Saturday, October 02, 2010
Facebook, Sufism, 9/11, Terrorism, and Faith: An Interview
Just a little over a year ago, my wife had induced me to set up an account on Facebook which she felt might be a means of, among other things, helping to promote some of my books, poetry CDs, and other activities. Last night I went to the movies with my wife and saw 'The Social Network' which seeks to explore some of the very human and social forces at work behind the inception and development of the Internet portal: Facebook.
One of the people who befriended me on Facebook was a Muslim from Sweden. During this past Ramadan, he approached me via a Facebook message and asked if I would be willing to do a sort of virtual interview with him concerning a variety of topics.
He said that he had been a journalist at one point in his life. However, he indicated that the interview would be put up on his blog and would be translated into Swedish.
In order to make a somewhat longer story shorter, I decided to commemorate the, roughly speaking, anniversary date of my joining Facebook, as well as pay tribute to the recently released movie concerning the origins of Facebook, with an interview that arose through one of my contacts on Facebook.
The following questions are from the aforementioned Swedish Muslim. The answers are from the present American Muslim and are, with a few slight cosmetic changes, essentially the same answers given to the individual from Sweden.
Question: How did you convert to Islam?
As a war-resister during the Vietnam era, I had gone to Canada. During the early part of my stay in Canada (I lived there for nearly thirty years before moving back to the United States just before 9/11) I became interested in exploring a variety of mystical spiritual traditions – both through an extensive reading program as well as through making contact with some actual teachers of a few of the traditions about which I had been reading.
My interest in spirituality was a continuation of sorts of how my university life began. More specifically, I had gone to university with the idea of becoming a minister in conjunction with one, or another, Christian church, and although, for a variety of reasons, I abandoned this career idea, I remained very interested in many of the sorts of questions most of us ask ourselves: Who am I? Why am I here? What is the purpose of life? How should life be lived? What is the nature of my potential?
At varying points in my life I engaged the foregoing questions through science, philosophy, and spirituality. While I have retained an interest in, and affection, for both science and philosophy, my heart was most drawn to the spiritual side of things.
After reading works by, on, and in relation to Gurdjieff, I became involved with a Gurdjieff group in Toronto. At some point during this period, I became aware that some of Gurdjieff’s teachers apparently had been from the Sufi tradition.
As a result, I began to read a great deal about the Sufi path. Through a strange set of circumstances, I was provided with an opportunity to meet and talk with a Sufi shaykh or teacher who also was professor of Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of Toronto.
Based on these meetings I decided to focus on the Sufi path. Consequently, I disengaged myself from the Gurdjieff group, and began to associate with the aforementioned Sufi teacher.
In time, I came to understand that the Sufi path could not be separated from the practice of Islam. Although many Muslims seem to think that the Sufi path is sort of a illegitimate, backdoor way of becoming Muslim, I like to think of the Sufi path as the servant’s entrance.
Question: What made you doubt the official story of 911?
I did not come to the issue of 9/11 right away. My life circumstances had been in turmoil for quite some time, and these circumstances forced me to have to struggle in a variety of ways just to survive.
On September 11th, my clock radio awakened me to the news that a plane had crashed into one of the World Trade Towers. I immediately got up and turned on the television and was greeted by some of the ensuing events. However, because there were a number of things happening in my life that, for the most part, kept me away from television, radio, newspapers, and the Internet for some time, I wasn’t really able to immerse myself in the 9/11-issue at that time.
Nevertheless, there was some collateral damage that filtered into my life within days of 9/11. Someone who had been attending some public discussion groups concerning the Sufi path that I had been conducting on and off in the area where I lived reported me to the FBI.
The person who reported me – and I found this out from a friend in whom the individual had confided – indicated that there were many suspicious things about me. For instance, the person told the FBI that I had no visible means of support … I was unemployed at the time and collecting unemployment insurance benefits but, apparently, that person was not aware of this and, therefore, seemed to conclude that I must be funded by some terrorist organization. The person also told the FBI that I had state of the art computer equipment – apparently indicative of a high-tech connection to various terrorist groups … although the reality was that the person didn’t know about computers and failed to understand that although my computer was new, it hardly was state of the art. Finally, the person who reported me to the FBI said that I was very secretive – presumably to hide my allegedly terrorist activities from the public … but the reality was that I lived in an area where there were few Muslims, and even fewer Sufis, and, therefore, I tended to keep to myself and pursue my practices – both Islamic and Sufi – in private.
Initially, I had no problem believing that a group of Muslims might have conspired together to perpetrate the tragedies of 9/11. I had been a Muslim for over twenty-five years and had both traveled in the Muslim world on a number of occasions and, as well, I had been a close witness to the sort of back-stabbing, cut-throat politicking, and jockeying for power that often goes on within the Muslim community, so I was well aware of extremist elements within that community.
At some point during the hearings being held by the 9/11 Commission, I caught some of the televised testimony – especially that of Condoleezza Rice and Richard Clarke – and, as well, I heard some of the so-called Jersey Girls (individuals who had been widowed through the events of 9/11 and who had been instrumental in pressuring for an allegedly public investigation – i.e., The 9/11 Commission -- into the events of 9/11 to take place) on the Chris Mathews cable television show on MSNBC. The questions that were being asked by the women who were referred to as the Jersey Girls struck me as both perceptive and important, and they were raising some fundamental questions about the tenability of the “official conspiracy theory” being promulgated by the government.
At about this same time, I began to have some telephone conversations with a fellow Muslim – an emergency room doctor – who had been among the first responders who assisted at Ground Zero. He told me about his own experiences, and, then, suggested that I read several books by Nafeez Ahmed, a British writer.
I did read those books, and, then, I began to read pretty much everything about 9/11 that I could get my hands on. Eventually this included: The 9/11 Commission Report, The Pentagon Performance Report, and various NIST (National Instituted for Standards and Technology) reports concerning the collapse of the three buildings at the World Trade Center. In addition, I read the Popular Mechanics book: Debunking 9/11 Myths, which was an expanded version of an earlier article that had been written in their magazine. I also read a lot of material that was critical, in one way or another, about all of the foregoing analyses concerning the events of 9/11.
From the very beginning of my research into 9/11, I was not all that interested in the question of who perpetrated 9/11. I thought that all those who were pointing accusing fingers at Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and many others were getting the cart before the horse. First, one must establish the facts – that is, the ‘what -- and, then, one follows those facts wherever they might lead with respect to the ‘who’ of 9/11.
Furthermore, all of the individuals who were getting caught up in the ‘who’ of 9/11 instead of the ‘what’ of 9/11 were having trouble connecting the dots and showing, in any sort of rigorous way, how Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the others actually did what they were alleged to have done. As a result, many rather flimsy and problematic theories concerning the ‘who’ of 9/11 were generated, and, consequently, a whole conspiracy theory industry was generated that led many people to conclude that anyone who questioned the conspiracy theory being promulgated by the government was, oddly enough, a conspiracy theorist who dealt in wild, fringe, ridiculous ideas concerning the events of 9/11.
From the beginning, I was interested in the official government accounts concerning the technical issues surrounding the collapse of the three buildings at the World Trade Tower and the events at the Pentagon. Few people have taken the time to look at the NIST reports concerning the collapse of the three buildings at the World Trade Center or to look at The Pentagon Performance Report concerning what, allegedly took place at the Pentagon on 9/11, and, then, compare those accounts with a wealth of data which is in the public domain and which runs counter to what those different reports have asserted.
There are many things that might be said in this regard, but let me mention just a few things. The essence of NIST’s theory concerning the collapse of the two Twin Towers is that the floor assemblies in the Twin Towers failed (due, supposedly to the effects of intense fires) and, as a result, pulled the outer walls inward until a progressive collapse was initiated that brought the two buildings down. However, Underwriter Laboratories tested the floor assemblies and demonstrated that the theory of NIST was incorrect – that is, the floor assemblies would not have failed under the conditions existing in the Twin Towers on 9/11.
In addition, the simulation studies that NIST ran in conjunction with various facets of their investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings are not capable of withstanding close, critical analysis. This is true not only with respect to the simulation studies which sought to re-construct the spread and intensity of the fires in the Twin Towers, as well as the simulation studies that focused on the issue of fire-preventing insulation on the iron beams, but the problems with NIST’s simulation studies includes the very important fact that NIST has not been able to construct a computer simulation of the collapse of the Twin Towers which starts from first principles of engineering and material sciences that can be shown to be consistent with what television and still photographs clearly show happened on 9/11.
There have been a variety of theories besides the one put forth by NIST that have been advanced by different scientists and engineers which purportedly explain why the buildings at the World Trade Center collapsed. None of those theories can properly account – that is consistently and in a way that is rigorously and plausibly rooted in actual physical evidence -- for the observed facts.
Among other things, basic laws of physics are violated in all of the foregoing explanations. These include laws such as the conservation of momentum and the conservation of angular momentum.
In fact, NIST was forced to revise its theory concerning the collapse of Building 7 at the World Trade Center when a high school physics teacher, David Chandler, demonstrated that for several seconds the collapse of Building 7 was in free fall. This fact of free fall cannot be explained by NIST or by any other supporter of the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11, and the presence of such free fall indicates that there is no conventional, natural way of explaining such a collapse based solely on the a heat-based theory of why Building 7 collapsed – i.e., fires which heated iron beams did not bring down the building, and, so, it leaves open the question of how did Building 7 collapse.
There are many, many, many other facts concerning the disintegration of the Twin Tower – and if a person looks carefully at what happened to the Twin Towers on 9/11, one sees a disintegration of the buildings and not a collapse – that indicate that none of the official theories concerning the cause of the demise of the Twin Towers can account for what has been observed by most of the world. There are many, many other aspects concerning the official explanation for the demise of Building 7 at the World Trade Center complex on 9/11 which are not consistent with the available empirical evidence.
Similarly, if one takes a close look at the events at the Pentagon on the morning of September 11th, one comes up with a variety of disturbing facts concerning the official account for what allegedly took place at the Pentagon on 9/11. For instance, April Gallop, who had top security clearance at the Pentagon, indicates that she was in the precise place where the official report claimed the commercial jet slammed into the Pentagon. The problem is that she has given testimony indicating that she walked out through the hole in the building caused by ‘the event’ at the Pentagon on 9/11 and although she was in her bare feet, nothing that either her feet or hands touched was hot, that there were no fires, that there was no plane wreckage, no luggage, and no passengers. She also reports that when she was recovering from her injuries in the hospital that a group of men came to her and sought to convince her that a plane had slammed into the Pentagon that day.
In addition, Pierre Henry-Bunel, a French explosives expert who served with General Norman Schwarzkopf during the first Gulf War that involved the United States, has done an extensive analysis of the only video footage that has been released in conjunction with the alleged crash at the Pentagon. His conclusion is that the video does not given evidence of a plane crash but, instead, the evidence is consistent with the possibility that some sort of anti-concrete hollow charge struck the Pentagon on 9/11.
Furthermore, some twenty people, including two Pentagon police officers, as well as a person attached to the Naval Annex near the Pentagon, have come forward and testified that the jet plane which went toward the Pentagon approached the building on the north side of the Citgo gas station which is about a mile from the Pentagon, rather than on the south side of that gas station. This is significant because the entire Pentagon Performance Report is based on the premise that whatever hit the Pentagon approached the building from the south side of the Citgo station, and, among other things, this means that the proposed angle of entry of the plane that supposedly hit the Pentagon which is being advanced by the Pentagon Performance Report is inconsistent with a great deal of other evidence.
There are many other factors concerning the events at the Pentagon that are totally inconsistent with what the Pentagon Performance Report claims happened on 9/11. These other factors have been reported by a variety of professional people, including an array of both commercial and military pilots who have brought forth a great deal of evidence indicating that important elements – including the alleged telemetry reports from the ‘Black Box’ that supposedly survived the alleged plane crash – in the Pentagon Performance Report have been fudged and are inconsistent with the available facts.
None of my concerns about the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 have to do with the ‘who’ of things. They all have to do with questions linked with ‘what’ happened on that day in relation to matters that are entirely empirically and scientifically based.
I reject the official government conspiracy theory concerning 9/11 because its purported explanation of why the Twin Towers and Building 7, as well as its purported explanation of what happened at the Pentagon, are not supported by the facts. In other words, whatever occurred at the World Trade Center and at the Pentagon on 9/11 in relation to material damages, the fact of the matter is that crashing, burning planes cannot account for the observed damage. Therefore, the official government conspiracy theory concerning the events of 9/11 must be re-examined … and, this time, through a process that is completely transparent and run by the people, not government officials. (The interested individual can read more about the issue of September 11th in my book: The Essence of September 11th, both in real world and Kindle formats.)
Question: If 911 were exposed, beyond all doubt, as an inside job, what consequences would that have?
How one responds to this question really depends on the identity of the people on the inside. If people such as Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld were responsible – and, although for a variety of reasons that are quite independent of 9/11, I feel that Bush and company have betrayed the American people and the people of the world, I am not convinced that they necessarily had anything to do with 9/11 – then there are tens of millions of Americans whose world view concerning their country will be shattered. If – hypothetically speaking -- people like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld and others were the ‘insiders’ who were responsible for the tragedy of 9/11, then treason would have been committed at the very highest levels of American government, and the fault lines likely would run in every direction with a concomitant capacity to fracture American society in incalculable ways.
If the alleged perpetrators of 9/11 involved a variety of disgruntled military officers, rogue intelligence agents, and self-serving corporate interests, the collateral damage would still be significant. However, it likely would be a social earthquake of several less orders of magnitude than if the hypothetical insiders were people such as Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld.
In many ways – and for many different financial, economic, political, cultural, and international reasons – the United States is at a ‘tipping point’. There is a great deal of anger in the United States about many things, and if people were to be presented with incontrovertible evidence that American insiders were involved in, or behind, the events of 9/11, this could be the sort of revelation that might push the United States into political collapse, civil war, chaos, or even a military dictatorship.
I’m not sure many people appreciate just how fragile any society is. The difference between being functional and dysfunctional is a lot less than many people might suppose or wish is the case. Moreover, once a country begins the political/cultural slide downhill, it is very difficult to stop or reverse the destructive momentum that has been set in motion.
Question: Was Israel involved in 911?
I am aware of the evidence indicating that a group of Israelis were witnessed celebrating the events at the World Trade Center in North Bergin, New Jersey -- which is just across the river from the Twin Towers in Manhattan. I am aware that those individuals were later apprehended, taken into custody, and, eventually, were identified as agents of Mossad. I also am aware that those individuals were released under questionable circumstance and that they later appeared on Israeli television bragging about their experiences on 9/11.
I am aware that there were officials connected with the Israeli government whose travel plans were altered prior to 9/11 and, apparently, in direct relation to the impending events of 9/11. However, I also am aware that there were officials within the United States who were warned not to travel by commercial air on 9/11.
I am also aware that an Israeli instant messaging software company seemed to have prior knowledge concerning the impending events of 9/11. On the other hand, I also am aware that David Schippers – the person who was given the job of being Chief Investigative Counsel in the impeachment of Bill Clinton – has come forth and given testimony that three FBI agents approached him indicating that they knew the day, time, and location of the attacks but were being but were encountering resistance from people in the Counterterrorism unit of the FBI, and, therefore, the Israeli software company may have just picked up on information that, actually, was filling the world’s intelligence communities prior to 9/11 and which had been passed on to the United States government by a number of countries – including Israel, Russia, Germany, Egypt, and quite a few other countries.
Because of the behaviors of the Israeli government with respect to Israel’s illegally: occupying Palestinian territory, stealing Palestinian territory, building a wall in Palestinian territory, torturing Palestinians, bulldozing the homes of Palestinians, killing innocent Palestinian children, women, and men, depriving Palestinians of water, and committing any number of war crimes in Lebanon and Gaza, one doesn’t have to go searching for excuses to be able to demonstrate Israel’s status as an out of control rogue state in the international community. However, whether or not, Israel had anything to do with 9/11 is a very different matter.
Israel certainly had agents in the United States who knew things about 9/11 before it occurred. Whether this knowledge was indicative of their merely having done their homework and, therefore, having become independently aware of some of the forces that were at work on 9/11, or whether their prior knowledge was indicative of something much more sinister, I really don’t know.
Question: In Sweden the media are portraying anybody who doubts the official story as a lunatic. How about in America?
There have been a variety of polls taken in the United States concerning the American public’s perceptions of, and opinions about, the events of 9/11. The last poll I saw – which was done a few years ago -- indicated that roughly a third of the American people have serious questions about the tenability of the official government conspiracy theory.
Unfortunately, the media bears a considerable responsibility for the state of ignorance of many people concerning the actual facts of 9/11. For many individuals, their ideas about the world are fed to them through the filters, biases, prejudices, and vested interests of the media.
I don’t have to invoke any form of conspiracy theory to account for why the media does what it does in conjunction with 9/11. People in the media operate out of individual frameworks that shape their choices.
Like the rest of us, the media is filled with individuals who have fears, anxieties, likes, dislikes, egos, concerns about their career, and who are governed by a great many social expectations arising from those around them that tend to influence how they feel they should behave and believe. I have found very, very few representatives of the media who have done their homework with respect to the facts of 9/11.
By and large, people in the media – both in the United States and elsewhere -- have accepted the view points of other people – often official, government sources -- concerning 9/11 and have conducted little or no independent investigation into the matter. Moreover, even if they were to have conducted such research, if they tried to present it, they would either lose their jobs and/or be branded as conspiracy nuts and/or find themselves at loggerheads with many other people in their surrounding society.
For the most part, people don’t like confrontation, conflict and tension. Consequently, it is easier to let matters like 9/11 go by the wayside rather than have to deal with the unpleasantness that often ensues when one attempts to run counter to the majority social current. The media are no different in this than are most people.
Question: Let’s say 911 was an inside job. But isn’t there any real Islamic terrorism? We recently saw the bombing of Ali Hujwiri shrine in Pakistan for example. Who was behind that?
There are several questions being asked in the foregoing. First, there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism.
Whatever terrorists there are in the Muslim community, they pursue an ideology or theology that cannot be supported by the Qur’an or the teachings of Islam. They do not pursue an extreme or radical version of Islam, but rather they are advocates of a personal philosophy that offers faulty justifications for the killing, torturing, maiming, and abusing innocent people – both Muslim and non-Muslim.
These are individuals who have made idols of themselves and who bow down to their own self-serving arguments concerning their alleged ‘right’ to accuse, judge, and execute whomever disagrees with their personal philosophies. The Muslims in question are counterfeiters who seek to replace real Islam with their bogus spiritual currency.
Are there bad Muslims in the world? Of course, there are, just as there are bad Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, agnostics, and atheists in the world.
Are some of those bad Muslims involved in terrorist activity? I am sure there are.
However, what Israel is doing in Palestine is also terrorism. Furthermore, what the United States military has been doing in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan is also terrorism.
By definition, terrorism is any act that induces terror in the general public. Israel, and the United States are but two countries among many others that could be mentioned (including many so-called Muslim countries) that, on a regular basis, conduct operations that terrorize the public -- whether through the military, the police, economics, the legal process, religious institutions, politics, the media, or education.
We live in perilous times because, in all too many ways, terrorism is the new religion of the day which, in one form or another, is practiced by many countries, governments, corporations, organizations, educational institutions, and media groups, as well as individuals. The so-called ‘War on Terror’ is being conducted by individuals who are themselves terrorists, and consequently, it has become almost impossible to tell one side from the other.
Consequently, when one cites any particular instance of terrorism – such as the bombing at the Ali Hujwiri shrine in Pakistan – this is like trying to claim that the problem of terrorism comes from only certain kinds of people … the usual suspects. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that we are all being tossed about in a sea of terrorism in which many: individuals, countries, corporations, and organizations are busily churning up the waters of chaos and destruction for their own personal advantage, hatreds, biases, and greed. (The interested individual can read more about the issue of terrorism and other related topics in my book: Unveiling Terrorism, Fundamentalism, and Spiritual Abuse.)
Question: What is the place of Sufism in Islam?
Islam is an infinite ocean. Does one drop ask other drops what their place in the ocean is?
Islam refers to a process of struggling toward the realization of one’s primordial human potential or fitrah. Different people pursue this struggle in different ways and with different degrees of intensity and for different purposes and with different goals in mind.
Some people believe that the purpose of life is to achieve paradise and avoid hell. Others believe that the purpose of life is to be discovered through the realization of the spiritual potential that Divinity has gifted to human beings. Other people believe that one needs to learn how to serve the truth in everything one does and that issues like heaven, hell, states, and stations will look after themselves in accordance with God’s wishes.
Who is the Sufi in all of this? So much depends on the purity of both one's niyat, or intention, and sincerity. Allah knows best!
Service and worship are not contained in a name but are given expression through actions and understanding that are thoroughly rooted in taqwa. The Qur’an indicates that the one who has taqwa will be taught discrimination by Allah.
The Qur’an itself distinguishes among: Muslim, Mo’min, and Mohsin. Being a Muslim is not the end of the road, but, rather, being a Muslim merely constitutes the beginning stages of exploring the possibilities inherent in the human condition.
Questions: Are many Americans attracted to Sufism?
In al-Hujwiri’s Kashf al-Majub, one of the oldest, extant expositions of the teachings of the Sufi path, the eleventh century saint quotes an earlier, eighth century proponent of the Sufi path as saying: “Once Sufism was a reality without a name, and now it is a name without a reality.”
There are quite a few individuals in the United States today who refer to themselves as Sufi but who do not seem to feel any need to dive into the ocean of Islam and seek to discover the springs from which the Sufi path flows. There are also quite a few individuals in America that refer to themselves as Sufi, but who are unknowingly involved in abusive spiritual relationships with fraudulent shaykhs, and some of these shaykhs are quite well known. There are some individuals in the United States who like to read Sufi literature and like what they read, but this is about as far as the attraction goes. There are some individuals in the United States who have a tendency to label anything that is vaguely spiritual or mystical as being expressions of the Sufi path and, then, proceed to add in whatever ideas and practices that appeal to them. There are some academics in the United States who teach courses on something they call Sufism but who, themselves, have never had an authentic teacher or actually engaged in the Sufi discipline in any sort of rigorous way. There are some individuals in the United States who are associated with authentic shaykhs, but the nature of the association varies with the individual and, consequently, it is difficult to know just how attracted such individuals are to the Sufi path.
There is as much misinformation making the rounds in America concerning the Sufi path as there in relation to Islam, in general. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) did warn that there were 73 sects in Islam, and only one of them was correct. What is true in Islam is also true with respect to the Sufi path.
How many people in America are attracted to Islam only to be misled by the people with whom they are unfortunate enough to fall in with and associate? How many people in America are attracted to the mystical dimension of Islam only to be misled by the people with whom they have been unfortunate enough to become associated.
Your question is a good one. And, the answer is rather complex and nuanced, and I have do not have any definitive answer for you.
Question: You wrote a critique of atheist activist, Sam Harris called “Sam Harris And The End Of Faith: A Muslim's Critical Response”. Is there still a future for Faith?
Faith gives expression to the ratio between a given set of knowns and the relationship of that set with another set which is filled with unknowns. Everybody lives in accordance with faith, whether they are atheists, agnostics, or spiritually inclined.
When one eats breakfast in the morning, it is done with a faith that what one is eating is not contaminated or poisoned. When one takes one’s car to work, this is done with a faith that the car will not have a serious mechanical failure that will cause an accident, and it is done with a faith that other drivers will obey the rules of the road. When one accepts a job or a job promotion it is done with the faith that it will generate more good than harm. When one marries someone, it is done with the faith that the relationship will be successful rather than fall apart. When one goes to the doctor or takes medicine, it is done with the faith that the doctor knows what she or he is talking about or that the company that made the medicine is competent in what they do? When one invests in the stock market, one does so with the faith that the company in which one is investing will pay dividends. When one plans a vacation, it is done with the faith that it will be enjoyable and not a catastrophe. When one votes in an election, it is done with the faith that the person one is voting for will actually serve one’s interests.
Faith enters into our lives thousands of times a day in relation to virtually every aspect of life. We make choices on the basis of faith every single day we are alive.
Human beings are not omniscient. Therefore, there are a great many things that we do not know. How we decide to relate what we do know with what we don’t know is the character of our faith.
Some people don’t like the term “faith”. Consequently, they use words like: prediction; probability; inference; projection; implication; extrapolation; model; theory, and the like. In the end, however, these are all really different species of faith.
Therefore, to answer your question, I believe that faith has a bright future in relation to human beings. Whether, or not, such faith will prove to be constructive in relation to helping to realize the essential nature of being human is above my pay grade. (Those who are interested can read more about my critique of the Sam Harris book in: Sam Harris and the End of Faith: A Muslim's Critical Response)
Question: Do you think it’s possible to separate Islam from politics? Can you be an apolitical Muslim?
Actually, it is not only possible to separate Islam from politics, but the fact of the matter is, that the presence of politics is a very good indicator that Islam is nowhere close at hand.
I do not subscribe to the idea that shari’ah (so-called Islamic law) necessarily entails either a legal system or a form of governance. There is no such thing as an Islamic state, although there are many Muslim states.
The term shari’ah appears in the Qur’an precisely once – namely, in Surah 45, ayat 18. “O Prophet, we have put you on the right way (shari’ah) concerning Deen, so follow it, and do not yield to the desires of ignorant people.”
In Arabic, one of the primary meanings of the word “shari’ah” is the place where animals come to drink. The related verb “shar’a” refers to the process of taking a drink. There is another word, “shaari” that is derived from the same underlying root and can refer to a way, path, or to the process of determining the nature of such a path or way.
You put all of the foregoing together and shari’ah refers to a process of seeking out a place to drink that which is life-sustaining and to do so in accordance with the nature of the path which determines the relationship among: the drinker, the path to the drinking place, the place to drink, and that which is to be imbibed at the place of drinking. This is the nature of Islam.
There are some people who wish to restrict Islam to just a little more than 500 verses out of a total of more than 6000 verses in the Qur’an and claim that the message of the Qur’an is a legal and political one. I feel that such a perspective does great injustice to a book that nowhere refers to itself as a law book but does refer to itself a means through which all things are explained in detail.
The Qur’an is epistemological and spiritual guidance, not legal guidance. The Qur’an also indicates that there can be no compulsion in the matter of Deen (Surah 2, Verse 256) – that is the process of realizing one’s spiritual potential – and, consequently, I have difficulty understanding how anyone believes that the Qur’an gives them authority to rule over the lives of other people in relation to matters of Deen.
The Qur’an also indicates that: “oppression is worse than slaughter” (Surah 2, Verse 217. And oppression is what takes place when one group of individuals seeks to use political and/or religious forms of compulsion to force other people to comply with the ideological and theological agendas of the former group of individuals.
The problem of regulating the public space is not the purview of religious laws. The problem of regulating the public space is the problem faced by each of us as individuals whenever we interact with that public space and to insure that such interaction is done through: adab, character, and justice.
Adab, character and justice cannot be imposed on people from the outside in. These qualities must come from within.
One can create an environment that is conducive to the nurturing and growth of such qualities. However, such growth will never take place in an atmosphere of political, legal, or religious compulsion and oppression.
The proof of the foregoing is strewn across the Muslim world. Spirituality tends to die in conditions of compulsion and oppression. (If one is so inclined, one can read more about the foregoing ideas in my book: Shari'ah: A Muslim's Declaration of Independence.)
Question: What is the New World Order that Bush announced on the 11 September 1991?
It is an expression of the arrogance of power as well as the delusional fantasy of those who do not know any better.
The shortest distance between two points is the truth. Unfortunately, the people who dreamed up the New World Order are individuals who are (mathematically speaking) lost in a complex plane among the convolutions of imaginary numbers without any formula for calculating a reliable metric.