Part I of Dr. Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari's interview with the Qatari daily Al-Raya focused on his support forcurricular reform in the Arab world, incitement in mosques, the war in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden'spopularity. In Part II, which appears below, Dr. Al-Ansari discusses relations between the U.S., Arabs and Muslims,and the need for reform in the Arab and Muslim world. The following is a continuation of the interview:
"One of our greatest mistakes, which harms us and others, is that we classify our relations with the West in general, and America in particular, as hostile… We are willing to erase all of our achievements, relinquish our standard of living, and go back to the standard of living of countries classified as hostile to America, such as Iraq, the Sudan, and Iran. [In my opinion], it would be idiocy on our part to allow disagreement with the U.S. over the Arab-Israeli conflict to push us to the edge of the abyss."
"A significant number of the religious and pan-Arab ideas are suicidal and destructive… I do not mean to inspire fear or [oppose] sacrifice for the sake of religion and the homeland. [But,] irresponsibility and lack of understanding made us fixate on this blind rhetoric, which leads us blindfolded towards destruction. There are strategies and alternatives to resolve the contradictions and problems between America and us…"
"Anyone describing our relations with America as hostile is being unfair, for the following reasons:"
"America – both its administration and its people – is not hostile to Islam or Muslims. On the contrary: the American people is more welcoming of Islam than any other people. The Islamic community [there] numbers over eight million, and there are hundreds of mosques, Islamic centers, associations, and organizations that serve Islam. Islam's situation in America is good, and every day it gains new ground and new hearts."
"Yes, the American people and administration are hostile to the destructive [form of] Islam. Yes, there are writers and politicians, and there is the extreme right that is hostile to Islam and Muslims. Yet these make up only one sector. They do not shape public opinion, and do not direct the administration's policy…"
"The American administration has repeatedly stated that it respects Islam and Muslims – primarily President Bush, who is more enthusiastic than any [former] U.S. president in the defense of Islam… He carefully distinguished between Islam and fanaticism. When the word 'crusade' which he used was not properly understood, he hurried to the Islamic Center, met with Muslim leaders, offered clarification, and did not even hesitate to apologize – although this word has no religious meaning in the modern context…"
"Like him, the media also praised Islam, encouraging Americans – even after [September 11] – to study Islam and understand it better. The administration made sure that Islam and the Muslims were represented at all [official] events. The postal service issued the first stamp commemorating Islamic holidays… The House of Representatives opened one of its sessions with a reading of Surat Al-Fatiha… Can such fairness on the part of the administration and people be called hostility towards Islam and Muslims?..."
"American-Arab relations underwent different stages throughout history: there have been agreements and disagreements, but the positive aspects vastly outweigh the negative ones. Suffice it to mention just a few:"
The U.S. Support of Muslims and Arabs
"The American ultimatum [to Britain, France, and Israel] during the Suez War ; The liberation of Kuwait; The agreements of defense of the Gulf from regional dangers and greedy aspirations; America's aid to Egypt over 25 years, which reached $52 billion. After the September 11 attacks, the U.S. supported the Egyptian economy with another billion dollars. Furthermore, American investments are among the highest of foreign investments in Arab countries, and America's weapons sales to Arab countries are very large-scale – the recent deal with Saudi Arabia alone was worth $2.4 billion."
"Had it not been for the Americans' intervention and mediation, Egypt would not have gotten back the Sinai, and the Palestinian Authority would not have gotten part of its lands… In addition, the U.S. supports the PA's budget, aids Jordan, and is the greatest donor to countries such as Afghanistan, the Sudan, and Somalia. America is the source of armaments, technology, and training for many Arab countries' armed forces. The Arab military forces rely on American weapons in developing their warfare ability, in their training exercises, and for spare parts. Without armed intervention to defend Muslims in Kosovo in 1998, and before that in Bosnia against Serbian aggression, they would not have been liberated. America committed itself to granting $7 million to Bosnia… [W]ithout American intervention and American weapons, Afghanistan would not have been liberated from the Russians."
"We must not forget American support for the Arab and Muslim countries' national independence from colonialism. We must not forget the economic, commercial, military, and other agreements with America. We [should] also [remember] America's support for moves towards democratic openness, modernization, and human rights in the Arab world."
"As negative aspects, we mention America's bias towards and perpetual support of Israel. Yes, this is a significant negative aspect. However, this is only one element in the fundamental relations… not the entire relationship... [T]he positive aspects are much more numerous…"
"True, America is biased towards our enemy [Israel], but will we permit this problem to control our relations with it? What will we gain by hostility towards America? Haven't we lost enough during the time we were hostile to America and put our trust in Russia as our ally, and [put ourselves] in the hands of revolutionaries mouthing slogans of hostility [calling for] attacks on American interests? Wasn't this a poor gamble by any standard – and are we not still paying its price?"
"…What can the nation gain by pouring imprecations on Washington, and by our dissemination of hatred and hostility towards the U.S. through television and the press? What have we gained from the demonstrations of [people] waving bin Laden's picture and burning American flags?…"
"…Instead of cursing and reviling, let us win over America… as others do. Our political disagreement with America has to do with quantity, not quality; it is a disagreement concerning the percentage of lands to be returned to the Palestinians from the territories occupied in 1967. Egypt got its lands back, as did Jordan. The Palestinians have an authority and a state, and there are agreements signed with Israel under international and American auspices that cannot be renounced. Therefore, answering the calls and slogans of the street – which are false and obsolete – will not help the cause at all."
The Need for Reform
"…Our situation must change; there must be more democratic, social, and economic openness, more respect for human, women's, and minorities' rights. The American people does not respect anyone who doesn't respect its own people… The world is changing rapidly, and we must not be mere spectators."
"We must understand that Islam is not the object of conspiracies by anyone. We must free ourselves of [our] complex of hatred and hostility. We must not remain trapped in theories of global conspiracies in our relations with the West and the U.S.… Why doesn't the Arab community [in the U.S.] act, instead of disseminating exaggerations about the capabilities of the Zionist lobby?… We must know how to speak to the American mentality and convey what we want."
"Yet before all this, we must free ourselves of the hatred and hostility that rule our newspapers and flow through our television channels, ignited by the pulpits of our mosques…"
"…Our youth will pay a high price for the unceasing distortion from the mosque pulpits… We must know… that a large majority [in America] is calling for dialogue and mutual understanding…"