The following are excerpts from an interview with Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on May 11, 2007.
To view this clip visit: http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1450 .
Modern Religious Discourse is Different from the Religious Discourse of the Prophet
Interviewer: "Do you think that modern religious discourse differs from the religious discourse of the Prophet?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "Of course. The proof is in the pudding. Today, there is a lot of extremism, a wave of extremism. This religious discourse has not managed to improve the youth, and this crisis proves it."
"This discourse does not address human beings as human beings. We lack what I call the 'culture of humanity.' We want to make our youth love human beings as human beings, before they love them for being Muslim or non-Muslim, Shi'ite or Sunni."
"The purpose of jihad is to respond to aggression and to eliminate injustice. The greater Jihad is the Jihad of the soul, of development, of education – so we can live – not just die – for the sake of Allah. Can what is happening in Algeria, Morocco, and Iraq be called jihad? A youth in the prime of life puts on an explosive belt, and blows himself up among innocent people, and you call this jihad and martyrdom?"
"The religious discourse generates a crisis. You go to a mosque, listen to the Friday prayer, and you return a bundle of nerves, feeling hostile toward civilization and society, because the sermons focus on the negative aspects of society, and inflate them."
Interviewer: "So what needs to be done?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "We need to focus on the beautiful aspects of life and society. Not everything in life is tragic. You should make people love life. I would like the religious scholars, through their religious discourse, to make our youth love life, and not death."
Interviewer: "The American invasion of Iraq – isn't it a provocation to Arab mentality?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "That's true. But there have always been international conflicts. Besides, it is not only the Muslims who are subject to these so-called injustices. Since America is a superpower, it intervenes in the affairs of all the other countries, and all the peoples suffer because of this. But the question is how to respond. Should I respond by sending my children to commit suicide and blow themselves up? Let's say we accept that a certain person is anti-American – what are the civilians, children and women in Algeria to blame? Are they Americans? I ask you, who are most of the victims of suicide operations and terrorism – the Muslims or the non-Muslims? They are Muslims. The number of people killed by Muslims carrying out suicide operations is far greater than those killed by the Americans or the Israelis."
Interviewer: "Why is this, in your opinion?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "Since you allow him to blow himself up among the so-called enemy, and since he believes you do not belong to the same school or ideology, he considers you to be the enemy, and himself to be a martyr."
Suicide Operations Have Nothing To Do With Religion
Interviewer: "So the chain extends from one to another..."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "If you allow them to blow themselves up among Israeli citizens, they will end up blowing themselves up among Muslims citizens because they hold different views."
Interviewer: "Some time ago, you wrote an article in which you call upon the religious scholars to ban all suicide operations."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "That's true."
Interviewer: "Do you think that the fact that mistakes were made in suicide operations – in Algeria and Morocco, for example – should make you pull the rug from under suicide operations that target enemy soldiers, even in Israel?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "There has never been in Islam – not in the raids of the Prophet, or of his companions, or of other Muslims – anybody who blew himself up among the enemy or anybody else. Whoever gave the green light to suicide operations against Israeli civilians, and said that the dialogue with the Jews would take place through human bombs, did so out of political, ideological motives, in support of a certain political group. It has nothing to do with religion. All the religious scholars, especially the Salafi scholars, have said that whoever blows himself up, even among the enemy, is killing himself, and will be punished in hell.
"This is all the more true when we are talking about innocent civilians. According to the teachings of jihad, we must not kill the children, even among the enemy. Some talk about quid pro quo. They say that since the enemy kills our children, we should kill... quid pro quo is not allowed in this case, because our deeds should be restricted by virtue. We have a [divine] message. If I compete with the barbaric deeds of the enemy, this means I am like him.
"In addition, the claim that we have no other means except human bombs is not true. This is self-destruction. We live in an era in which we are destroying ourselves.
"Allow me to ask you a question. Have suicide operations, throughout their long history here and elsewhere, achieved any political goal? Never. Suicide operations have never achieved any political goal or benefited the Muslims."
Interviewer: "At the very least, they strike terror in the hearts of the enemies."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "On the contrary, they become even more vicious, and we lose our good reputation, the image of Islam, and the sympathy of world public opinion. The American presence [in the Persian Gulf] is legal."
U.S. Presence in Iraq is Legitimate
Interviewer: "You believe that the American presence in Iraq is legitimate..."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "It is legitimate and legal, because of the Security Council resolution, and the consent of all the countries in the region."
Interviewer: "You don’t consider it occupation?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "No, I don’t consider it to be occupation now, because it is not in the interests of the Gulf countries or of the Iraqis for the Americans to leave now. In addition, when can you call it occupation? When it runs counter to the will of the people. If 10 million Iraqis elected the current government, it is a legitimate government, whether you support it or not. This legitimate government invited the Americans, and it renews this invitation every year. The American presence in Iraq is exactly like the American presence in the Gulf countries. I wrote an article about it, and I say so here too. Iraq needs the American presence for its stability and defense more than we, in the Gulf, need the American bases to protect our interests."
Interviewer: "You, Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, a lecturer on Islamic law in the law faculty of Qatar University, have often been called as an American collaborator. Forgive me for saying so, but you have been described sometimes as one of the writers of the Marines Corps, who spread the 'good tidings' of the American presence."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "I don’t know what to say. Look, the tendency to blame anybody who disagrees with you..."
Interviewer: "But this view..."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "No, it is the nature of our culture..."
Interviewer: "But you support the Americans more than they support themselves."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "Let me be honest with you."
Interviewer: "It is not about the culture, because there are reasons..."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "We are all being accused... Why should I be prevented from being a collaborator, if it serves the interests of my country, and stems from patriotic motives? I am one of the supporters of the alliance with America. If you want to call this 'collaboration'... I support the strengthening of the alliance with America – military, cultural, and economic alliance – because I believe that the Gulf has no future without this alliance. All the leaders of the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council have declared that their alliance with America is strategic."
"Am I supposed to be a collaborator with bin Laden? If they accuse me of being a collaborator, I accuse them that by defending terrorism and justifying it, they are collaborators with Al-Qaeda."
Interviewer: "In your opinion, collaborating with America is better than with bin Laden?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "Of course, if it serves the interests of my country. Am I supposed to be a collaborator with backward people?"
Interviewer: "Why do you consider them primitive? Do you associate this with religion?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "No, it is because they are the enemies of life. Anybody who is the enemy of life is backward, because he pushes my son to blow himself up." [...]
Criticism of Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi
Interviewer: "You once said: 'I would prefer to sit in a plane next to [Egyptian actress] Yusra than next to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi.' Is it appropriate for a lecturer on Islamic law to say such a thing?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "I said it out of respect for Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi."
Interviewer: "How exactly?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "This is only natural when you are traveling by plane. If your teacher sits next to you, you don’t feel free. You cannot watch films or take a nap. You are constantly on standby to make sure you don’t offend..."
Interviewer: "So if Yusra was sitting next to you, you would take a nap?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "At least I’d feel free. I said that this does not diminish the respect I feel for Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi, even though I disagree with him on certain political and ideological issues. Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi supports the view that the West is our enemy, that America is an enemy, and that we should place a ban on... I don’t agree. This does not serve our interests. I have said so in all my articles. For example, he said that dialogue with the Jews should only take place by means of human bombs. I object to this. I support dialogue even with the Jews, even with the enemy. The Prophet conducted a dialogue with his most bitter enemies. How can one say that dialogue should be conducted by means of human bombs?"
Interviewer: "But Yusra has a negative attitude towards the Jews too."
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "Holding a negative view is one thing, and encouraging my children to turn into bombs is another. I criticize Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi for his support of the conspiracy theory whereby the entire world is conspiring against us. I criticize him for his claim that the West and America are enemies, and that we should ban them. When he organized a campaign to ban American products, I disagreed with him."
Interviewer: "Wasn’t your wife mad at you?"
Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari: "No, she wasn’t. Besides, whether Yusra would agree to sit next to me or not – that is another matter."