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PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT Islamophobia panel discussion, National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

, evening of October 23, 2012 Transcribed by Matthew Vadum ( The event was officially described at OCTOBER 23, 2012 7:30 PM Panel Discussion: The Muslim Experience in America As the eyes of the world turn to anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, the experience of Muslims in America has only grown more complex. This special public panel which culminated an intensive, high-level summitaddressed the challenges that Muslims in the United States continue to face, including suspicion and discrimination, and what role the faith community can play in fighting Islamophobia. This discussion comes at a pivotal moment in international relations between Americans and nations where the majority population is Muslim. The panel was moderated by the Very Rev. Gary Hall, dean of the Cathedral. Participants included: Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering, a career diplomat with the U.S. Department of State Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Association for Muslim Advancement Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, chairman of the Cordoba Initiative Dr. James J. Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute Sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Presidency & Congress with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York. [boldface added] [introductions etc. not transcribed]

14:30 DAISY KHAN: I'm telling you all this because not everything is bleak. It may appear that we're going through difficult times but there's some belief orientation going on within our community. There are new institutions that are being built. We are creating leaders who will become the future Muslim leaders of the world. We are [unintelligible] in their own countries so they can stand up for their own rights. And the greatest thing is a lot of these linkages are here coming out in the United States where Muslims are free to do anything. And we are standing on the legacy, the grand legacy of American women's suffragette movement and the civil rights movement. I've learned a tremendous amount from these movements and I think this is a great calling for Muslims because whatever Christian women have done and Jewish women have done, that too is [unintelligible]. And in conclusion, I know I have short of time remaining to talk but a couple of years ago you must have heard about the community center downtown that caused an international furor. I'm sure [unintelligible] the conversation, but very briefly once again when we proposed this project it was meant to bring people of all religions together. It was meant to be a center of healing, a center of understanding. It was in our neighborhood, it was our effort to say here we are the moderates that you keep asking for. We're here. We're here to build our neighborhood, the neighborhood that was our city, our neighborhood, our country, we want to rebuild it. And what was white became black, what was black became white and what was reported to all of you was [unintelligible]. So this is the power of media and how perceptions get shaped. We have a lot of work to do and audiences like you are very important because you all have constituencies and it's important for us to [unintelligible] and really go out there and share the good news with the world. Thank you so much. [...] 24:30 JAMES ZOGBY: We have a new wave of nativisms coming along. They're challenging that. It began over Imam Feisal's project. It took a different direction when we went to loyalty oaths for Muslims and Michele Bachmann wanting people fired because they weren't loyal to America, that kind of a McCarthyist bent to our politics there. What I find dangerous about it is that we've been down this road before but it's not who we are ultimately, that's not the America that triumphs, but we can't afford to make another mis-

take. That kid, that 10, 11 year old boy who wants to see the stars and go to the movies, what's at stake is, does he find that America, does he find that American identity [unintelligible] and the challenge with us is not to change who we are but to be who we are, to be the best of what we are and to not allow the marginalization of Muslim youth, but to fight rather to marginalize instead, those who preach hatred and exclusion because what's at stake is not just the inclusion of the young and the sense that the American dream and the American identity will work for the next generation, what's at stake fundamentally is the America that we know and love and that we want to pass on to the next generation. The lady in the harbor still stands there and the promise that she holds is one ultimately that we have to [unintelligible]. That identity is what makes us strong. It's what inoculates our young from radicalization. It's what keeps our young from becoming, feeling marginalized. [...] 27:44 JAMES ZOGBY: The danger about what Newt Gingrich is doing, what Michele Bachmann is doing, they're making us into Britain, they're making us into France and Germany, they're making us into a place that is no different, that does not include, and so I can see this as a theological issue as much as I see it as a national issue of America being what it is and what it does best, a model to the world, an example for our own people, a place that has brought in countless waves of immigrants [unintelligible], transforms them, transforms itself and becomes one of the great countries in the history of the world. Thank you. [...] 37:00 FEISAL ABDUL RAUF: So we have a country that is shifting, as all countries do, but the genius of the American societal contact is that we are a nation based up on principles and these principles govern our identity and they govern our identity far more profoundly because while we shift demographically, while we shift in terms of our ethnic composition, our religious demographics, we do have certain principles which unite us as a people and as a nation, a nation under God, indivisible with liberty for all, a nation that is

built upon a fundamental recognition of certain inalienable truths that we subscribe to, that all human beings are created equal and that the God that created us gave us inalienable rights, that they adhere in us not because these rights are given to us by any manmade agency. They adhere in us because we're human, that's why they're inalienable, among which are life, life, and the pursuit of happiness, which was [unintelligible] property which was then [unintelligible] happiness. And five centuries before these words were written, Muslim jurists, Muslim scholars of law, they said all the Sharia, all the law has one meta objective which is the best interests of human beings in this life or the next because [unintelligible]. We believe [unintelligible] the law and judgment and that this meta objective can be divided into six fundamental objectives of the law: the protection and furtherance of life, of religion, of dignity, of property, of family, of the intellect, of the mind... 43:10 [brief introduction of Ambassador Pickering by moderator not transcribed] THOMAS PICKERING: Thank you, Dean Halden. Good evening to all of you. I must indulge a little bit in a shorter life history to tell you that I've had the honor and pleasure of serving the United States government for forty-five years and during the course of that time was asked to be ambassador seven times. I had the wonderful experience of understanding something about religious diversity when I tell you I was ambassador to the largest Orthodox country, Russia, for the largest Hindu country, India, to the only Jewish country, Israel, to a Roman Catholic country, El Salvador, and to the Muslim country of Jordan. Diversity and religious experience was for me a part and parcel of knowing and understanding the job I was doing for you and for the American government. And it played an inordinately interesting role in many cases. To understand something about the common beliefs, the cultural differences, and the important things that united us as we looked out together at the world and its changes. I've spent a lot of my time since I left the government thinking about Iran and the challenges of Iran. And one of the striking and interesting things is that the depth of mistrust and misunderstanding has become so great that my own belief is that it will take more than just a political breakthrough. It will take the beginning of a dialogue with the Iranians which most unusually for the United States will have to be informed by an effort to develop religious understanding and perhaps harmony. And to that extent, religious leaders in the United States in a way may be called upon to become part and parcel of the effort which will take time to build and strengthen our

common interests through a common sharing of a set of ideas and values which is, in my view, very much a part and parcel of Islam as well as Christianity and Judaism. And you've heard from speakers tonight about that subject. The dean has given me a long charge to speak extensively about a wide number of topics and I'm going to cut that short. There should be time here for questions, but perhaps I could take it on myself to do something that I used to get paid for, to give you a very brief, very short summary of our six hours of intensive conversation this afternoon about the subject at hand. About our brothers and sisters in Islam in this country. About the gulf that has opened up and may still be opening. And what we might be able to do to close that gulf as we have struggled over the years to do so, with many who have come to this country from different countries, from different backgrounds, and from different religions. We began by an understanding that this country conceived in large measure by the wisdom of people like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, opened a special door, a unique door to religious tolerance, religious acceptance and, indeed, to mutual love in the field of and in the concept of religious diversity. But broadly speaking, a sense that we were all brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the single creating God. We understood that the struggle to implement those concepts, those wonderful ideas, is a long, hard and continuing one. It's a struggle that has been characterized as one person put it so clearly, by phobias, by bigotry, and by discrimination. And the inter-relationship of those emotions and those feelings is something that we all believed we had to undertake a special effort to deal with. There was no question at all as an interfaith dialogue we understood that on so many occasions, what happened to one of us would eventually happen to all of us. I'm not great at quotations. Perhaps it was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said of the Nazis, when they came for the Jews, I didn't speak up. I was not a Jew. When they came for the Catholics, I didn't speak up, I was not a Catholic. When they came for us, no one spoke up. There was no one left to do so. [Transcribers note: This is a misattribution. In fact it was not Bonhoeffer. It was Martin Niemoller and he gave the When they came for the... sermon that Pickering paraphrases here in 1946.] But in many ways we have this common bond of feeling that if religious discrimination and religious separation becomes the object of attack, we ourselves have a responsibility to deal with that. We discussed strategies and ideas for proceeding. We discussed

the need for organization. We discussed the interesting fact that continued polling data shows that those Americans who do not know Muslims, who do not know much about Islam, are the ones who harbor the greatest feelings of prejudice. And so there is something to be said for wonderful people like Daisy Khan and Imam Rauf coming amongst us to speak of their beliefs and of their faith. And indeed their hopes and aspirations which we all, I believe, widely share. There are strong efforts as well that we must make to deal with opinion leaders who harbor these prejudices, who espouse them and spread them. It was an interesting and fruitful day. I have been to many conferences. Conferences are measured not so much by the celerity of the opinions, but by the effectiveness of the implementation. And so that remains before us. Obviously we feel that very strongly. We are all grateful to the Cathedral for its work in sponsoring this sort of effort. And I think we all harbor hopes that there can be next steps taken out of the results of an extremely challenging and interesting meeting. And I know I join all of those on the platform in looking forward to your questions this evening. [QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION BEGINS] [...] 1:02:30 MODERATOR: We've had a recent flurry I'm sorry to cut off your applause, go ahead, applaud. [audience applauds] We had a flurry of questions for Ambassador Pickering that have come in, late returns, and I'm not I want to choose the most challenging one to see how diplomatic he can be. [audience laughs] But here it is. We now have tens this is one of several we have tens of thousands of returning American veterans whose experience of Islam comes from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. How do you think that's going to complicate efforts to promote the acceptance of Muslims in America? THOMAS PICKERING: I think it's an extremely good question. I have only had a very short association with veterans. One of my grandchildren is an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran. And my sense is that they come back without harboring ill will. It's quite interesting. I think that we made mistakes perhaps in sending them and not understanding

enough of cultural differences in giving them the advantage of understanding how and in what way they might best deal with the people they ran across. And I think that that was part and parcel of the haste with which we went in, the feeling that in war more things are excusable than in any other circumstance. And that is difficult. But I have not seen a veterans' movement yet that in fact has willingly become part of what I see as the strong, continuing and perhaps in an unfortunate way in some areas, growing prejudice against Muslims and Islam. And I hope it doesn't eventually. Many of the soldiers are still serving and I think that also is helpful because they understand that as loyal Americans, that kind of prejudice is not to be expressed. We've had a number of unfortunate incidents in our actions overseas. I only have to mention Abu Ghraib for you to understand. And I think they have left an extremely bad feeling among Muslims around the world. As indeed I believe the misbegotten war in Iraq and the invasion of Iraq has left its own sense of deep feelings. Some of that may well be now requited, but not entirely. And I fear that that's the bigger influence rather than the veterans as individuals acting in this country. 1:10:45 [...] JAMES ZOGBY: What can one expect from a 21 year old who's in the military and who's in a country where people are trying to kill him and the use of terms like haji or, we do it in every war. We have to dehumanize the enemy in order to legitimate the killing and that happened and I would add that the training that was done, we now have some revelations. I've got a stack on my desk about this high of the training manuals that were used at the Pentagon, and at other places at the Defense Department or that were used by law enforcement. The FBI training program is shameful, it's shameful. And I have, while they say they've gotten rid of them, I don't know what they replaced them with, and I do not believe that it is an issue of national security or top secret clearance to know what the hell's in a training program teaching kids about in the military or teaching FBI agents about Arabs and Muslims. I mean it ought to be something that we're brought into to do the training because what's at stake is the relationships that get built on the ground, the understanding that the kids come back with, the understanding of the FBI agents on the street who are dealing with these things and when you look at the training materials they've gone through, when

you look at the fact that up until, 2009, at Fort Bragg we were still using Raphael Pitai's The Arab Mind, a 1957 book that is about as racist as anything I've ever seen on Arab thought, on Arab culture, and it was reissued with an introduction by a colonel, this is the best way to understand Arabs and it's and Seymour Hersh makes the argument quite convincingly that there's a direct line between the logic of The Arab Mind and what happened in Abu Ghraib, the Arabs understand one thing and that's shame and humiliation. And of course the worst kind of humiliation is sexual degradation so we want to get them to bow down and say Simon and degrade them sexually, and that's the logic we're using. It's a problem and we're accountable and I think that we need to take a long hard look at why both the Pentagon and law enforcement have not been more forthcoming in revealing the materials and in opening up the process so that real experts can come in and do the training because ultimately what's at stake are relationships that get built, the psychology of these kids, and the relationships ultimately that will survive beyond their military and their law enforcement experiences. [...] JAMES ZOGBY: I'm going to say something that people may not understand or accept in the beginning but just hear me out. I actually think there's a direct correlation between the president of the United States and Islamophobia and here's why. I think that there's a direct correlation between the president of the United States and Islamophobia. As we do our polling, we find that it is not the universal phenomenon. This hatred toward Muslims is largely concentrated with middle class, middle age, white people, and then it overlaps almost identically with the Tea Party. It is not a Republican thing. It's a generational thing. And it is a phenomenon born of a simple set of conditions, collapse of home mortgages, foreclosures increasing, pensions in collapse when the stock market went down, unemployment doubling, the decline of the American dream. In our polling we always used, when we'd say, are your children going to be better off than you, that's the American dream question, we'd get two thirds saying yes. We now get two thirds saying no. And in the midst of all of that this group of white middle aged, middle class men looked around and saw a young African-American, educated at Harvard with a middle name

Hussein, and didn't like the president of the United States of America. It fueled this phenomenon and it opened the door for the wedge issue to operate and it's operating simply among that demographic, it's not a universal phenomenon, it's not found among African-Americans or Asians or Latinos, it's not found among young white kids, it's not found among college educated professional women, it's found in that one narrow demographic, that's where the bad numbers come from. And I think that, if, we had, I have a lot of gripes with George Bush, but if he were president, he would be doing what he did, which is put his foot down and say stop. I think we would not be seeing the phenomenon growing as we see it growing. But the problem is is that if Barack Obama says stop they say, you're just the damn problem to begin with, you're not one of us anyway. [Transcribers note: Zogby uses a redneck/country accent when saying the italicized words.] When a third of them don't think he's born here and another third think he's a Muslim, just a secret Muslim, and don't think he ought to be president because he's not legitimately an American citizen, this is a huge problem, so there's an overlay between the racism and the Islamophobia and I think that we have to understand it and address it and realize that there is a [unintelligible] to the electorate and it's being used as a wedge issue. MODERATOR: Other thoughts on that? THOMAS PICKERING: Let me just go further. Jim, I agree with what you say about both domestic politics and the wedge issue and the effect on the attitude towards the president. I'm deeply concerned. I don't agree with you that the veterans are a problem. I agree with you we had a huge problem with the armed forces, and you're right, it is the enemy. But I don't believe yet we have seen them bring that problem in an organized way back to the United States. But I will tell you that I think the fact that we have fought two long, difficult, and fruitless, in my view, wars against countries which are Islamic and in which that particular set of issues contribute to stereotyping, to phobia, to basically loose talk, jokes, and all the things that go to tend to make up bigotry and in a sense authorized it because we were at war is, in my view, part and parcel of the phenomenon that we see now and much more significant I think than what individual troops may have brought back. I'm not saying there's none of it, but I don't see a wave of it or a responsible group pushing this in any serious sense.

[...] 1:22:20 IMAM RAUF: We need what are called interlocutors. Interlocutors are individuals who both are recognized by the communities belonging to them and also by the broader community as belonging to them. They have to be seen as insiders on both sides and therefore what we need effectively is more effective interlocutors. [Unintelligible] really drop dead gorgeous good looking young men and young women to be on television. I mean, when you have people for example, publicity bombing, and you get the person with a thick foreign Arab accent or a Pakistani accent and people will look and say who's that? I can't relate to that person. But when you have a person who may look Pakistani and I've seen this when you stick them with a Mobile, Alabama, accent [audience laughs] or a Bronx accent, an Iraqi girl looking Iraqi thick with a Bronx accent, they'll say, oh, I relate to that person. So this is, I think, this is what we need to do. This is why I believe that this is a generational thing as more and more people obviously who understand what it means to be American, who speak in terms of American dialectic, the American vocabulary, the social vocabulary, the political vocabulary that makes people, oh yeah, I get it, and also to express those values in the authenticity of the terminology and the language and the ideals and the existential viewpoint of the Muslim community, that's what will see the shift. So part of the generic teaching aspects is to enhance [unintelligible] those interlocutors. We have people like [unintellgible], Jim here is one of them, I'm one of them, he's not a Muslim, he's a Christian, an Arab Christian, and I was once on a panel with an Arab Christian from Jordan who said I'm interested but my culture is Muslim which to me was, wow!, that was peculiar, but Jim is symbolic [unintelligible] very effective [unintelligible]. The problem is that we are completely overbooked. [audience laughs] We are spread too thin and we need to be more [unintelligible]. 1:25:00 JAMES ZOGBY: This year I was at the Democratic convention. We had a record number of Arab American delegates. We had a record number of Muslim American delegates. We had people like Congressman Keith Ellison and Andre Carson, I don't know, I mean

God in His wisdom could not have done better than Keith Ellison. [crosstalk, audience laughs] Keith Ellison is a gift to America and Congress, an extraordinary person who could not be better than he is and there are mayors all over the country, that there are city council people all over the country growing in power in the communities, is a marvel to behold. It is happening. And I think it's happening as part of the generation model [unintelligible], I mean, it's, you're just here for so long that at some point the tensions in Kashmir affect your family or the bombs in Lebanon will hurt your uncle and aunt but the schools ultimately are the ones that your kids are going to and whether there's crime in the streets and drugs, they're going to affect your safety and your business so folks decide to get involved organically as they become more integrated into the society and the fact is is that every skill, you know, when I started 30 years ago, open an office for Yemeni farm workers in California, there were three offices we opened for 7,000 Yemeni farm workers, second largest group of farm workers, they'd been there for 10 years with no services. Chavez wasn't organizing them and they had no services from the state. Ten years later there were 400 Yemeni farm workers left in the fields. They had opened over 3,000 small businesses up and down the coast of California. Today there is the Young Yemeni Professional Association. It's the doctors, lawyers, engineers, who are sons of that generation, who are farm workers, opened small businesses, sent their kids to college and now they're professionals, that's the American story, and they're running for office and they're getting elected and winning, so. [...] 1:27:15 DAISY KHAN: I know of four very young Muslim women that are currently serving in some capacity in various administrations. One is Huma Abedin. Many of you know who she is, Secretary Clinton's right hand, and Farah Pandith who is also an envoy to Muslim communities around the world but these are very prominent [unintelligible] right here in DC. And I'd like to tell the story of two unknown women that many of you do not seemingly know about who actually practically run New York City. They are the two commissioners of New York City. One happens to be Palestinian-Brazilian, and the other one happens to be Iranian, so when Mayor Bloomberg leaves town he often in a humorous way says, I wonder how many New Yorkers think that New York is weak left to an Iranian and a Palestinian? [audience laughs] And how did this happen? I mean these are both women who have been deeply committed to public service and they didn't even

think of not pursuing their career or advancing their political aspirations. And the story of one particular woman who I know is going to go to places is a young girl named Fatima Shama, she is one of the commissioners, of immigrant affairs of New York City, and when she was being considered for this role the mayor was trying to woo her, and he checked her out and said great credentials and they were walking on the street together and there was a piece of garbage on the street, she just went and she picked it up, and he said why'd you do that, because why do you want to dirty your hands, and she said I'm a public servant, you don't expect me to clean the streets here? And he that's going to be my commissioner, this is the type of person I want here, so yes, Muslims are deeply engaging but it's very distressful when people like Huma Abedin get attacked publicly as she was very recently and we know that it's organized opposition that is trying to scare this community or scare new aspirants from joining [unintelligible] but I think it's making the Muslim community even stronger and more committed to really joining ranks. Thank you. [closing comments, prayer, and wrap-up not transcribed] -end of partial transcript-