Islam – Lex Fridman 3
Channel: Omar Suleiman
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all across the world, all the different cultures all memorizing the same words.
One of the pillars, or maybe I should say one of the central practices is the month of Ramadan. What is the importance of this month?
What is the process of it entail also. So some has, I think it'd be good to maybe lay this out for pieces, the articles of faith and the pillars of Islam. So the articles of faith are six articles of faith. And this kind of lays the foundation for the creed of Islam. So belief in God, belief, the angels, belief in the messages, belief in the messengers, okay? belief in the Day of Judgment and belief in divine decree. So these are the six articles of faith, belief in God believe in the angels belief in the messages being the scriptures, belief in the messengers, being the prophets, believes in the day of judgment and belief in divine decree.
That's what you have to believe to be a Muslim, you have to believe in those six things, right. And then you go to the pillars of faith, the five pillars of faith, are sort of, or they make up the structure of those articles of faith, the practice of the Muslim, so to be a Muslim, you testify that there's only one God worthy of worship, and unconditional obedience. And then you testify that Muhammad is the final messenger of God. That's the first pillar, it's the actual testimony and entering into a psalm, then it's the five daily prayers, practicing the five daily prayers, at least as a bare minimum obligation, the mandatory charity, which is called as a cat, that Muslims have to
give at least 2.5% of their retained earnings to specific categories of charity, then it is the fasting of the month of Ramadan, the mandatory fasting of the month of Ramadan, and then it's the Hajj, if you can do so the pilgrimage, if you can do so once in your lifetime. So those are the five pillars of Islam. So Ramadan, is a month in which Muslims engage in this incredible spiritual bootcamp. Now, fasting can mean different things to different people.
When we fast, we fast from before sunrise to sunset for an entire month, and there is no food or water period, and no intimacy as well. So you would abstain from intimacy with your spouse as well. In that time, no food or water, no bread, no, nothing. You don't eat or drink. Even if you live in Texas, where you get you get these long, hot days in the summer. And of course, Islam is on a lunar calendar. So it moves every every year, about 10 days earlier.
During that time, you restrict the intake to the body, so that you can focus on the intake of the soul. So instead of being focused on consumption, constant consumption, you are consuming words of remembrance words of prayer, you're to be hyper conscious of not doing anything that would spiritually validate your fast, just as you would physically. So just like you won't eat or drink, you certainly won't engage in sin, that you shouldn't engage in sins throughout the year. But
you know, you're not going to speak words of evil, you're not going to gossip or slander. You try to fast with your eyes, not look at things that are not praiseworthy. So you try to engage in a wholesome act of disciplining yourself with a conscious of consciousness of God. But then channel that into engaging the soul instead, exercising the soul instead. And what you'll find with Muslims, and this act of God consciousness, where they reduce the consumption is they become far more grateful for the blessings of God because throughout our lives, we just take sips of water We eat what we can we snack.
When you're abstaining from that, you become so much more grateful for that sip of water, so much more grateful for that bite of food, so much more aware of the one who provided those blessings to you so much more aware of those that don't have the same access to those blessings that you have. So you also develop a sense of empathy for the poor that don't have access to those blessings on a regular basis. I can't help but fast. And on top of that, again, spiritually, you are engaged in extra extra reading. At that time, people are listening to more lectures, people are
engaged in extra acts of devotion, extra acts of charity, Muslims are most charitable in the month of Ramadan. So you just feel great, and it's hard to explain to someone that doesn't do it because it sounds like torture to people. Right? What in the world are you doing? You know, four o'clock on a hot Texas day. Not eating or drinking, you're probably dehydrated and cranky. Have a caffeine headache and you probably can't wait for this month to be over. But in reality, you talk to Muslims their favorite time of the year is Ramadan. You feel amazing. You feel absolutely incredible, because you taste a different type.
of consumption, you feed your soul for a change. And in that process, you connect with God in a way that you simply could not without the distractions of the day to day throughout the year. Now it's good that it's one one month of the year because it's honestly physically taxing right. So it gives you a chance to experience it for that one month, but then you're encouraged to fast a few days of the year as well outside of the month of Ramadan, to keep that connection. What are the hardest parts that maybe for people outside of
the Muslim faith?
Yeah, we'll be curious about?
Well, I think the hardest part is, is physically the physical or is it the spiritual.
So as Ramadan goes on,
your acts of worship increase. So in the last 10 nights of Ramadan, there is an intense period of prayer throughout the night. So every night and on Milan, we have something called the total, we're prayers, the total we have prayers are about an hour, hour and a half of prayer, outside of the five daily prayers, so the mosques are packed every night in Ramadan,
the last 10 nights of Ramadan, people will engage in prayer throughout the entire night. So the only sleep that you're probably getting is actually a couple of hours in the morning before you go to work. So it's everything sort of put together the disruption of schedule, the disruption of diet, the physically exerting yourself, but the way you feel
is unmatched. I mean, you feel so fulfilled through that deprivation. And that's actually the point. You know, it all ties back together when you talk about even tests and trials, that God does not deprive us of anything, except that he gives us something greater in return. And you do not deprive yourself of anything for the sake of God, except that he gives you something greater in return. And so fasting is an exercise in patience that unlocks an infinite sense of gratitude, and a greater connection to God.
Many people predict that Islam will surpass Christianity as the largest religion by the end of the century, by the number of its adherence and practitioners, where responsibility does that plays on people like you, who is ever a religious leader, who is somebody who chooses who grows, who cares for the community, for the Muslim community, but actually, for all people, I think what that means is that we have a responsibility to
teach and live our faith in the most beautiful of ways that its values and ideals are not just expressed by you, but experienced by everyone around you. And so what I often teach my community is that look at the Muslims in the area, what are they?
What are your neighbors experiencing of you? What are people experiencing of you, you know, there's, there's statistics to Muslims being most charitable communities in America. We're a community of great service, a community of volunteer community that greatly enriches the world around us. I think that oftentimes people forget the history of Muslims, you know, being at the forefront of contributing in the areas of medicine and science and all sorts of ways education, really changing the world, through their commitment to faith.
But on a deeply personal level,
you know, it's important for us to be representatives of the Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him in a way that makes Islamophobia impossible.
I, you know, I tell people this that, it's very hard. You know, you mentioned the United States of hate the documentary and
the one man, the protester who met me and sort of changed his worldview. It's very hard for people to believe what they hear about Islam, if they see you live it. Now, that does not excuse bigotry, that doesn't excuse the prejudice against Muslims. But it's important for us to sort of take it as a responsibility as Muslims, to channel our faith in the most beautiful voice. God describes faith in the Quran, in the chapter of Abraham peace be upon him as a tree with firm foundations. The firm foundation being the testimony of faith, the oneness of God, so the tree of monotheism, with firm foundations, and then branches high in the sky, providing shade to everything and everyone around
you. And producing fruit at all times. The tree of faith of a Muslim is not seasonal. So you should be producing with your faith at all times good works and things that people can can actually experience. And I think that Muslims have historically contributed to the world around them and
And I think that Muslims today are still contributing to the world around them. But I think that we can never do enough of holding ourselves accountable to the message that we hold dear to our hearts, and trying to be the best representatives of that message and of that messenger to the world around us. So not only are you a religious leader in the Muslim community, but you have a lot of friends who are from different religions, you have a lot of Jewish friends,
as we've talked about, a lot offline.
And we'll probably hopefully get a chance to talk to as well here. But on that topic, let me bring up another tragic event that was just a little bit less than a year ago, in this very community here in Dallas, there was a synagogue hostage crisis. Can you describe what happened? And what was your experience? Like through it? And afterwards, and
what were the bad things you saw? And what did the good things you saw in the community?
The Colleyville synagogue situation, it's kind of surreal that we're coming up on a year of that.
But I actually tell you exactly what happened that morning. I was out with the family. And that morning, I kid you not that very morning, I was telling my kids the story of Muhammad Ali, talking that man out of committing suicide off the roof. And I showed them the YouTube video, my wife pulled it up on her phone, kids were sitting in the backseat. We talked about that that video and talked about that importance of helping people. We also went to visit a loved one in the cemetery that day. And we went to breakfast. So we're out as a family that day, right. And there's a lot of meaning that's sort of coming together.
For us and a lot of discussion, deep discussion we're having as a family. And then some of our community groups, we get this message that there's a synagogue that's been taken
hostage, a rabbi in his congregation taken as hostages and go to this Facebook link. And it was the feed of the synagogue. And you could hear the gunman shouting.
And it became apparent
very early on that. It was a man that was claiming to be Muslim, that was holding them hostage. Now all these synagogue massacres, all these places of worship, were not attacked by Muslims, right? This is
a different type of situation. But
my first instinct was,
like, all that happened this morning was not random.
So I told my wife, and I told my kids, I'm gonna go down there
She was very supportive. Obviously, there was a moment of shock. I'm like, kids were like, wait, what I said, Look, remember what we talked about this morning.
We can't be indifferent to the stuff.
We still go back and revisit that day. Like, it's crazy how it was all falling into place. It's not an accident, right? So I dropped them off at home. And I started to drive to Colleyville. I called the Irving Police Department, and I asked them to call the Colleyville police department so that they could kind of know that I'm coming down there. I called
some of the faith leaders in the community to see if they could put me in touch with those on the ground. So that I wouldn't get shot. Why when I showed up there. And eventually I had to wait out outside until I got clearance to come through. And to just offer whatever support I could pastoral support, support with trying to free the hostages of the synagogue at the time was operating out of a church right across the street from the synagogue.
A day long. Just wondering, you know what was going to happen? Looking at the family of the rabbi at the time, wondering what was going to happen,
and trying to just be as supportive as I possibly could at that time. Thankfully, they all got out in the evening.
I think that, you know,
looking back on that day.
Now wife actually asked me, so would you have done it differently? And I said, No, I really wouldn't, because I think that that things happen. Sometimes you've got to act on your good instincts sometimes right? When you talk about like being calculated. I think sometimes we're calculated when we shouldn't be and that's one that good instinct comes in, where you're called to do something else. So what did it feel like to be Muslim in a situation like that?
I mean, did you was there were you a human being
Were you a religious? Yeah, I don't practitioner, I don't, I don't see I can't I can't separate anything about myself. And that situation, right. So when I had to pray, I had to pray to help people out to give people words of comfort, to try to appeal to the senses of whoever I could at the time. I didn't see myself as like, a guy trying to
trying to show a particular part of Islam there, I just saw myself as someone that was trying to help a family get their, their husband and father back, right. And so it was more of just like that part of me was was there, you can, you can kind of see yourself right. And this is the irony of it.
When Christchurch New Zealand happened,
that was kind of our worst nightmare as Texas Muslims, because we've had armed groups in front of our mosques threatening to do what that men did in Christchurch.
And so when you see a wife and kids
wondering if they're gonna get their their dad back,
you kind of see yourself there. And so I just saw myself in that situation, what would I want people to be doing for me in that moment? What would I want people to be telling my family in that moment? So that's really where I went to. And that's really where where I dug into, and I prayed a lot that day, a lot, a lot for the right words for the right actions, what I could do to just help.
What are the lessons now a year later, that you take away from that day, and the day of so many lessons, just
don't be indifferent? Don't be indifferent to the suffering around you even that's distant from you. Because it's somehow related to you. So just don't be indifferent.
So you, you're proud, they use that up? And you went there? And then look, I don't I don't think.
I don't think I did much. I'm being really honest. This is not me trying to be humble here. I don't think I did much. I think I did what I was what I was called to do.
I wish that it never happens, right as a whole. But I'm glad that the relationships that have been built over time
came into being that day, right? We could call upon people that we knew call upon each other. And as a community really come together, you know, Dallas has been through a lot, a lot of pain.
But we've come together through a lot of pain as well. So it's, it's kind of one of those things where we're united in our pain, you know, and you suffer together, you build, you build certain bonds together. So Dallas has been through a lot as a community. But we've we've come together through a lot as a community. Yeah, the thing about violence and war, it destroys, it caused so much suffering, but it also sort of brings out some of the best aspects of human nature and the unites people. So it's an interesting way how our human civilization functions. Well, that's the beauty that you don't just want to see, but you also want to be, you know, we're living in a climate where
there's a lot of that, right. So how do you how do you actually
get through that and actually
not allow yourself to succumb to that?
And be another voice in that polarization?
It seems that throughout history, and still in the world today, religion has been a source of some of the of a lot of polarization, a lot of conflict, even war.
Why do you think that is? Listen, I think at the essence of it
is always some sort of political instability. That leaves behind a brutalized population and vulnerabilities that can be exploited.
As I said, in the 20th century, with the bloodiest century that we've had to date,
where does religion fall in any of that? Where does religion fall in the isms? Where does religion fall in the world wars? Where does religion fall? And much of that even when we talk about things like the Crusades, remove the Islamic framing, the Crusades, the Crusades, were they really about religion? The Mongols and the destruction of the Mongols? Was it about religion,
Myanmar, and the Rohingya today is about Buddhism. So I think that these are essentially political issues, political causes, where you have people that rise up and that use religion to disguise things that are far, far, far from religion. And if you want to manipulate a religious scripture, you could turn any book, any scripture into a violent scripture if you have a violent aim. So I think that that's where you
Find people manipulating versus manipulating religion
to justify sick ideologies that are based and thrive in political instability. So these are fundamentally political, geopolitical conflicts, not religious conflicts. Absolutely. Look when you talk about a group like ISIS.
Islam has been in Iraq for a very, very long time.
Iraq has been bombed by now five consecutive presidents, or four, it's been bombed into the stone age's. There is no political infrastructure. It's devastation and destruction. And desperation as a result of that. Many of the old Saddam loyalists and Saddam's regime was was a secularist regime,
are now heads of ISIS, right? It just moved into that. When you create that type of chaos, you generate an environment where groups like ISIS are bound to rise out of and so Islam did not, you know, cause this people didn't wake up in Iraq one day and say, Hey, let's create a group called ISIS, because Islam tells us to, right, Iraq was bombed into this place. And we have to not just free religion, from the responsibility from having to bear the responsibility of much of the hatred and violence, but we have to interrogate the political instability that was caused.
Were we justified?
As Americans, these are taxpayer dollars? Were we justified with what was done in Iraq? Do we even know what was done in Iraq and Afghanistan?
These drones that drop using our tax dollars under Democratic and Republican regimes
1000s of innocent people, in weddings in Yemen and Somalia? Are these justified? And when you think about dehumanization?
Can the average American name a single victim of the Iraq War?
Is there a picture that comes to your mind? Is there a person? Absolutely not, because that's the dehumanization now often talk about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. His progression as a faith leader in America as a political leader in America, Dr. King was deeply unpopular when he took us down on Vietnam. And he mentioned how first, he had to see Vietnam, through the lens of the soldiers, because many of the soldiers that were lost American soldiers, right, and that was, that was a crime that they were sent to fight award that they should not have been sent to fight. And there was an injustice that was done towards them, he said, but things really changed when he started to see it
from the other side of the bullet, when he started to see the world through Vietnam through the Vietnamese child. And that's where he resorted to breaking the silence. That's where he changed his tune. Because we dehumanize our victims so much that they're not even relevant to our discourse, until they become able villains, to our story. And then now they're attacking us because they hate us. Now, they're blowing us up because they hate us. Their religion tells them to do this to us, what have we allowed to be done to them? Using our tax dollars? In our name? Right. So I think that we have to interrogate the political chaos that was caused, not just not just free religion, from
the groups that were created. But what was done to those countries and what continues to be done in many of these places. Yeah, when
the the pride that people had about America, where everybody came together after 911 in the resolve the American flags,
that was beautiful to see, but then you have to transfer that. And I wish all of us Americans could go and see the daughters that would lose their parents, the parents that would lose their daughters and sons because of bombs dropped.
The 1000s of 10s of 1000s of civilians have died
in Afghanistan and Iraq because of the decisions made
in the name of politics, like if we just met those families, and if you if we if we empathize with them, and just put ourselves in their place.
It's impossible not to feel hate for America for everybody. I mean, the I visited Ukraine and spoke to a lot of Ukrainians and they said,
you know, there's, there's loved ones that are Russians before the war, but now, all they have is hate. And if you ask many of them, will they ever forgive not Not, not the regime?
Not the soldiers, will they ever forgive Russians? They many of them say never.
And that never feels like it's a generational never.
I mean, look,
you think about this, you know, if your grandparents were wiped out in the drone attack your parents, your brothers, your sisters, all of your loved ones, and you're missing a leg and and I
and the world does not take you into consideration you will never be seen or considered in the halls of Congress or discussed.
What are you going to grow up with? Right?
But the thing is, is that we should not be speaking about this only from the standpoint of oh, shoot, they're gonna grow up and hate us.
We should be thinking about what was done to them, and hate that despise that, that it's ugly. You see, when people carry out a terrorist attack, they're not considering the lives of the civilians in these places. So those that perpetrate the 911 attacks are not seeing the 1000s of people that they killed. The human beings, the lives many of whom are Muslim, by the way, actually know. One of them was a very active Muslim in Islamic circle of North America. I mean, they didn't see those stories, right?
When you drop a bomb on this, many people, when you drown people, and you say, oops, collateral damage, we were looking for one person killed 40 people, and there's no count, no names, nothing that can be recalled in the American Memory. That's a problem, fundamental issue with how we treat the rest of the world. Right. So
I'm an American, if I, I think that I'm responsible, to the extent that I have to critique these policies, and I have to try to challenge America to deal with the world differently.
And when I go overseas,
when I'm around Muslims in the Muslim world, right in the middle east, and in the Muslim world,
you know, I have to, I'm speaking as a Palestinian American Muslim, who grew up in South Louisiana, I've got a complex background here write a lot of experiences here that I'm grateful for, because they all contribute to
who I who I am and what I know, and what I've been, I think they're all Enriching, I wouldn't relinquish the Palestinian part, I wouldn't relinquish the American part. And I certainly wouldn't relinquish the Muslim part.
But it's helping people consider
what they're not seeing. And when you can dehumanize entire groups of people, to where you can reduce them to choc casualty counts, and not be able to recall a single story, then you have to take a step back and ask yourself, what are we becoming? Right? What are we becoming not a single victim of Afghanistan or Iraq? Millions of people, not a single person, can the average American conjure in their head?
If you apply this to a very difficult topic of Israel and Palestine, speaking of which, right?
You ever been critical of the policies of the State of Israel, but as we've mentioned, very supportive of Jewish people, you have a lot of friends, rabbis and
Jews in general, here in Dallas and across the world.
What is the difference to you in that part of the world between politics and religion? So in this case, Zionism and Judaism, both terms broadly defined,
both terms broadly defined? So I say that because those terms,
there's technical definitions, and there's other popularly used and seems to be kind of, just like we said, with Islamophobia, these terms, or did they become politicized? So just generally speaking, I think Zionism has to do with with with politics, and cheetahs infested to religion, great complexity, like to a lot of people like, wait a minute, all right. And you got to take a step back and wonder why there are so many Zionist anti Semites in America.
And there are so many anti Zionist who are far from being anti Semites, anti Zionism that are opposed to the ideology that are opposed to the implications of it. Look, I think that it's fundamentally secular. When you think about it, there is an ethnos supremacism there is.
I am the child of of Palestinians that were forcibly displaced from their land. I've never been able to go to where my parents my grandparents are from.
I've never been able to see that land. I've never been able to access that I have cousins that I'll never be
Well, I shouldn't say never in sha Allah God willing, I will meet them. But that I've only been able to speak through a phone, FaceTime zoom.
I think that it's important for us to separate criticism of Israel's policies from anti semitism. In fact, it's an injustice.
it cheapens anti semitism. When you throw every person who is opposed to Zionism are opposed to Israel's policies, and the bucket of being anti Semites. It's wrong, it cheapens it it doesn't do justice to it. And I think it's important for us to have a meaningful conversation about America support for Israel. Listen, there are terms that are important here. So I'm gonna throw out these these big terms, right, apartheid, occupation,
ethnic cleansing. These are terms that are legal terms. There are objective thresholds here
for apartheid, occupation, ethnic cleansing.
The threshold of apartheid has been crossed, according to
multiple the most respectable human rights organizations in the world. These are the organizations that you will champion and that you will use in every single other conflict to justify your own policies. But that threshold of apartheid has been passed According to Human Rights Watch, According to Amnesty International, according to the Harvard Law Review, the threshold of apartheid has been crossed. There's a legal terminology there two sets of laws for two separate people, you have a displaced people that are forcibly being removed, that are being treated differently, that are stateless, that are undergoing daily humiliation, that live behind an apartheid wall, that live
under a different set of policies that are routinely bombarded, that have lost their ability to free movements that have lost the ability to access to basic necessities of human life. There are legal definitions here, I don't see how any objective human being can read those reports on apartheid and the threshold crossed for apartheid. And walk away from that and say that this is just Jews and Muslims that don't like each other. There's a legal definition here, occupation.
When Israel was created in 1948, you will find many Jews who are opposed to Zionism. And I think this is important, you know, to talk to Jews who are opposed to Zionism, and they are many
that will say that we were told that it was a land without a people, for people without lands. The problem with that was, there were people there, our ancestors 750,000, Palestinians expelled and the Nakba, and many Palestinians that have been removed and harassed, and that are treated in horrific ways. And the occupation is expanding. It is an illegal occupation, the settlements are still expanding. And the United States enables that occupation, with its funding, with its unconditional support unwavering support of Israel. And it does so in a way that completely undermines any of its claims to being a beacon of freedom of in the world. Because it is in plain sight now that the world
can see what is happening and Shakuntala. What is happening in Jerusalem, what is happening with these expanding settlements, everything that flies in the face of any claim to wanting a peaceful solution, the children in Gaza want to talk about dehumanization, the children that were on the face of the New York Times, which is historically one of the most anti Palestinian newspapers in America, the faces of the children of Gaza,
America, and many parts of the world are now seeing it. We have been saying for a very long time, this is apartheid. This is an occupation. This is an injustice, the world needs to check it hold it accountable. South Africa, which experienced apartheid, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, all of those that fought apartheid in South Africa, said that Palestinians are living under apartheid, and that the same strategies that checked apartheid in South Africa need to be used to hold Israel accountable for apartheid. With the Palestinians.
It's impossible for us
as Palestinians to simply say, that we should give up on this cause, because all the odds are stacked against us. But when you have, you know, videos coming out of the Israeli army, you know, spewing skunk water, skunk water, sewage water on worshippers, leaving it OXA
far right leaders
Now taking the government's and the so called only democracy in the Middle East, prohibiting a Palestinian flag being raised anywhere around. American reporters should enough block LA, Palestinian American Christian reporter, Palestinian American Christian reporter, one of the most prominent journalists in the Middle East, shot in the face, plain sight. And all America could say was all the American government could say was, if it turns out that it's indeed is Israel, that Israel is responsible for the death of an American journalists, then we will hold them accountable. Nothing, not a peep. It was a shame to see that happen. And it just solidified to us that whether
it's a Democratic president, or a Republican president, unfortunately, the support for Israel is enabling it to continue to wipe out the Palestinian population from its historic land. And so
we see that happening. And I'll say this as well.
People ask me about the Abraham accords. They say, you know, you are talking about faith between our talking about peace between communities of faith and protecting communities of faith. Why are you opposed to the Abraham accords? I think that the name of Abraham should not be used. And I wrote an article called Why oppose the Abraham Accords, the name of Abraham should not be used to justify arms deals, that only further disenfranchise the abused population of the Palestinians, where you have, quote, unquote, Muslim regimes making peace with Israel, and that's being used against the Palestinian people who are only further disenfranchised, from having a voice in their own fate.
For the sake of American arms deals, and security and economic benefits. It's despicable. It's repulsive, talk to the people, speak to people on the ground there, see what's happening with your own two eyes and think about the injustice where
our taxpayer dollars are being used to suppress the people and what legally meets the definition by every objective standard of apartheid, of occupation of ethnic cleansing. And it's ongoing, and it's happening in real time. And it's becoming more blatant
with a regime now, that's unapologetic of even expressing what the policies have already done. And that is the removal of a people. forcible removal of a people because the government knows that the United States support is unconditional. Give hope that Jews, Muslims and Christians in this land will live in peace one day, together, have the basic respect for each other's humanity.
this isn't a religious conflict. I think that's fundamentally one of the problems leaving the question is not the correct question. It's not the correct question. This is not a religious conflict. Yes, religion is invoked. Yes, there. There are religious elements. But
there are many Jews that are opposed to what is happening right now towards the Palestinians, many and I would I would recommend, you know, a serious discussion with even people whose perspectives have grown. Peter Beinart, being an example.
Rabbi Simone Zimmerman started, if not now, Bates, Islam and Israeli human rights organization that also classed it as apartheid recently, there are many Jews that are opposed to what is happening right now. Palestinians are also not exclusively a Muslim population. Sri number oculos. Christian. There are many Palestinian Christians that are also being denied entry into their historic churches and that are completely bewildered or absolutely lost in regards to why
American evangelicals have this ironclad support for the occupation and have ignored the plight of Palestinian Christians.
Of course, I believe Muslims, Christians and Jews can coexist.
Of course, I have hope, because I have to have hope as a person of faith. But as much hope as I have, I think there's a great sense of urgency for people to open their eyes, learn what's actually happening on the ground, read the reports, stop letting these commentators and these these companies that are able to generate propaganda. On the narrative, there are objective standards here, there are objective measures of oppression that need to be considered here. What's happening to Gaza is one of the greatest atrocities of our time. Learn about it, right? I'd tell people to just watch the vice documentaries, for example, the mini documentaries, I'd sent them to you as well, inside the
battle for Jerusalem. I mean, think about it again.
I from Long Island, New York, can fly to Israel, right? Flying to Tel Aviv, and walk into a home that's been occupied by families for generations and throw the people out under the full protection of the military there and spit on them. historic homes. And when people come up to me and say we're opposed to Islamophobia. We're post Islamophobia but they support that.
I tell you, you're not opposed to sama phobia. How can you be opposed to Islamophobia when you traffic in the same framings and dehumanization,
that enables the viciousness towards Muslims here and Palestinians over there that they do not deserve to be treated like equal human beings like full human beings. And that based on historic claims, a guy can fly from New York, into a historic neighborhood in Jerusalem, and kick out generational families with military guns next to them. What does that sound like? How's that? How's that normal? Right? And so I think that if people take the time to read, people take the time to investigate, then they come to this conclusion themselves that this is unacceptable, and that you can't put and this is one of the problems with the framing of ISRAEL PALESTINE, is that you're
equating occupied or unoccupied, you're equating the two sides of the conflict. And it's not a conflict, it's an occupation. There is such a disparity of power here, that you cannot equate the two sides. How you can, you know, Malcolm X would say you clip the bird's wing and then fly and then blame it for not flying as high as you do. You can't you can't do that to a people and just equate them with their occupier.
It's an atrocity it requires us to challenge it. And I am hopeful at the current movement of Muslims, Christians and Jews and people of all faiths that are saying enough is enough that thresholds have been crossed here, that this is this is an atrocity that cannot continue. You know?
This is very personal to me, because this is happening now.
What I anticipate and this is what America did this is what Nelson Mandela actually predicted with the United States. What I anticipate is that 10 years from now, 20 years from now, every American will say, how could we have supported this, and this was terrible. And we'll pay symbolic, you know, homage to the Palestinian cause.
But there are people now that are clinging on for dear life, access to their places of worship, access to their generational homes. Right now at this very, there are children that are in detention, and there's a bill in Congress to just stop I mean,
wherever you stand on this issue, child detainment, child detainment, child detention should be a red line, right. Congresswoman Betty McCollum has put this bill on the floor of Congress, you can't even get that passed, right just just to at least center child detainment by the IDF. So people need to look into this deeper, they need to
consider the human element of this. And consider the urgency of it as well with this new this new regime, it's only going to unfortunately get good much worse in the immediate term. And so we have to do something about it.
If I may ask you for some advice, for reasons I'll explain maybe in a little bit. Or maybe I should just explain now, which is I think,
because you've talked about Islamophobia, because you've been at the center of so many catastrophic events, because you sort of jump into the fire, to try to help people, you've been attacked a lot. Just in general, you've been under stress, it's just here, you're not immune to stress. So
part of me wants to ask,
just how psychologically difficult that's been and how you draw strength? And would you advise, if the opportunity is there, for a person like me, for silly kidness suit,
to go to that part of the world and take seriously conversations, I would divide it into two categories. There's leaders and there's people. The leaders are sort of these
political entities that have their interest, but they're also have power, and they want to hold on to power. And then people are just regular people that have families that just want to
have basic rights and freedoms and continue to love their families to pursue different jobs and careers in lies that they can flourish and so on. There's a very kind of different dynamics at play. And if given the opportunity to speak to leaders for me
Would you advise I do it or not. And when I say leaders, I mean, leaders that would make the case, the pro Zionist case.
And the anti Zionist case. And in both cases, I would make it very challenging conversations for both. Unlike today, our conversation today, you're an inspiring, incredible person. I'm a huge fan of yours. You've spread so much love to the Muslim community here to the Jewish community, just everybody loves you. But not everybody not. Yes, that's true.
That's true. Everybody. A lot of people love you. Yes. But this was kind of inspiring in a positive conversation. It wasn't very challenging. Now, although we did touch challenging topics, he did exceptionally well there. But I would do very challenging conversation with those leaders in that part of the world. Is that a bad idea?
All right, well, let me tell you from now, first and foremost, the first part because I don't want to lose the first part of your, your conversation, is it psychologically stressful, very, very.
But when you're
when you're a person of faith, and you believe that
good work will always be rewarded, and that doing the right thing will always be rewarded. Eventually,
you're able to weather that storm.
Quite a bit. So your wife told you.
Okay, all right. That's the second thing I was gonna mention is honestly supportive, a supportive family, you know, my dad's at man. And he's been through a lot. He was born in 1943. Before, he's five years before Israel was even created. He was born in Palestine. He suffered displacement, he has been around the world and somehow built himself up to be a distinguished professor of chemistry, an author and inventor,
you know, grew up taking on some of the most difficult challenges and was just always a man of principle, I always admired my dad being a man of principle, and like, he just tells me, man, stay the course, stay the course. Don't be afraid, don't back down. I have a supportive family. I have a supportive wife. I've got supportive kids. So I have amazing people around me, that keeps me grounded for sure. And, ultimately, obviously, faith.
And also, I'll say this slander doesn't stand. What do you mean by that? When people slander you, and it kind of comes with the territory of a public figure?
It's not going to stand throughout time, because eventually any sincere person will find the truth. And the only people that will regurgitate that will continue to do so. So when I get portrayed as an anti Semite,
because of my strong takes on Israel and challenging Israel, and I will continue to do so.
It takes just people now like we know him, What are you talking about?
So slandered doesn't stand, at least with the people that are important to you. It might reside on the internet, and might have great rankings and social media bots that give it traction. But it also psychologically difficulty that yes, it is difficult, it's very difficult, and it's hurtful, especially when it comes from quarters that you would hope that it doesn't come from.
But you know, you take a step back, you
reevaluate, you lean into your faith, and you lean on the people that are closest to you. And then you keep going, you learn the lessons, could I be doing something better? Could I be doing something different? Could I be saying something better? Could I be saying something different? Are the noble causes that I want to achieve? Am I doing justice by those causes? How do I grow out of this? Right? You become wiser through these things as well. The second part of your question, though, about what you should do, if you're going to talk to people talk to people from a place of inquiry, I would say talk to people, more so than leaders, and especially some of those who have been erased from the
from the media commentary, Benjamin Netanyahu gets a lot of airtime.
You know, here in the United States, he's
well spoken, you know, he speaks perfect English. He's an American as well.
I would challenge him, you know, on on some of the things that he has said and done. He has an ongoing corruption case. I think that I think he's a fascist, I think that he's a person who has done much evil. I think that he has a lot of blood on his hands. And I think that one day, he will be prosecuted for that. But I'd say talk to people on the ground. And people that have been erased. Talk to the families that are being displaced Schecter. I don't care about the political leadership. I'd much rather you talk to the people on the ground in East Jerusalem that have been displaced. The families talk to Palestinian Christians talk
To the sister of shooting Ibaka Lena Lena Arkla, who has been, who was extremely disappointed and let down when Joe Biden went to the region and did not take her calls did not meet her, which was an absolutely disgraceful moves, he should have met with her. She's the sister of an American journalist who was murdered in cold blood. Talk to Lena Abraca. Talk to mitre LA. mitre interesting person, for example, he's a Lutheran is the head of the Lutheran Church in Palestine. He's comes to Dallas sometimes and talks about the plight of Palestinian Christians. I think if you're talking to people in leadership, you know, obviously, there are some that will be able to represent themselves
in English, you know, Hernan ashrawi is a very eloquent person, for example, I don't know if you're gonna have any luck getting into Gaza. But I'll pray for you if you do. But obviously, you know, if you want to talk to everybody got to talk to everybody, man. So well. And I also want to say this very important when you say white washing, because I've heard this a lot. So also with Ukraine and Russia, there's an interesting line between white washing, which is something you definitely should not do, and a deep empathy.
For a large number of human beings. It's a really tricky line to walk. And I also disagree with you about Well, I think, I don't know if it's a disagreement, but I think I disagree about leaders. I think I agree 100%, that the most important people are the people on the ground, okay. But I think those are extremely important people to understand, not just as leaders, but as human beings to and in many cases, to have a challenging conversation, but from a place of empathy for an understanding human being. So if you plan to talk to right wing, the current leadership of Israel, my only request to you is talk to the victims themselves. Not the Palestinian Authority, talk to the victim, I know
you want to write so I appreciate attempts. Yes, that was a big part of themselves, talk to those people that are being thrown out of their homes and subjected to the daily humiliation go to a checkpoint and walk through the checkpoint, the way that a Palestinian walks through a checkpoint and tell me that's not apartheid, walk through that checkpoint, crammed in in cages and tell me it's not apartheid. So I think you're a very sincere person, I think you're gonna you're gonna do your best.
I'll be praying for you. Some of these are harder than others. But yes, I feel like we're in the middle of a negotiation. And we've come to a point where we both agree, everyone deserves to be everyone. Not everyone deserves to be but I think there's great value and benefit. Let me say I agree with you and hearing people, even tyrants, hearing them, so that you can properly deconstruct and decipher what you're hearing. But just think of the voices that don't get hurt. And a lot of times what's been done to the Muslim world is and what's being done right now, in the name of the Abraham accords. What's wrong with the Palestinians, the other Arabs are making peace with them. Let
me tell you something, those regimes that are signing on to the Abraham Accords, the people are not happy, but they're terrified of challenging those regimes. So if you go talk to the leaders of some of these countries that have signed on to the Abraham Accords, and that are, you know, in some twisted way,
making this about religion and peace,
you can greatly skew the narrative, to where Palestinians are just an inherently disagreeable people that don't want peace. They just want to live in their homes. They just want to live as full equal human beings. They want the things that everybody everybody wants. And they're only being further disenfranchised, in the name of peace now, because voices are being amplified, in the name of peace, that are suffocating voices for justice.
You said hope, as a man of faith, do you have hope? Yes. What gives you hope about
this part of the world and our world in general, when you look across and see so much conflict, so much division happening, what gives you hope?
I think that if you look through history, we have been through points as a world where we almost were not going to exist anymore, if you lived in the time of the Crusades, if you lived in some of these darker moments of history, World War One World War Two, you probably thought you weren't going to come out of this as a world.
I have hope in God.
And I have hope that godly people, people that are devoted to God and people of righteousness
can shift things with
I also believe that younger people, I hope there'll be different. I think younger people,
hopefully are using the word hope a lot. You know, you might hear Inshallah, God willing.
We'll see the path that we're heading, and will seek to disrupt
this bleak trajectory,
and bring it back to something else. So here's the thing, we live in a time of hyper exposure, that hyper exposure could paralyze you, or it could empower you. It could make you completely shut down and say, What's the point of even trying to help these people out? Why even talk about the Palestinians? Well, to get these people here, that lagers, the Rohingya, you got what's happening in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Brazil, South America, Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia, it's so much and it's it's, it can be overwhelming to a person who cares.
But you ultimately realize
that the difference that you can make,
can become a much greater difference, even if it's after your lifetime. And I'll tell you actually a story that I remember the first time what's the Syria, Syrian refugee camps, and you deal with people,
and this deeply human way.
For me, the most clarifying parts of the world are the refugee camps, where I feel the most clarity in life, about what I'm supposed to be doing in life, you go to the refugee camps, and then after interacting with these people, and you know, maybe giving a few people some trailer homes and some food and something that sustain themselves, some coats and blankets, you drive out of the refugee camps, back to where you're staying. And the camps get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger, and the people get smaller and smaller, and smaller and smaller.
But then you realize that, it might be that that small section that I touched on, is going to be the change that affects all of them. What's going to happen to that 12 year old boy that has seen the horrors of this world, and that is absolutely committed to uplifting his people, and bringing about a change, being responsible for the plight of his people. And so when I look at any section of devastation in the world, you never know which part of it that you're going to touch that's going to change everything, by the grace of God by the help of God. So you keep trying to do your part, you know, the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him said that the most beloved of deeds to God, are the
consistent ones, even if they're small, that small act of charity, that small smile, that small act of kindness, that small prayer might go a long way if he blesses it. So keep chipping away, chipping away chipping away
be paralyzed by the scale of the division just
chip away at it shouldn't be a small step at a time as I suppose all of us can do that. Young people can do that. Just one person at a time try to help Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. Oh my You're an incredible person. You're an inspiration. You know, I think you mentioned you came to Dallas for a podcast and instead you got a friend so it's a it's an honor to be your new friend. And I think it's time to go pray absolutely hope it's okay that join you in
at least in movement obviously prayer thank you so much. I appreciate you coming down it's been an absolute pleasure
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thanks for listening to this conversation with Omar Suleiman. To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors in the description. And now, let me leave you some words from Muhammad Ali. Impossible is just the big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in a world they've been given. And to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible. It's not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Thank you for listening, and hope to see you next time.