What Conservatism Really Means
Channel: Hamza Yusuf
File Size: 48.76MB
With Roger Scruton
I read your book recently how to be a conservative? And I think
it's arguably a serious question is conservativism still alive at all? Because we've seen in the United States, for instance, conservativism has been reduced to a type of free market economy, it's really an economic conception and not really a moral conception. So maybe we could just start? Well, this is one of the worries that
intellectual conservatives like me, have, there aren't very many intellectual conservatives as to be said.
We, on the whole, take the view, that ordinary people are conservative, but they just don't articulate it. They're not ever pushed into the place where they've got to find the way of expressing their views rather than just having them and acting on them. But when it comes to politics, in a democracy, politicians have to offer things always. And that means that there's a natural tendency for them to put their policies and their suggestions in economic terms, they say you will be so much better off if you vote for us than if you don't. And gradually, the language of economics takes over every question. So that it doesn't look as though there's no real distinction
between politics and economics. And I think this is this is actually damaged to the conservative position greatly, because precisely what conservatives are trying to say is that there are things that are jeopardized things that are at risk, precisely because of our modern way of assigning a cost to everything, seeing everything in economic terms, the profit and the loss, dominating everything rather than those things that really matter to the spiritual and moral health of the community. So but you're absolutely right, that because of this dominance of the economic question, conservatism tends to be seen as simply an apology for a free market economy Come what may, you
know, and so, if there's a question about an institution, for instance, what should we do to protect the institution of marriage or, or primary education or whatever, it gets put into an into another form? You know, what are the benefits economically, of the old idea of marriage? You know, who can answer that question? You know, one of the things that that is troubling to me, Berkeley is probably one of the most educated cities on the planet, just in terms of sheer number of PhDs, people that have had been through high levels of academic training. And a lot of our neighbors are PhDs, we have one of the highest concentrations of Nobel Prize winners. What's really interesting is this is also
one of the most liberal
cultures in the world. And so the question and I think a lot of people see this is that conservativism and intellectual ism are almost mutually exclusive. And, and very often, the conservative view is a kind of, it's almost, we've got some troglodytes out there that that tend to present conservativism in a way that smacks of an almost anti intellectual approach. And that's very different from say, a Birkin type of conservativism, which acknowledged gradualism and the importance of change. Yes, absolutely. I mean, you
I've, I've suffered this all my life that will Elisa ever since I became a conservative in, which was in May 1968. In Paris. Yeah.
I didn't know. I hadn't a very clear idea of how to articulate it. All I knew was that when I looked down the street and saw all these rowdy students throwing stones at policemen, I just said to myself, whatever they believe, I believe the opposite. And then I didn't know what it was. And, and then it was a sort of Lifetime's work to find out what the opposite is. And I somewhat arrogantly came to the conclusion that it's if you start thinking about politics, in an intellectual way, you are likely to be on the left because that provides a systematic solution, an answer to that
questions, give it puts it all in our system, and also gives you a rather dignified and self congratulatory place in the system. But once you started thinking, if you think a bit harder and longer about it, you'll move back to what you would have been, if you had never thought at all. You know, that's, that's my view is what is what an intellectual conservative is? Is it someone who articulates the real reasons for not having reasons?
Say that, again, someone who articulates the real reasons for not having reasons, but just feeling and doing what's right, right? Well, I think, you know,
is, I think it's Yeats, he has a wonderful poem, Easter 1916. And in there, he has the come lettuce market, the great that had such burdens on the mind and toiled so hard and late to leave some monument behind. He wrote that when he witnessed some Irish,
revolutionaries destroy a beautiful house of a very wealthy, landed English, Anglo Irish person. And in a lot of ways, that poem articulates that idea that it's very easy to destroy, and tear down and one of the, I think one of the things that's so tempting for many people, because the world is so troubling, to so many people, and and so many people suffer in this world, and, and a lot of what the liberal left tends to, to rely on is, is that sense of indignation that a lot of idealistic people feel, because there are things that are deeply wrong with the world. But then, when we look historically, at at how, when these people have gotten into power, whether they're, I mean, people
tend to forget that the the Nazis were actually they were quite bohemian in a lot of ways. They, they had a lot of leftist politics, certainly their economics was, was tend to be collectivist. And, and, and they were National Socialist, as opposed to being internationalist. But when they, when they get into power, they they tend to really, really tear things down. And don't give us a well, I think there's an explanation of this. It's
what Hegel calls the labor of the negative, right? That the initial instinct on the left is that negative instinct, things are wrong. And it must be must be rectified. They can only be rectified, however, by the seizure of power. And so we're going to seize power in order to rectify them. But once you've got the power, the negative is still there in your heart, because it's driven you all along, you know, that's the thing which has inspired you. So you set about destroying things at punishing people, you're Indic you find classes who are to blame, you know, the Jews, the bourgeoisie, whoever it might be, and you don't get out of that negative structure. And I feel
that's what I felt very strongly in 1968. That, okay, of course, there are things that are wrong in France, but they're also things that are beautiful than right. And you've got to go through this and come back and rescue those things, which is much more important than destroying a few obstacles along the way. Right? Blake has an interesting the he says, the hand of vengeance found the bed to which the purple tyrant fled, the iron hand, crushed the head, and came a tyrant in its stead. And that tends to be a pattern that we see again and again, that when, if you have for instance, in in Iran is a good example of that. I mean, Slovak was was one of the major reasons for the revolution
itself, because the heavy handedness of the Shah is his secret police, which he probably had no idea. they very often live in these silos of bubbles. Yeah. But
they've got you know, the secret police the apparatus all comes back. Yeah. And and the disappearing, the people that disappear, all disappear again. So I mean, this is part of the problem. But again, it's still this fundamental problem, for instance, I mean, one of the things that that you talk about, in in fool's frauds and firebrands is, is the idea of power being the way in which everything is articulated that the critique is about power. I mean, Foucault is a good example of somebody who just saw everything in terms of power. But there's there's definitely truth embodied in that. And I think that's why it's so seductive for so many people. I mean, we have to
deal with with the fact that so many people are seduced by this because they experience especially marginalized and disenfranchised people. Yes, that is true. But of course, in the intellectual world, it's
Extremely corrupting to see things in this Foucault Daeun way, you know, instead of asking the question, is what
Hamza saying true? I asked the question what power is advancing behind that you then disappear from the picture and also what you've said disappears from the picture, I'm not no longer engaging with you either now at all, because without the concept of truth, there is no real engagement between people, or I am seeing is the power that speaking through you. And that's, of course, you can look at the whole of culture in that way, which is essentially what the postmodern curriculum is taking one writer, one philosopher, one musician after another, and just talking about, you know, Susan maclary, on Beethoven, this is fantasies of rape, speaking through this music, you know, it's
extremely boring after a while cuz it's totally mechanical. It's outlands. I mean, one of the things I say about critical theorists, I, you know, that if it was a lens, that it might be useful sometimes to disappear through that lens. But but it's a corneal transplant, you know, and a big metaphor, yeah, it becomes the only way Yeah, and I've seen one of the things that I've seen with students, in my own teaching experience is, you know, I've had critical theorists in my classes. And whenever they raise their hand, I could almost verbatim tell them what they're going to say, the response that they're going to give to whatever was said, and, and well, then we need to understand
why it is so seductive. That's my point. It troubles me how seductive it's been. And it also i grapple in my own self, with the amount of genuine injustice in the world that takes place on a daily basis. And I'm in for instance,
you know, there are attacks on capitalism to me.
The corporate world today is so powerful and to use a favorite term and in that in that world is hegemonic, you have this idea where monoculture becomes becomes so imperious. And we've seen so many, I mean, I'll give you an example. When I was young, one of the treats in my experience was to go to a bookstore. bookstores have pretty much been wiped out in the United States because of these corporations. So small bookstores are not able to survive. So now you have you had borders, but then borders goes bankrupt. And then now we've got we're left with Barnes and Noble. And and and so if you go in, who's picking those books, who's actually choosing what books like if you go for
instance, to to the teen section, it's almost all about vampires, and really weird occultic stuff. It's not like, you know, the Hardy Boys, or Nancy Drew mysteries. It's it's very corrosive ideas. And we've slightly changed the topic. Now we're not really talking about this postmodern obsession with power. We are we're talking about change in the structure of life. Right? And but for me, a lot of I mean, I'll give you an example, Herbert Marcuse, a, who I'm not a fan of Biden by any stretch, but when, when I read some of his works, I was struck by real insights about things that were very troubling about American culture, one dimensional man, this idea of a consumer and, and life as
consumption. And, and and losing me, I mean, his solutions is a whole other problem. But and this is something I think that's very seductive is the critical aspect of Marxism, Neo Marxism has always been, it's always had a resonance and a lot of people, there's something very, very powerful about it. When you when you get to solutions and how we deal with these things. We're in another realm. But if if I think if conservatives don't really address the real serious critiques, that are there, they're about the status quo. Yeah. I think you're right, they have they have, perhaps neglected those critiques. But,
as I was saying earlier, the purely negative approach to the status quo is simply going to perpetuates this negativity and has done if you're not
the typical conservative in my reading of events is someone who looks around himself and he finds things that he loves, you know, and he thinks, well, those things are threatened. They're vulnerable. I've got to protect right
And it's not often that you find on the left somebody who looks around and finds things that he loves. It's, it's always something that's gone wrong, something that is even hateful, and you've got to mobilize against it, if you've lost any sense that actually the world is lovable, and that there are things, therefore to be rescued in it, you have actually lost the sense of why there is such a thing as a community in the first place. And that, I think, is one of the things that I felt very strongly throughout my life, that there really are wonderful things that we've inherited. All Americans however, whatever position in society they are, are still heirs to something rather
remarkable, you know, a rule of law, which is, goes on perpetuating itself from generation to generation. If they if only people knew how rare that was, they would see that they've got to fight to preserve it. You know, and the same with so many other institutions that we, you know, I couldn't agree with you more, I think one of the most, one of the most interesting things and when we were talking about Gwyn earlier, the grammarian, one of the things that Gwen points out, and it really struck me in his little book on grammar that made quite a splash. I think in the UK. One of the things that he points out is that language, our English language has not changed a great deal. I
mean, the conservation of the language, the site, because there's a lot of people that the descriptivists will just say that language is whatever people use, but there is a reason to hold on, and to preserve language. Because if we allow language to dissipate into private languages, we lose the ability to communicate as as a culture or civilization that is all true. But also equally true is the fact that languages we inherited, is not the product of a single person. It's the evolved gift of generations, and it contained in every word, there is a kind of history of the human condition, we're actually inheriting wisdom with with language. These words make distinctions that
we couldn't have ever made ourselves without their aid. And so, but we are living entering a world where grammar is not given the importance of it, that it deserves one of the things and talk for me I'm conserving language is extremely important. And it was an obsession of Muslims. The idea the Koran, in essence, almost froze the Arabic language in a in a in a period, so that the ideal of Arabic will always be the Koran and and in some ways the the King James Bible did that. to English to a certain degree. Yes, it did. But interestingly, of course, the King James Bible isn't unashamedly a translation. You know, and the Quran isn't is what I mean, most Muslims don't accept
that it can be exactly translated, because it has it it has a perfection of its own.
Of course, it was recited when you know more about this three is recited long before it is written down. Right? And, and then it had achieved a kind of statuesque quantity that that our Bible has never has never managed. But um, you know, grammar, the grammar of the King James Bible is often quite unorthodox. And and it is a very strange book and we allow it is the book that made our 17th and 18th century literature there's arguably it's it's the book also that made some of the greatest orators and in our you know, absolutely no civilization. Yeah, I mean, Lincoln Lincoln's Lincoln's reliance and dependence on on the King James Bible was immense. Um, but hardly any church now uses
it right. My Church, the Anglican Church does use it, but only in certain little places and in villages or in high ceremonial occasions. Most of most, for the most part is the new English Bible that says replaced there. You went to grammar schools and and and, and they've been largely, the attack on grammar schools has been amazing because it's been seen as an elitist enterprise. And one of the things that that struck me I read a book by David Mulroy called the war against grammar It was quite an eye opening book for me because one of the things that in teaching our students Arabic it's very difficult because many of them have very little English grammar Yeah, and and
traditionally grammar, grammatical languages. I mean, all all languages are grammatical but but by that I mean a language that is almost impossible to understand without knowledge of grammar like Arabic
because it's an
inflected and because it, the verbs are conjugated. And so if you don't have some understanding of that, it becomes very difficult. But David Morell makes this argument that in the 1960s, early 60s in the US, there was actually a movement to stop teaching grammar. And they saw it as very abusive to children. And but but what's interesting he has, he has something that I've replicated in several classes I, on average, I'll take 50 students, I give him the opening sentence to the Declaration of Independence, when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to the end of that sentence. It's It's It's a sentence that has several subordinate clauses. And I all I asked the students is
identify the main point of this sentence. Now, these are college students, on average, out of 50 students, I'll get two or three that actually can identify the main clause. And so there's a type of higher illiteracy that that the fact that grammar has been removed. And I think a restoration of language is the only thing for me, the salvation of a civilization has to be predicated on the resurrection of the corruption of his language. Well, I think you've actually touched on what the real essence of conservatism is there, you know, that, that there are things that the conservation of which is actually fundamental to understanding the world as it is. And if you lose those things,
like the rules of grammar, the habits of good speech, or good manners,
the sense of what a legal solution, as opposed to a mere bullying solution to a conflict might be all those things we were used to be taught to us as part of becoming an adult. If you lose those things, you're at sea in the world. And I think that's one of the things that, that most worries me about modern education, you refer to the movement in our schools to abolish grammar as elitist, it's absolutely true that our grammar is elitist, because it makes a distinction between the people who know it and the people who don't. And that's the kind of distinction that we all need if we're to survive, not only as a civilization, but as individuals to. So this is where the real arguments for
conservatism in my view should be based, not in the economic sphere at all, but in these fundamental cultural inheritances. And yeah, I couldn't agree with you more. And I think it's very one of the things that really troubles me, we had recently a professor, I think, down in Southern California at a major university, who was considered racist, because he was demanding that the students use proper grammar. And so the minority students objected to that, because they felt that it was
discriminate it was discriminatory. And and, and one of the things about in our culture, and I think the the poor white people in this culture are also disenfranchised from a type of normative or conventional language. And I and I think it's very disempowering to do that. Of course,
when I was at school, grammar school, and I was I came from a poor background, right, you know, and we were our teachers as their first instinct when they found that you were in some way handicapped by your The, the language that you'd learn from your parents was to take you in hand, give you the advantage, which your family had, not, so that you could catch up with the others, right? And I think that's that idea of teaching that you that you're actually lifting people up so as to be able to receive their inheritance. That idea has gone to a great extent. It's much more now that the teacher comes down to the level of the students. Exactly. And this and this Pygmalion is a good
example of that. Because Because Shah in Shaw's Pygmalion, and and obviously there's a lot of irony and sarcasm in that. But the idea of the flower girl who speaks non standard English who's wanting to speak like a lady to speak proper, as a way of upward mobility, yes. And, and, and one of the things that Toynbee points out is that a civilization on its way out, inverts that. So there's a vulgarization of the patrician class where they begin to speak
in profanities and and become
unfortunately, that is so yeah, but I think we mustn't be too pessimistic about everything okay. But I mean, you all wrote that you are someone who's found in Islam, something which gives him the foundation that he needs in order to confront this gradual degeneration of things all around us.
And I respect that you want if one from find that foundation, one can then start building again, to recapture those things which are jeopardized by the laxness of our, of modern society. And I think you've got to be optimistic about that. You've got to think that you can recapture these things. Otherwise, you know, what, what are you doing as a teacher? You know, that's Yeah, it depends on what day it is. So
yeah, the Arabs have a famous story about a king who had a positive day and a negative day.
Were you on welfare? So I mean, some days I look out there and it's so overwhelming. Yeah, that What's happened? I think we're old enough. You're a little ahead of me. But we're both old enough to know how different the world that we grew up in is today and it's quite devastating in a lot of ways my mother who was 96 when she passed, I said to her she when she was born that was an ottoman Calif in 1921. And I asked her and she was extremely liberal. And and I was raised with with a lot of liberal sensibilities. My father was very conservative. But so I got both sides and it was very interesting to see those those two views and and how powerful each one is, and its own way. But when
I asked her once, just what what do you think is the worst thing about what's happened in the she said manners? Yes, just lots of manners. And and one of the there's a French I can't remember his name, but there was a French ethicist who wrote a book on virtues about 15 years ago. That Yeah, yeah. Can't think it was called the book of virtues. That's right. And the first virtue he had in there was courtesy. Yes. And and one of the foundational virtues of the Islamic civilization is add up. And and which means comportment. It means decorum. It means courtesy, but it also means in literature. Exactly. So the adid isn't is is a, the idea is somebody who has absorbed the
humanities. Yes. Well, the habits of proper dialogue. And yeah, I mean, that. That's, that is very interesting. Of course, you living here in Berkeley, you only you only have to look out the window to see how far things can be climbing. You know, I live look out my window onto the English countryside, right? And mostly horses whose whose manners remained constant from generation to generation. But go ahead, yeah, but, you know, Berkeley is famous for being the pioneer in degeneracy or whatever form.
And maybe one should, you know, the very fact that you can plant your institution here, and still get, not only recruit people, but also create this kind of, atmosphere of, of peace and, and goodwill. In the middle of all this suggests that, you know, that that Berkeley style degeneracy is perhaps not more than skin deep. And well, can I say something in defense of Berkeley? Yeah, of being here. I found the, the The people here are, they're very welcoming people in and there's that. And this is where I really tried to avoid and maybe it's my mother and my father's influence on me of just seeing both sides. I really try to avoid Manichaean type of worldviews and and I think,
you know, that this Dionysian impulse that is clearly there in us as a species and the Apollonian this idea of order, as opposed to this kind of chaotic, ex ecstatic type of being and I think one of the things in our tradition in the Islamic tradition was very interesting to me is they have this concept of what they call the moose Dube, Sadek, who's the the goal in in the spiritual tradition of Islam is to be inwardly in a state of ecstasy, but outwardly in a state of sobriety. And so there's this this very interesting, Dionysian Apollonian balance that's actually taking place. And I think one of the things that happens in a culture that that loses the ability to experience internal
ecstasy, like to, you know, where it is really comes from the soul. I mean, I'll give you an example. there's a there's a, a I recently I've been reading a book called VIDEOCRACY, which is about viral videos online and and there was a video that went viral by this guy named bear Vasquez, and it was him seeing a double rainbow outside of his house, and he's just in a state of just
Ah, and then he starts crying, he breaks down and just starts crying.
Trying and he's asking what does this mean? And and there's something very powerful about that is such an appropriate response to a double rainbow. And I think whatever happened, it resonated in a lot of people. what he was saying, I think we, our culture no longer gives people vehicles for the experience of joy. That's a really important point. Pleasure has driven out joy. Exactly. Yeah. Because joy is essentially something which comes from your deep social nature, from your need for others and your need to give to others. Yes. And I think that I've often, you know, the problem is we're agreeing about too much. But I see this in the change in patterns of dancing. The dancing that
I love, like Scottish country dancing,
formation dancing, I had to do Greek dancing. Yeah.
They are full of joy because they are ways of relating to others, forgetting about your, your appetites just being with whereas modern,
head bashes, solipsistic, solipsistic, narcissistic, and a narcissism is joyless. It because it concentrates only on what can be received and not what can be given. Well, the other thing was fascinating to about about that, because I thought about dip k with Lebanese dancing, Syrian dancing, which is very similar to Greek dancing. And one of the things about that type of dancing is that there's a formalism, that's very rigid. But within that formalism, once you master it, you're allowed to improvise and do certain things. There's a freedom that comes and this is something that my father used to always say about the liberal arts is that the purpose was this immense discipline
that set you free. Yeah, that, that through that structure and discipline, you actually become free. And I think we, this conflation of freedom with licentiousness and freedom with do what thou will, the the kind of the thelema, you know, the abbey of thelema, this idea that,
that we can just simply do what we we want, and that's how we're going to find happiness. Yeah, you're absolutely right. And there's a false idea of freedom, which took over the world in the 60s, in a way.
With the baby boomers, we don't know quite why. But this idea that freedom means that the absence of control, rather VEDA would say it was a change, sorry, the absence of control rather than rather than an order in the soul. Right. You know, my ideal of freedom is something like box art of fugue, in which every note is necessary, but every note is totally free, you know that, that idea that there is a an order, which reveals itself through free gestures. That's really what you're saying about those old Mediterranean style styles of dances.
I think it's also rhetoric was like that. I mean, Shakespeare.
Maryam Joseph wrote a dissertation Shakespeare in the arts of language, where she proved that he had mastered all of these rhetorical treatises of his of his time, and, and knew over 200
tropes and schemes, it's amazing, and often borrowing from the very text that he that he had mastered. So the artifice which used to be a kind of positive term in, in the past this idea of, of, of craft of real craftsmanship. And I think the two areas where we still see it in our culture to a certain degree, I mean, popular music is is, is very troubling in a lot of ways, but I think you still see it in in music and sports athletics. You see it in jazz improvisation? Yes, yes.
Which, which doesn't make sense at all, until you've mastered the chord sequence and right and can hear the hidden melody in the improvisation. Yes. So in sports, people go to these stadiums or they watch on television, what they're waiting for, is that magical moment. You know, the triple play in baseball? I don't know what they have the equivalent in cricket is this, I think, hitting something for six or something. But but there's a moment where and people look at each other as if they've just witnessed a miracle. Something, but that that can only happen because of an immense discipline that occurred and, and and, and we've lost that. We've lost that in so many other areas of being
human. But again, we can get it back and we got to be we have got to be optimistic about this. Well, we for us, in our tradition, it's considered an obligation
To be hopeful, yes, that will of course likewise for Christians faith open charity over three fundamental values. Meaning by charity, love, we establish certain kind of love. Yes. But that's another problem that I do have love has become so corrupted. Well, it's
it's the Greek sound that nice distinction. Yeah. Between Agha Payne Eros and all the other sorts of love to Arabs do that as well. Yeah, Arabs have 10 different types of love. Right? The highest being color, right? The lowest being Asian, which is what actually yeah, desire. euros. Yeah. But hibbott is still quite a good, it's a beautiful thing. Yeah. And and it's related to this cognitive another word, which is seed, that love is something that is nurtured and Rose, because hub is seed and hub is love. Right?
You know, one of the things that
that the traditional world.
CS Lewis talks about this, but one of the things that the traditional world really understood was the Wheel of Fortune, which has really been removed from, from our culture, this idea that, that there is this cycle. Yeah, and you're talking about optimism when you're down at six o'clock, which in the wheel was traditionally the corresponding emotion was was despair. Yeah. Right. So
nine o'clock was hope, right? 12 o'clock joy. And then three o'clock was fear. But that, you know, buoy theists in that the constellation philosophy, that second chapter where he talks about this, you know, this this wheel of fortune, and and our culture is, you know, it doesn't allow for that, that recognize because it doesn't, it doesn't allow for the idea that ultimately, we must be reconciled to things rather, because there's always going to be, it's always going to be someone else's fault. Right, if you're in trouble, and it's always gonna be the case that, that someone's gonna step in and give you what you need. Right? I mean, what what brought my attention? That was,
there was hope, you know, how, yes, because the, in the, in the Islamic tradition, the way to get out of the wheel was to get into the hub. Right? Yeah. You know, to to, to get out of the Yeah, so you're not spinning, you're not spinning anymore that things around, you can can have this the still pointing turning world as TS Eliot says, Yeah, yeah. Well, you know, one of the things in trying to revive a civilization is Islam. Toynbee talks about a civilization with its back up against the wall. And and he says that there's different responses to that one of them is what he called the herodian response. And I think you see that in places like Malaysia and, and other Muslim cultures,
where Morocco is a good example of that, of just recognizing we've lost sovereignty, we have to live in the world, and let's do our best. But then he says, there's the zealots, who refused to accept. It's kind of the massada complex, Where, where, where, instead of trying to grapple with what's happening, they end up just reacting against it. And, and, and, and fighting it, even to the death, so becomes a kind of nihilistic response to a crisis of civilization. But then he talks about the Pharisees the kind of Benedict option, which is to, to try to preserve a getting back to conservation to try to preserve the best of a civilization, I think, what one of the things that I'm
trying to do, and that we're trying to do here, it's a tuna, we have a, an extraordinary civilizational tradition in both the West and in the Muslim world. And Muslims living in the West are very often unaware of how powerful Western civilization and the idea is that many of them I mean, not in a lot of ways, the modern world, to me is a Christian heresy, because many of these extraordinary ideas, the rights of man, yeah, the idea that everybody should be free, you know, these are byproducts of the Christian. Yeah. And, and, and Locke and Hume, all these people, they were informed by Christianity. So their ideas didn't simply come out of some kind of philosophical
vacuum, that these were people that were in societies that were deeply dyed in the wool Christian societies. Yeah, one of the questions that people we in Europe in particular have is what happens to Islamic civilization in the Middle East, you know,
we, you know, those of us who study these things, do
recognize that there was an incredible inheritance of philosophy, law, literature, and then suddenly nothing. Yeah. And now, you go to the Middle East era, of course, you meet their educated people, they're very, very few and far between. and the, and nobody seems to be concerned to teach this. And when you get the radical movements like ISIS, it's not the knowledge and beauty of Islam that appeals to them, but rather than the ease with which it can justify their murderous rage. Sure, you know, and that's something which I feel not enough is said about this. And in particular, we, we need Muslims to speak out about this and say, Look, you guys, Islam is not about justifying these
primitive emotions of not belonging, you have, it's about something else. It's about an inheritance. I don't know whether you feel the same about that. Well, I mean, I would say, first of all, one of one of the things that stable Muslim societies, despite the the,
the political problems, despotism is certainly a problem in many parts of the Muslim world, but stable Muslim societies. What what struck me and I lived in, in several Muslim countries, for many years, I was over 10 years in the Muslim world, what struck me actually was just the incredible goodness of so many Muslims. I mean, I really, I found the generosity, the hospitality, the incredible theocentric worldview that informs them, and the ability to withstand incredible suffering. I mean, I'll give you an example. When I, when I was in West Africa, I was trained as a nurse. So when I, when I, when I was in, and I lived in West Africa, when I was in West Africa, I
went with a physician, and we would see patients, and one of the things that was so amazing was people would tell their symptoms, but they would, they would always preface it by saying, I'm not complaining. I'm just, you asked me what I'm feeling. So I just want, I want you to know, I'm not complaining. And then they would just say and hamdulillah you know, Praise be to God. And because they really were afraid of complaining, just the gratitude was so, so powerfully embedded in a lot of these traditional cultures. I literally saw Moroccan men when I first went to Morocco in 1977, on more than one occasion, if they saw bread, they would pick it up and put it on their forehead and
then put it in a in a high place. You know, as your lb has a wonderful statement, he says that I he said, I don't know what power exploded in the seventh century of Arabia,
that spread to the libraries of Cordoba, but I got a glimpse of it in the way the more walked in 1913 in Tangier. And, and, and, to me, there's, I love so much about the Muslim world. And there's so many things that I see in the Muslim world, that that when I come back to the west, I really get a bit depressed. Yeah, what are you you're talking about piety and its widest sense. Exactly. It says that your gestures, your words, your way of being towards others, all fit into a
kind of a pattern, which is not just you, but also is informed by courtesy as well as obedience and I just saw so many examples of that. Yeah, I'll give I'll give you just one I was we were on a trip in the Sahara, and our in our car got stuck and and we had to seek refuge in a in a bed one there was some Bedouin staying there. And it was incredibly windy night. And they literally sacrificed a lamb for us, they cooked it they fed us and and and these incredibly poor people. And then and then we went to sleep and and because there was so much when the man was holding up the central pillar of the tent, so that didn't collapse. When we woke up about four hours later, he was still there
holding it. And, and and I was with an Englishman who just said to me, did he stamped the whole night? And I said, Yeah, he did. And and I just saw so many examples of that out, of course, is that Bedouin hospitality, the sense that the stranger is more important than you. That is something which is not only Islam is part of the desert way of life. No, I agree. And I think many traditional I would say I would argue that if you go to Mexican villages, you'll find very similar and it's something about traditional cultures. This breeds that but I think Islam definitely inculcates that in its followers when it's practice, practice.
Really? Now as to your question, what happened? I think the same could be asked about the West because, I mean, if I look at what's happened to family, if I look at at the fact that pornography is, is the main entertainment medium now, in the West, I mean, it's quite incredible the industry of which you and I are very familiar with, just from that, what we happened to be part of it, the Witherspoon. But
I think two things happened that that are tragic in the Islamic tradition. One is
somebody like Al farabi, who was ignored. Or or Aveiro is, is another example of that, that the the the influence of kind of Eastern despotism, which was actually very alien to the Arabs, the Arabs were far more democratic. So the prophets Allah is that, um, I mean, there's a chapter in the Quran called shorter chapter 42, which is mutual consultation. And and, and so the idea of having a type of parliamentary in government would have been very natural to the Arabs, because that's the way they tend to do it was more like an Athenian democracy, and a lot of ways. In fact, when I took my teacher Sheikh Abdullah bin beja, to the parliament in England, he was very struck by the House of
Lords, he really liked the idea of having
what in the Arabic version are called al haleyville acid, the people that can
unravel and then put back together again, and these are like notables in a culture that have a lot of life experience. And so they have a wisdom that they can help guide a society, he was very struck by that, but but he he, and this is something you bring up. I mean, he felt that
a parliamentarian government would be perfectly consonant with an Islamic way of ruling that there isn't really any fixed type of Islamic rule. And I think what happened in the Muslim world is despotism, a kind of an Eastern despotism became a model. And I think it really stifled a lot of the incredible intellectual and spiritual growth that occurred in the early part of this. So also, the collapse of the Ottoman Empire wasn't that Well, I mean, that was a huge gap, which led to the new kind of kind of criminal apparatus that advanced through the bath party and things like that take, take over this ripe fruit. And
but yes, I mean, politically, obviously, things went terribly wrong. But what is always concerned me is the cultural aspect where, where is that? You know,
what has happened to the great universities? And where do we find
the proper articulate discussions in literary form? And all the things that actually and the Islamic civilization really needs? I mean, well, that's what we're trying to do here. Yes.
We, and I think there are people within the Muslim culture, I mean, I have friends in in Turkey that are trying to do the same thing. And, and, and there, there are attempts, but again, if you if you look at at the Muslim world has been hard hit for several 100 years. I mean, there's been a continue, there's an argument now amongst certain orientalist tradition about that there wasn't a kind of stagnation or ossification, which I think, to me is absurd. I mean, I can clearly see that that the incredible interest in science and technology in in early Islam was amazing. And, I mean, if there was a Nobel Prize 1000 years ago, it's been said, every name on the list would have been
Muslim. So So that's something that I think we as a as a, as a religious tradition and oma, that we have to think deeply about and I think it's very important. I mean, we called our our journal renovar to artists deed in Arabic, which is to make new again to renovate the idea and this is, I think, a very conservative idea, the idea that the house is there, and instead of tearing it down and rebuilding a house, if it's a beautiful house with with with a solid foundation, we need to renovate it, to make it new again. I'm certainly well, that's the same task that we have in the West. But of course,
there is we have the freedom to do it. That's the important thing that many people worry about, about the Muslim world. Do people have the freedom to do what you want to do? Well, I think you're certainly doing your role in in promoting the idea of conserving the best of the past. My last
question to you. One of the things that troubles me most about
a lot of attacks on conservativism is the idea that
the best of progressivism, like the elimination of slavery, the the the the idea of getting rid of racism, as you know, the this, this idea of somehow that there can be ethnic superiority of one people over and I believe that there, there are civilizational aspects that are certainly, I think I would much rather have freedom than despotism. And this idea that we can relativize these type things is wrong. But the idea that one group of people is better than another group is a very odious idea. I think anybody that has thought deeply about that problem, but this idea that conservativism is conserving the worst of the past as opposed to the best. And, and is not also acknowledging the
idea that there are things that have to change. And then it becomes what are the strategies to bring about that change that that are going to go? I would say, as I understand it, that of course, human beings are imperfect. That's the whole reason why they need institutions in order to mediate between them, and overcome conflict without violence, you know, but we have inherited those sort of institutions, institutions that enable us to rectify problems and make things better, we're never going to make them perfect. But that's why what we should be conserving are those procedures, the things that that enable us to relate to each other in a humane and civilized way. And that's, that,
for me, is what it's all about. All right. Well, on that note, I want to thank you just for coming out and gracing us with your intelligence and and
you've been supporting our our work with the journal that ranawat do. I hope you're some of the people that enjoy reading yours will also benefit from from our journal. I will Yeah, maybe you could give a little plug. Yeah, I will definitely I think Zeitoun was one of the
points of hope in the world in which we live now. Thank you. All right. Well, God bless you and thank you and I look forward to our continued discussion.