Following are excerpts from an Al-Arabiya TV debate on religion and the state in the Arab world, which aired on November 4 and 18, 2010.
To view this clip on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/legacy/clip/0/0/0/0/0/0/2689.
To view the page for Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din on MEMRI TV, visit http://www.memri.org/subject/en/821.htm
Dr. Turki Al-Hamad: "Modern Goals Can Only be Achieved through the Modern State with Modern Values – and this Does Not Occur in a Religious State"
Saudi author Dr. Turki Al-Hamad: "If we want to join the modern world and adapt ourselves to this era, I believe that we must sever the religious establishment from the state. The religious establishment should become part of the state, but should not have hegemony over it. Otherwise, the sovereignty of the state is lost.
"Hence, the modern goals can only be achieved through the modern state with modern values – and this does not occur in a religious state." [...]
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays, Mufti of the Beqa'a Valley in Lebanon: "Who were the Arabs before the advent of Islam, and who are the Arabs following the advent of Islam? The answer is known to all."
Mediator: "You mean to say that it was Islam that gave the Arabs their identity."
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "Of course. They opened up to the world through Islam."
Mediator: "And if not for Islam..."
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "They would not have left the Arabian Peninsula."
Mediator: "Let us be clearer. You see no justification for the separation of religion and state."
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "How can that be?"
Mediator: "You do not believe in such a separation?"
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "The Prophet Muhammad established a religious state, did he not?" [...]
Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh, Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt: "There can be no separation of religion and state. This holds true for the entire history of the human race – whether it is the religion of Islam, of Christianity, or of Judaism."
Mediator: "But in the West, they did separate religion and state..."
Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh: "The Queen of England is the head of the Church. Nothing is absolute. Everything is relative. The strange thing is that at a time when the Arab secularists – of course, I am talking about the extremists among them – are calling for the separation of religion and state, that Zionist lowlife, Benjamin Netanyahu, is demanding that Israel be a Jewish state.
"What we suffer from is the state's control over religion, not vice versa. Europe of the Middle Ages suffered from the control of religion over the people, but in our modern era, the state controls the religion." [...]
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "The State Should Provide Water and Electricity to Mosques, to Churches, and to Nightclubs"
Former Iraqi MP Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "It is necessary, from both the religious and the human perspectives, to separate religion and state. There should be a buffer between the state and the religion, in order to protect religion from turning into a tool in the hands of politicians, as a result of the pressure exerted by the religious ideological system. [...]
"Religion belongs to the human being. The state cannot have a religion. The state is a legal institution that has no color, no flavor, and no smell. It should be a neutral institution that provides services to all. The state should provide water and electricity to mosques, to churches, and to nightclubs." [...]
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "Who rules us, the Arabs or the Muslims, as individuals? Allah does. Is it conceivable that Allah rules the individuals, but not society as a whole?" [...]
Dr. Turki Al-Hamad: "We should avoid making generalizations. When we say that Allah rules individuals as well as countries, that is a general statement. But the question is: Does Allah talk to us directly? There are people who write interpretations. They are human beings, and their own interests and notions make them paint religion in a certain hue. When we talk about 'religion,' we are necessarily referring to a specific denomination or interpretation. It is those who write these interpretations who impose their will, not Allah." [...]
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "The rule of the Prophet Muhammad in Al-Madina produced, among other things, a phenomenon unknown to the Arabs in pre-Islamic times: hypocrisy. Hypocrisy was completely unknown to the Arabs of pre-Islamic times. They were as free as a falcon, and even more.
"The Prophet Muhammad lived in Mecca 13 years, as a herald and a warner. He had no police force, no army, and no money. In Al-Madina, he lived for 10 years, as a herald and a warner, but he also had military power, and [political] authority.
"The hypocrites emerged in Al-Madina, and there is an entire surah in the Koran titled 'The Hypocrites.' Many verses concerning hypocrisy were revealed in Al-Madina. There had not been a single hypocrite in Mecca. People were either Muslims or polytheists. That's it."
Mediator: "What are you getting at?"
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "The first negative phenomenon of the ideological state – even under the rule of the Prophet Muhammad himself – is that it produces people with a split personality. Hypocrisy is a reaction not to religion but to the ideological state – even if this ideological state is ruled by the Prophet Muhammad himself, not to mention when it is ruled by others. [...]
"The goal of religion is to form a human being. When the rulers wanted to strengthen their grip on the people, they began to intimidate them with religion and the Hereafter, in order to tame these Muslims. My claim is that there should be a civil rule. All the prophets, not only the Prophet Muhammad, were sent in order to form human beings, not to construct buildings." [...]
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "The confusion about secularism has been exported to our society by the Church. Islam is secularism, and secularism is Islam. We have no hierarchy of clergy. There is no rule of clerics in Islam. What we have is the rule of the Koran and the Sunna, rather than people ruling according to their own will. This concept that was imported to us is peculiar. [...]
"The hypocrites appeared in Al-Madina because there were Jews living there. In Mecca, there were only Arabs, and so there was no hypocrisy there. The presence of the Jewish element in Al-Madina caused hypocrisy, even in the days of the Prophet Muhammad.
"As we can see today, the same Jewish element causes the greatest hypocrisy in politics worldwide. [...]
"You are I are ruled by Allah. I do not rule you, and you do not rule me. I am ruled by the Koran and the Sunna. I am ruled by the shari'a. I am not a ruler, I only implement the rule." [...]
Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh: "With all due respect to the sheik, I am sure he did not mean to say that we are ruled by Allah. No, the state is ruled by the majority of the people. The majority of the people determines the government system. Some people think that when we talk about an Islamic state, we mean that Islam, with all its values, principles, and rules, will be imposed upon the people, whether they like it or not.
"This is a grave mistake. This is bound to produce an army of hypocrites, because, as I once said in the American University in Cairo, we would simply be replacing the Socialist Abu Za'bal [prison] with an Islamic Abu Za'bal. [...]
"It is forbidden to rule any people – Muslim or non-Muslim – according to any law, constitution, or shari'a, unless this is in keeping with the will of the people. If the majority of the people refuse to be ruled by Islam, this is their right, and it is forbidden to impose Islam upon them." [...]
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "Sheik [Al-Mays] said that it is God that rules. My question is: Which God? The God of the Muslims? The God of the Christians? The God of the Jews? There is more than one [notion] of God. [...]
"Everybody says that they want to instate the law of Allah. Let us be specific: Are we talking about instating the shari'a, or not? I do not support the instating of the shari'a. The shari'a constitutes a personal commitment. Whether you are a Sunni Muslim, a Shi'ite Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew – that is your own business. As for the state, it should be a neutral institution, which implements the civil law – a man-made law, not one conveyed by Allah. [...]
"Sheik [Al-Mays] said that the hypocrites are the Jews. Absolutely not. Not a single one of the [Al-Madina] hypocrites was a Jew. They were all Arabs. In pre-Islamic times, the Arab was the 'Servant-of-Me.' In Mecca, the Arab was the 'Servant-of-Him' – the servant of Allah. And in Al-Madina, the Arab became the 'Servant-of-the-State.'" [...]
Dr. Turki Al-Hamad: "In my view, when religion becomes a state, or becomes politicized, it does not serve the interest of national unity or civil stability. In the modern state, the identity of its people is based on civic identity, which in turn, requires equality – between Muslims and Christians, blacks and whites, or men and women. But in a religious state, there is perforce discrimination, because religion discriminates between men and women, between free men and slaves, and so on. So the very basis of civic identity – equality – is nullified."
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "Under the Rule of Islam, There is No Equality among People"
Mediator: "Does proper civic identity exist in Arab countries?"
Dr. Turki Al-Hamad: "No. Everybody talks about equality in the eyes of the law, but the truth is that some groups are marginalized, while others are privileged." [...]
Sheik Khalil Al-Mays: "Did the Arabs, from the days of the Prophet until the fall of the Ottoman Sultanate, have any regime that was not religious – regardless of whether the ruler in question was just or not? There was the religion, and there were believers of other religions, and Islam did not exclude people of other religions. On the contrary, the shari'a gave them latitude... They have their own religious law, their beliefs, and so on. Thus, according to our jurisprudence, civic identity exists. Who says that Islam wishes to exclude others? Islam strives to guide others. Whether they accept it or not – that is their business." [...]
Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh: "The Western peoples, who respect human rights, maintain equality, and hold free elections – not forged elections, like in the Arab world... If you say that these values of the modern state run counter to Islam, it's not true. On the contrary, they were invented by Islam. The first covenant of citizenship was drawn up by the Prophet Muhammad in Al-Madina." [...]
Mediator: "Why doesn't this work with us [Arabs]? Because we do not implement it?"
Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh: "No, that's not the only reason. There are groups that purport to be Islamic, but they convey a mistaken notion of Islam to the nation's youth. If you teach the nation's youth that a woman is forbidden to drive – what does this have to do with Islam? When in the Gulf states, they claim that women are forbidden to vote, does this have anything to do with Islam?" [...]
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "First of all, the notion of civic identity is a completely Western notion. It has absolutely nothing to do with Islam. Even the Prophet's hadith, 'The love of the homeland is part of faith,' has nothing to do with the modern notion of civic identity, which is based on equality in the eyes of the law. Under the rule of Islam, there is no equality among people. Absolutely not. A Muslim is not like a dhimmi. The term dhimmi embodies a great deal of scorn and contempt. It is as if the Christian is saying: I am under your protection, under your thumb. This is what it means..."
Mediator (to Dr. Abd Al-Mun'im Abu Al-Futuh): "He didn't interrupt you..."
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "The notion of civic identity is based on equality in duties and rights, but under the rule of Islam, Muslims and non-Muslims are not equal – neither in their duties, nor in their rights. [...]
"The late regime of the Taliban in Afghanistan was a pure Sunni Islamic rule. A clear Shi'ite regime is that of the Jurisprudent Ruler, who claims to be substituting the Prophet Muhammad, and... He is Allah upon the Earth, more or less.
"Whoever wants the rule of the shari'a should turn to the Taliban government or to the Ayatollah's government in Iran. Or else he should select the Western, Crusader, infidel regime, which created New Zealand and Canada, for instance, as well as human rights and the notion of liberties. These human rights do not exist in Islam." [...]
Sayyed Ayad Jamal Al-Din: A Union of Secularism and Sufism Represents the Only Hope for the Future
Audience member: "I am a Christian, and I was exiled from Iraq. There are thousands of Christian refugees here, in Lebanon. I would like to ask Sayyed Ayad whether it was Islam or politics that exiled us from Iraq." […]
Ayad Jamal Al-Din: "The combination of the Koran and the sword is dangerous. It is more dangerous than nuclear technology. Today, people are being exiled on religious and sectarian grounds. The Christians were exiled from Iraq, and so were the Sabians. The peaceful Yazidis of Iraq were attacked. There are hardly any Sabians left in Iraq, although they are a peaceful sect.
"The sectarian deportation is all done in the name of Allah. We were plagued with an emir who would slaughter the people while praising Allah. Now they are slaughtering in the name of Allah, deporting people in the name of Allah, and burning down their homes in the name of Allah.
"This is not something new. It happened in the past as well. One emir of the Muslims came from Tunisia, which was called Africa, and he sold one million boys into slavery in Damascus, the capital of the Umayyads. In addition, 300,000 girls, aged 5-6, were sold as slave-girls. 1.3 million children were snatched from their mothers and fathers, and were sold as slaves. Is this what the Prophet Muhammad was sent for?! Was he sent to enslave people, and to sell them as slaves in the markets of Damascus, Cairo, and Baghdad? [...]
"The union of the secularism of Ataturk and the Sufism of Jalal Al-Din Rumi is the only hope for the survival of the Muslims as a nation, for the survival of Islam as a religion, and for the survival of the human within the Muslim." [...]