The following are excerpts from an interview with Saudi columnist Mansour Al-Nogaiden, which aired on Al-Arabiya TV on December 11, 2009.
Takfir = Accusing Muslim individuals, groups, sects, societies, or countries of heresy
Interviewer: You say that military victories over Al-Qaeda are not accompanied by ideological victories.
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: Absolutely. Many of the people entrusted with the mission of confronting these ideas do not understand what the real problem is, or else, they are part of the problem.
Interviewer: How can they be part of the problem when they are supposedly treating it?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden:They believe that it is possible to keep this ideology of takfir in check, and that there is a distinction between the takfir of the state, and the takfir of the individuals or sects. That is the problem. Many of the people who were entrusted with this mission are themselves responsible for fatwas or takfir against Muslim individuals, sects, and groups that they claim are not believers. This is a big problem. Today in Saudi Arabia, and in the Islamic world as a whole, when a cleric issues a fatwa of takfir, this is not merely expressing an opinion. It is incitement to murder and violence.
Interviewer: Do you demand an end to all fatwas of takfir, no matter who they are directed against?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: Yes
Many people believe that takfir is a form of freedom of speech, but it is not. In Muslim society, takfir of a certain individual or group is tantamount to incitement to attacking and killing them, and spilling their blood. This is a criminal offense, not freedom of speech.
Interviewer: But isn't it one of the roles of the mufti to say that a certain act constitutes heresy, and that a certain individual has committed heresy?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: No, this is not his role. The only role of the mufti is to guide people to what they need in their personal worship of God.
If you walk on a lame leg and turn a blind eye when dealing with the ideology of takfir, you will not accomplish your desired goals.
Interviewer: What do you mean by "walking on a lame leg and turning a blind eye" to the ideology of takfir?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: You cannot possible talk about eliminating the ideology of takfir, as long as the mosque preachers and school teachers believe in it. This is a big problem that plagues Saudi Arabia.
Interviewer: You believe there are still people who…
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: In Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Yes. We still have a long way to go before it is eliminated.
Interviewer: People who believe in the ideology of takfir – in what way do they differ from Al-Qaeda?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: There is no difference. The difference is only in the implementation.
There are Muslims and there are non-Muslims, but is takfir part of the laws of Islam? No, it is not. It is not the business of Muslims today to pass judgment on people's faith.
There are hundreds of books on the laws and regulations of takfir, and they should all be thrown into the garbage bin. This has become one of the catastrophes that plague the Muslims today.
Interviewer: In other words, you want all the laws of takfir to be abolished.
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: Yes, and the Muslims must examine themselves before they look at others.
The Muslim's problem is not that they believe in God, His Prophet, and the Koran. Our problem has to do with the way we deal, and coexist, with others, whether Muslims or non-Muslims.
Interviewer: Are we supposed to change our religion in order to accommodate others?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: You will still be a Muslim if you are taught that Islam must be based on tolerance, respect for others, and recognition of their religion. You will not have changed your religion. You will be a good Muslim.
Muslims are experiencing a crisis. They feel fear, failure, and frustration. They have come to believe that the violence we bring to the world – throwing our spears at the East and West – is a means for victory. Far from victory, it is an admission of complete failure, because true success lies not in dying for the sake of Allah, but in living for the sake of Allah – living in order to build your nation, rather than dying in order to destroy the world. There is no such thing today as Jihad of the sword, offensive Jihad, or Jihad against the infidels. The world today is governed by the laws of human rights, agreements between countries, freedom of thought, freedom of speech, and the freedom to belong to any religion…
Interviewer: But aren't there such things as justice and injustice?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: I am talking about the launching of wars for religious reasons. This must stop, because it is a thing of the past.
Interviewer: For what reasons should wars be launched, then? If there is no other way?
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: For the defense of the country, and resistance to occupation. This is understandable. But I'm talking about something else. I am talking about religious Jihad, about holy Jihad, which incites people to attack, to kill, to commit violations, and to sanction the killing and looting of others – individuals, groups, countries, and societies – for religious reasons. Today, it is disgraceful to talk about Jihad of the sword, or offensive Jihad, or to say that under the current circumstances, Muslims are unable to conduct offensive Jihad, and so, they should limit themselves to defensive Jihad, and all that nonsense.
Interviewer: There is no difference between the two [types of Jihad]? Saying that Jihad means defensive, not offensive, Jihad, is not so different from supporting both forms of Jihad.
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: This is not the issue. The big problem is with Jihad against the others for religious reasons. This must come to an end. It is not enough to try to moderate this Jihad.
The Muslims' history of expansion is not a source of shame. Every nation, and every civilization – the Greeks, the Romans – was based on expansion. This is understandable. The Muslims' expansion from the East to Andalusia was not achieved solely through preaching of Islam. There were also huge armies that occupied countries. This is understandable. This is our history. We should not be ashamed of this, because this is our history. But we are talking about the situation today. What happened and what was written by the religious jurisprudents in the 6th, 7th, 8th, 10th, or 11th hijri century is a thing of the past. The world and the era we live in today are completely different, and we should adapt, so we can coexist with them.
Interviewer: You wrote that the Abrahamic religions are the source of violence.
Mansour Al-Nogaiden: That's true. They [preach] violence and the killing of others because of their faith. Such a thing does not exist in other religions. It does not exist in Buddhism or Confucianism, for example. The religions that legalize the killing of others due to their different faiths, on the basis of religious texts, which view this as an expression of the love of God – this exists only in the Abrahamic religions.