The following are excerpts from a debate on secularism and Islamism in the Middle East with Syrian author Nidhal Na'isa and Egyptian cleric Sheikh Ibrahim Al-Khouli. The debate aired on Al-Jazeera TV on October 30, 2007.
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"Despite the Western, Economic, Political, Cultural, Media, and Social Invasion of the Region, the Arab Individual's Hatred of the Foreign Platforms Only Grows, and His Adherence to the Islamic Platform Increases"
Interviewer: "What is better for the Arab world – the modern Western platform or the Islamic platform? Only 10.4% voted for the modern Western platform, while 89.6% voted for the Islamic platform. Nidhal Na'isa, let me begin with you.
"Despite the Western, economic, political, cultural, media, and social invasion of the region, the Arab individual's hatred of the foreign platforms only grows, and his adherence to the Islamic platform increases. You have the results before you: About 90 percent of the voters reject the modernizing, secular, Western platforms – call them what you will. How do you respond to this?"
Nidhal Na'isa: "As you know, these voters are a bunch of people misled and numbed by the proselytizing, generalized, deceptive, romanticized discourse, which promises them black-eyed virgins and boys in Paradise, and such things. This discourse merely postpones the resolution of their problems – instead of resolving them today, let's resolve them in a billion years. This is escapism into the future. That's one thing. If those voters had managed to get a job and a visa to America, none of them would have voted, and nobody would have watched your show. You would be fired from Al-Jazeera and would be left jobless.
"Secondly, these votes reflect disgust for the totalitarian regimes. Like the hijab and all this Islamization, we are talking about disgust with the totalitarian regimes that have denied these people the good life. They are not voting this way out of love for these platforms... "
Interviewer: "They're not voting this way out of love for the Islamic platforms?"
"We Must Draw a Distinction Between Islam and the Islamists; There are Islamists, Who Use Islam for Their Political Designs, and There is Islam"
Nidhal Na'isa: "The platforms are Islamist, not Islamic. We must draw a distinction between Islam and the Islamists. There are Islamists, who use Islam for their political designs, and there is Islam. We respect Islam in the religious, spiritual, and ideological sense. But those peddlers of Islam, who accuse others of heresy, are the ones we must confront. They mislead these wretched people and make fools of them, by the deceptive proselytizing discourse.
"If these voters had experienced life under the rule of the Taliban, under the rule of the [Somali] Islamic Courts Union, or under the rule of Al-Turabi in Sudan, with their 'salvation state,' or whatever they call it, they would renounce all their beliefs, and would flee not only to America, but to Zimbabwe, Upper Volta, Burkina Faso, or Myanmar.
"Ever since these Bedouins invaded and colonized these countries, these countries have lived in a cycle of subjugation, oppression, and torture. These countries live under the burden of totalitarianism, backwardness, and ideological and social decay. 'From Tangier to Jakarta' – that is the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Islamic Al-Tahrir Party. From Tangier to Jakarta, all you see is poverty, totalitarianism, and decay..."
Interviewer: "And they talk about Islamic platforms..."
Nidhal Na'isa: "This platform has been failing for 1,400 years, and now they say to you: 'We will revive this platform.' Brother, if this platform was politically successful, we would welcome it, and would hope that people live a life of happiness. But this platform has brought nothing but wars and conflicts. People from the same country have become enemies because of these platforms, these lies, this animosity, this sectarianism, and this tribal fanaticism, which was revived by those Bedouins who invaded and colonized these countries.
"Egypt, Iraq, and Syria have been centers of civilization since the dawn of history. They gave rise to civilization. Every day the sun rose, civilization shone on them. But when those Bedouins went in, they destroyed these countries, which have never recovered since. Since those Bedouins entered these countries, they have never recovered. They have become decaying countries, suffering from poverty, misery, and tyranny."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "First of all, who are these Bedouins to whom you refer?'
Nidhal Na'isa: "The Bedouins who invaded these countries."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "What Bedouins?"
Nidhal Na'isa: "You know them perfectly well."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "No, I don't."
Nidhal Na'isa: "Yes, you do. Who invaded those countries? Who conquered them by the sword?"
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "I'm asking you..."
Nidhal Na'isa: "You know them...They were colonialist Bedouins..."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "Brother, I have the right to ask you what you meant..."
Nidhal Na'isa: "The Bedouins who came from the Arabian Peninsula."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "Who were they exactly? Do you mean the Bedouins of Najd in modern times?"
Nidhal Na'isa: "In modern times and in ancient times."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "What do you mean?"
Nidhal Na'isa: "In modern times, they have invaded these countries, armed with petrodollars and Wahabism..."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "The Bedouins who conquered these countries, according to you..."
Nidhal Na'isa: "They invaded them by means of the sword..."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "They were the first Muslims, the companions of the Prophet Muhammad. Those were the Bedouins you are referring to." [...]
"Western Civilization is Not Really a Civilization"
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "When they entered Andalusia, they brought Europe out of the darkness of the Middle Ages. They established a civilization for which the Spaniards still long today. Spain found itself under the burden of the fanaticism and racism of Ferdinand, Pope Urban, and others, and so the Spaniards lament the loss of that heritage. The Jews who immigrated and founded America excelled in comparison with the other immigrants, because they stole the heritage of the Muslims."
"In Andalusia, which you say, the Muslims conquered by the sword, they left a civilization unparalleled throughout history to this day. Western civilization is not really a civilization, brother."
Nidhal Na'isa: "Western civilization is not really a civilization?"
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "You listen to me! You listen to me!"
Nidhal Na'isa: "How did you come here from Egypt in two hours? On camels, it used to take you over six months to make a pilgrimage."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "Your concept of progress and backwardness are mistaken. This materialistic, technological progress, which gave rise to homosexuality even among the Church's clergyman and monks, who even perform same-sex marriages, is not a civilization. It is decay, in the true human sense and in the true moral sense. This runs counter to everything humanity has accepted in its long history."
"When the Muslims, with their Koran, tell the believers about Paradise, and the pleasant life therein, about the black-eyed virgins, and about those boys of whom you spoke – did they present the boys of Paradise like your boys, and the boys of America and the homosexuals? Did the Koran tell you such a thing?! Where is it written? Can you prove that any Muslim – reasonable or crazy, scholar or layman – ever interpreted that the boys of Paradise serve as fodder for homosexuals and people with vile desires, whose nature has been twisted?"
"Who confronts NATO in Afghanistan? Who is fighting NATO forces in their entirety in Afghanistan? Who fought in Iraq and destroyed it? The civilization that brought Iraq back to the Middle Ages, and removed it from the course of history – is it really a civilization?
"This civilization killed one and a half million people. It killed a million Iraqi children during the siege. It left traces of enriched uranium from the weapons that were used, and destroyed the environment for the next 35 billion years, according to American estimates. Is this a civilization? Was it the Muslims who annihilated the Indians? Did the Muslims ever annihilate any people, or even a nation of animals?"
Interviewer: "Turkey tried the Western modernistic platform since the fall of the caliphate in 1923 until recently, yet it returned full force to Islam. Why do you go against the flow?"
Nidhal Na'isa: "With regard to Turkey, my dear friend Faysal, without secularism – which is a Western, modernistic, and enlightened concept – they would never have come [to power]. They rule under a secular regime and constitution. They should thank the secular constitution for getting them to power. If they had been living under an emergency military regime, like your Arab regimes, they would never in their life have come to power." [...]
"Show Me One Secular Person Who Appears On Al-Jazeera TV Or Any Other Channel And Gets To Talk Reasonably"
Interviewer: "Why do people vote for the Islamic parties?"
Nidhal Na'isa: "Because there is no alternative. Show me one secular person who gets to appear on the Arab TV channels. Show me one secular person who appears on Al-Jazeera TV or any other channel and gets to talk reasonably. All we hear of is the culture of camel-urine drinking and breastfeeding adults. He was talking about the [Western] culture of homosexuality... with regard to homosexuality, Dr. Al-Khouli, it has existed from the prehistoric times, from the days of Lot, and in all societies..."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "But our Lord annihilated them..."
Nidhal Na'isa: "Whether He annihilated them or not – that's not the point. These are social and mental diseases that have existed throughout history, and are not restricted to any one people or country."
"Those who are fighting in Afghanistan are a bunch of criminals and outlaws, who were sentenced in their own countries. If they were to return to Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, or Algeria, they would be sentenced to death, yet you call them 'fighters.' They are a bunch of terrorists and outlaws who do not represent any platform.
"The only thing the Taliban did was to destroy the Buddha statues. You call that a platform? Those Buddha statues belonged to an historic civilization, and you tell me that these people are not destroyers. These are people who destroy civilizations, man. The only thing they care about is to cover women up with veils. Their sex phobia controls them. They are controlled by a phobia of sex, menstruation, and so on..."
Interviewer: "And beards and hair."
Nidhal Na'isa: "Exactly. You are talking about Andalusia. Dr. Ibrahim, my dear friend, you must open your mind and enlighten yourself."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "Enlighten yourself! I enlighten you, not the other way around, boy!"
Nidhal Na'isa: "You are a boy yourself. You listen to me."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "You are a boy compared to me."
Nidhal Na'isa: "And you're a boy compared to me too."
Interviewer: "Please, do not..."
Nidhal Na'isa: "I just want to open his mind."
Ibrahim Al-Khoulib: "I need my mind opened?! You have the brains of an ant, compared to me."
Nidhal Na'isa: "Thank you very much."