Channel: Lauren Booth
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Salam Alaikum I'm really honored to be in Cambridge today
researching Sheikh Abdullah Hakim Iran's new book traveling home essays on Islam in Europe and shifters. ekeler here for inviting me today.
Okay, I pretended about that I invited myself and check accepted. Okay, so let's start with start with honesty and continuous we mean to go on?
Is this some
your love letter to the OMA of Britain or a critique, or both?
I'm not sure that the book is a kind of description, or a critique or an encomium of any kind, I would see it rather as moving outside usual sociological, descriptive and prescriptive approaches. How many Muslims are in different places? And what are the most all of that descriptive stuff which has been done to death, in my view, by assorted sociologist, anthropologist of religion, but rather to shift the optic to see
what happens when we look at the predicament and promises of this new and contested Muslim presence in a historic white, Christian insular nation? What are the implications of this? If we look at it from an insider Muslim perspective, which is generally not done?
What does Islam say about minority status? What does Islam say about its responsibility? If it exists in a non Muslim land? And particularly, this is one of the things I've been trying to tease out. What kind of resources do we have for dealing with a majority population that really is no longer self defining as Atlanta keytab. But it's kind of floppy, and not terribly interested in anything beyond the outward forms of things. There's just into pleasures and goods, basically, what makes people tick, and what motivates them gets them up in the morning,
is the response, one of sort of unrelenting critique and enmity and distancing? Or is Islam a prophetic religion that says, well, these are people who are in need, who have been stripped of the most fundamental sources of, of meaning and beauty in life, because they didn't have access to any transcendence or any rituals or anything of that which historically gave human societies and individuals that deeper sense of meaning and fulfillment, they don't have any hope for survival after death, and seeing them as victims. So I'm trying to invert what is sometimes identified as a Muslim attitude for communities in the West, which is that we suffer from victimhood. And it's the
prosperous, white, snooty, rich, empowered majorities, which are looking down on us and hitting us with this homophobia and rules, stigmatizing us in various ways to see if the tradition actually doesn't like that culture of victimhood, but instead identifies the real victims as being the majority society because they're cut off from meaning hope, stable family life, the anxiety epidemic, and so forth. So that shifts us from a position of resentment to a position of pity and compassion, which I think is a much more authentic Islamic position, and also something that should make us feel that we are needed rather than just tolerating, and that we have something to offer
because it will victimhood comes.
You know, you're right about this, this need to fit in jettison everything from the past and become a lesser version of the mainstream. And that's a toxicity, isn't it? It's a toxicity to the mind and to the heart. What conclusions do you draw from from that neediness? Well, it's a kind of colonial sense of inferiority and you see it not just among some British Muslims, but also amongst good to Harrods, and you see all of this middle eastern shoppers, desperately trying to become Western and to do with some things where you go to Royal Ascot, and you see the Emir of somewhere with his top hat and trying to talk to Princess Margaret or somebody really, really trying to invent himself as
an English aristocratic, nothing of the Arab Islamic remains. So there's very sad state of self denial and self hatred is producing very deep disruptions and failures in the Muslim world. And it's the main reason why the Muslim world I think, is so politically disruptive because the self styled elites don't really belong and don't respect the values of their population, but then they know that they're not really liked by the white people have Ascot either under regarded as frankly, ridiculous, so they fall between two stools, that they've got no idea where they can go. So this is the trauma of the Muslim elites everywhere.
And it's, again, something I think we need to respond to with compassion, rather than with sort of contempt.
My uncle used to work as a croupier in a casino in London.
And he got to meet a lot of the top Saudis. And he said in a very nice, but they're really not at ease with themselves. The superlight so generous, they tip so well, but you can see that they're kind of
uneasy, or they know they shouldn't be in gambling, that kind of religious moral thing is something they successfully Shut up. But they know they're not really accepted or respected by the people who are taking money off them. So they don't know where to go, where do you go, you go on holiday to multicolor or whatever, but you know, that you don't really belong. So in an attempt to lose the
Muslim particularity, and to fit into the West, they end up fitting in nowhere and become more more victims of globalization. And you can see what their children very serious psychological issues arising, if some of them not being able to get out of bed in the morning, because they're just in a state of extreme trouble. Yeah, it's a kind of
a dissonance, a cognitive dissonance that they didn't know what they are or what to make of their past and the West doesn't make them. And it's a kind of meltdown for a lot of the use of the Arab elites in the Muslim elites, generally. So that takes us a little bit away from the subject of the book, perhaps. But I think it's one of the crises that the Muslim world needs to respond to, in the spirit of data work and healing, rather than just shouting and shooting at police and trying to create a utopian. I love working. I love the question that that you ask again, because it gives us something to offer. And we're asked as Muslims on all the time in the newspapers. Can Islam tolerate
liberalism, Islam cannot tolerate women dress like this, or music Islam is intolerant? You asked in the beginning of this book, chapter one, can liberalism tolerate Islam? And right now, France has to be asked that question. Yeah. And
there is a certain traditional liberalism that goes back and English tradition to people like John Locke, that holds that the state has no opinion, on truth, and holds the ring for people to be themselves and to do they're in different things. But there's something newer, which is what I call coercive liberalism, which holds that because the mainstream accept certain beliefs about society and sexuality, relationships, the family, etc, that that must be encouraged in everybody. They could say that's not actually liberalism any longer. It's another form of coercion and totalitarian constraint, but it claims to be liberal. It's a bigger group, or else, which is kind of
terms, but increasingly, minorities, not just Muslim minorities, but traditional Catholics and Orthodox Jews are feeling the heat now. And feeling the coercive zeal of these secular fundamentalist church burnings in Spain, for instance, by feminists and other groups are a real factor to churches that were bent last week in Chile by an Tifa people bursting into churches and protesting, it's something they have to put up with. So it's not just Muslims, who have been targeted by the liberals, but it's traditional people in general. And looking at our next generation, obviously, you've set up the Muslim college here, your teacher, lecturer, and mentor,
how are you mentoring people with this book, to come through the trauma of grandparents from somewhere else? You call us, Ishmael, I Ishmael Yachats. In an Isaac nation? Well, there's a certain dominant discourse and a certain discourse that you find in community leaders that says that we have to, in a kind of envious way, catch up and be better than everybody else to playing their own game. And sometimes certain types of feminism have tried to do the same thing. We have to capture the commanding heights of the male dominated patriarchy, and do all of those things better than them. I'm not sure that that leads to a good a good response. Instead, we need to look at the West not
with eyes of uncritical adoration, but to read the internal Western arguments about what's happening, the consequences of modernity. So I've talked about Charles Taylor's book about a secular age. What is the sustainability, of morality of democracy of human rights in a completely atheistic and secular universe? What is on materialism doing to the natural world and to the environment? Why is it that we have in England now a minister of loneliness, and 9 million people who suffered
clinically from loneliness. So what is the value of this new hyper individualism that's being urged upon us? Or the demand to integrate into something that is obviously disintegrating? It's a paradox do we really want to be like that? That's one of my favorite lines, actually, you're trying to integrate into disintegration. This is exactly what, again, not just Muslims, but conservative people are being asked to do and people generally don't know their neighbors, and they don't remember the names of their second cousins and the old human ties are vanishing to be replaced by cold relationships or the internet and sort of 4chan Reddit subgroups. And that tends to be where we
spend our our social hours nowadays. But that's not the same thing as kind of random two dimensional acquaintances that are not spiritually nurturing. And
clearly, this younger generation is much more British than it is, say, Egyptian, or Bangladesh or anything else, because they just have those mannerisms. And that way of seeing the world. And the important thing is that they shouldn't see the mosque and Islamic space as some kind of granddad's exotic place where I have to behave in a certain way. So clearly, what we need to do is to give people a sense that the mosque also inhabits a cultural and moral space that they can recognize. So they don't go to the mosque. And it's kind of a breath of Sudan or something in the middle of an English city. So it's a kind of club for nostalgia. And Islam is presented as something that has
roots far away. So essential, Islamist, universal religion, has to develop its own authenticity, which is that it speaks in the language that the young can relate to, and not treat as some kind of private things that they learn from their mothers in the kitchen that they put in a particular department of their life. So when we're looking at British Islam, I think we're looking not at kind of people singing the national anthem after Jamal, some other whatever that would be. You don't have to put a minaret and pointy windows and do the kind of Aladdin thing.
There's no surely a requirement to do
all it does is to flag up to everybody the fact that you don't feel that you've been Oh, that's the only thing it does.
Is it not bringing just as a counterpoint to it, bringing that beautiful mysticism, and you know that that beauty of the of the shapes that were created to do that correctly, but usually those people don't, if they bought, say, the Taj Mahal, probably the most beautiful building in the world, to Huddersfield. I'd be the first to be there, but it's always pastiche. It's appalling, misunderstood, they get some local jobbing builder to do something that it does look like Aladdin. So it's not properly Eastern. It's not properly Western either.
But there's another factor, which is that the more we flag up
aspects of our difference which are not required religiously, the more of a target we become. The more we flag up differences that are not religious, such as having a pointy minarets, which is Islamic architecture, be the first to defend it. But the more exotic you make yourself look, in a kind of rainy, depressed northern Milltown, the more the kind of BNP, you could be mined as
depressed as well. Yeah, that's true. But what you do is, think carefully about what the religion actually requires. Does it require you to in an increasingly xenophobic Europe, and on the continent, it's particularly bad, offer these red rag to a bull? And tell people Yeah, we really don't belong. We're really foreign. And we're really proud of our difference when the Sharia doesn't require that and you can design a mosque or whatever to look as if it is respectful to what is local. So that's a question I'm raising and the younger generation certainly get that. So I recommend this I'll be putting a link to where you can buy it. And thanks, of course, to our most
excellent che Abdullah King right here in Cambridge, Santa Monica.