Talk less and listen more, to Muslims

Category: Americas, World Affairs Topics: Muslim World Views: 7036

Germany has been as vociferous as France among the G 8 nations in opposing the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. It has also been increasingly skeptical of Washington's war on terrorism.

Germany also has a sophisticated understanding of, and good relations with, the Muslim world. In addition, it considers itself the closest European ally of Israel.

The German perspective on terrorism, especially on young European jihadists, is, therefore, useful.

"We need a dialogue with the Muslim world but there's too much distrust," said a very senior policy official in Berlin in a lengthy and candid interview, given on condition of anonymity, and conducted before last week's bombings in London. 

"There's distrust because of our double standards," he said, citing the Arab-Israeli dispute, and because of what he called the Bush administration's "hegemonic" policy: Occupying Iraq to control the oil and the region, especially Iran, and controlling Afghanistan to have access Central Asian oil and gas reserves.

Worse, the Americans are carrying out the policy "in such a blunt way that they can't see that they are destroying everything in their path ...

"When the American soldiers see Iraqi women and children in a car, how can they shoot?"

Yet, he said, Washington wonders: "'Why do they hate us?' Easy. They hate us because of the policies."

On the other side, many Arab regimes use the Arab-Israeli dispute to justify their own oppression. That's why the American push for democracy, if it is serious, is welcome, he said.

Some hardline Muslim clerics, he noted, "will not recognize Christians and Jews" and won't talk to us. But the West must open up a dialogue with the broader Muslim world.

Instead, he said, "Americans want to tame Islam. They are looking for Muslims to be 'good Muslims.' They are looking for Muslims who agree with them. They are talking to what (British author) Tariq Ali calls the 'House Arabs,' like the 'House Negro.' That doesn't work." 

Such "House Arabs" and, increasingly, "House Muslims," he said, "know exactly what to say. They say all the things Americans want to hear. And the Americans say, 'How bright, how wonderful.'

"This is wrong. We need people with whom we can have a frank dialogue."

There has also been an increasing tendency among some Americans to blame Islam, he said, even though "the problems of the Muslim world are not faith-based.

"The problems are secular. They are political. They are problems of joblessness, poverty and corruption. They are not faith-based.

"At a conference, someone asked me: 'What are we going to do about the problem of the Qu'ran?'

"I asked: 'You want to rewrite it or what?'

"You cannot discuss the methodology of the Qu'ran any more than you can the methodology of the Bible or the Torah or any other divine text.

"This is foolishness.

"All religions go through their own historical evolution. Outsiders can't force it.

"We would not like it if a Muslim came and said to the Germans that Luther was silly, or that this or that part of the Bible makes no sense in this day and age. "I think this is very dangerous."

The official also shed light on the German perspective on young European jihadists, who are active not only in Iraq but in Europe.

"For many frustrated Muslim youth, it's some kind of adventurism, like people joining the French Legion.

"They come together. They are revalidated. They feel self-important. 

"Their rhetoric is the same as that of the (defunct) leftist movements, as the Baader-Meinhoff Gang or the Red Brigades - 'fighting for the underdogs.'"

A similar spirit drove the jihadists who went to Afghanistan in the 1980s to fight the Soviet occupation. 

"We welcomed it then. Now, it's a big dilemma." 

He added: "We need a serious dialogue with Muslims, especially the Muslim youth ...

"We are talking too much. We need to listen more to Muslims and take them as partners" in the war against terrorism.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Toronto Star's editorial page editor emeritus. [email protected]

  Category: Americas, World Affairs
  Topics: Muslim World
Views: 7036

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Older Comments:
Hey Northerncross,
H.A (aka Southerncross) is here...No, I am not your soulmate & I am not going forincate w/ you because civilized people do not fornicate in the name of modernity and high spirit...Here is my true message to you:

... Bush (your "smart" boy) and Americans (99.9%) are mass murderers, too. You all should be taken to Hague and put on trial for committing crime against humanity. THAT'S THE TRUTH.

Talk is very cheap, but Before pointing fingers at others, point it at yourselves first...

If you have hard time swallowing my comments then that just too bad....Just find a ranch and feed cows, instead of posting comments on site...otherwise you going to hear from Southerncross...

What poppycock: "Germany also has a sophisticated understanding of, and good relations with, the Muslim world." This is the same Germany who refused (until very recently) to grant citizenship to its Muslim Turkish immigrants who had lived there for 2 and 3 generations? That's sophisticated?

The West certainly does want to tame Islam. We Westerners are very happy with a separation of church and state, or mosque and state, if you will.

I agree with this article. I think that having increased and open dialogue will create greater understanding. This will prevent futher debacles like the farsical crusade that my country is now fomenting in Iraq.
Northern Cross, what is your point, dude? I just don't get it. Are you saying that you write off all Muslims as terrorists? That there isn't room for more mutual understanding?
Let me say this and hope that it gets through your thick skull: we don't have the right to go around knocking over governments just because we don't like them. It doesn't work (isn't that obvious?) first of all, and it is wrong second of all. No one likes to be occupied, what did you think that we would be able to walk into Iraq and they'd happily give into Western notions of secular statehood and also give up their resources to us?
Alas, like so many of my contrymen you've been brainwashed into thinking that our way is the right, true and only way and that all others must give into the inexorable tide of American hegemony.
Well, buddy, it isn't that simple. Colonizing and exploiting other people is wrong, plain and simple. People have the right to rule themselves and decide their own destiny independent of the interference of others.
I will pray to Allah (yes, I am a recently converted Muslim) to enlighten your soul, because, brother, you need it.
A Salamu Alaikum.

I think that the hypocrites are the ones who profess peace on one hand and excuse terrorism on the other.

I support America's right to be free of militant Islamists and that's that.

Mr Murphy you chose to be a hypocrite, it doesn't work here. You are not going to teach us the Quran and its meaning. ... First of all you cannot take one item from a chain of events described in the Quran and use that alone. If I do that to the Constitution, I could bring out things that would amaze even a mediocre mind like yours. The meaning of 9:5 is the 5th item in a narration of 6. Namely 9:1 to 9:6, and it describes the situation when Makkah was under the pagans who were desacrating the House of God. Be assured that if that would be the case today, you would have the whole ummah, 1.2 billions turned into a fighting force! And all 6 ayas of surah 9 would definitely apply. In the present row of events, surah 9 ayas 1 to 6 do not apply. The Muslims are not fighting to defend the desacration of a Holy place. The US and UK were smarter than to desacrate Holy places belonging to either Sunni or Shia in Iraq. So, stop being a "smart" boy and talk only about things that you know. You would sound far more intelligent with closed mouth.
Peace out!

Salam Saleem,

The ignorance Mr Murphy exhibited in the interpretation of 9:5 is cognisant with those among the Jahilun or the stark kafiroon (who no matter the amount of preaching of Allah's way, the way of Islam, they will not believe). So if such people uttered such garbage we look in the same Quran and place them where they belong. Right now 'm inclined to 2:6 &7.

The fact of the matter is that two definitions of terrorism are tenable, it defends on which camp u belong. I pray and I hope we see an end to workings of BOTH soon, insha-Allah, Cos they really are not doing anybody anygood. Instead they take away the true believer from acknowledging his/her true purpose in life, that of being a complete obedient servant of Allah, worshipping and serving none but Him.


I feel same as you, but in my case the innocent are those who didnt have a say in what their governments (US puppets) do, but they are bombed because they happen to live their. And the terrorists and their supports are those who as a majority elect their governments who in turn kill innocent people (men, women, elders and childerns) and occupy their lands.

Shame on you for being such a lier.

The other name of any conflict/war is compromise.
Eventualy it all ends in some sort of understanding.

"Killing all pagans" is big subject and some AAlim(scholar) can perhaps explain much better.

As far as i understand it is true for only Arab Peninsulla. Land between Red Sea and Persian Gulf.

The problem is that to reach an understanding one needs to to talk to some kinda leadership. Muslim Sunni leadership is not there. And is discourage by the West, for their own reasons. As far as some leadership is present (as we see in the case of Iran) unlike Europe, Washington is missing on a valuable and good window of oppournity, here.

I hope and pray to Allah that Western diplomats cash on this oppournity, the sooner the better for everyone.

For the record, my heart is closed to those who try to rationalize the murder of innocent civilians through using the policies of politicians as an excuse. Those who suffer from terrorist homicide perpetrated by militant Islamists do not deserve their hurt. Those who hate the innocent based on the policies of an elite few are little better than the tyrants they claim to "resist". Their kind can garner little sympathy from the righteous among us.

I don't understand the terrorist mindset, and hopefully I never do.

Americans such as NorthernCross just don't want to understand. Let me try and put it as simple as possible. Just as you want to shove your laughable democratic values down Middle Eastern throats you must then also appreciate that these people whom you invaded and robbed and butchered fo no apparent reason other than to rob their oil and protect Israel, also give a lot of weight to your other American law concerning eminent domain. So just as you shoot people trespassing on your property they reserve the right to do the same. You are armed and trespassing. You are fair game. Its open season on you. You call a person defending his property terrorist? What cliched name did you have the hundreds of thousands of dead Japenese, Vietnamese, Korean and Afghan civilians - I remember collateral damage. ..

I always look forward to reading Haroon's articles in The Star. It's a pleasure. He has an uncanny way of bringing out certain facts and truths with extensive research, qualities that a good journalist should possess.
Yes, the trouble is that the West forms its own conclusions on terrorism especially when they suspect it's done by Muslims. They blame Islam for it. They overlook or are indifferent to the simmering causes or problems both social and political that effect the Muslim world. It's not Islam that's the cause, it's the politics and policies of certain countries and regimes, as the German official has pointed out.
Only a meaningful dialogue with all concerned with a genuine concern, understanding and will to address with justice, the problems affecting the Middle East in particular and other parts of the world and a desire to take concrete measures will bring about a change.

I personally don't think I need to understand the mind of a terrorist or give him/her any sympathy. If someone wants to murder me and my family through a suicide bomb, then there's nothing I can say or do to change his mind. Better to just make sure he stays away from us.

Criminals will always plague the righteous among us as long as evil infects the hearts of men. Diplomacy and dialogue do not eradicate sin, so the most we can do is protect ourselves and our loved ones.

MS. M. FROM USA said:
Althought it's been more than 50 years, keep in mind
that Germany conducted the biggest terrorist campaign
the world has ever seen. Many people are still alive
who remember it. So stating that Germany has a
"double standard" about the Arab -Israeli issue is
ridiculous. Both people have their issues and their is
no clear-cut solution that will please everyone. Does
the author seriously expect that Germany will side
against Israel after the atrocities that it committed
against the survivors who migrated there? Of course
it's an ally of Israel -- what else would it be? Intelligent
people realize that there are both "sides" to that issue
and that neither side is 100% correct. Germany like
other democratic-minded countries with educated,
intelligent people realize that both groups of people
feel that this is their homeland and that the other should
vacate. It's not an issue for childish "taking sides"--
that's for the ignorant to do.

As fas as opening up dialogue goes; unfortunately as
long as the terrorist attacks committed by Islamic
extremists continue there will be no talks. That's a
shame, but we don't see a religious leader in the
Muslim world who's in a powerful leadership position
doing enough to stop the violence. I think the world will
listen when it's demonstrated that these attacks will stop
and Al Queda or whatever groups encourage these
crimes are vilified by the Muslim world. Stop calling
them "brothers" and start calling them murderers. Then
-- maybe the world will listen.


This distrust that Haroon talks about Americans having of Muslims, is equally true of Muslims towards Americans. Haroon says "When the American soldiers see Iraqi women and children in a car, how can they shoot?" When the Muslim jihadists see American women and children in a plane, how can they blow it up? I suppose we shouldn't paint each other with such broad brushes. It makes fools of us all. Also, Americans don't want to "tame" Muslims, at least not this one, they want to encourage them to not kill the "pagan" (no matter who they think that may be) as instructed in 9:5. Americans for the most part, want to live in peace with the Muslims. Americans want to practice the religion of their choice, without fear that the Muslim will follow the instrutions in the Qu'ran, to Kill the Pagan. Haroon says that it would be foolishness to tamper with the Qu'ran or any other "holy" book. Perhaps though, we could add "love your enemys" to the Qu'ran and much of our problems would be solved.

By the way, Luther didn't rewrite any of the Bible. He just pointed out to the Catholics that they we not following it. OBL is much like Luther in that way. He encourges Muslims to follow the teachings of the Qu'ran that they have neglected like 9:5. I am thankful that many Muslims refuse to follow the entire Qu'ran.

Most of your article is unclear to me. The statement about most americans are against muslim I can't verify. most ofthose that I work with ether has no comment. I don't concern myself with what others think. To me their are muslims that are just like everyone else but like other races they have their bad apples that make more headlines than others just because bad news sells and good news don't. I see muslims in the store from time to time. At least I think they are muslims. I would like to say hello in there native language but I am concern over them getting in trouble over people jumping to wrong conclusions. I personnelly have no problems with them.
as-salamu alaykum