- for those of you unfamiliar with massachusetts, brandeis is a very jewy school. choosing to be a professor at brandeis is a little bit different than choosing to be the head of the islamic jihad. at the end of the day, we have to recognize the choices people are making. we can do whatever we can with our foreign policies and domestic policies, we can make great inroads into countering violent extremism and creating counter-messaging and all the wonderful plans we have. but at the end of the day, we have to realize people are still making choices. >> if i can interject, a
statistic from this election i found really fascinating, given the choices those brothers made, among sanders supporters, the jewish candidate, they were more arab-americans supporting him than jewish-americans. i thought that was one of those things that tell you a lot about something, but it is hard to know exactly what. [laughter] >> i am going to say one thing to close and then we will turn it over for questions. there has been a lot of talk on both sides about how things are better in the united states for muslims. but i think there are a lot of muslims in the united states who do not feel that way. they feel that they had been persecuted by the police. they feel like islam is blamed for terrorism.
and i just wondered if you think that there are individual muslims and others who would disagree with the idea that things are actually ok for muslims in this country. >> yeah, you know, we don't live in a perfect society. >> on one hand, it is not canada. [laughter] >> thank you. at the end of the day, it is not a perfect society. you are always going to have grievances, and it is always how the society manages those grievances that determines what a functional society looks like. so there a lot of things that were mentioned. let me take on the quote i gave about ideology and grievances. i used the phrase also -- grievance-based ideology. what brother malcolm was saying.
this rebellious group kept coming again and again, and i thought you were going to give the example of the 1979 takeover. >> i was gone too long. >> they took the mosque hostage. for three days, there was no prayer from there. the guy claimed he was the savior figure. he took over. and so god sent french commandos, of course. >> no, french nerve gas. it was the will of god. >> the only thing i would go beyond what malcolm suggested, it is generally correct to say if you are muslim you are muslim, but what i do is i incline towards saying they were believers, but they became disbelievers. when he gives the quote, they will come from iraq, and they
will leave islam like an arrow leaves its bow. i do call them -- that puts them under apostolates. he calls them apostolates. there's the ideology part. the most evil creation. i don't want to give that a free ride. one mistake i think most people are making is they are making it an either/or. it is not either foreign policy or ideology. the ideology, it is what some people call wahabi. let's break that down. i want to move into the grievances part. wahabi. this is when the british were wresting controls of arabia from the ottoman empire. you know, the ottoman entire had its great illustrious history and then like all nations, fell apart.
it broke apart. french, british and the russians divided up the area. the foreign policy grievance that animates a lot of the discussion -- again, i am not saying you are being a pacifist or whatever. islam has a rich military tradition. we did not come to power in spain because we had good falafel. [laughter] no, no, no. we had ships with the perception of force. there is that political element. if you look at the 1950's, 1960's, and 1970's, there was this real passive, socialist movement. 30 years of a really oppressive dictatorships. and what kind of functioning products can dictatorships produce from their societies? so when we look at those places as when there are a lot of muslims and we say, it is because of islam. no, you have to look at situational factors.
psychologists call it fundamental attribution error, a that you look at muslim and say it is because of islam. no, they are under dictatorships. the joke in syria is that if you thought about being a doctor, they sent you to islamic school. there are situational factors. there are foreign policy grievances, definitely. 15 years after 9/11, what has him happened since then? him if we go literally with the him question, is it a threat to your way of life? is definitely changed your life. 15 years later, thank god we are not having this conversation in a european context. it is tricky with that. what is different between us and europe. there is the point about geographic proximity. you can get get on a bus and travel across multiple borders without being stopped. that is a crazy idea. these guys were traveling back
and forth. belgium, france, they can move like that. you can't move like that here. i'm finishing up. the heavy investment in security and intelligence and whatnot. but i want to leave with what society is investing in. what is the resiliency narrative? it will become an exit this jewel -- an existential threat if you start panicking every time you see a muslim woman in a hijab. it is gotten to a point where he will miss it. suddenly, a mathematics professor on a plane who is doing equations, and it looks like some scribbles, and it is, "oh, my god, it's isis." and he gets kicked off the plane. i will leave it at this -- isis said, our strategy is to destroy the gray zone of coexistence so
people will retaliate against muslims and they will have two choices. either leave this land, or to come to our support because we are the only ones who are going to defend them. crazy. like mia said, unless we let it. >> it is time for your questions. so the closer you are to me, the more likely i will see you. right over here. you, yes. wait for the microphone. >> one of the things i think all you touched on in the opening statements was education, or at least perspective. i just graduated with a degree in religion studies. i learned just enough to know how much i don't know. if you could share a quick story or statistic, that if you could,
you would want americans or people in the western world to understand instantly, if they all could at once, what would that be, and what would be the key piece of information that you would share? >> in what context? >> what they need to understand about the middle east? >> or specifically, terrorism. >> ok. what is the one thing -- i would just come back to resiliency narratives. you are talking about in the american context? like what does the public need to hear more of? >> yes. >> ok. yeah, at the end of the day, it is the cliche, united you stand, divided you fall, the resiliency narrative. what are we going to do if a bomb goes off tomorrow?
what is your next option that you will take? this is the reality. these are the kinds of things we need to think of. maybe it is because of the hypervigilance. i do it right now. when i go to airports, i find the supporting beams. i move away from where shattering glass could get me. there is a cartoon. if a bomb goes off, don't let your brain fall out at the same time. so just resiliency narratives, the public education, the public health perspective. >> there have been a couple of polls that have come out in the last couple of weeks about americans' fears of terrorism. apparently, the sense of insecurity in the sense of terrorism has been as high at his ever been. it is higher with republicans. i think that is interesting fact. next question. [indiscernible] away that easily.
do you want to go first? >> no. i would say, in terms of the middle east, there a few things you should know about the rules. one, things can always get worse. if you think it is bad now, just wait. i mean, my education of spending a lot of time in the middle east is, i never thought it would get that bad, and then it got worse. only rarely -- one exception i wrote about was the camp david agreement. unbelievable, 37 years of no war between israel and egypt because of an act of diplomacy. not war -- an act of diplomacy. how many lives have been spared? it is hard to know. how much worse would it be it israel and egypt were still at war? the other thing is, i am constantly amazed at how americans i think are blinded by our naivete about what the middle east is like. and so i often tell stories
about people that i have met to try to educate americans about what the terms are. and i -- one woman in syria, who was my fixer, her parents had both been in political prison and her mother for 2 1/2 years and her father for 15 years. he was tortured and kept in isolation. she grew up without really knowing him. and finally, he comes home to this attractive, mature woman and he beats her up and locks her in a room for two years, where she taught herself english and worked for people like me, supporting her parents, who run -- who were unemployed.
when i wrote recently about isis, about the american families whose children had been killed, there was one thing i didn't write about. a girlfriend of peter cassidy, who was another young american, she was syrian. her family was alouite. she ran away to join the revolution. he said, if you don't come back, i am going to kill your mother. she did not come back and he killed her mother. with. and we walk into the cultures. i'm not saying syria is a horrible place. i love the middle east. but you have to appreciate just how different it is and just how traumatized this region is. when i was in syria, it was before the arab spring.
but i was writing about -- syria was so quiet. the middle east is a voluble place. it is paradise for reporters when they are not being killed. syria was so quiet. and i thought, "what is going on inside that box?" i thought, people know about america because of our movies. i would go over to syria and watch their movies and interview their filmmakers to see what their narrative -- physical abuse was the most common element in all of the movies. everybody i talked to had been beaten by their parents, by their school teachers, by their cops. this was not a single tyrant. this was the culture of oppression that had permeated maybe from the top down, or maybe from the society up. we don't know.
but if you don't know what the terms are and the kind of culture you are dealing with, think of how dangerous it is to walk into that and try to repair it. [applause] >> we've got to get through this. that is a good question. that was a brilliant answer there. syria used to be a lazy, slow and place that no one wanted to do missions on, ok? syria used to be dull as dishwater back in the 1980's. everybody wanted the exciting places, until 2011, of course. so what advice would i give? there is a couple of them because, again, i am an intelligence practitioner and i have different rules about how things are. but i have spent my entire career in the middle east, south asian, sub-saharan africa
working this mission. and the first thing i like to tell people is, certainly my students, my special operations students, because -- guys like to lift heavy items and shoot people in the face -- that is what they do -- don't be stupid. i don't say that facetiously. there is a lot of ignorance out there. about what we are doing, where we are operating, how we are behaving. the ignorance not only kills your fellow citizens, it kills innocent people, it kills the mission that you are going on, it kills the strategic goals of the united states. we are seeing an intense amount of stupidity this last year. it is probably your question, right? ok, i just cannot believe since 9/11 that one of the components of that stupidity is everyone has forgotten what has been lost in this last 15 years -- really, already?
jesus christ, it's like last week to me. between 9/11 and now, we lost, fighting this war, almost 11,000 american citizens. i think that is right. 4,493 in iraq. 2,600 in afghanistan, and 3,000 american citizens on 9/11. these are american citizens, soldiers, sailors, marines, intelligence officers who are dead -- dead, because of our personal policy choices and our belief and our stupidity on many, many different levels. i worked in the coalition headquarters in baghdad. i literally got told -- i gave a powerpoint presentation about disarming iraq after the nra had
convinced ambassador bremer to allow every iraqi to have an ak-47 in the house to defend themselves. my last powerpoint slide said, this insurgency is going on and we have lost -- wait for it -- 29 men. i had "29" double underlined. i was told, you are going to remove "insurgency" and that last line, and $50 million to disarm all the potential weapons for insurgents in iraq, it is way too much money. we ended up spending $2.2 trillion, and 4,493 dead, combat affected wounded, and maybe as many as 200,000 iraqis dead. you guys need to get used to that word. it is not just people disappearing off the face of the earth. people are eviscerated, dissected, blown literally into pieces, or like my friends, vaporized into a pink mist. all right?
you need to understand that everything that has happened to us -- where we are today, it is not because obama created isis -- it is because people created stupid, uninformed decisions were intelligence experts and arabists, i'm an arabist -- we were told they did not even want we were told they did not even want us on the coalition staff. they did not want anyone with middle east experience on state department staff sent to the middle east, right? that is the form of stupid we have to deal with. we have a saying in our field. fight smarter, not harder. it sounds like a simple statement there, but it goes right to the core of this. we have this belief that i often -- people ask me, how did we get here? because, it was not for lack of imagination. it was the imagination they had in the bush administration, who i hold responsible for everything broken in the middle east, is they believed tom clancy was their inspiration for
everything. [laughter] we used to call it tcc, tom clancy combat. "oh man, that is a tom clancy combat over there." and it was not clever tom clancy. it was like, we're going to fly to gaza to there and they will sniper one guy in the entire middle east will realign and they will love us. number two, the famous writer has a saying that i say all the time, especially when you are dealing with trump people dealing with his -- think before you speak, read before you think. okay? it is not hard to educate yourself with true and accurate information, which is of intelligence value. this book right here. [laughter] donald trump said the "time" magazine this month, this is the last book he read, all 540 pages
of it. it is not mine. this is lawrence's book. there are hundreds of good books written since then that will give you a hard grounding, what we call ground truths about what you need to know about the middle east and sub-saharan africa. finally, although for the last 15 years we have been fighting in defense of islam, i don't know if anybody has told you, but we are fighting against people who want to see isalm fundamentally destroyed and changed into a cultish barrier, in which they are waiting to force the hand of god to bring about the return of their savior, who will then fight the antichrist and then the prophet jesus will return, and then, the world will go to the end of time. that is their mission statement. the establishment of the caliphate was step one.
it is like "the producers," the worst play ever written. that is where we are. you must understand that. i say this every time i speak on television. i have special forces soldiers friends and intelligence officers who i know, at the time i go on television, they are laying in the mud next to a muslim, and they are fighting as brothers in defense of them. i have people who have given their lives to keep me safe. i have put myself on the line to keep my peers out in the field, my muslim peers. when it comes to going to guns, i will go to guns for them because they are just like all the other soldiers who are fighting against this contagion. the only problem you are going to have to deal with is, and i am sure we will touch on this, we don't choose the aftermath of what happens in their lives. i was in libya during their
rebellion in 2011. i wrote some brilliant analyses and i gave some incredible -- i was a field intelligence officer. i was one of those guys doing the training. i gave the transitional national government 3 brilliant plans, and they are brilliant because i wrote them. number one, take back all of your military bases and clean them up. hire 40,000 people to clean them up and take them back. number two, reestablish the army and put them back in there. hire everyone in the militias and put them back in there. number three, gain control of your oil fields with an oilfield protection force. none of these things were implemented. this is what they told me. we do not want to get the tribes angry. we helped them take down gadhafi. they did not want to be genocided, they wanted their own
country and they wanted a toyota corolla. that is what they wanted. [laughter] they did not want us telling them what to do. we cannot control them in the end. we can do all sorts of amazing, spooky, fun activities where we have bombs, guns, and helicopter rides, but they choose their destiny. don't come back and say, hillary clinton let them attack the embassy, or hillary clinton let them attack libya. the libyans were responsible. the iraqis are responsible for the hyper partisanship in iraq. i was there watching them say, let's kill all the sunnis, or let's go kill all the shiias. no one here is "lawrence of arabia." we don't have a magic pen that creates borders. [laughter] >> we are almost out of time. we could have a couple more questions. i will take both of them at the same time and let the panel decide who. this very persistent person over here has a question. >> hi, i'm a concerned american citizen voting in the
presidential election this year. i have been offered two choices. one i call tough with tiny hands, which is, let's do military, less allies, and a strong immigration policy. and on the other side, the weak obama strategy, which is a lot of the special forces and drones . for everyone on the panel, team america on the left and team canada on the right, what would you recommend to whoever is the next president? >> [inaudible] >> no, i am from mexico. [laughter] >> one more question and then we will answer those. how about right here? raise the microphone. right here. >> this guy? >> yes.
>> is the visa waiver program currently in place with a number of european countries a threat to american national security? >> thank you. let's start on team canada. >> i can't answer that question. i know nothing about that. >> you can answer the other one. >> yes. i tried to be nonpartisan. i really can't take a position. i would answer the question directly and say, use intel information. use the intelligence reality. i don't care what you believe. you can hate muslims and you can hate islam and i don't care what you do in your backyard or your bedroom, but you have to rely on what works, not what sounds like it works. that is it. >> so, i'm willing to be partisan.
one of the things that struck me is the letter written by 54 foreign policy experts that have worked with various republican administrations, from nixon until bush. one of the things i've noticed when i am watching katrina pearson or corey lewandowski, they make a lot of mistakes. for example, thinking obama was president in 2004 when the mission changed and the colonel was killed. the reason why mr. trump has had such poor representation and what do they call them, stumpers? nobody who works in my space would actually work for him. and it is not having to do -- i will say some of my best friends are republicans. [laughter] it has nothing to do with the republican-democrat divide. it is the fact that he scares the shit out of republicans. he scares the crap out of most
of us who work in the security field because listen to his rhetoric and we go, "oh my goodness, that is so wrong." i am not here to tell anyone how to vote. i literally, literally have an extremely close friend who was going to vote for trump. i can't convince her otherwise and i would not even try. what if you are asking me as someone who has been doing this for over a quarter of a century, the policies that have been kind of articulated by one of the presidential candidates is incomplete. and so, promises are not the same as plans. let me go to the visa waiver. as a foreigner in this country, since 1989, i have been on almost every single visa. i can tell you, they are very comprehensive. when i did not pay a parking ticket once and i was coming through the border, they knew.
in other words, the visa waiver program to europe, they are still checking out and people are investigated. they have to apply online. especially for people who are immigrating, people who are coming in on the student visa, or an immigration visa. the loophole that is being closed, which i think is important, has been the fiance-wife visa. i think that was the easiest to get and that is now the one they focus on, and with good reason. >> that is actually a very hard visa to get. >> it is hard to prove you are actually married. they don't investigate in the sense they investigated me. >> you are canadian. [laughter] >> when you say, "you are canadian," everyone is like "yeah."
>> i think both the candidates are naive in some respects about what kind of real problems we will be facing. i will use the example of syria where, has there been a worse example of our failure in terms of creating an opposition army, the free syrian army? half of the are in al qaeda, and the other half surrendered and gave up their weapons. we have to acknowledge a couple things about syria. bashir al-assad is a mass murderer. he is an evil man. he is like stalin. and yet, he poses no threat to america. we have to accept the idea that the majority of the people fighting against the assad regime are the threat we are going to have to face.
in order to contain this, i think our main goal in that region is to try to limit the spread of refugees. if you think about the palestinian diaspora in 1948, -- that is the entire population of the original diaspora. think of all the misery they have endured and the terror that came out of that. we have 5 million syrians from a much larger refugee scream from iraq and syria. there are more refugees in the world since world war ii. a tremendous reservoir for the possibility of future terrorism. and we are completely not dealing with it. we have to partner with other agents in the region. i think we have to accept some sort of relationship with russia, in terms of dealing with
the syrian solution, and trying to force some kind of compromise because we have no leverage. , right now, our nominal allies in the region, we have 2 million refugees in turkey, one million in jordan, and one out of four people in lebanon. these are our nominal allies/ those demographics are enough to possibly capsize those governments. that is not even speaking of the flow of people into europe. this is a tremendous problem. if you are were a five-year-old child when the syrian civil war began, you may have missed your entire elementary school education already. what future is there? nobody in this campaign is addressing a realistic approach to the war in syria and the spillover affect it will have on the region, on europe, and eventually, on ourselves. >> is my mic on? well, i think lawrence is right.
i think things have not done completely realistically. this is the middle east. you can't do things with the full realism you want without having future spillover effects. to the question of the judgment prom new mexico about trum versus clinton, i take it you are a trump ovoter? >> absolutely. >> let me refer to number one, don't be stupid. [laughter] i am going to speak you as a war fighter and intelligence professional. i have risked my fight - my life in every dam war. i will tell you what he said about it can get worse, it can get much much worse. i don't know if you know anybody that has died in these wars, i don't know if you have not visited ground zero anytime soon, or the pentagon memorial
or united 93 memorial, you need to get into your head what the cost is when people say they want to go to war. when people say they want to be tough. if you don't understand the value of debt-- of death and saving your fellow citizens from this, trust me, we have been doing it 35 years. listen, it can get my first. last time we were at the comedy cellar debates, ann coulter spoke and i asked her a question. donald trump said he will not take the use of atomic weapons, nuclear bombs, off the table. someone recommended they nuke syria, withraqqa, maybe 10,000 isis combatant in i t 100,000 people total,. if cant imagine how bad it is
today, imagine a order of magnitude worse. terrorism every date everywhere in every part of the middle east killing every american you can find. start tweeting with the idea of nuclear the nuclear weapon in the middle east. not to mention you'll be eating that radiation within 72 hours in your milk. the tradewinds where that radiation goes are predominantly to europe to the northwest, to egypt, israel, and central africa to the southwest, then over the stans and street to china to the east. this is not a game. and it makes me sick when i hear people say, oh this is a tough guy. tough guys serve in the military. [applause] tough guys don't avoided the draft five times. my family has 110 combined years of military service since the civil war, alright?
i love this nation. indonesia have to worry about the stuff that i have to worry about, that he has to worry about, that she has to teach, and that this guy has to get an agent for. right? [applause] [laughter] none of us. this election is coming down to stupid versus thoughtful. don't vote stupid. otherwise you will see a level of terrorism you have not seen you. [applause] that's just my opinion though. >> one more? >> we are not going to take one more. we are out of time. i want to say if the question of the night was, has terrorism threatened the american way of life? i think the debate tells you it has not yet. because what you have here are four people that are not just
reading books -- which is a good thing to do, and not just listening to cnn and other stations -- which is another good thing to do, especially when you are on. [laughter] but people that are willing to find out by going around the world, learning languages, giving their life to studying this and informing us about it, that's is one piece of it. thank you for joining us and thank you for coming. [applause] [chatter] it's the last tuesday in
august and also the last primary date, major congressional primary. voters go to the polls in arizona and florida. the miami herald headline, election day live, voters head to the polls for south carolina's primary -- south florida's primary. the 23rd district, debbie wasserman schultz defending her congressional seat. her challenge is college professor tim canova, getting national attention. a look at some of the other tweets. representative alan grayson for florida's senate race. he's up against patrick murphy. patrick murphy meanwhile sending out the message--
the polls close in florida at 7:00 p.m. they are split eastern and central time, so part of the state will be voting until 8:00 eastern. results tonight in the senate races. a couple of key races. republican races marco rubio in florida and senator john mccain in arizona. and the primary underway in arizona with a couple of photos of arizona's john mccain and his wife cindy . reminder, we have election results from arizona and florida. that we expect to hear victory and concession speeches tonight live on c-span. will also be live next week as we return to coverage of congress. house and senate returning a week from today. live coverage on c-span and senate on c-span two. people want over the last 30 days what members are doing on
the august recess. here is a look at jim mcgovern, who tweets about his farm tour in military. millbury. and in arkansas, john boozman and representative westermann touring a lumber mill in arkansas. >> happy to be starting our seed to sawmill toward, trying to better understand the forestry industry which is setting such a best part of arkansas economy. >> here we are in the middle of a nursery 47 million pine trees behind us. another 2 million hardwood trees. this is where it all starts. you can see the speed of the sawmills. host: congress is back next tuesday in the short legislative session. live coverage of the house on c-span and senate on c-span to. we bring you a conversation with ower, "if thep
oceans were ink," a conversation she had with faith with a muslim cleric. >> yeah, my mic is on. wow. [laughter] that is an auspicious start. >> good. good evening and welcome to today's meeting of the commonwealth club of california, the place where you are in the know. your online at commonwealth club.org, facebook, twitter, and check out our youtube channel. curielurnalist jonathan for this panel "bridging islam and the west." i want to introduce our esteemed speaker carla power.
those of you who know carla will know that she is a pulitzer prize biologist and a journalist specializing in muslim societies. she's the author of the critically acclaimed pulitzer prize finalist, "if the oceans were ink: an unlikely friendship and journey to the heart of the koran." this is spent over years studying and candid conversations studying with an imam. this offers a look into the muslim world that is often ignored by our news media and explorers the many complexities are one of the world's most misunderstood regions. she currently writes for time magazine and is a former correspondent for newsweek. her essays have appeared in a wide range of publications from vogue, opera magazine, new york times, the guardian, and foreign policy. carla holds degrees from saint anthony's university, yale, and columbia, and lives in oakland.
we are extremely pleased she is joining us. please join me in welcoming carla power. [applause] i am really happy you are here. the book that i read over the last couple days is an extremely incredible look about her friendship with shaikh mohamme./ if you don't mind setting the stage what you wrote the book, and a little bit about the shaikh.l him " were going to collate the shaikh and i" but my publisher next it. i will start back in my
childhood. half the time i grew up in the midwest and have the time in the middle east and other islamic countries. i spent my childhood shuttling between suburban st. louis and kabul ande chiron and cairo. islamicterested in issues i statically, and went on to study them. --en i went on to write as a i found that the narratives bifurcated. one is that i was writing about strongmen with kalashnikovs, and oppressed women. those were the two troops i would inevitably write about.
that was when i was writing news stories. when i went on to feature stories, it slightly white and. i was able to write about things like things like pakistani punk rock bands, or halal energy drinks, or muslim european professionals. and that gave a little bit more bandwidth to the terrorism and bailed woman narrative. even then it was like, instead of saying, "muslims, they are the other," i was saying "muslims, they are just like us." it reminds me of those magazines you see at the checkout in the supermarket -- movie stars, they are just like us. angelina jolie with a baby on her hip and a latte -- you know.
opportunityver any to excuse oneself from this. you are either looking into the of this or looking into a hall of reflecting mirrors, where he wanted to see muslims looking exactly like the rest of us. and to really delve down and take a muslim's worldview on their own terms. there was not room or space in mainstream even long for media. i should also say that never in 17 years of writing about islam was i asked about the karan -- about the koran. , we tend tots overlook the scripture that is ostensibly animating, or at
least started all of this. the 11d a friend in to with as aat i worked friend. akram nadwi.ed he was an indian shake -- s heikh, the rising star of his own madrasah. and we were sort of polite him,ds but in 2012, asked would it be ok if i shadowed you? try to understand your worldview based on the koran and the hunting -- and the hadith? this meant a year of conversations on everything from
to how tol to jihad, raise kids, to geopolitics. he let me tell him to his hometown in india, to the gym, up and down the u.k. on lecture tours. to it really was an attempt -- i was my worldviews raised by a quicker father and a jewish mother, both of whom were lapse. i was raised sort of as a secular humanist. and he was this very conservatively trained scholar. and i wanted to see what brought us together and where our views diverged. that was the template. pointan: and you hinted a of your long interview, that he
is a complex person with a lot of contradictions, but also full of humor. you bring out not only the koran's humanity, you bring out his humanity. can you talk about that? in a sense, here is the goldmine you have been waiting for. not a superficial, they are like us. on the one hand, this. on the other hand, this. you say in the book, i was loath to hear what he said about gays and lesbians. but can you talk about how he was, in a sense, the ideal cleric? carla: well, he is extraordinarily interesting. he was raised in a tiny, tiny village, and reading vicariously by kerosene lamp persian poets and the koran. because of his brilliance, by 17, he had written a grammar on
arabic, even though he grew up speaking urdu, the indian anduage, as well as hindi some other languages. so he started out from this tremendously rural, taking the buffalos to be watered in the evening, and reading by kerosene light at night. but in many ways, he is more cosmopolitan than i am. i mean when i started seeing the , layers and layers of what a cosmopolitan religious scholar has at his disposal -- he is linked in to a network of religious scholars. whenever we hear "network" these days linked to islam, we all immediately freeze and think it is al qaeda or something else. but, of course, he is part of a global network of intensely learned folks who are not
involved in politics and yet who help each other out on texts and so on. whenever i went anyplace, he would be -- i would be like, i'm going to india. he said, i need to get a certificate of learning from a scholar in jaipur. could you get that for me? of he collects these sort certificates of learning from other scholars the way you would go and pick up a yankees cap if you went to new york with a friend. and so this very cosmopolitan view of the world that comes not through having traveled 37 countries in a year or whatever, but instead from being linked through scholarship. jonathan: and one of the points that is really relevant and
timely, and i am so glad this is a part of your book, is his views on women in islam. it is a controversial touch point for muslims and non-muslims alike. it has become a political touchstone. i believe he has six daughters? carla: six daughters, yeah. jonathan: more importantly, he has written -- he is the first scholar to write about hidden women in islam, upwards of 9000? carla: 10,000. yeah, i mean he came from an , incredible conservative, in terms of gender politics -- his family was so conservative that daughters and fathers, after daughters reach adolescence, try not to speak to one another. a observed this in such a strict ways that brothers and sisters, after adolescence, will not talk to one another. i am pretty sure i was the first -- i know i was the first
, you know american that he was , friends with. but i am sure i was the first woman that he spoke to freely outside the madrasa because they were not allowed. so we come from this very constrictive notion of what is right and proper. that said, i call him the accidental feminist. because one day, about 15 years ago, he sat me down and said, carla i'm working on something i , know you will be interested in. i know you're interested in women's issues. i am going to do something on women's scholars on the words and deeds of the prophet muhammad. and he is like it will be a slim , volume, maybe 20 or 30 scholars. because there are some very well-known erudite women stretching back to the time of the prophet muhammad in the seventh century. and people know of them, and a couple scholars have written on them before. but in english.
i am sure more have written in other languages but he started , going. and he was looking in the margins of all sorts of other forms of books. he was looking in travel books, he was looking in lists at the end of mosques in madrasa, who had studied there. and he now has over 10,000 women scholars stretching back to the days of the prophet muhammad. and not just quantity, but quality. some of these women have extraordinary freedoms that, for many women, across many muslim societies, they could only imagine. women riding on horseback on camelback on lecture tours across the arabian peninsula. women bouncing around, going to study with different scholars from jerusalem to damascus. women issuing fatwas, religious
opinions, and being -- working as judges. one woman, my favorite, who was so revered and who taught both men and women, as well as caliphs and other scholars, she was so revered that she used to give her lectures leaning on the tomb of the prophet muhammad. and not only that, she would get the best place. she would lean on the head. up at the head. so these are extraordinary freedoms that have been all but forgotten, certainly in mainstream texts about what constitutes islamic scholarship. jonathan: and one of the many points your book brings up is that islam, when it came into being, it was i do not want to much more -- use the word egalitarian, but women mixed with men.
and you point this out through the words of sheikh mohammed akram nadwi, in a sense, it was after the death of the prophet these legal strictures became politicized. you do a good job through him and you're really nice writing of explaining the arc of islam. and in a way, it fills in so many blanks people have and clears up assumptions. that people can relate to. if you could talk about that as well. carla: it is funny. sort of talking about, you know, the prophet muhammad's time with him, and, you know, talking about -- it is very well-known his first wife was khadija, who , was his boss, who was 15 years his senior, who ran a very successful caravan trading company in mecca, and who asked him to marry her. and they had a long and happy relationship.
and that sort of strong woman. you can see, when you look at the prophet's biography, he clearly reveres women. and this has been sort of eroded over -- things got much worse for women when the scholars started developing jurisprudence. and suddenly, instead of the relatively egalitarian -- and relatively -- it came out of the seventh century culture where baby girls were being buried alive because women were conceived of as chattel, and girls had basically no rights, so within this context, islam came in, and women could suddenly inherit. women were seen as people, too, rather than something to be inherited. so islam came in and really radically helped women.
but in the ninth and 10th centuries, these medieval scholars were interpreting the koran and the words of the prophet muhammad through the lens of being medieval men. that is when you get a lot of the more problematic and less equal interpretations of islam. and so, i mean, what is going on now in the muslim world is incredibly exciting. because you have a really muscular islamic feminist movement, where women are going back and reading these basic sources for themselves and saying, wait a minute. it doesn't mean i am lesser than my husband. we have equal rights. so this is another -- you know, you hear about it much less because it does not make the headlines that isis does. but this is another incredibly ferment and important
we are witnessing now. jonathan: i do not want to plug your book too much. but i am going to laud it again. carla: go ahead. jonathan: one of the things i like about your book is that the book is written after a year-long interview with the sheikh. but it is not just the sheikh. you talk to his daughters. you talk to his wife. when of the key points in the book revolves around his daughter and the fact that she wants to wear the niqab. and, actually, the sheikh does not necessarily want her to wear it. and she says, basically, i'm going to do what i want to do. and i think she was all a 16 years old. the sheikh talks a lot about the politics behind people's choices within the muslim world and how, in a sense, it does not necessarily, but it can represent their faith.
for him, faith is everything. ornamentation is sort of whatever it is, and so, that is when he is asked about, should i ir, these things that are, in a sense, superficial, ornamentation's of the face, could you talk a little bit about that? women are in there, but all of these other things. carla: he is really skeptical of everything from, you know, the drive to set up an islamic state -- not the islamic state, but you know, the need for sharia law, the need -- the desperate weargles for people to to wear france or not hijab in france, it is all about internal piety. in many ways, he reminded me of
episcopalians. in many ways, he viewed it as a very personal thing. it is between you and god. and politics are besides the point. i think a lot of his students get very frustrated with this. they are like, look at what is going on all over the muslim world. one of the most moving moments i've see, and they get really frustrated when, you know, he will sit there in front of an auditorium full of, like, angry young men, and they will say, it is terrible what is going on in iraq. it is terrible, what is going on on the west bank. and he, as a child whose parents are old enough to remember partitions and how bloody it was getting an islamic state in pakistan, will say we have our , islamic state. it is pakistan. how is that working out? not so well.
so he is skeptical of outward ornaments, as you say. one of the only things he said that made me think we should print up bumper stickers is, if you have got god consciousness, you don't need fatwas. jonathan: [laughter] rla: it is usually not that pithy. jonathan: i want to get into -- on a slight tangent, your personal relationship with him. carla: mm-hmm. jonathan: as you said at the outset, your mother was jewish. your father was a quaker, but they were a bit lapsed. i hope i am not giving away the book, in a sense, but one of the threads is, and i have been this way, as somebody who has traveled in the muslim world, what is your faith? what are you, people often ask. they say, you could be a good muslim -- wink. carla: right.
jonathan: that is part of living in the world, right? but how were you accepted as a secular, feminist, new yorker-reading -- one of the points you make is that you question your own orientalism. carla: very much. jonathan: so if you could talk about how you are viewed as kind of an outsider who became an insideer for a year. carla: yeah. you know, i mean he was very , gentle. he was very hopeful, i suspect, at some part of him, that i would convert. but i never got the hard sell from him. i think he took a huge risk in letting me go. and it is described in the book. i went back to his hometown where he set up two madrasas. one for boys, one for girls, and he said, you need to go and
speak to the boys' madrasa. an islamic seminary. and i realized in hindsight how very brave he was, in a sense, putting his reputation on the line, having this woman traveling without her husband, an american. i did not, at that reveal to the point, crowd i had a jewish mother. because he was already -- he was already putting himself on the line by people who might criticize him for being too liberal. you know? oh, look there is akram. , he goes to oxford and is suddenly importing western feminists to talk about building bridges. and i had not appreciated how not dangerous but how risky it was for him, in a way, and his reputation. the thing that we kept asking him over and over again was whether he thought i was going to hell because piety is so
central to his reading of the koran. he said, you know, look. the central thing is we have to avoid going to hell if at all possible. we do not -- you know it is for , god to decide. but -- and there are many , many muslims who believe that jews and christians and others, you do good works, and you will not go to hell. there is many readings of the koran that say that. the sheikh did not read it that way. you know i remember one day we , were sitting, and we were parsing this particular verse describing the hungry flames of hell and the manacles and the chains and how it was like a lion. and he was reading it, and it seemed he was interpreting it
literally, which kind of surprised me, because here is a man who can quote shakespeare more than i can, who knows poetry in seven different languages, and who is alive to metaphors and nuances in language. so i sort of timidly raised my hand and said, these chains are metaphorical, right? slightly nervously. and he said, no, no. they are absolutely real. we need to do our best to avoid them. he thinks i am going to hell unless i convert to being a muslim, although he said it very gently and diplomatically. [laughter] jonathan: i want to get into his life a little bit. one, you met him, and as you said, he can quote poetry, and when you met him, as a young man, i believe he read sarte.
and yet he could also quote but did not know his name vince , lombardi. the other thing he admitted again, and i have to say i love , the guy. carla: i do, too. jonathan: he says, who are the beatles? i mean he did not know who the , beatles were. and on the other hand, he is open to society and says muslims, wherever they live, should live in that society and wish for well-being in that society and improve the economy of that society. carla: absolutely. jonathan: he is a very complex figure. carla: absolutely. jonathan: you are allowed to dig into those complexities. were you surprised by that? i mean -- and was he surprised at all by his own forthrightness? carla: no. i think he very much -- the reason he agreed to do it was he said, look, americans and other westerners, they hear from the
people making headlines. but they don't hear from people who are sitting, reading their 12th-century texts and dispensing wisdom. and so he agreed to do that. , i think he was tremendously open and kind of like, write what you want. you know? he absolutely was not fazed by having someone shadowing him. he went to this really interesting madrasa. as youw, when i went -- will know from reporting in pakistan, too, post 9/11, we all trotted to madrasas in pakistan, where we would see the sort of stereotype of little boys lined up in lines, rocking back and forth, memorizing the koran without understanding it too much. he went to a madrasa started in
the 19th century by indians who wanted to fuse the best of western learning and of islamic classical learning. and islamic classical learning, certainly after the medieval times, included aristotle, plato, rhetoric, all the things that we would see as a classical education ourselves. and, you know, i went there. this is no madrasa like the maktoubs we had seen. but it was guys were playing badminton on badminton courts. there was a poetry slam competition every night at the café. they were reading shakespeare sartre. it was a really intellectual place that was producing very , very sort of traditional scholars. it's not like these folks were going to -- it is not like the
institute in berkeley where there is a real attempt to think about being, you know, americans and thinking about american jurisprudence. it was very traditional. but it let the world in in a way i do not think we often think of islamic education leading the world in. jonathan: i am going to take one question from the audience. the audience is writing questions on cards. is the sheikh part of the most indian sufi lineage? where does he situate himself in the mystical fulcrum? carla: he does not admit to being a sufi, but i think he has sufi-istic tendencies. he loves sufi poetry and i think respects it, but he is not linked to any particular sufi lineage at all, explicitly, no. no.
jonathan: i want to remind people listening at home and watching that this is a commonwealth california program. and we are talking to carla power, author of the pulitzer prize nominated book "if the oceans were ink." and by the way, that is a , reference -- takes its wording from the koran itself, i believe. it is really co-editor. carla: it comes from a passage that says, if the oceans were ink, the words of our lord would never run out. and i chose it in part because it is so beautiful and in part because it seemed to me to reflect the possibilities and the pluralism of interpretations that i hope to find by studying it. and by talking to him. i mean, one of the most profound
things that i came out of the year feeling is that he threw my own traditions into relief. that i went in thinking, not realizing, the extent of my own rabid individualism. i remember talking to his daughter. she says, this whole me-me-me business starts with my kids. we go to school and have to do show and tell. show and tell is like, look what i have. and suddenly, you know through , this anecdote of show and tell, i saw this entire, oh, my goodness -- this is a me-centered society. and how different it is to live with people who are really , really god-centered. and everything they have they think is a gift from god. that sounds like a cliché, but i -- it really was quite a profound experience. jonathan: well, i referenced
vince lombardi earlier. one of the reasons he glommed on to his philosophy was the idea that people might have a physical capability or something, but if they do not have will, that is a problem. the sheik himself is one of the most willful people you will meet. when he was at university, while his friends with me to the movies, he did not go out once. he would study for three days at a time. that sort of thing. one of the many touching scenes in the book, tell me if i am right, where i believe your father died. he gave you poetry. it is really, really touching. can you talk about that? carla: yes, it is in the book. my dad, right before we met in pakistan in the early 1990's, my father was killed suddenly and violently.
and i was living in england at the time and working with the sheikh at this think tank. i went into the office the next stuff, becausey i was flying back to st. louis, and i had not known this guy. i had only known this guy as the only guy at the office who was not freaked out the day prince charles came to visit the office. he was like slightly, you know, aloof and dignified in a way i have not been able to figure out. but i was such a mess. and i walked in and told him what had happened. and i still remember. it was like october in oxford. and the light is burnished. and he stands up next to his desk and starts reciting in urdu the words of this philosopher poet, an elegy written for his own mother who, when she died.
and the words are something like, who will wait for my letters now? who will wait for me in the middle of the night when i have not come home? and i did not know what he was saying. but it was this sudden connection, the first of many, of just an electric human connection in another language. he then had to translate it for me. and that -- i date the start of our friendship to that moment. because -- and oddly, it was the most comforting thing that anybody said to me during my grieving period because it was so basic and big and transcultural. i was like everybody dies. , right. ok. it was a very moving experience. jonathan: well, let me pivot into a question an audience way, as ied, and in a was reading the book, i thought,
wow. saying the me for word, but i could see conservatives saying, this guy is an exception to the rule. nice to meet you, but sorry. most of islam is different, right? the audience question is, given the sheikh's background, does he accurately represent the muslim world at large? carla: i think it is really dangerous to talk about the muslim world at large. i am highly skeptical the minute anybody says islam says or muslims do. to say that about 1.6 billion people who range from tribesmen to anesthetists in kansas, how do you bridge that? what is interested about the sheikh is his conservativism. he is absolutely steeped in the classical text, in a classical tradition, but has allowed him
-- it is his knowledge of the text has allowed him, in some cases, to find, you know, very liberating solutions for women. in other cases, not at all. one of the most profound lessons i learned is there is no spectrum in islam. i mean in the first couple of , months, i sort of ran around trying to figure out, what kind of sheikh and my studying with? is he a moderate? is he a conservative? is he a fundamentalist? is he a what hobby -- wajbi? here he is, really liberal on women. at the same time, he is convinced i'm going to hell. here he is on the canon on what it means to be an islamic scholar. he will not tolerate homosexuality. i went to see a cambridge university professor. he is like, forget it. the first thing you have to realize is there is no spectrum. if you are trying to use
christianity as a default tradition and sort of plot islam onto that, it is not going to work. there are sufis, mystics, who are tremendously conservative when it comes to gender issues. and there are literalists that progressive in some ways. so i think we have to shuck offer preconceptions of left and right and moderate and conservative and so on and look at the lived reality of various muslims. so i think the sheikh is extraordinary, in answer to the question, but i think his views are grounded in the text. and he manages to make both progressives angry and traditionalists angry at various points. so -- and in that sense, i think he is rather rare in that he has not affiliated himself with a particular school of thought.
jonathan: one of the things you bring up in the book -- it is not a huge point, but it is a point worth stating now, where he himself says most muslims have not read the koran themselves. and that -- you alluded to this earlier, about people if you can , memorize the koran, you get that honorific. but there is a difference between memorization and intellectually engaging and interpreting, so i thought that was a really important reminder. and so, what you have then are a lot of muslims that do not read the koran, and a lot of critics that have not read the koran. carla: you mean non-muslims? yeah. yeah. jonathan: yeah. carla: yeah. our first lesson, wa