The Atlas Society Asks Mustafa Akyol

July 29, 2021 01:00:53
The Atlas Society Asks Mustafa Akyol
The Atlas Society Presents - The Atlas Society Asks
The Atlas Society Asks Mustafa Akyol
/

Show Notes

Turkish journalist and award-winning writer Mustafa Akyol is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute's Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He is also the author of the upcoming Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance and the 2018 The Islamic Jesus. His work focuses on the intersection of ​​public policy, Islam, and modernity.

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:00 Of the Atlas society asks. My name is Jennifer Grossman. My friends come JAG. I'm the CEO of the Atlas society. We are the leading nonprofit educational organization, connecting young people to the ideas of iBrand in fun, creative ways. Today we are joined by Mustafa RTO. Before I even begin to introduce Mustapha, I want to remind those who are watching us on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. You can use the comment section to type in your questions. Please make them short and we'll get to as many of them as we can. So Mustafa Archeo is a scholar whose work focuses on the intersection of public policy, Islam and maternity. And he's an opinion writer for the New York times, a senior scholar at the Cato Institute center for global Liberty and prosperity. He is the author of several books, including one of my favorites, Islam without extremes, the Islamic Jesus. Um, and most recently reopening Muslim minds, a return to reason, freedom and tolerance, which makes the case, uh, for an Islamic enlightenment, not going against religion, but reinterpreting it based on freedom instead of coercion. Uh, he furthers that case in his upcoming book. Why as a Muslim, I defend Liberty and we hope to get to that as well. And Mustapha, welcome again. Thank you for joining us. Speaker 1 00:01:49 Thank you for having me, Jennifer, and for this kind introduction and nice, uh, feature of my book. So my books. So thank you for all of that. It's a pleasure. Speaker 0 00:01:58 Well, it's, it's really great to see you again. Last time. Uh, we got together, it was here in Malibu. I believe you were giving a speech at Pepperdine. And, uh, it was very interesting to me. I, uh, majored in, um, international relations in school and, uh, did my thesis on, uh, on Jordan and the middle east. And so, um, I hadn't really focused on the religion. So it was, that was fun. It was fun introducing you to my, to my rabbi, to get a little interfaith dialogue going and to learn a little bit about you and your, your trajectory. So I'd like to, to start with that. If we could setting the stage a bit about your intellectual and spiritual journey, you grew up in Turkey. Uh, still, I think we can say it's one of the most secular Muslim countries, uh, and of course the seed of the Ottoman empire. Speaker 0 00:02:58 We, the, uh, example of, uh, a tolerant Muslim, you historically in Islam, without extremes, you share a few stories you share about growing up and learning from your grandfather, studying the Koran and how it fascinated you, but also aspects, uh, that trebles you as a little boy. And then also a sad experience of, um, when you were eight, your father, who was, uh, if I understand a journalist, highly critical of, uh, Marxist groups within Turkey was jailed as a political prisoner for, for 14 months. So tell us a little bit about that and how those experiences shaped you. It Speaker 1 00:03:47 Well, Jennifer, thank you for, you know, remind me, reminding me those old stories, you know, from my childhood, which I asked related in the first book, uh, again, it's, it's wonderful to have this conversation again with you. Um, now, uh, I grew up in Turkey and as you said, I mean, I grew up in Kong and later I stumbled and my father is a prominent intellectual in Turkey who introduced some of the classical liberal ideas to the Turkish public sphere, to the broad public opinion. I mean, he wrote about Karl popper or Hayak now he was part of the, because he was anti Marxists in the seventies, but then he moved toward closer to classical liberalism. So I grew up with that at the same time. I, my, my family was really, it's not super conservative, but you know, fairly observant. And then I became more involved into, I mean, I became a born again, Muslim in high school as I call it, you know, I became more intensely interested in religion theology. Speaker 1 00:04:44 I involve at Islamic groups, but I ultimately realized that, you know, there are big problems in the Muslim world with the downgrading of the individual with, with coercion in the name of religion. And in Turkey, you add that in a very little, I mean level, I mean, because Turkey is a secular state, but you know, you would see certain teachings. I mean, the story you tell is that, I mean, in my grandfather's, you know, he's, he's rest, rest in peace. I mean, he passed away many years ago, but in his library I had seen this Namaz whole Jessa, which means guide to prayer. And it was, it had beautiful quotes from the Koran inspiring about God's creation and mercy. But then there was a statement saying if your, if your children do not start to pray at the age of 10, then beat them up. Speaker 1 00:05:30 So I was like, I was at the age of nine and like, will I be, will this happen to me in a year? Like, so this kind of idea that you should use violence or coercion, and that's at a very, again, like it's in a domestic level of violence we're speaking about here and that wasn't from the Koran, but in it let's say secondary source as we would call it an Islam. So those kinds of snippets. And then I began, I studied political science and Ottoman history, and I got into the glow, the political sphere of key. I gradually became a public writer and opinion writer, a columnist and a newspaper. And I've been following the middle east affairs and I grabbed. And the thing is the more I studied the Western tradition and classical liberal literature. I mean, the first time I read John Locke and his letter concerning toleration, I said, he's talking about us, our issues. Speaker 1 00:06:21 I mean, he's speaking about that. He's arguing that, you know, people should not be personally because they are defined as heretics, uh, which is happening right now. And certainly in, in Pakistan, it's Safra, it's out here. Yeah. Or Iran, which was apparently happening, which was happening in Europe two at a time. And it was a very new idea to say that Harris, you should not be punished. You know, it was a very shocking idea. Some people said, you know, why are you, what are you doing this? I mean, there were critics of John walkway because give us bringing this dangerous idea of Liberty. And my sense today is that bit, all that background and all the authoritarianism you described, like I saw my father get going into prison and that had nothing to do with Islam. By the way, it was a military coup, which was ma nationalist authoritarianism. Speaker 1 00:07:08 It was not about really. Uh, but I, I am conviction that today, the stomach civilization, parts of it, not all of it, there are there's Bosnia. It's a pretty free Muslim majority society, but block large chunks of conservative, you know, piety in these slumming civilization is at a stage, which is right there in the 17th century when John Locke or Pierre bale or later, you know, Thomas Jefferson would in the U S we proclaim religious Liberty. Whereas you have groups who think, no, no, no, we should persecute the heritage we should punish. And of course women should obey their husbands because this is what God said. So, uh, Christianity had that instead forward. It was not easy, but it happened thanks to thinkers who rethought their religious tradition. Some of them challenge it, but others reinterpreted it. And I find myself in the letter camp, like saying, okay, we can rethink our religious tradition. Speaker 1 00:08:03 And in Islam issues are huge blasphemy laws or apostasy laws. Uh, the idea that they should be a religious states that, you know, course as people to be religious or that suppresses heresy or atheism, it's, it's very powerful. It's out there, but there is also a tradition starting in the 19th century called Islamic modernism. Uh, these, these, this was the tradition of scholars, intellect chills in the Muslim world, who looked at Europe. So many things that admired like constitutional government, individual freedom, freedom of speech that people can criticize their government, which was wow and unheard of before, you know, in their own Milia. And they said, these are great values, and we can reconcile them with Islam. We can even find their roots in Islam. So I'm kind of taking that whole slumming, modernist scholarship and them into accessible, understandable books and articles and, and, you know, lectures. Speaker 1 00:09:00 So people around the Muslim world, uh, can relate to. And so that's the summary of my work and my new book reopening Muslim minds is probably the most comprehensive thing I've written because I get into a lot of theology, thanks so much for sharing it. And, um, I get into a lot of theological issues in Islam because there are a lot of jurisprudential issues that is like interpretation of the Shevia, but then there's even a theological layer beneath that. And probably you have seen some of those in the book. Uh, so this is what I'm doing and, you know, thanks. Thanks again for welcoming me to speak about this today. Speaker 0 00:09:36 Well, uh, your new book, um, reopening Muslim minds, it, uh, it opens with a experience that you had about five years ago in Malaysia, uh, where a speech you gave, ran a foul of the local apostasy, uh, police and led to your arrest. Uh, can you tell us a little bit about what happened and why you chose that to set the stage of the themes you explore in the burn? Speaker 1 00:10:09 That's a fun story. I mean, it wasn't fun when I was Speaker 0 00:10:11 Going through it, but a fun Speaker 1 00:10:13 Story. Uh, this happened, I mean, this is the story you need. In the introduction chapter, I went to Malaysia in September, 2017 for giving a few public lectures. And this was the fifth time I was going to Malaysia. Malaysia has become a hub for me because some liberal Islamic groups in Malaysia discovered my work. So they invited me to give events and conferences and Islam without extremes was printed in Malaya and translated and published it in the Malaya language. So I was there for this book events and, uh, some lectures around it. And, uh, I was supposed to have a series of speeches. And then the second one in Kuala Lumpur, we, the topic was on a sensitive issue. As you said, apostasy, which is, you know, giving up your religion publicly renouncing Islam and choosing another religion or becoming an atheist. And, um, this is considered as a crime in about a dozen Islamic states right now in Saudi Arabia in Iran. Speaker 1 00:11:09 If you come up and say, I'm an atheist today, police will be after you, they will get you. You may, wouldn't give him the death penalty because that's how the traditional jurisprudence define it, defines it. Uh, Malaysians are moderate. So they're not sending people to jail, or they're not executing a past state, but they're sending them to rehabilitation centers. So I say, well, that's not moderately enough. And just let people go. I mean, it's their conscience. And, uh, I made a few arguments that I said, well, yes, in Jewish burdens, in classical interpretations of the Sheria yes, there is a law which says there's a, there's a verdict that says apostates should be executed, but the Byzantine walls were the same at the time the Sassanid laws were at the time, it was just the world the way it was because your polit political allegiance and your religious allegiance was the same thing. Speaker 1 00:11:58 So this was a phase in human history, whereas it doesn't have any basis in the Koran, the only undisputed source of Islam, there are some bases found in the prophetic sayings, but they are disputed the authenticity. And the context of those are disputed. And I refer to some scholars who have progressive ideas on this. And finally, I said, religion is not something that you can really enforce if people can not believe if people don't believe in it. I mean, if, if they don't believe in Islam, you can make them hypocrites by forcing them to remain in the religion. And religion is not something you can police. So that was my punchline. And then, uh, people were leaving and then these guys came in and they said, use your most of Arco. I said, yes. And they said, you said, religion cannot be policed. They said, we are the religion police. Speaker 1 00:12:47 So they showed me their identity, uh, cards and their job is religion enforcement officer. So basically I had challenge their job. And so, um, they let me go that night, but they watched the video yesterday. They decided I committed a crime. So they invite, they summoned me to the police headquarters. Uh, I didn't go, I was leaving the country. So they arrested me at the airport and they charged me for, uh, a, for the crime of teaching religion without permission from the authorities. And they said the crime is, I mean, the punishment is two years in jail. Uh, luckily I was saved through some diplomacy, but in this store, in the beginning, I begin with that story to say, Hey, listen, we have a problem here. I mean, we have people who would think that apostates should be punished again. Same people were there in Europe that were burning people at the stake. Speaker 1 00:13:40 You know, this was happening in the name of Christianity, but Christians, at some point said, we're not going to do this anymore because it's absurd. It is not bringing any honor to our faith. It's defaming our faded. There'll be tolerance, we'll be respectful. And we will be still conservative our own ways. And I have no problem with that. People choosing pious conservative lice, it's just should be not, not coursed. Uh, and of course I used that story to look into what kind of arguments they're using and what are the counter arguments, because the, the big controversy is dispersed in the Koran, which says that it could have been in Arabic, which means there is no compulsion in religion. It's a very broad statement of freedom actually, but those religion police in Malaysia as the Saudi or Urania authorities are doing, they are limiting the scope of that worse by inserting parentheses into, into doors. Then the worst becomes there is no compulsion in religion only while entering Islam. Uh, whereas I'm saying there should be no compulsion in religion while entering Islam or leaving it, or while you are practicing it in the way that you believe in it. And, and can we say that, can we make the interpretation? It opens chapters of jurisprudence and theology, which is, you know, my book gets to after that, uh, first, you know, introduction. Speaker 0 00:14:58 Yeah. Well, that's a very, very interesting, and I want to, again, encourage those of you who are watching us across our platforms, please go ahead and queue up your questions, get first in line. And, uh, and we'll get to as many of them as, uh, as possible. And so it's interesting, the staff, are you talking about the re-interpretation of that Seminole, uh, phrase to say, you know, no coercion within Islam before, but once you get into it, then you know, all bets are off and it does definitely seem like a departure because you describe the earliest beginnings of, of Islam and, uh, and clearly the popularity of the religion. And in many ways, in contrast to the tribal culture, many of the norms of the day, in some ways it was, uh, a liberalizing force. It was a developing more of a theme of individualism, um, of, of free will of, uh, individual agency, as opposed to kind of collective guilt, uh, or merit. And perhaps that's why, you know, your book is, is not titled opening, uh, muscle minds, it's reopening muscle minds and the subtitle isn't a, is a return, not a discovery, but a return to, uh, to reason, freedom and tolerance. So maybe tell us a little bit about, uh, in, in what ways that, that art has has changed and those values have been lost. And, and, Speaker 1 00:16:43 Uh, thank you for that. Eh, I should say one thing, I mean, I'm not making a romantic argument that in the first 10 years of Islam, everything was classic liberal, and then, you know, or in the first set, it was a, it was a libertarian heaven or no, I mean, um, but what I'm trying to say is that when you look into the earliest slamming civilization, you see certain, uh, you see certain ideas, you see certain improvements, some revolutionary changes that Islam brought, which was for its time, a major step forward for human freedom. Uh, like what, uh, if you read the Koran today, I mean, there are some passages about women that, you know, feminists are discussing, whether, you know, this is acceptable or not what it's saying. There are some patriarchal, you know, certainly at least language, but for the seventh century Arabia, Cora the Koran pro woman, the right to have property and to inherit property, which was wow. Speaker 1 00:17:45 I mean, people didn't have that at the time. Uh, the brought the idea that Indians Jules are responsible for their crimes and crimes are not tribal. It's not like that somebody from your tribe killed one of us. So go kill one from, you know, that person is responsible. So the idea of personal responsibility of crimes Islam brought the idea that when Muslims create empires and I don't think they should have, but they did, you know, they should still tolerate Jews and Christians and allow them to practice their religion. Now, this was a fascinating thing at the time, because people were not doing this, like when Byzantine empire was expanding, it wasn't a lobbying Jews to practice their religion. That's why actually the spread of early Islam was welcomed by Jewish minority in the middle east. That's the story that people forget because they were, they had suffered so much from crystals, which was very antisemitism at the time. Speaker 1 00:18:39 I mean, Christianity likely abandoned that ugly past, but Islam respected Jews and gave them the right to not equal citizenship. I mean, not, not with the modern centers of today, but the practice to be able to practice your religion without harassment. That was a major thing. That's why when Jews were persecuted in Catholic, uh, Spain in the 15th century, Sefaria the juice. You would know that story. They fled to Islamic law and especially the Ottoman empire Istanbul. My hometown has a Sephardic committee, unity that appreciates the fact that, you know, Ottoman empire welcomed them at a time when Catholics were forcing them either to convert to Christianity or, you know, be tortured by the inquisition. So, uh, it was for its time tolerance. And also one thing that I emphasize is that early in early Islam there emerged this globalist or cosmopolitan worldview where Muslims said, yeah, our visit them that is coming from the Koran and the prophet, but visit them is also universal. Speaker 1 00:19:39 Humanity can discover things so we can learn from the previous civilizations, the sciences of the ancients as they call it, especially great philosophy. The Yemen, Aristotle, Plato, uh, Galen, all the great thinkers and their books were translated into Arabic. And that was a major event in world history. Uh, so the translation of actually Aristotle's books into Arabic and Play-Doh too. And then at some point they got mixed by the race. I mean, Play-Doh was confused for Aristotle, at least in one book, but that actually broad Aristotle back to Europe, through Spain at a time when, and, you know, Europe was not in a Scholastic age and Greek philosophy was forgotten. So there, but I think it doughs those positive strains we see in early Islam, either stagnated sometimes died out. Uh, and at the same time when tolerance, openness or cosmopolitanism flourished in the west, like for example, anti-Semitism skyrocketed in the Muslim world in the 20th century, whereas the west finally was able to deal with its ugly and to San Francisco, which is still popping up here. Speaker 1 00:20:54 And there is, as you, as you would know, uh, or, uh, the idea, I mean, Muslims are still tolerant to Christians was that secondary citizens, but the idea that you should be all equal citizens under one law that became the global norm. And, and while Muslims have learned a few things from Aristotle, but, you know, ultimately rejected Greek philosophy. The world discovered whole new philosophies. I mean, from high-end to well and ran, you know, whomever you want to learn from me, agree or disagree. So I think Islam lost the cosmopolitanism of its early centuries. And in the book, I tried to show how that happened. And also actually how Islam contributed sometimes to Western enlightenment. Actually, the book begins with the story of <inaudible> the word for the world's first philosophical novel, as we know it. And it's the story of this man who comes to life as a baby on an island and grow grows up by himself and discovers how animals work and how their bodies function, and then discovers biology and then physics and becomes a thinker and a philosopher and a moral person too, because he doesn't want to harm the animals and hurt them and so on, so forth. Speaker 1 00:22:04 So it was this novel that showing that individuals without a society, educating them without a religious tradition and lightening them still could be good and wise people. So this was a novel that was written by evening to fail a Muslim philosopher from Cordova who's from Spain. It was translated into Latin and published in, uh, Latin and then, uh, English and then, and then Dutch and then French. And it became a bestseller in early modern Europe and inspired Spinoza, probably John Locke and others as well. So there are these ideas and, and, you know, but however, there was a Contra trend to this in Islam, which said, no, if people are not educated by religion, if they don't get the shitty out, they will have no moral value because human mind cannot discern any moral value, good or bad. So that became the more dominant paradigm in this new world called the Asha right philosophy. Speaker 1 00:23:00 So in the book, I go back and forth sometimes between Western enlightenment and Islamic enlightenment in Slavic, enlightenment, or stomach civilization, and showing that well, we had the potential, we had the seeds, we could develop those seeds, but because of these reasons, we had a problem which brought to us our current state, which to me allows to say that, uh, I mean, a lot of people who are watching us right now might be from Western world Americans, you know, Western tradition. And, you know, some of them might be thinking, well, you know what? Islam is a very troubling religion. I mean, Christianity has made peace with the democracy today's for long, but Islam is not resisting it. I will say that Islam is, it is not a troubling religion. We are in a troubling era in the history of the stomach's English. If you'll leave in 17th century, England, uh, Europe, uh, it, in the middle of, during the 30 years war between the Catholics and the Protestants and the pogroms against you, you wouldn't think that, you know, Islam has a troubling really. Speaker 1 00:24:00 And you would think that the Christianity is the troubling. Christianity has changed dramatically. And, uh, it was a force for good. So my book shows how that actually happened in Christianity by accepting the idea of human dignity by granting that peop there is something called natural law that people even without religion, they have a tendency towards ethics towards good towards justice. So that in itself can be a basis for a universal, you know, rights and universal, natural, uh, natural rights. So those ideas, I think became more strong, uh, a Christianity, which helped the transformation in Islam. We have the seeds of those ideas, but we have to work on them. Speaker 0 00:24:44 So you talk about the, the seeds of those ideas and the, and the seeds of freedom that, that you pers, uh, in, in the Koran. Uh, and you also spend some time talking about how those seeds did not necessarily fall, uh, in a hospitable climate and you, uh, encourage readers to look at the map of, of, uh, countries and peoples, uh, of Islamic faith, as well as, uh, arid lands. And there's a big overlap. Certainly there was even more of an overlap. So, you know, along the lines of DUNS germs steel, to what extent did the, the climate, did the environment, uh, shape the cultures into which Islam was, was born? Well, Speaker 1 00:25:40 I mean, that's an argument that actually we can trace back to even how do and how geography shapes, cultures. And, um, I mean, I told you that, that idea a little bit in my first book, but in the second book and the new book, I emphasize something even, you know, something more clear lead, uh, discernible, which is, uh, which is the fact that, I mean, Islam has been under the influence of despotic states from the very beginning. And it's that, it's the Islam defined by the states, according to the interests of the state and the interest of the state were hardly liberal in the classical sense of the term. I mean, you see this, for example, right? At the very beginning of the story, I mean, one thing that makes Islam different from Christianity in its early founding was that, uh, when Jesus, uh, left this world, um, how'd, that happened depends whether you believe in Christian theology or not, but let's say past passed away, uh, he was, he left behind just a few people who believed in the disciples. Speaker 1 00:26:43 Then you started to preach Christianity and Christianity gradually became a powerful religion. And it was adopted by Roman empire in the early fourth century. And after that, so after three years, and after that Christianity turned oppressor, right? When you have Roman empire at your hands, you punish heretics and all the horrible things began Islam that identification with this state that merging the state happened much earlier. Uh, prophet Mohammed was a preacher, just like Jesus. You know, in, in the city of Mecca, he was preaching monotheism in the midst of a polytheistic culture. And Muslims were demanding in Mecca, uh, freedom of speech and religion. As I argued in my book, they were willing to be not persecuted because they're monotheist and they were willing to speak out against the pagan gods. So they want to block it and not be punished for it. So, uh, that's freedom of speech and freedom of religion as we today in the modern world call it. Speaker 1 00:27:42 So, but they were not given that. So there were still persecuted and I'm actually in the book asking, well, what if the Meccans back and pagans allow prophet Mohammad to preach his religion and say what he wanted and pre probably you would have a different history of Islam. But what happened is that mom had had to flee you had is exotic well, uh, from, uh, Mecca to Medina and there in Muslims, uh, in inmates establish a state and that state had battles. And that battles was with the pagans time. And there are some harsh passages in the Koran about those battles, like kill the kill, the polytheists, uh, it's not any person, it's not your neighbor. Who's, uh, who might be in politics. It's, it's just that battle. It was just like some sort of passages in the old Testament. Uh, however people take them still, literally today. Speaker 1 00:28:30 And some people think that there should be implemented. The point is when probably mom had passed away, there, there is this history where he was asking for a religious freedom, asking for toleration and saying to you, your religion to me, mine. And there were some word IX fight the unbelievers until they're subdued. So what happened is that Islamic jurisprudence, the interpretation of the Shediac in a few centuries established that even less than a few sentences during domain at empire established that the early verses in Mecca that is about toleration. That's about to you, your religion to me, mine are abrogated. They're gone, you know, they're in the Koran that Ricks is still there, but they're, they don't have a power. They're not going to be implemented. What's going to be implemented is the worst, which says fight the unbelievers until they pay a tribute and they're subdued. Speaker 1 00:29:25 So they, so you, you, you fight people. And that I gave the whole idea of Congress in jihad and, uh, military expansion. Now, my argument in the book is that this idea that the peaceful and Diplo realistic verses of the Koran has, has to be aggregated. And the worst is about war must be taken as definitive. This in itself was a state project because you had Islamic empires, which wanted to expand. And for them, the idea that you shouldn't attack people on this, you should, they attack you, which isn't the Koran wasn't helpful. You rather had needed a doctrine to expand in the name of God as other everybody was doing at the time like this assignments or the Byzantine empire Byzantine empire was doing. So, uh, I, I'm calling on reversing this idea that the tolerant verses of the Koran are sideline and the more, uh, belligerent, if you will, or the domineering verses of the Koran should be upheld and showing that this was a decision made by Imperial states. It doesn't have to be a binding decision that we Muslims had to, uh, follow today. Speaker 0 00:30:34 I haven't all right. We have little less than a half an hour left. I still have many, many more questions for you, but we also have, uh, people in our audience who have some questions. So I'm going to start reading those in. And some are just asking for, you know, uh, because as we described, uh, Islam without extreme was kind of your one-on-one and then this is more of the, you know, advanced degree, but a lot of people are there, knowledge of the history of Islam, uh, is, is informed by what we see on the news or social media. And so, uh, maybe some, some definitions of terms Vicky is asking if you can explain what exactly is Sharia law in the current context, um, with it, she says, it's usually discussed in a very negative light. And, uh, is there any positive aspects of it? Speaker 1 00:31:33 Well, uh, I think comparative religion will help here. Sharia law is similar to what Halakha is in Judaism. That is the idea that there's a God given code of life to you, that you have to practice to be a good believer, right? So, and there are some similarities. I mean, like we, Muslims don't eat pork, you know, observant Jews don't eat pork for the same reason because the Halakha has dietary laws. And we have actually Jewish dietary laws are more complicated. I, I, you know, I, I always respect being the people who are able to follow kosher and Islam. It's more simple. Uh, but you know, or like the idea that boys should be circumcised, you know, that, that, so there, there's this idea that there is observance that defines how many, how many times you pray a day, what do you turn to Mecca? Speaker 1 00:32:24 And, you know, a dress code again, you can find an Orthodox Judaism and, and traditionally slump. So on that level, it is about personal piety and maybe a communal way of, uh, behavior. There's nothing wrong with, if people believe in it, they can follow that. So they right to do that. The problem though, is, uh, when you say my, my God-given law also tells me to kill apostates or stone adulterers, or, you know, punish them people for blasphemy against God, by beheading them. You know, you run into human rights violations as we call them at the modern world. Now, uh, Judaism has, doesn't have this problem for the very simple reason. Well, there has been Jewish enlightenment in the 19th and the 18th century. They change a lot too, but even before that used, it didn't have a state for 2000 years. So the idea that you should stone, the alters, which is there. Speaker 1 00:33:18 I mean, if you read in the first five books of the tour, which has not been implemented, and Jews learned how to just, oh, live by the Halakha as a communal code and as individuals and community, but not, not, you, you're not, you don't go kill a POS states for it and it's gone. So if it's, if it is written there, it's not implemented at any point for 2000 years in modern, Israel is not a Halakhic state. So, you know, there are some conservative people, but the laws are not there, but in Islam, the shadier also became the law of the state. Uh, and of course that was the Shetty. And there was the, some, some form of secular law that some decisions that small towns could make, but ultimately Sheria was the overarching law. And also it's, it got interpreted from this position of power. Speaker 1 00:34:06 Uh, so why don't you use power for religion by, you know, coursing people to practice, or, you know, punishing people for heresy or apostasy and all that. Uh, so that's why there is a lot of elements in the shitty out there. What we would call today, the penal code, some of which are troubling. Uh, there are corporal punishments, which was the norm in seventh century. You know, it was w what the world was, but if you still implement today, eh, you will, uh, uh, end up doing a lot of things that are shocking to the modern conscience. Uh, and, and of course there are a lot of things about women, you know, it must how we're going, must obey and serve their husbands. And I think more, most, most of that is also doesn't even come from the Koran, but it comes from the interpretation of medieval jurists and some of, some of those Jewish even projected back those ideas, I think to prophet Muhammad. Speaker 1 00:34:57 So there's a whole body of law. So today, if you have a conversation with a Muslim, and if you say the Shariah is bad, the Muslim can say, what are you talking about? According to cherry, I fast and Ramadan pray to Mecca five times. What's wrong with that. He's right. There's nothing wrong with that. And every people have every right to observe the share yet in that voluntary sense. But if you say Sherry has a law of the land, well, then it means you want to kill it. States are a stone adulterers and that kind of stuff. And, uh, of course you might have a modernist interpretation of the shared air, which is also something that I, I I'm working on. If you do that, the becomes just a set of principles of justice, instead of literal implementations, we call it the Macassa or the intention approach. Speaker 1 00:35:46 Uh, actually, if you go through that route to Sherry, I can give you a good basis for let's say human rights and natural a natural law, because, uh, according to let me explain that in a second, there are verdicts in the Sheria, right? But some scholars were wise enough to ask the question why God gave these words, what was God's intention. And they ultimately mapped out five intentions of the Sheria, the protection of religion, life, property lineage, and the intellect. Now, if you say, okay, these principles are universal. So let's look at the modern world with this and leave aside all the literal implementations, you might have a very different sense of Islamic worldview. Uh, actually, if you have scholars did that, they publish every year. Something called the Islamist city index they're ranking countries, according to the five values of the Sharia, the protection of life, religion, property, property rights, you know, uh, and you know, which countries top this Islamist city index, not Saudi Arabia, not Iran, none of them, no, actually Muslim majority countries and top 50 it's Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, I mean, countries generally like in Western Europe or Australia, Canada, U S is doing not bad. Speaker 1 00:37:06 You know? So, um, I mean, again, this is a reformist modernist perspective. Not traditional people will think in these lines, but there is this perspective in Islam, which is what I'm also talking about in my book. Like God says something, but look at the intention and not look, don't look at the context in which this intention was implemented. Like the intention of the Koran, you can easily say the intention of the Koran was to uplift the status of women in that society. It was not equal, but it was pretty good for that society. But today the intention is uplifting. Women get equal rights. So that's the modernist approach to Sheria. Uh, but, but I will, I'll be honest. I mean, if you, if I make this argument in Afghanistan to all the bond will come and show me that, you know, I'm a heretic and will probably punish me for it. Speaker 1 00:37:59 So it's not that everybody agrees with these ideas, but these ideas are out there. Uh, and those, those groups generally, which are passionate to implement Sheri out through the state, we call them Islamists Islamist political parties, or they are simply the regime in Saudi Arabia. And of course in some countries, it's the regime. So there's a trouble, there's a trouble there. But I think the way to go forward is not to ask for Muslims to condemn, Sheria ask from them or to expect from them to, uh, reject things that are done in the name of the Sharia and that are in violation of human rights. Speaker 0 00:38:36 Well, that is a really helpful, um, primer on what is a Sharia law. Um, you discussed some other concepts in your latest book. Um, the demimonde divine command theory versus, uh, ethical objectivism, not to be confused with Iran's objectivism. And, um, you know, in addition to that index of Islamic city, you cite a tool which was taken in, uh, the, the world, uh, isn't necessary. It's not specific to Islam, but is it necessary to believe in God to be moral and to have good values? Uh, and 99% of objections believe it is as do 98% of Indonesians, 97% of Jordanians, 88% of Pakistanis, by contrast, only 10% of Swedes agree, 37% Germans, 57% of Americans. Why, why is that important in terms of what you're talking about? This continued hedging Moni, uh, of a demimonde divine command mindset. Speaker 1 00:39:54 Uh, thank you for reading my book carefully, Jennifer, I should say that. And, uh, that is in the chapter about, yes, that, that is in the chapter. That is about the philosophy of law, right? In Islam, the philosophy of the sharing and here is here's the beginning of the story. If few centuries, the first few centuries of Islam are really important because they're all the big questions we're asking, discuss passionately. And some of them were left aside, but I think these are big questions, early Muslim theologians, passionately, uh, disagreed with each other on many issues and several issues. But one of them is very important. That's the issue of good and bad. And the here was the question they said, God has given us some commandments, right? Do not kill. That's also the 10 commandments, right? That's in Judaism and Christianity. That's a wonderful thing. Speaker 1 00:40:47 Do not kill people, but do not murder people or do not steal. This is good. God is saying this, but is God saying these things because killing and stealing are bad in themselves objectives, or do these things become bad because God simply said so, or like helping a person who's dying out of thirst in the desert is a good thing. Can we can be arrived as with our conscience? Or should we think like that? Only because we find the commandment from God, like the help help help the poor person. So, uh, the two schools of thought was clearly there. And one school, the Nutella, these are known the rationalist of Islam. They said there are objective rights and wrongs in the world and God is educating us about them. So the divine commandments are indicating what is out there already, already objective. So even if we didn't hear anything from our religion, that murdering innocent people is bad. Speaker 1 00:41:55 We would conscientiously through our reason. Intuition would know that therefore non-Muslims would know that too. Therefore non-Muslims can be moral people too. Of course they might not be moral people. So that's why religion is here to warn us and guide us. And, but it's not that when you take out religion, everything will collapse. Whereas the other side said, no things are right or wrong only because God said, so actually they said, if God says still then stealing would be good. Well, he said, it's bad. So we take it as bad, but whatever he says will be absolutely right. So it's called divine command theory. The second, the first view is called ethical objectivism. As you said, it's not about Ayn, Rand's objectivism, but it's about, it's a theological doctrine that good is out there. It's in human nature can discern it good and bad, not everything, but you know, the basics. Speaker 1 00:42:49 Uh, so our religion is reminding and educating about these things. So people with people who are not Muslims can be good people too. That's why you can learn something from Aristotle. Who's an infidel, you know, by Islam definitions, we had a good theory on morals, right? I mean, and Muslim study there that we are to, you know, ethics of Aristotle, but the idea which, but the theological school, which said, no, there's no good and bad. There is no ethical value outside of the Sharia dominated Islamic jurisprudence. Uh, and I show how today this leads to conservatives are thinking in these lines to assume if people are atheist, they can't be moral, uh, because they have no religious knowledge. So if you have no religious knowledge, you are not right. You don't have any, any wisdom. You don't have any virtue in you. I mean, what do Muslims who actually live in Western society intuitively see that that's wrong? Speaker 1 00:43:44 I mean, I, it's a, it's a thing in Turkey to say, oh my God. And I don't know in Sweden, people really stop at a red light where we don't. I mean, that kind of like life experiences, that kind of stuff. I mean, there are corruption index showing that actually we have bad corruption in self-stimulation societies where you have more cleaner, you know, politics. And in some others that are non Muslim that are even secular. But I think, uh, this, this intuitional recognition should be backed up by a revived revived theology, which says good and bad are universal things that, of course the Muslims strive for them. And we have a lot of great tradition on these issues, but we can engage with humanity. So people can be good, even if they're not Muslim, even if they're not believers in God. And we can agree on universals of humanity, we're Muslim, they're atheist, but we can all live together happily and agree that, you know, there are some human values that we should not violate Speaker 0 00:44:42 In talking about, uh, divine command theory, as opposed to the ethical objectivism. You introduce it in your book by talking to you about your own experience as a father and, uh, disciplining your sons and one who was taking the toys of the other. And you say, no, don't do that. And he asks of course, an experience that every parent has. Well, why? And of course, it's very tempting to just say, because I say so, which is sort of the parental equivalent of a divine command theory. Um, but, but you talk about how in both, uh, when it's just, I say so, or it's just, uh, God says, so the grants says, so, uh, that the individual who is obeying is, is deprived of, um, of the ability to, to reason through, to think in terms of consequences. So maybe talk a little bit about what are some of the negative effects and, uh, and you also talked about how you, uh, you see it when, um, people migrate or when people who grow up in, uh, in a more authoritarian collectivist, Islamic state, uh, find themselves in a pluralistic democracy. And they, they, they have a hard time adjusting. Speaker 1 00:46:14 Thank you again for carefully reading my book. I, uh, I really enjoyed this conversation. Um, so, uh, in the chapter about divine command theory, I use this example of, you know, I'm father and my kids, I can say, do this, or don't do that. And don't take her brother stories, right? And he asks me why, and I have two options. I can say, well, you shouldn't take your brother's toy because it's his property. Or, you know, it says, right. And you will be offending him. You know, you wouldn't like the same thing to be done to you. So you bring in some golden rule, maybe you try to understand your child, that there are things you should not do sometimes in life because that's wrong in itself. Or you say, don't do it because I say, so I'm your father. Uh, so if you educate your child simply on the, I say, so because of your father, child would learn certain commands from you as, as your FA as your parents will the authority, but will not understand why. Speaker 1 00:47:08 And we will not maybe develop an ethical perspective on things and learn how to use his conscience and, you know, turn this into principle and so on and so forth. Uh, I mean, I referred to some books about pediatrics on these issues as well, but that's not my expertise obviously, but I use this to say, okay, let's look at into how we Muslims lik look into divine. And there are examples I show in the book that how the, this divine command theory idea that you obey without understanding why, uh, because that's, what's supposed to be how it leads to absurd decisions by most, some Muslim jurists today. And I use this example, I showed this example of a Fatwah. Uh, well, it means a road's opinion doesn't necessarily mean that by killing people by, you know, to, to make it clear effect on women's women being able to travel alone or not. Speaker 1 00:48:03 I just actually a famous thing. I mean, you might have heard that in Saudi Arabia was not allowed that woman couldn't drive for many years and now they're allowed to drive, and that's a big reform, but the prince who does that also kills people for criticizing. And so that, that, I'm not super enthusiastic about the strain there, but anyway, so there's this in very conservative, especially what hobbies circles, but even in some conservative student circles, there's this idea that a woman should not be able to go around too much and a certain distance three-day or for distance, she, she should not leave the home and without the permission of her husband, for sure. And without a model that's called a male guardian. She can't, she can't just go around by her, not buy on her own. There should be a father or husband or brother, a male guardian. Speaker 1 00:48:46 Now, where does this come from? It comes from patriarchal culture, obviously, but there are some sayings of the prophet Muhammad hoodies that are used to justify this. And, uh, in the book, I show how a scholar is challenged on this issue, uh, because you have Hadeed sayings of prophet moments saying, don't let women go alone by themselves. People ask, but going alone by yourself, wasn't a dangerous thing in seventh century Arabia. I mean, if you leave Medina and just walk into desert to Mecca, there are bandits in the desert. Probably a woman walking alone would be, you know, would be attacked by them, right by them and that kind of stuff. So it's dangerous. They're banditry so it was something to protect them from an imminent danger. So, but today the world is different women get on their cars safely, drive their SUV's or get on in Spain or a plane. Speaker 1 00:49:46 It's not the same thing in seventh century area. So can we not change this? And the scholar who gives the facts us as well, some people are making this argument, but no, the prophet said any woman traveling more than a distance of three days, and that's measured in seventh century terms of this for three days. Uh, that's not a lot. Well, so she cannot still travel. So my argument is that there are, I think in every religion, there are teachings for a good reason. If there was a reason for that commandment at the time, it probably made sense to people. That's why actually these rules just boomed. I mean, it was a liberating thing and it brought a lot of enlightening ideas and practices, but if you don't understand, it was sad in that particular context, you end up turning a good intention into a terrible, uh, constraint on human freedom, which is the case with women traveling, for example, and all those travel issues should be understood that travel was not the same thing in seventh century Arabia compared to the 21st century model. Speaker 0 00:50:48 All right. I have been, uh, very selfish, not, not in a good way because rationally selfish and self interested would be leaving more time to get to all of these wonderful questions, but, um, that I am very interested in, in your books and your ideas. And so I take the prerogative of taking most of the time we have about nine minutes left. So, um, let's see if we can get to some of these because there are some really great, great questions in my answers. Okay. Scott, on, on YouTube, uh, had a bunch of great questions, but one of them, uh, is, should we see the recent peace deals with, uh, with Israel as a positive sign for the region? Speaker 1 00:51:31 Well, I mean, that's just politics of today that that's not the topic of my book, but here's what I can say. I'm glad that Israel is making a peace deals with certain Arab countries more. I mean, it began with UAE, Morocco, Sudan, especially the Sudan is good because, you know, Islam is past, it's been a transformation, but ultimately what we need is a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. If we don't get there, the problem will still be on the ground. And I think a fair two-state solution or any solution that the both sides can agree. I know it's difficult, but that will ultimately be the way to bring peace to these two peoples who are there for four 70 years. And I want Israelis to live in total, uh, safety and freedom and, uh, as they deserve as I want for the Palestinians. And, uh, I know there are maximalists, you know, who want to destroy the other side. And that is a big part of the problem. Uh, so I I'm sympathetic to the peace deals, but ultimately, eh, what, what will solve the problem and bring peace and no rockets and no bombs and no civilians being killed. That's gonna happen with thanks to peace between Israelis and Palestinians. We missed that chance, unfortunately in 2000, uh, but it's not impossible. So I think that's still what we should do workforce. Speaker 0 00:52:51 Okay. Scott also has another question. Has, uh, Saudi Arabia somewhat moved away from Wahhabism since the rise of crown prince and Solomon? Speaker 1 00:53:04 Uh, well, he's certainly the curbed, the authority of the religion police, which was an object of my criticism. So the, the oppression of women in public life have decreased to a little bit, I mean, on their dress code. I mean, there were building police going around, people with sticks and harassing women on their dress codes. So good. Uh, that is, uh, for example, people can have their shops open during prayer times. That's fine. So on a social level, there is some liberalization for Saudi standards, which is good. I, I I'm happy with those. I welcome them. Also, he said a few things about not every Hadif is authoritative and, you know, the most massively transmitted how these should be seen, but others are doubtful, which is a huge thing actually for his stomach truth. So I welcome those things, but the problem is the guy who also does these also God killed as, as far as we know from the evidence that a journalists brutally for being a critical. Speaker 1 00:54:04 So unfortunately we have this problem in the middle east and some of the people who, who do and some social reforms also prove to be political autocrats. Uh, and can we please have it both like, can we have later as which will allow women to drive, but also not kill their critics? I mean, it's not there Saturday Arabia right now. I don't know where it will go. I would suppose I would be supportive of the social liberalization, but I would be critical of the political oppression because that in itself also my backfire to, uh, even on the, in the social level. I mean, if you, if, if the idea that a social liberal can only be a political tyrant, you know, that's not good for the broad idea of freedom. Speaker 0 00:54:47 Are there signs, uh, Scott asks that the largely Muslim migration to Europe has led to more liberal attitudes among the migrants. That's his question? Or are there signs that it's led to a kind of a retrenchment? Speaker 1 00:55:06 Well, I mean, uh, there are, there's a difference between the new migrants who just came out of from a war zone and still, you know, adopting to the new modern society. And I'm sure there will be some integration issues there. Uh, but I also see in the west, the rise of a Muslim hood that is at peace with an open liberal free society. And I see that as a healthy, good thing and assigned for the future and the best place for that as an America and American Muslims are valid, integrated. I wrote an article in the New York times about two years ago, the creeping, uh, what was it, two people speaking of a creeping Sharia, you know, it was about the creeping liberalism and American Muslims. So there are American clerks who are saying, oh, our youngsters are becoming too liberal. They told her everything. Speaker 1 00:55:58 They told her gay people, they told right. People drinking. So what, what are we going? So I'm good. I'm happy that, you know, some American Muslims are becoming proud Americans and they can be pious. I have nothing against them being biased. It's not about that, but they being open and, uh, feel free in the rest of society. So that sort of healthy integration is going on. That should not be rejected and blocked because of, uh, fears. Uh, I think with the migrants in Europe, there are more problems, especially in France, for example, there are more problems, but I think that is partly because of the immigrant population, like a colonial heritage, but also because European countries are sometimes not very good in integrating people. I think welfare states, uh, instead of a dynamic capital society makes people, uh, not, you know, uh, partners of society, you know, that that's not a good idea, right? I'm off the bans on religious clothes is wrong. I mean, we should a lot of people to dress, whatever they want. They will be more proud citizens if they feel themselves as they are. Uh, so there's work to do. But I think, uh, the Muslim hood that is evolving in liberal west, I think is a sign of hope for the future because other Muslims can see why, well, you don't need a therapeutic state to be a good Muslim, right? You can be a good Muslim in a totally free society. Speaker 0 00:57:20 Well, just a couple of minutes left. So is there anything that I didn't ask that, uh, that you wanted to add, um, or maybe tell us a little bit about your upcoming book. Speaker 1 00:57:34 We covered a lot of issues. Um, I mean there are, I have some specific chapters on blasphemy, apostasy and religious policing. So there are, those are fun chapters in the sense that a little bit grim too, but I show there are these harsh verdicts, but those word words can be interpreted in these ways. And by the way, this interesting scholar, 10 centuries ago already had a very progressive idea there. So I kind of dig into Islamic jurisprudence, but show these things. Uh, and I'm not going to conserve every strict conservative sort of convince every strict conservative out there, but these things has to be made in. And I'm glad with the attention that I've been getting since this book came out, I've had events in Malaysia, Indonesia, Pakistan, uh, more other, other things are coming because a lot of Muslims are also hungry for this idea of freedom. They say they're proud of their faith, but they're not proud of a lot of the ugly things that are happening in its name. So, uh, they need new ideas and new narratives, and I wanted to give them that. Uh, and, uh, thank you for allowing me to discuss so you can ask me where they can find the book it's on Amazon and bookstores, for sure. Yes. Speaker 0 00:58:46 And on audible, I really enjoyed, uh, both reopening Muslim minds and Islam without extremes, uh, on, on audible. So I'd highly recommend you take a look there and you can also find Mustapha as his Twitter. Uh, one of the best D are you a social media person? Speaker 1 00:59:06 Yes. I'm on Twitter. Akiel in English is my Twitter handle. There's an algorithm stuff that's in Turkey. So you could, they can follow me on Twitter, on my keto website, a webpage at the keto that org, most of onco, you can find all my articles or writings or recent, uh, and I'll be happy to hear also emails. And if people have questions, they can certainly email me through, uh, M M Akiel at cater. That org would be my email. They can write to me there. Uh, I'll be happy to be in conversation on these issues because we need better understanding. And I think there are problems in those big problems in the Muslim world today. But I think an unfair, uh, view of, of Muslims that some people I think promoting, uh, in Western society is not fair and also not going to be productive too. Speaker 0 00:59:52 Wonderful. Thank you very much, Mr. DASA. I didn't get to about half of my questions. Maybe I can convince you to come and join me for a follow-up chat in the next couple of weeks on clubhouse. Uh, we'll be happy to do that. That would be great. And we'll publicize it there. So thank you. Thank you for this very, very courageous, uh, and hopefully increasingly less lonely site for, uh, tolerance for reason for individualism and for freedom, uh, in, in the Muslim world and throughout the world. So thank you and thanks everybody for joining us once again. Uh, if you are enjoying these, uh, webinars series and the work of the outlet society, please consider supporting us with a tax deductible donation and the see me next week. Thank you.

Other Episodes

Episode

September 14, 2022 00:59:11
Episode Cover

The Atlas Society Asks Zuby

Join CEO Jennifer Grossman for the 121st episode of The Atlas Society Asks where she interviews rapper and "Real Talk with Zuby" host, Zuby. Listen as the two discuss Zuby's journey as a rapper, libertarian, and entrepreneur. ...

Listen

Episode

April 06, 2020 00:20:22
Episode Cover

The Atlas Society Asks with Grover Norquist

Join us as the President of Americans For Tax Reform, Grover Norquist, joins Atlas Society CEO, Jennifer Grossman. ...

Listen

Episode

August 17, 2022 01:01:48
Episode Cover

Biden's Inflation Reduction Bill & The Supreme Court on Executive Power: Current Events with Kelley and Tracinski

Join The Atlas Society for an Objectivist perspective on current events. This time our founder, Dr. David Kelley, along with Senior Fellow and Objectivist writer Robert Tracinski will discuss the recent Supreme Court Decision regarding Executive power as well as President Biden's "Inflation Reduction" Bill. ...

Listen