Islam And The Western World – Part 3
Channel: Hamza Yusuf
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where many Americans actually have their pictures painted in a turban and in robes and you it's very common to see this motif.
Many of Americans, at a certain point in the later 19th century began to go to the holy lands and experienced Muslims firsthand.
he went when he's got his
I think it's Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn are flying in a balloon over Morocco. And and he and and he, he says, Who are they down there, and he said, those are moslems. So there were that there were a lot of people that were fascinated and interested in the Muslim world. And I'll give you a shake, if I may. If you forgive me for my interruption, we do have Congressman Joe Wilson who's here who's has to get to another meeting. So if you'd be so kindness, allow him to say a quick word to everyone. I feel now I'm getting filibustered here. So
I promise no filibuster.
But Ladies and gentlemen, I just like to welcome you here. And I'm delighted to be here with Congressman Ellison and and I wish you well, on interfaith dialogue, I come from South Carolina, and I grew up in the city of Charleston, we call it the holy city of Charleston, because of all the churches and indeed, I grew up in an environment which is somewhat unique in that. in Charleston, it was the only enclave of Irish Catholics in our state, which now is, has spread throughout the state. But it was unique when I was growing up. Additionally, Charleston was unique in that it had the largest Jewish population of North America at the time of the American Revolution. And additionally,
there was quite a few persons of Greek Orthodox faith, and so you wouldn't anticipate a city in the south having that level of diversity. But indeed, it did. And so that's how I grew up. And then, in my law practice, I work very closely with the Indian American community as they are so successful in the state of South Carolina and incorporating the Hindu temple and cultural center. I am quite aware of the Islamic Center in Colombia, which is been on main street of Jovi for nearly 30 years. So there's a great presence and, and I saying, Keith, I wanted to point out that showing the diversity where I came from, and the appreciation
in the province of South Carolina, the first person of Jewish faith to serve in public office was in Charleston, South Carolina. And so, first person of Islamic faith in Congress. So we were about 250 years ahead.
And a real point I want to make is that I was honored to be present, as you were with the Dalai Lama. And a point made by President Bush is that within virtual sight of the capital, or holy places of so many different religions, some people would look at this as divisiveness. It's not its strength. And so that's what you're reflecting my being here today. Thank you. And I wish you well and honored to be here and best wishes for a very successful conference in dade. Thank you. Okay. And I didn't mean No, that's right. Thank you, Congressman.
I'm going to try one more time.
The anyway to speed it up as quickly as possible the historical stuff.
When McKinley invaded the Philippines, and that was, in a sense, the beginning of
imperialism in a lot of people's minds, although one could argue that I mean, certainly there, there are a lot of historians that would argue that that America has had Imperial tendencies from very early on, but that was certainly a period but McKinley sent a special Ambassador Oscar Strauss, who was very well known Jewish diplomat, really extraordinary man. He sent him to,
to Turkey to ask the Ottoman Sultan, this is a front page, New York Times 19
article that you can look up on New York Times archives, how the Sultan helped America. Oscar Strauss sent this it was sent there and he said in going there, he wrote
with four administrations his autobiography, he said that he prepared the Treaty of Tripoli, the article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli in Turkish, he had it translated into Turkish and he wanted to take it to the ambassador and McKinley gave Oscar so he said, just try to do something for us so that the Muslims of Mindanao do not oppose the American occupation of the Philippines because they didn't want the Muslims to fight against them. And he said, You've got free rein, just do whatever you can. So Oscar Straus went to meet with Hold on.
But Hamid and what's extraordinary is in Article 11, he he showed it to him in Turkish, and it reads in English, it says, because the United States of America is not founded in any sense on the Christian religion, in any sense on the Christian religion, and therefore, it has no animosity towards the Mohammedan peoples their laws or traditions, and never will hostility arise as a result of religion between our nations. He said when soltanto de Hamid read, and I want to point out in 1796, when this was ratified, here, you know, in in, in the Senate, there was not one dissenting voice, it was read out loud, the entire treaty, not one dissenting voice, it was Adams was so
adamant about it, that he had it published in all the newspapers, the major newspapers, and there's no public outcry. And this has been historically documented. Nobody was upset about that article 11 claws, which, oddly enough is not in the Arabic origin and and probably written, Joel Barlow, who was another amazing and really great diplomat. There's there's, I think, a statue for him or there should be he died in Poland from pneumonia on his way back from the Napoleonic he was trying to work something out with Napoleon but George Washington trusted him immensely. And but there was a Muslim American who probably put that clause in there. Although Barlow, who was a Christian early in his
life became more of a deist and probably along the lines of a lot of the founding fathers. So when Oscar Straus said that the Sultan read this, he said, his face lighted up, and he said to him, I will gladly help you, for humanity and for the sake of the United States of America. And so he found out he sent a special emissary to Mecca during the Hajj time. And he met with the Moro Sultan's of who were making Hodge from the Philippines, and he asked them as the Ottoman Caliphate to not oppose the American occupation and that their occupation had nothing to do with religion, and that they would honor and respect the religion of the Muslims. Oscar Straus said McKinley wrote him a personal
letter saying you probably saved 20,000 lives, because the Muslims did not oppose American occupation of the Philippines. Now, I'd like to drive a point home about this. Every religion developed in its tradition, what the Catholics call the magisterium. It's the idea of having an interpretive body to understand the religion. Now when Protestantism emerged in the West, challenging the magisterium, essentially, because this is what Luther did. Luther, one of the first things that he did was he translated the Bible into German. He also had the Koran translated into Latin. He was very interested in Islam. He was fluent in Hebrew, very brilliant monk. But when the
Protestant Reformation takes off, we have incredible bloodshed because suddenly, Luther has his interpretation. Calvin has his john Knox has his and suddenly all these sects started proliferating. The Anglicans have their version of Christianity and the Catholic magisterium was, was basically being confronted with dissenting voices that often were willing to be violent in their opposition, because the Catholics did not want to lose that, that power and control. Well,
the result of the breakdown of the magisterium in the Christian world led to the United States of America, I mean, that our secularity is a direct result of the breakdown of this magisterium. And I'd like to point out and people forget this, the most fanatic group of religious people in the United States were the most adamant about the separation of church and state. Because the Baptist were considered extremist according to the Episcopalians, and it was the Baptist that wanted separation of church and state because they felt if there was not a separation, the Anglican or the Episcopalian church would become the dominant Church of the United States, and they would be
excluded. And so it was very important for them. And that's why the famous letter in which Jefferson mentions the wall is is sent to the Baptists. And this is this is something it's a unique American achievement, that we tend to forget that this country
the the separation of church and state was a direct result of the breakdown of the magisterium. When you have a magisterium, a religion can basically have state apparatus. It's possible and this occurred in the Muslim world for centuries. Once the magisterium breaks down. If you don't have a separation, you have persecution, you have oppression, you have religious intolerance. This is simply the way it works. And so secularity was a brilliant compromise in dealing with this problem. Now I want to point out a lot of people and I think we need to get rid of this whole
vocabulary that we're using in talking about religion, extremism is as American as apple pie. extremism is part of the American experience. We have extreme sports. Seriously, people jump off things, we would never in a million years jump off, you know, with rubber bands tied to their shoes, heading for a cement wall.
There's extreme, you know, music, have you, you know, part of the torture process at Guantanamo is playing heavy metal music to these guys. You know, we have extremism is part of our culture, we also have extreme religion.
We have Hasidic Jews, we have ultra Orthodox Jews in New York that don't, they won't watch television, they won't read newspapers, it's hard to get a conversation going with them. I've tried several times in airports, because I'm fascinated by them. But these are people that are very much in close the Amish. That's an extreme group of people. They're driving around in buggies and horses and believing that this is religiously mandated. So that is extreme religion for a lot of people, not for the Amish, they think we're the extremists. And they might end up being proven right? You know, when, when, when, when everything breaks down, and we go and try to learn how to farm again,
from the Amish and how to grow our food. So my point is, is that you have extremism, and it's it's part of the tapestry of this country, we have always had religious isolationists, always, we've had people that do not want to be part of the the, the the society at large. They, they, they because of their religions, they want to be apart from the society, the problem is violence. This is the problem. The problem is violence. When you're trying to live in a civil society, the thing that you do not want is violence, you do not and that's what we have to oppose, but the idea of, of labeling people because they have a religious commitment as as potential extremists, you know, as potential
they might be extreme I there's Muslims, I know that I consider extreme. And, and some of them consider me extreme. Because you can be extremely liberal or extremely conservative. You know, people tend to forget that extremes are about two sides of a continuum. So I think that it's very important that we begin to really understand nuance our religions and and recognize that
the problem that we have here and the problem that we're facing is violence. Now, with the breakdown of the magisterium in Islam, this has created a major problem. It you know, the Quran is an incredibly dangerous book, like the Bible, the Bible. I mean, if you've ever really read the Bible, you know, I'm sorry, there's really frightening things in the Bible. There's frightening things in the Koran, there's troubling things, if you're not troubled by them, you don't have an intellect. But But the problem is that historically, these these things were filtered through the minds of enlightened people. Somebody yesterday gave the example of Gandhi and and mentioned that the book
that most influenced Gandhi in his nonviolent practice was the Bhagavad Gita. Well, if anybody knows the story of the Bhagavad Gita, it's it's about a warrior. Arjuna, who doesn't want to fight and Krishna, God incarnate comes and tells him You have to fight. And so here's a book about a battle about going and killing people. And Gandhi is inspired to make it a non violent movement from that same book. And and this is a thing there. I mean, I'll give you the somebody said to me, don't you think there's things antiquated in the Quran? And I said, Well, what do you think about the constitution? Well, it's survived 200 years, it's doing great. And I said, Well, what about letters
of marque and reprisal? And what's that I'm section eight, read your constitution. What's a letter of marque and reprisal? I said, the Congress has a right to issue letters of marque and reprisal during wartime, which enables privateers to basically pirate commercial ships from countries that were at war with. So that's in how do we how do we interpret that? Is that something of the past? Is it a relic of the past? Should we just erase it from the constitution? That was part of the war the world 200 years ago? So are there are things in the Koran or things in the Bible that were part of the pre modern world? They're no longer part of the world when the Quran says that the steep ascent
to God is freeing the slave during the time of
the Prophet Mohammed, slavery was a legitimate institution that was lawful slavery. So the Quran encouraged people to free the slaves. How do we interpret that today? Free the slave? There's plenty of illegal slavery out there. We could look at it like that freeing women from sexual slavery, freeing