Former dean of Islamic law at Qatar University Abd Al-Hamid Al-Ansari, who is known for his liberal views and has in the past expressed support for the American-led war in Iraq, was interviewed by Al-Arabiya TV. The following are excerpts:
Al-Ansari: I place most of the responsibility for terrorism on social factors. It is possible that the political factor plays a part. Naturally, an atmosphere of freedom can help uproot terrorism and help people identify and cooperate with the leadership.
But I say that the deep roots of terrorism are ideological, cultural, and educational. I oppose the claim raised by some religious leaders that [the terrorists] are just honest young men who went astray. They also claim that we must treat them kindly and guide them, and that their goals were noble but their means were wrong.
I see this as a policy of having it both ways. When Al-Qa'eda leader did what he did, polls in the Arabs region showed he had the support of 85% of the population.
Host: Who made him such a star?
Al-Ansari:Our satellite channels, media, and press. By focusing the attention on the claim that they were people who did what they did because of American injustice towards the Muslims and in defense of Islam, and of Islam's honor, and they represent the good elements of the nation.
Host: Where in our educational system do you find content which fuels violence?
Al-Ansari:I am talking about the Arab educational system as a whole. I do not want to talk about a specific country, because I want reforms, not to slander anyone. Our educational system can be divided into two. In the various learning stages there are texts encouraging treating others, even if they are from among our people...
Host: According to these texts?
Al-Ansari:Yes. They are our people, but they do not belong to our school of Islam or our religion - [treating them] with intolerance.
Host: Do you want us to change these texts, Dr. 'Abd Al-Hamid?
Al-Ansari: No, because they are Koranic texts, but we should interpret them in a manner that suits the Koran's tolerant trends. We should interpret them as the Prophet taught us, in a tolerant manner and not interpret them...
Host: Meaning, you want us to interpret these texts the American way.
Al-Ansari: Brother, why should my son graduate at odds with the world? Why should I bring him up to be hostile to the world? Why?
Host: But if this world is hostile towards Muslims?
Al-Ansari: That also does not justify it. If the world is hostile towards me, must I be hostile towards the world? No.
Host: Must I turn the other cheek?
Al-Ansari: No, there are many ways of confrontation, but there is no need to militarize the educational system. Do we have to make the educational system militant?