Channel: Jonathan Brown
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Welcome to The Breakdown. This is your host yes or no RT coming to you straight from the very south side volume. Thanks again for joining us on this new episode and welcome our new listeners and viewers. Again, this episode will cover racism and social injustice in the West. In this case, we are going to speak yet again about what's happening in France, but also what's happening in the US, we will see what it means to be Muslim in the West, in France and America. What are the similarities where things are different. And of course, there will be difference because of different histories and political traditions in order to further speak of what's happening in America and also have some
kind of a look over the events in France and what that could mean for Muslim minorities in the West to to address these issues, and maybe see the points of again, divergence or not. I welcome Jonathan Brown, who is a professor of Islamic civilization at the University of Georgetown. He also happens to speak French and Arabic, which also gives him really the capacity to have an American look over French events, but also to accept criticism from French speakers like myself. Nothing Brown, welcome to you. Well, thanks for inviting me, although I guess I kind of invited myself on the show because I sent so much fan mail that eventually you had to
what actually what you do not know. And because you mentioned it, actually, you are on the radar for quite a long time, since I guess, summer of 2020. And I was following like, especially your rule your various books, on Islam, Islamic civilization, I was like this guy needs to come and maybe, you know, speak of whatever is happening in the US, especially back then we had the Black Lives Matter marches and the mass mobilizations, which we're also finding an echo throughout Europe, the UK, France, and the Netherlands. So finally, you made it here. So we are very happy to have you. And to start the conversation when I ask you a simple question. And I know you've been following the events
taking a look at what's happening under a so called liberal president like Emmanuel Macron, who is pushing to Bailey's that will be the landmark accomplishments. If I can say of the last year of his presidency, the comprehensive security bill, which would strengthen these trade, the state's course coercive powers, loosening checks and balances, and whatever what was left of them. And of course, the anti separatism bill, which is solely targeting Muslim communities, from Washington, where you are, how did how do these events? Or how do you relate to these events?
Yeah, I mean,
so I think that, you know, in general,
I know there's somebody that you're aware of, I'd probably it's one of the things that I really like about your, your podcast, and the resources you give is that you, you help explain this to a to a kind of a worldwide audience, especially Anglophone audience, but you know, that, in some ways, there's this
you know, real disconnect between maybe I think, in this case, it's correct to say kind of Anglo Saxon perspective on on religion, government or religion, society, government, society, and a more kind of
maybe continental European, especially French perspective on things like public order, secularism notion of public space.
But really, you know, a debate about identity, right? I think what's the scary part about all of this is
you know, how I guess how little in the end it is about things like terrorism and national security and things like that, and how much it is about identity. And
that's the reason that scary is because, you know, look, none of us none of us want a situation where somebody goes and shoots people, right? None of us would want that to happen. If you know if I knew somebody was gonna go shoot somebody, I'd call the police if you knew someone was gonna go shoot somebody, I'm sure you'd call the police. Right. So none of you know if we could if someone said to you know, we have certain measures that are going to effectively you know, are going to keep people safe effectively and also taken against
alliteration civil liberties and all this stuff. I mean, that's not that's not super controversial. But what's interesting about it, both in the US and in France is that these, these gestures, these movements, these these attempts to,
you know, to target Muslims very publicly target them, right? They don't follow really,
you know, like, in the US this stuff didn't start, really until, like, Donald Trump didn't come along until 2015 2016 911. Happened 20 years ago, 15 years before that, right? So, A, it's not about some responding to some clear and present danger of a terrorist threat. It's about responding to a perception in the population, that Muslims are a threat to it to identity, right. So the people's identity is under threat, the notion of belonging is under threat, the notion of the world of the making sense of the world they live is under Islam is under is under threat. And then Muslims become the scapegoat for that, right, they become the other that everybody can gang up on and used to,
like, you know, engage in negative integration to sort of create How do you solve this crisis of identity you?
You pick someone that you're not, and then that defines who you are? Right? So, you know, watching this in Europe is frightening, a little bit less. So in the UK, but still in the UK, it's still present. And it has, especially in some, I think that migrant crisis was that 2015 When the was that when that wave of migrants came from the ER with that, not even before the 2011 2012 or 13. Yeah, I mean, that that like that one summer, when there was a huge wave, and that the picture of that kid, it was dead on the beach. And
that was later on. Yeah. So
you were like, it's, it's crazy to look at it at ease, you're especially EU countries and see that.
Like, it seems like the the thing that under from to 2010. In the United States, the thing that ended up defining the Republican Party or kind of conservatism in the US was anti Muslim, right? So Islamophobia becomes a thing that allows the kind of right, that can conserve the Republican Party and the right to have a cohesive identity. And now, it's like seeing that on a whole continent, right, the whole it's like the whole continent of Europe, is, you know, they
they don't agree politically, they don't agree in terms of types of government, they're agree in terms of, you know,
how looser or or tight they want the EU to be, but the one thing they can agree on is that they're not Muslims. Right? So and the Muslims don't really have a place in Europe. And if that's going to define kind of what Europe is, that's just my, you know, I don't my perspective, I could be wrong about this. But what's terrifying about that is because it's you're not just dealing with some, you know, okay, there's a there's a terrorist threat. How do we solve this? Right? You're, it's like, you're, it's like you're facing
like a psychological mess. You're facing like a psychological meltdown on a continent wide level? And how can you possibly expect to negotiate that? I mean, it's just it's so intimidating and terrifying. And at that point, people just, they don't care what they sacrifice or what sort of hip hop hip out hypocrisy they engage in.
You know, they'll they'll, they'll say, you have to wear a mask and you can't wear a niqab. I mean, what the heck, this is ridiculous, you know, things like that. It's just I just have to make this statement about Muslims are not welcome. I mean, which was, I mean, look at the niqab, the full face vil example. I mean, that's the the typical example of how
a law was passed, just to further, you know, serious Slama phobia, and make it even more mainstream first, when France passed the ban, the ban, I think it was 2010 or 2009. It happened in the midst of the global financial meltdown. So it's not like Frances priorities. were, you know, this, you know, crony capitalism that led to a global collapse, and a questioning of how our economies function and how they are pegged to global finance. No, the debate in France was first, the Nicolas Sarkozy, back then the conservative president, set up the national platform to debate what it means to be French the grand debate on national identity. And in the meantime, we had the controversies about the full
face veil, the full face veil was is actually a not even an isolated event. It's like almost non existent as they were, you know, pushing for this measure or that you know, Muslim women wearing the full face
They are, you know, ISIS promoters, and they are no al Qaeda activist in disguise, etc. domestic intelligence publishes a report and says, we estimate the number of women who wear it to 367 women out of a population of over 60 million. So that shows that, you know, as an extremely isolated, if not non existent event was actually, you know, turned into a national controversy that rallied the left and the rights. And when the law was about to be passed. They couldn't mention, we are, you know, you know, banning it because it promotes a specific brand of Islam, which which we deem to be extremist, the past for security reasons, because they've got constitutionally why's it couldn't
have passed, so they had to frame it, like, we're in the public space for security reasons, we need to see your face. And when I salute French Muslims, is that as the pandemic, you know, bigger, you know, you know, went out of control in early 2020. And the masks became, you know, mandatory. They're refrained from saying hell haven't you know, prohibited covering up your face in public? And now you're asking us to do the same thing. But again, it shows you how, you know, small events that have or that almost negligible or, you know, use to further promote Islamophobia.
My other question, Jonathan, is, when 911 hits in, in the US, you know, kind of you and I were, you know, in college, I guess, here, and
the reaction that the US government had towards American Muslims,
was different from the reaction we saw in France, after the January 2015, and November 2015 attacks. Where do you see the difference? And where do you see similarities in terms of framing the enemy within in order to further pass
extreme laws, like the Patriot Act in the US, and the state of emergency in France?
Yeah, I mean, I think that, if,
before answering that, I mean, I think one of the things that keep in mind, I was just thinking about this, while you're talking is that, you know,
we discussed this earlier, like, you know, that the book by Aaron Kanani, the Muslims are coming, which is a terrific book, if people haven't read it, or here's some, you know, short essays he wrote kind of based on that. I think book came out in 2015 or so. But, you know, his book is really
makes an excellent point, which is that
in the United States, which is a country, which has a very robust freedom of religion protection, I mean, I'm grateful for that. I'm really grateful. There's a really strong constitutional protection of freedom of religion, and freedom of speech. But what was clear was that, you know, whether you're talking about the kind of right wing or left wing church were liberal in the United States,
the only, you know, conservatives were against Muslims general, or liberals were, again, okay with Muslims, but the Muslims have to be de politicized. Right, so so no matter what, even the people who like you, you have to be de politicized. Right, you can't be a real citizen. And I think you mentioned this. I think it was in your podcast last week or something, you know, that to exist as citizens, right? What is what the muscles while we want to exist as citizens, we want to exist as three dimensional citizens, by the way, I'm Muslim in case anyone's listening and cares, right? I'm Muslim. So, you know, what do I want? I want to be able to go out and say, I like this, I don't like
that. I advocate this, I advocate that I think this I think that right, I Were You know, I want to go out like any other American has the right to go out and give my opinion about God policy, government, whatever, laws, and that's all I want, right? Um, but what the Muslims have to be de politicized. Right. So they can't, they can't express political opinions, unless they're saying something that's so kind of innocuous And so sort of such a bromide that it might as well not be said, right. So I think that that's this similarity between France and the US is, in both cases, Muslims have to be de politicized. But the difference in France is I get the sense that Muslims very
existence is political. Right? So in America, if you if you have a hijab on or Muslim, you know, Muslim guy with a beard,
or you know, you're going to the mosque five times a day, right? This can be really understood as free practice of religion or free exercise of religion. And that's, no one's gonna have a problem with that. So even the worst, not the worst. Islamophobes but even
then kind of Islamophobes will be like, look, okay, these people have a right to do this, except by the way, if they there's this new line, which kind of emerged during the Trump administration,
which probably gone into hibernation now, but this idea that Islam is not a religion that it doesn't it doesn't deserve protection or freedom or religions. By the way, you should get Asamoah Dean to come on your show and talk about this her book, but when Islam is not a religion is very good book would love to have her. Yeah, but so my point is in America in America, you know, the kind of the religious person, the woman with a hijab, the guy with a beard, right? That could be like the Amish guy with a beard or the Jewish guy with a Kipper or the, you know, the nun right or the like, these are all just religious person and that person is going to be protected as a religious person on
Tonka, you know, Persona villagers, they're like, they're gonna get protected, right that now is, but the second they get political right, in America, when you talk about politics is really about ISRAEL PALESTINE. That's really the that's the, you know, criticizing American foreign policy. Sure, but especially ISRAEL PALESTINE is like the red line, that you you don't cross in order to be a good Muslim, you have to either never talk about that, or do you have to be very supportive of American policy toward Israel? When so,
I keep keep talking longer, longer. Well, I'll try and be the same. Because I was gonna bring it back later. Go ahead. So the, I think the important thing to keep in mind is that, you know, in both United States and in France, the, the kind of the aim of the government, the aim of the system of the establishment is to create de politicize Muslims is to deploy as deep politicize Muslims by force and to create depoliticize Muslims by structuring education and media and civil society. Right.
In the difference between the France and you and us is that in France, the Muslim existence itself is political. Whereas in the US, the Muslim existence is not political. It's a religious expression, but political expression is political. Okay. I think that's an important distinction. But the reason I think it's if you think about that, you can see that what happened after 911 is, and by the way, you know,
we can, we can have a whole show criticizing George W. Bush and everything like that, but one thing that he did, which Donald Trump never did, and which was a really important thing that he did after 911, like maybe one or two days after the attack, he went to the Islamic center on Massachusetts Avenue in downtown DC. And he gave a press conference, he said, he stood there with a bunch of Muslims that Islam is a religion of peace, Muslims are not our enemy. I mean, and so he was, you know, obviously, the President, the head of the Republican Party, and, you know, evangelical Christian, leader of evangelical Christians. And what that did is, in a way, a lot of ways that kept
a cap on Islamophobia, for eight years,
kept the cap on it in terms of public discourse, right. So in terms of what you saw in movies, what you saw in media, what would be, you know, how political discourse function, how social discourse function, there was not a huge there was not like a
the really bad Islamophobia in America didn't come until after George W. Bush left until around 2010. Now, what happened during his time is the American
organs of government, especially the justice system, cracked down severely on Muslim organizations. I mean, who knows how many 1000s and 1000s of Muslims were just deported. We don't even know who they are or what their cases are, who are not citizens, right, who are here on visas or studying or something, they are just gone.
But in terms of the number of Muslim some of the major Muslim organizations were either shut down, put under investigation or under threat of investigation. The some of the most prominent figures in American Muslim leadership were arrested were often on sort of trumped up charges, but there was there was a you know, hammer coming down just make it evidently clear, Muslim organizations are cannot breathe freely, right you if there is even a one molecule of disagreement with US government policy, if there is even a molecule of one cent of money that goes towards anything that could in any way be suspect in any way. The one case to hold on foundation case, the biggest charity Muslim
charity in the US Holy Land Foundation was shut down. Its its founders and directors were put in prison from between six I think 6070 years in prison for giving money to an organization
In Gaza, that the US government also gave money to so the same as the cat committees in Gaza, that the US government that is United Nations used to give money to people in Gaza hold and foundation with money was giving to those organizations. What are the US government say? They said, Oh, but you
hold on foundation, you knew these were linked to Hamas?
I mean, just imagine that, imagine that you're so and Muslims can't even give money to the same organizations that everyone else is giving money to because something comrades they are but you, you think we think you knew that there's something about this, this organization that's linked to Hamas actually should not mean like, you know,
me like it went beyond organizations, because, for example, when there were revelations about the NYPD surveilling Muslim communities, you know, people estimate that it began at least as early as 2002. So it actually went beyond the Holy Land foundation and how the network of Muslim charities was, you know, was, you know, targeted by the Bush administration. The other thing, though, is that, don't you think that George W. Bush made his speech after 911 in in a mosque in Washington,
because back then, Islamophobia wasn't really such a mainstream ideology? Because if we compare with Trump, foreign policy, American foreign policy, especially towards Palestine didn't really change. Even it got worse under Trump, but under a bush, don't you think he refrained from acting like, you know, Donald Trump? Because in 2002, you know, the there were still some calculus of some limits that you know, any respectable politician wouldn't cross? Yeah, I mean, I, I think the problem is, is sort of like a chicken and egg.
problem, right? Where it you know, did he did he did he kind of restrain himself on Islam and Muslims, because the song phobia wasn't really a thing yet, or was Islamophobia really not a thing it because he was restraining himself? I think that, and this had to go back to the late 1990s. Remember, and this is going to, you know, shock some of your listeners, maybe but Muslims in the United States got George W. Bush elected, no joke, actually, Muslims in Florida voted for George W. Bush. I was in America back then Jonathan. I was in Texas. And I remember people, you know, in a Muslim community, for example, in in Dallas in the DFW era area, were campaigning for because I was
still I was I was there and other students in there, who the who in his right mind would do that. And people were I agree with you, like I saw with my very eyes that people from the Muslim communities campaigned for him. Now, this is a sore topic for a lot of reasons. But one of them is that, you know,
a lot of African American Muslims will say, you know, what do you mean, Muslims were for Bush, because African American Muslims work, but let's like, you know, we did, that's a whole nother discussion. Right. But I mean, the fact of the matter is that certain parts of the Muslim community United States, were definitely supportive of Bush, and they were supportive of him, not because they were
you know, it was it was an it was an educated decision, right. So Bush had come out very specifically and said, identified certain rights concerns and Muslims had about secret evidence, detention of people in immigration prisons. And he was, you know, this guy was really, you know, going and saying, We worship the same God, where people have faith. I mean, he had Muslim leaders in his interfaith organizations in his faith initiative organizations, that even before 911, during his time in the White House, he had a lot of Muslim leaders involved in things. So
you know, I think that if there hadn't been in 911, the story of the Bush administration, by the way, I want I want to make clear, I'm not some, you know, closet Bush fan here or something. I'm just I think, if someone could else could disagree with me and say that I'm wrong. But I mean, I'm giving you my assessment, right. I think that if there had not been a 911, that just bushes, his legacy in terms of
not just Muslims, the United States, but kind of religious people of faith and religious, the role of religious people in civil society will be very different. Right? So Muslims will be really part of that, and not something excluded from that or something suspect. So I think that we have to keep in mind that Bush came into office and his sort of default setting was actually to try and reach out and build bridges with Muslim communities in the United States as a as basically looking at Muslims as Republicans, right. So like Ronald Reagan, allegedly legend has it he said this about Hispanics that they were their Republicans, they don't they just don't know it yet. Right. So they're, you
know, they're, this is the stereotype. I think a lot of this has been crushed.
I think but you know, religious family value is hard working conservative. Right, these people, Republicans, right. So I think that the idea that the Bush administration was Muslims are Republicans, and, you know, family values conservative religious.
And so, and a lot of them a lot of immigrant Muslims, you know, small business owners, relatively economically successful. These are the people that, you know, these are Republican written all over them. But so it was a lesson learned. Because what you're seeing right now is open. Raise the question, wasn't it? Or isn't it a trap for Muslims to vote for a candidate based solely on two things on two factors? Religious, you know, morals and fiscal reasons, because, for example, conservatives in front they would come to the local mosque, okay, go to the mosque can see, we are not like those leftists, etc, we go through traditional values, etc, they get the Muslim vote
locally. And at the national level, they throw the very competitor that voted for them under the bus study, saying there is a problem with radical Islam and communitarianism, that Muslims are self excluding themselves, from their self excluded from the rest of society. Isn't it that Trump to just vote for a candidate based on those two reasons? I? Well, it depends. I mean, if you know if you say that, I mean, it may be in the US, and sorry, maybe in France, but I think, you know, if you go again, go back to imagine, you know, you're in the year 2009 11 Hasn't happened yet. And, you know, you, you know, if you're a Muslim in the United States,
again, African American Muslims,
diverse concerns, but a lot of their concerns will probably be the same concerns of African American non Muslims, right, and
probably not going to feel a lot of affinity for the Republican Party or feel that their interests are protected or advanced by the Republican Party. But if you think about a lot of immigrant Muslims, they'd look at the Republican party and say, you know, what's, what's the, what's the downside? I mean, what are you? You know, there's no,
there wasn't a lot of talk about radical Islam that wasn't perceived as a major threat. So honestly, was okay. But I mean, there's in the US, there's no difference. I mean, back then, that was before the war on terror. Right. So it was basically things like Israel, Palestine, and the Republican Party, the Democratic Party or not, you know, the idea that there's any difference between them on ISRAEL PALESTINE, you know, maybe that's started a little bit in the last couple of years. But I mean, go back before 2010 or 2011, or 2012. And, uh, you know, you couldn't, you couldn't fit a razor blade between the two parties on that issue. So, you know, what's theirs? That's, that's a non
issue. I mean, that's a wash and in both cases. So I think that the, the, the bigger point I'm trying to make is that, you know, from during the Bush era 2000 2008
Muslim institutions were under a lot of threat from law enforcement, to D politicize them, as you said, a Muslim communities under severely surveillance, to D politicize right to the idea that you go into the mosque, you can't just say what you think you can't talk about a political issue, like another person, you can't be a citizen. But that's all true. But in terms of the kind of political rhetoric in the society, there, it wasn't, you don't see the client, you didn't see the kind of Islamophobia you saw after 2010. Then what happened after
Bush leaves office 2008. That, then that almost as soon as the as Obama won the election, you saw the emergence of this tea party, you know, essentially, white nationalism.
And what became clear during a lot of these Tea Party rallies, especially 2008 2009 2010, is that Islam phobia fear of most Muslims.
This idea of radical Islamic terrorism, which Trump would talk about all the time, this became a major motivating factor, major rallying call on the in the in the Republican Party, basically. And that when the republican party came back in the 2010, Interim elections, right, so every two years, if you can congressional elections, they want a huge number of seats on the back of this Tea Party wave Tea Party forever. And if you looked at the what's the thread that bought binds together, this Tea Party and the kind of Republican Party energy that time was Islamophobia. It binds together for foreign policy hawks, fiscal conservatives, cultural conservatives, evangelical Christians, right.
So the thing that all of these people can agree on is they don't like Muslims they want they don't want Muslims around. They see Muslims as a threat. And so
is that it's really that year with the 2010 elections that they're that Republicans realized that Islamophobia, the Muslim issue was something that you could really use to motivate voters and get them to come to the polls. And so from that point on,
Obama had to contend with that, right. And that's, by the way, that's also when you start seeing this, the burgeoning of this idea that Obama is a Muslim. Yes, that starts to come in, like it was present even before that, but I mean, this really starts to take off. And
you, you saw this with with Donald Trump and what Donald Trump got elected for a number of reasons. But one of the reasons is, he would say the thing is that all these
conservative Americans, which is probably more than half the country, I don't know exactly, but it's certainly a lot of the country. He was saying the things that they thought but that other politicians wouldn't say both. He would say this about things like transgender issues, he would say it about immigration. And he would say it about Muslims. They remember the one that San Bernardino attack happened as to a couple that shot there. All those people in San Bernardino, California, that's when Donald Trump came out and say he said he wants a Muslim ban. You know, he said he wanted a Muslim a foot video of a Muslim registry, registering Muslims in the US. And this was hugely
popular with his supporters. So that's
door. So it's really during lecture of 2010, through through 2016, that you see, like the peak of public Islamophobia in the US, and because
Obama didn't have the authority, because he wasn't a conservative to tamp it down. And Republican leaders realized that this was their key back into office, so they weren't going to restrict it.
Trump rides that into the, into the Oval Office. And then
repeatedly, it's it's a major theme of his presidency, during the four years of his presidency. Now, the last thing I'll say, and I'll shut up because you're probably like borderline comatose when you're talking. But the if you do that, from like the beginning, ever, like one of the first thing that happened in the Trump
administration was the Muslim ban. And all these people went to airports, you know, regular Americans, airports, support Muslims. My role my wife wears hijab was like walking down, you know, in the metro stations, woman comes up and she says, I just want you to know, you're welcome here. My wife obviously was born in the United States, you know, so but the point is that
deploy the people are, and one of the there was also the Women's March, which happened at the same time as the inauguration and one of the organizers was Linda Sarsour, hijab wearing Palestinian Muslim woman, right. So, like, one of the ads or as Trump came into office, the response by this very strong, huge portion of the American population that did not like Trump, the way to show you didn't like Trump was Helga Muslim was to come out against his Islamophobia, right. So the in some ways, the weird thing about the Trump years was, it was like,
the people who benefited motion Trump, being in office were his own cronies, and then American Muslims, you know, they really, because
American Muslims received a degree of sympathy and concern that had never been publicly expressed before that time.
You spoke about the attempts to depoliticize Muslims and that they are welcome as long as they don't get involved in, you know, social activism or social justice issues, etc, let alone criticize America and her policies.
The one thing I saw that was struck me is that oftentimes you will see the political establishment, mobilize the religious establishment, to do that work of the politicization making sure that the way Islam is taught in the mosque, and even in families, and in the community networks, is always an Islam that is constrained or restricted to faith or cultural activities. You pray you fast, have the poor, go to Mecca, etc. And oftentimes, you see that many Islamic institutions, be it you know, in America, France, and they will come to France, where they are extremely problematic, and they are responsible for the rise of Islamophobia. You will see that these Islamic organizations, willingly
or not, are doing that job of making sure that Muslims only view themselves as believers and that everything that falls outside of the realm of faith just like either to be disregarded or even to have to be rejected. In the case of France, for example,
No people spoke about keep speaking of the entire separatism bill, which are remind our audience is literally about cracking down on any form of organizing by Muslims, that would allow the government to violate the famous law, ICT law, which is the second rule of law that separates politics and religion. You know, it's a sacred and St. Law in France that now the government asks to violate when it comes to Muslims, that would allow the government to get involved in Muslim charities, he spoke about coup d'etat in charities, because and I think intelligence are not that stupid. They know what's happening. There is a generational clash emerging in communities between those who are born
in France, who view themselves in France and don't feel like they owe something to the establishment. And the immigrant Muslims who are still ruling those mosques and Islamic charities and behave like the need to keep a low profile, behave like you are very grateful, and never dare to criticize whether they are coming from the left or the right. And Michael said, we need to be able to intervene in charities if those
Muslim leaders are overthrown through elections. Now, among in the aftermath, or in the
following the entire separatism bill. Emmanuel Macron called for a charter of Imams that would regulate the public discourse of Imams unheard of, especially in you know, since
the proclamation of the Republic. Now, in that charter, it's about
prohibiting Imams from speaking about straight Islamophobia, or calling out
France's military presence abroad, bringing foreign conflicts at, you know, into France, or to French public debate. That means don't speak about Palestine, and on top of it, to further normalize the limits imposed by the government and to religious leaders. But the problem is
Emmanuel Macron, has asked for a charter
Musa Muslim leaders double down and they come up that first multiple organizations got together to come up with a charter that they accepted, the idea is already beyond me, this is a secular country, the government has no business imitating Clinical Affairs, and they should not have accepted it. Some of them did. Again, I learned that one of them one of the leaders of what had applied for French citizenship, so he feared for his own interests. The other one, he feared the deportation because he wasn't a French citizen. So that tells you the problem people French Muslims are facing here. But
that group was as they were drafting a charter from a call the Grand Mosque of Paris goes around them, and offers the most radical version of the of the charter and the one being used today by the government. And that charter is used as a kind of a benchmark, you sign it, you are not a separatist, you don't sign it, you are a separatist. And therefore, you are you should be kept from receiving public funding. If you can eat you can even be threatened by a shutdown.
How do you see this that happening in America? Because the Obama years weren't exactly years of full freedom, in terms of you know, how Muslims live their faith and meddling in clerical affairs was indeed happening on a regular basis. What's your take on that? Yeah, um, there's a really good article, it's turnover is a 2012. Stanford Law Review, I think it's called Creating establishment Islam. I have to, I was just trying to find on the computer, but it wasn't coming up. I can send it to you later. It's a great article.
Okay, so the difference here between United States and France is that you actually is essentially the opposite is that the United States government cannot cannot
establish any religious denomination, right? It can't. It can't give any, there's two interpretations. One is, you know, it can't give any funding or support or official recognition to religious group, or it can't give the other interpretation of it can't give funding support or recognition to one religious group and not another one, right. So either way, doing something like getting involved in shaping Muslim religious life through like, you know, mosques or Imams, and things like that would would be unacceptable for the US government to do. But of course, that's exactly what
If the US government did just through indirect means. So the
basically, you know, in a lot of ways like this is you could think about,
you know, the United States like a body and it's almost like a biological reaction to 911. Right. So if you if you if you feel there's a threat, if certain kinds of Muslims are seen as threats, if politicize Muslims are threats, then you there's all these organs of American life that can be mobilized against that, that are not actually a government, media, civil society, philanthropy, universities, right social pressure. So what happens after sort of 911 is, okay,
who's going to get the the grant, who's going to get if you propose a grant showing that Islam is actually a religion of peace, and Muslims should never ever touch any kind of weapons, or you have an A proposal, which says that I'm going to show that Muslims are actually justified in fighting when they are attacked, which is going to get the the funding from whatever grant giving organization, right, so like, who's going to be the person who's invited on CNN, the person who is sort of pushing back against things that are politically questionable, who's trying to, you know, assert their right as a citizen to have a political opinion? Or the person who's gonna say, oh,
yeah, Muslims are awful, like, look at these Muslims. They're bad, they're bad. Muslims need to do we should apologize more. Right? So who's going to who are the people who are going to be favored in public life? And so the, the various kind of organs of view of us, of us society, US establishment, even apart from the government, and of course, the government through its funding, things like education,
media, things like that seems to be able to take Yeah, it's CVE is a perfect example. Right? So the CVE is like the the the sort of follow that final blossoming of this, which really gets developed during the Obama era, during the Obama era, is this idea of, you know, how do we use law enforcement and government encouragement to,
to monitor Muslims and make sure that they're de politicized right to do? And so by that time, you know, you've created a cadre of Muslims who are actually now trained to participate in this who see financial benefit from this.
So yeah, I think that the difference is that in what in France can be done very directly through government involvement in the United States has to be done indirectly, through kind of government and establishment?
Control? Or we lazier? Yeah.
We see today that Muslims are more ever more involved in social justice issues. And at the same time, we see that there is a normalization of anti Muslim rhetoric in France is the opposite. We like we see more Muslims getting involved, but by far never enough, because there has been a tradition of keeping the masks as places of you know, pacification of neutralization, I will use the 2005 uprisings in France, October 27, Ziad and guna two youngsters in the, in the very suburbs, the northern suburbs, are live on the south side. They were like, you know, running away from the police, and they were scared and you know, they run away from the police, and they hide in that
electrical trench transformer.
And they get an electric unit and die. And the police officers, you know, they knew what was happening and did not keep them from
from you know, hiding there. And even one in the in the radio called says that said they're dead. Okay.
27th October, there are tensions, of course, people start you know, that that event becomes a point of convergence for many. And it crystallizes, all of the evidence has been brewing for decades in the in the in the volume, what we call the hood.
By the third and fourth of October of November, which means like a very two weeks later,
the the uprising becomes a national event, we have uprisings all over all over the country. And those events received no support from religious institutions, not in terms of Imams bending with youngsters in the streets, and throwing, you know, tear gas back at the police. No, I'm saying in terms of explaining, you know, and expressing to a national audience, the ills of the communities that come to their mosques, by the third and the fourth of the event becomes nationwide, and people pinpointed to the tear gassing of a mosque as the Flashpoint that that's when thing
As you know, turned into a full blown rebellion.
A famous one of the main Islamic institutions back then the EU, oh, if you knew this organisation, Islamic the force of the French student of Islamic organizations, today, rebranded French Muslims, they issue a fatwa or a legal
opinion, saying that burning cars is a lawful. And people were extremely upset. Because they were like, first, you were in there to call out, the injustice says, We are rising up against you were in there to support the family of Zia and buena, you were in there to support the mosque that got tear gassed. And here you are making this statement that nobody is calling for, and getting involved into this social uprising. The problem is, again,
pundits from the right, who call these they are not social uprising, they are ethnic, you know, riots, and these Muslims are inherently enemies of the Republic, etc, etc. It is the Muslims against the French Republic. And I remember even the coverage of Fox News was beyond ludicrous.
And people said, because you get involved by speaking of this, in religious terms, and calling out these events, you in effect, turned a social uprising to an ethnic, right, because people said, Look, even the mosque, even though the Islamic is the Islamic Federation, is involved. When I look back at what's happening in the US, you see more and more religious organizations getting involved in the BLM and marches and speaking up against speaking excuse me in favor of social justice, and demanding, you know, equal rights for all. But there are still some resistance, right? There is still some resistance by many who would call out BLM the same way you have organizations, you know,
calling out, you know, activism in the body or even myself in the course of my work. And I keep saying that the first roadblock when you when you march against Islamophobia, my apologies. The first roadblock you face is the the local mosque, because they will be the outsourcing partner to make sure that all this activism is shut down.
Do you think this is due to a
poor political education of some Muslim leaders
the absence of a theology of liberation, or that there is inherently a contradiction with the within Islamic currents? Some of them are conservative attend to be with the party of law and order, while others especially among the the the newer generations are embracing these struggles for social justice.
Yeah, well, you know, it's interesting, this is
this is probably like the key maybe the key issue that
you know, Muslim communities are dealing with, it's certainly United States and I imagine all tour as well, because, you know, the question you asked
is a knot that brings together a lot of threads are really you know, all the threads that
you know, a very various anxieties and questions and Muslims have about their own identity about their place in the societies they live in.
Just so I the article is Samuel Rask offs, Ras co FF, establishing official Islamic law and strategy, the loss and strategy of counter radicalization, which is in Stanford Law Review in I think, 2012 I yeah, I sent you the actually sent you the PDF of it. Thank you. So the
Well, first of all, I think we have to pause to to appreciate the massive change that occurs with what you're describing in terms of kind of the rise of BLM and social, you know, social justice activism in the United States and elsewhere. Right. So
you go from not just Muslims. So Muslims are de politicized after 911. Right. So they, you said you can't go into a mosque in 2010. And criticize the US government, you can't get up on a football and say something negative about the US government. I mean, you just the idea of it is terrifying. To think about being in that position.
You know, you're being surveilled. There's probably in the people in the mosque from the FBI. moles, right. They're gonna say we really started started looking into this brown guy, you know, what else is here?
saying let's start, you know, pay a visit to his house. Next thing and that's terrifying. Okay?
Now, if you let's recognize something else as well, which is that in the United States in general, to
actively to go out in public in the media and say something like
US law enforcement organizations are intentionally shooting people, innocent people,
this would be unspeakable on American television. This should be inadmissible in American public life.
groups like the Black Panthers, which are now being you know, lionized in film.
I think appropriate either those guys are really impressive. But I mean, the, if you came out and said something positive about the Black Panthers in, you know, whatever year 2000 2000 Tamizh me like that, like this was, you know, it's like you're praising terrorists, basically. Right. So
that's an American life in general.
What happens with the, with the shooting of Michael Brown, I think was 2014. Right.
And then the, the kind of the, the,
the viral spread of other videos of one black man after another after another being shot by police officers in an increasingly I mean, you can make an excuse for one, you can make an excuse for two that use it 3456 is out even more and more outrageous situations. You know, guy running away from a police officer across a field shoots him in the back? For no reason, you know, you see this over and over, suddenly you start realizing Wait a second, you know, this idea that Americans had that, you know, Americans don't have we don't have political prisoners here. We don't have, you know, we don't have police officers who shoot people here that's in other countries. That's like, you know, we
taught we see this on the news. There's some other country where they do this is not in the United States, and it is a country of justice. Yeah, maybe if things go wrong every once a while, but the idea of police officer would intentionally shoot a civilian, for no reason that's unacceptable. unconceivable, inconceivable to suddenly the inconceivable becomes conceivable, inconceivable, becomes conceivable. And
if you go from, let's say, 2000, mid 2014 2015 2016, you get to Trump election, so suddenly, not only is that it now conceivable to think about law enforcement as a source of injustice, that needs to be called out. But the head of your government is now somebody that, you know, 60% of the population thinks is a grotesque, you know, kind of monster, the sort of narcissistic, immoral, awful human being, who's now going to use the government to pursue whatever, you know, a Sikh agenda he has, so that the
ideas that had been previously unthinkable or unspeakable on the kind of left extreme left of the American political spectrum were suddenly brought within the realm of of reach of reality of of being speakable, being thinkable, because of the shock of the election of Donald Trump and of the things like Black Lives Matter, enough for the population. I think I've been shocked by this, not the whole population, obviously. So what my point is that when you think about this, this idea, we this theme, we've talked about Muslims being de politicized. Now, because society as a whole is being politicized, and is
unable to speak in political ways. On parts of the extreme left spectrum that had previously been unthinkable.
Muslims are now able to, are now able to talk
critically about US foreign policy critical critically about the US government critically about the justice system, not because there's been some recognition that Muslims are victims, because there's been some recognition that there's
victims overall, right, that that now Muslims become one voice among other critics of this system. Okay, so I think this is this is really, I don't know, maybe it's just my opinion, but this is really, really, really important because a through no
action of their own right, so Muslims
weren't the ones out in the streets marching and BLM protests, Muslims weren't through no action of their own, the
UN Environment had been created in which Muslims could be political people
for the first time in at least, you know, 16 years if not earlier, right.
Now, so but here's the problem, right, which is that
From 2001 to 2016, religious pitches used those dates, right? Muslims had been trying to convince Muslim organization Muslim individuals, Muslim institutions, mosques, imams, right had been sitting there trying to convince the US government, US law enforcement agencies, that they were not a threat that they were good citizens that they were well behaved. They were just like everybody else, right. And suddenly,
there's all these people in society who are going out and doing protests, a criticizing the government, and calling out law enforcement for being unjust and oppressive, right cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And Muslims are now on the opposite side of that, that equation. So
what you've seen, I think, since about 2015, until today is a graph. I would say this is just my anecdotal impression, but a gradual move at first, some Muslim imam, some activists, some young Muslims, started to speak out in support of things like Black Lives Matter, wanting to start adopted the vocabulary and the ideas of social justice activism,
a lot of mosque leadership and a lot of institutional leadership pushback against that. Because, yeah, you know, a lot of Muslim organizations in the US are people who benefit from the United States, you know, their wealthy immigrant and Muslim communities in the suburbs are doing well for themselves. They're part of the establishment, right? They don't want to, they don't want to rock the boat. Or they're people who, again, they've spent 15 years having, having having had it been beaten in their heads, that they cannot be political. It's not easy to suddenly transform into a political creature, especially when you're afraid, like, you know, yeah, maybe these activists
aren't going to get targeted, but who's to say your mosque isn't going to get targeted by the FBI, if you come out and support a BLM or something.
finally, the third thing, and this is very important as a kind of final threat is that
a lot of Muslims, you know, who are conservative people, right, in the sort of the vocabulary of, of kind of culture in society, right. They're conservative people in terms of their values in terms of their understanding of gender, sexuality, family life and everything like that. They are religious people. They look at a lot of these activists and they say, Wait a second, you know, you've got your, you know, your LGBT activist or Trans activist, you're, you know, all these people are all marching, but I don't agree with a lot of what they seem to stand for in terms of cultural, social, religious ideas.
And then I'm over here, you know, I've got these more conservative people who are condemning these protests, I kind of feel like more, more in common with these conservative folks.
So there's a, I say, there's also a strong strain in American Muslim, the American Muslim community that, that that doesn't want to participate or support social justice movements, because they consider certain social ideas, religion, you know, kind of whatever you want to call it, or atheistic anarchistic ideas in those in those movements to be antithetical to Islam and to what Muslims believe. So I think that's been these are all issues that have Muslim leadership, whether mosque, imams, or organizations have had to deal with when they're, as they've tried to figure out how to position themselves. visa vie, the sort of social justice movement, the broader social
justice movement. Now, some Imams came out right away, very supportive. You know, people like Omar slim man who I work with a lot have a lot of respect for him, as someone who's been done a really good job of making very clear what he believes as a Muslim, but also making it very clear that Muslims need to be on the front line against things like unjust imprisonment, police violence, things like that speak helping out, people were detained, helping out immigrants who are being separated families, that families that are being separated on the border. So
other people like Linda Sarsour were much more involved in in like,
more more kind of ensconced in or embedded in things like the Women's March, which a lot of Muslims had problems with, because, you know, women's march wouldn't let people who are pro life speak, right. So this is a big issue in the United States. The issue of abortion. I don't know if people care about this in France or not. But I mean, the thing is, like the Women's March was very pro life, or sorry, pro pro choice, right and not and a lot of Muslims didn't feel comfortable with that. So
some Muslim organizations, especially ones that came out of more like a kind of Muslim Brotherhood background. There is just so you're no there's no actual Muslim Brotherhood or
integration the United States there's, I think in the mid 1990s, it disbanded itself. But there's organizations that kind of come out have like, you know, come from that Muslim Brotherhood background. They I think were the maybe the first ones to, to join in and adopt a lot of the rhetoric and language of social justice movement. But a lot of mosques have not done so. But I think there there is increasing pressure to do so because a lot of young Muslims, you know, if you're a Muslim teenager right now, you know, let's say you're 15 1617 years old, you Trump came into power when you were 1112. You know, your teenage years were spent
being called Evil by conservatives and being welcomed and celebrated by progressives, and seeing people like Ilhan Omar or Rashida to leave, you know, members of Congress who are very vocally Muslim, but also very vocally progressive. And those young Muslims are going to come out and expect their mosque leadership to, to share their feelings about that a Muslim is someone who should be progressive. And there's a lot, there's contradictions involved in that as well. And I think those are the issues Muslims are dealing with now. But that contradiction is actually maybe
that's what will actually further apply pressure to see the rise of a Muslim theology of liberation that would set the framework for what it means to struggle for social justice as a Muslim, I'm going to just comment on one thing you said and bring you back to how liberals embraced Muslims in reaction to Trump.
marching with people does not necessarily mean you embrace whatever they stand for. So for example, you can have I'm going to give you an example, you can sometimes find the political support from an atheist, an anarchist, who is a staunch advocate of justice, who does not care whether you believe or not to him that domination is domination, and should be thought I speak of my own experience, by the way. And you can also have a staunch religious figure who is going to side with the government when it cracks down on Muslims. And one of the biggest problems we know French ministers, even in the US, for that matter, Muslim communities have faced is that many of the Imams turned to become
informants willingly or not, but they ended up working against the very interests of their communities. Yet, the POWs are the protectors of the st Muslim identity and that Islam should be upheld, and I'm working for the community, etc. While at the same time, you may have people who don't share those beliefs, but in terms of standing for justice, and against injustice, they are there. I'm going to come back, I'm going to come back, Jonathan to what you said about hugger Muslim, which became a tendency under Trump and as a rejection to his policies. We all saw what happened in the DFW airport or the O'Hare Airport and you know, JFK, etc, hundreds of people
standing with, you know, Muslim travelers.
Now, it was good to stand with Muslims. And that was also a statement that you reject Trump, even when whatever traveled to the US, you know, people are working with, you know, in my day to day job that I would go and meet over there. Yeah, sir, by the way, are they I'm sympathetic, blah, blah, etcetera. And I'm kind of, I don't like speaking about those things. Anyways, but,
but this, to me may look suspicious, because my question, Jonathan, is, How sustainable is that support of liberals towards Muslims? So now that Joe Biden is elected, if Muslims now start criticizing Joe Biden, for his policies towards Muslims in general in the US, Muslims in the rest of the Muslim world, Palestine, Kashmir, etc. was is that support really sustainable coming from liberals or that will be told Listen, we supported you, but now this is part of my language. I white to white conversation in which you have no place to express your opinion. Yeah, so I think that
there's there's two ways to think about this kind of on two registers. And by the way, I have to go in about 10 minutes because I have to teach teach class but the
the first thing to keep in mind is that is it Biden is centrists figure so so when you You probably noticed this if you follow news, the United States in
the DEM during the Democratic primaries to pick the
Democratic nominee. You know, Bernie Sanders was doing very well. Right. And he's, you know, seen as this, you know, progressive further left than Joe Biden candidate, and a lot of Muslims. So it's interesting to look and listen to community United States, there was a lot, a lot of harsh words between Muslim supporting Bernie and both of supporting Biden right.
so Okay, obviously, Biden won.
But here's the thing, right? It's not just about
Muslims can criticize Biden, because everybody can criticize Biden, right? So not just Republicans, right? There's a whole segment of the Democratic Party, and even sort of outside the Democratic Party on the left, that is very critical of Joe Biden, for any number of things, whether a foreign policy, you know, he bombed someplace in Iraq recently, I can't remember, you know,
do you know Muslims wearing anti Muslims, right? So there's all these so Muslim voices can be amongst those voices. So if, let's say, let's just imagine that Biden
sent some delivered some message to Benjamin Netanyahu or Israeli government about how American government stands in eternal support of Israel or something like that.
There'll be a lot of, I think it'd be a lot of criticism of him. I mean, maybe not, you know, a lot in the sense of the grand scope of, of American political life. But I mean, you, you'd see a lot of expressions of this in the media that you would never have seen 10 years ago, criticizing him for that. And Muslim could be amongst those people. And so the point is that that space has been open, and Muslims can occupy that space. So in terms of, if you think about criticizing, you know, Muslims being citizens politically now, I think that that is going to be very hard to reverse. So a Muslim coming out and criticizing law enforcement, and most of them come in criticizing
surveillance of communities, and most of them coming out and criticizing racism wasn't coming out of criticizing prison, you know, you name it right, politically, domestically, or foreign policy.
Muslims are citizens now. And I don't see that changing, at least anytime soon. However,
social issues is another question. Right? Where?
Right now, I don't I haven't been following this. But I don't think it's there's this thing called the equality bill, which is being proposed in the US Congress, that would basically say that, essentially, federal law will say that there just can be no discrimination in any way.
Between on issues of gender, right, including things like trans transgender, things like that, right.
Obviously, a lot of Republicans are against this. And imagine that a Muslim, were to come out and say,
you know, critical of, let's say, the kind of progressive social agenda around things like LGBT issues in the Democratic Party,
or I one of the some Cabinet Secretary, I can't remember Undersecretary who was just approved by the Congress is transgender. Right? So let's say you were to not support that something to that effect.
I dare would be no protection for that Muslim on the left of the left half of the American political spectrum. Not from centrists like Joe Biden, not from progressives like Bernie Sanders, right? Nobody, the only people would protect you would be conservatives.
So now that here's the issue, right, politically, Muslims are protected on the left,
socially, Muslims are protected on the right. How do you exist in both those spaces at the same time?
I mean, is that possible? So what you see is Muslims, if they want to talk about politics, you know,
by that, I mean, everything aside from social issues, they are very clearly going to feel at home in the kind of progressive or even centrist Democratic Party.
But then they can't talk about social issues where they have to just say we agree with you.
And you see that from a lot of Muslims now. If Muslims want to talk and take a strong stance on social issues like LGBT, gender, family, stuff like that, they are simply not going to be welcomed in
The Democratic Party at either its centrist or progressive wings.
That's a big,
big conundrum. Major conundrum right now. Nothing Brown. Thank you very much for your appearance on the show. I take it that this will only be the first of many because our listeners and viewers have noticed we barely scratched the surface.
I hope that you will be back probably with another speaker soon. Ramadan is coming so Ramadan Mubarak to all Muslims around the world.
I remind our listeners and viewers that you are a professor of Islamic civilization. At the University of Georgetown, you formerly had the Bridge Initiative, you published a series of books that I'm going to give here misquoting Mohammed, the challenge and choices of interpreting the prophets legacy at one more publications, Mohammed A Very Short Introduction, the canonization of Al Bukhari and Muslim and Islam and slavery among others. Jonathan, thanks again. It was my pleasure and it's probably just started Ramadan right now I mean, you probably just had Maghrib so Ramadan Mubarak, thank you and to you too, as well. My regards to your family. As for you the listeners and
viewers thanks again for joining us this episode is over. If you think this podcast deserve your support, please make a donation on CJ L dot o ng that's Charlie Juliet Lima, that Oscar November golf slash donation. Whatever the amount, we can still use that to remain fully independent and make this project a sustainable one. As for me, this was yesterday what is speaking to you from the Paris Southside volume? The struggle continues