10 February 2006
Panel Discussion: Muslim Societies in the Modern World World Economic Forum
Panelists: President Pervez Musharraf, President Hamid Karzai, Mr Hajim Alhasani( President of the Iraq national Assembly),and H.M .Queen Rania of Jordan
Moderator: Thomas L. Friedman, Columnist, Foreign Affairs, New York Times
Question: I am going to begin just to warm things up, gentlemen if you don’t mind ladies first, I will just ask the broad question, we had a lot of discussion here about reforms in different parts of the world, different communities, is reform in a Muslim country is an issue to transition to modernization. In a Muslim country what are the very particular challenges that apply to Muslims World? Queen Rania would you; I would like everyone to take this up. But we start with Queen Rania
Queen Rania: Well you know as everybody know in Muslim World we have no shortage of challenges from economic challenges, poverty, illiteracy, insufficient participation by women in the work force, lack of democracy in some countries, obviously each country different in degree faces these problems but I think the challenge that dominant, the headlines and capture everyone’s attentions is rise of minority groups , extremism Muslims who have taken upon them selves to distort Islam in order to justify their violate actions against humanity and I think this has led Muslim world to a very critical cross road of self examination and self definition. Do we look at what these term stands for, this has lead to reformation of basic principles of Islam and I think this is a positive thing and you might ask, you know why these extremes having such a profound impact around the world because every generation in history has had to lead with challenges from extremism elements but terrorist groups today such as Al Qaeda and others have advantage over their predecessor in the sense they are able to exploit the increasingly interdependence and inter connected world to exploit the extreme ideology in a way you have stone age mentality being supported by 21st century technology, means of communication, mobility, this have able them to spread their message and magnified the resistance what they have been trying to do so this is very very critical challenge as I said this has lead us as the wake up call for us and bought us together, issue that involve lane line message this is the message which basically spread the true teaching our religion and call for the peaceful co-existence amongst humanity we hosted a conference in Jordan which bought together 180 scholars all around the Muslim world representing the eight basic principles of Islam and basically they issued a document that condemns the issue of fatwas that allows violence and justified violent crimes and also condemns the act of ‘takfeer’ which is labeling other Muslims as non believers. Just last month in Mecca this accord was unanimously endorsed and approved by 56 nations and I think this is very important step in Muslim World.
Question: President Musharraf?
President Musharraf: I would like to take it on differently; I personally feel there is no conflict at all between modernization and Islam, there is no conflict in development and Islamic teachings or Islamic traditions as we call it. The teaching of Islam are very clear we believe in modernization basic concept of Ijmad and Ijtihad means that you have to remain current with developments and keep current with time and mould your response in accordingly so therefore Islam in its conceptual form, Islamic teachings are modern, they have to keep pace with time. Having said that the conflict really is of westernization with Islam certainly so we have to reconcile, there is double paradox involved here I don’t think tensions are rising because of modernization or development. Tensions are rising because sense of deprivations and sense of alienation. Now the double paradox which I am talking of is really in the West who is equating modernization with westernization. It is not the case if you are talking of westernization; yes it is in conflict with Islam because we have different values, we have different ethos which we want to maintain just as West wants to maintain their own values but 2 in modernization it is different and we want to modernize. The other side of coin is the extremist what your Majesty is talking about the extremist, I call obscurantist; they are also equating modernization with westernization unfortunately. If modernization I was to define it is to bring about quantitative improvement in the lives of the people through use of technology, through use of knowledge so when we acquire knowledge and technology from West, the ways of governess this obscurantist calls it Westernization which is again wrong so therefore in conclusion I would say Islam teaches modernization inherently and there is no conflict when we want to modernize and develop, there is no tension because of that there may be fringe extremist and obscurantist who are calling it westernization and we need to break through that we should not be apologetic about it. I think the course is quite clear, we have to modernize in Islam and there is no conflict and West should not expect us to westernize and similarly obscurantist should not call modernization westernization.
Question: President Karzai?
President Karzai: I will pick up from where President Musharraf left indeed there is no conflict between modernization and Islam. If you define modernization as economic growth, as technology, better quality of education, matter becomes more difficult if you speak of democracy, when you speak of democracy as accepted form of government all over the world as it implies now to today’s world, society and value associated with it. Go back to the beginning of Islam; the way of electing leaders was in accordance with time democratic. Now Islam it self is principle of inherently democratic stand for equality, stands for participation, stands for protection of the unprotected, stand for values you defines today’s language as human rights. Now there is little problem when we speak of the radical elements in Islam as they come from eighteen and nineteen century. Islam, sixth seventh century was one of advance social existence of time and then it declined in knowledge and technology affected the Muslims while Europe picked up through renaissance and through technological advance. In certain circles in Muslim world, especially those affected by colonization, then there was a rise for those who were educated and yet not satisfied with their social conditions feeling rivalry of civilizations which existed till today. This is a complicated question actually. What do you mean by reform does reform mean economic development economic opportunity in that we have nations like Malaysia doing very well which is a Muslim country. We have particularly in Muslim United Arabs Emirate doing wonders introducing commercial works. We have Indonesia a country that has tremendous potential to rise as a Muslim country. Speaking of democracy the masses the people in the Muslim world as the masses every where in the world are all seeking participation, so participation is demand of all we saw it in Afghanistan the moment they were given opportunity to participate, it was proved they took the opportunity in the best possible manner, men and women, they were cries in the time of Talibans. During Talibans governess women were not allowed to participate in Islam, Muslim society don’t allow women. Today Afghanistan has elected parliament which has twenty seven percent of women, made up of elected women some of women has won votes in constituencies higher than the male in constituencies. Reforms imply to society in the form accepted, to do in boundaries in the heist of society is very much workable particular in Muslim society where it lacks. Some these reforms some how, so my tendency is in his regard Muslim society are, given the circumstances of each country very much for reforms and take it with speed . Now what President Musharraf said on reform or democracy and advancement if it run contradictory to the belief or if people in the West perceives that Modernization means implying cultural of west then of course you have conflict because we all have our individual characters even in the West you have all individual, in a family you have individuals you are different from you brother, you have one way of living and he has other, if we take that into our minds and respect it then we perhaps we can attain a world where there is not only conflict of civilization and cultures but there is actually talk of dialogue a cooperation of civilization again I have to give you example of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has proven that when there is such cooperation it is accepted by Muslim countries like Afghanistan. Today in Afghanistan here from Japan to US from the Muslim countries to the Eurasian countries to the Buddhist countries to the Hindu countries to the others who are participating on the construction of Afghanistan and Afghanistan side has taken as participants of the reconstruction of the country recognizing different cultures, we have a different culture and the cultural difference is accepted and acknowledged and the movement takes forward. 3
Question: President Al Hasni you are a new comer at politics and in a new democracy, what is your take on this?
President Al Hasni: Well the major similarity between business and nations are that both have values and principles and I think you have to deal with the issues of the values that the society holds I don’t see much difference between westernization and modernization. A lot of Muslim thinkers when they look at the west they see and find Islam in the west more than they find them in Muslim countries that means the values of Islam are more sound in western countries than we find in our countries. The reformers in the last century look to the west they contributed to the success of the west in implementing the principles and values we find in Muslim religion. The problem is that in Muslim countries you don’t find these values principles implemented in the Muslim society. You find corruption everywhere and Muslim values are against corruption, Muslim values are against terrorism. The ideology of terrorism originated in Muslim countries and that is part of the type of governmentship we have in Muslim countries, dictatorship governance probably that is why everybody in the Muslim country fears democracy in their countries. We look at democracy in Iraq in different way. We think that democracy is the solution for Muslim nations. We Muslims call it probably Shura, it is a way of democracy. Islam didn’t define democracy in the Quran or the Sunnah of the Prophet didn’t define how it should be so when you democratize and you look at if you see that implementing that democracy we will save the same principles of Islam why not take it that is modernization to me in a Muslim country and modernization means giving walls for women. 50% of the society of the Muslim country to be honest is not productive. They are imprisoned in their homes and their houses that doesn’t mean you can’t find doctors engineers women in our country but we still look for more money in our country. People are afraid to open to the west if you go back in the history of Islam, Islam flourished when it was open to the Greek philosophy when it was open to the Roman philosophy it was open to the Persian philosophy that was the golden time of Islam when open to these philosophies. When the scientists of the west were prosecuted, Muslims they took the fear of these scientists they were implementing them in Muslim countries when the crusaders came to the Muslim countries they were back with good things from Muslim countries and implemented them over there. So modernization to me is a not bad word it is in the heart of Islamic religion, it is in the heart of Islamic values.
Question: All of you have come from different political systems everyone I am sure who is in position of authority fantasies that one day I can just push through this reform when you think of the range of things you want to accomplish that you need to get down in your country as part of modernization.
Queen Rania: I just like to sum up one thing that modernization in the Muslim world is the main challenge and has nothing to do with Islam so I guess we can all agree Islam is not the obstacle. About your question, it’s a tough question, I think the most important thing for us is to focus is that if we were to participate in this knowledge economy, if we are to become creators of knowledge, exporters of ideas, striving democracy, prosperity to really improve the conditions of living for our people, one area where I would like to reform overnight is education. To be more specific though we are already doing that in Jordon, we are looking up at curriculum, modernizing it, looking at the way we teach our children encourage them to become creators, debaters with independent critical thinking ensuring that we have better training for our teachers so that they can get the best out of our children, putting more technology in the class rooms, really empowering our young people with the tools they need to enter, compete and be successful not only on the local stage but on the international stage so that is something which I feel is really crucial and don’t forget that in our part of the world experiencing a demographic exposure, over the next 10 years we need to create over 50 million jobs so if we do not tap into that energy and potential than it could be a very dangerous situation, youth are the catalysts of change and change is the only constant so equipping them with the right tools at national stage and creating opportunities should be the over riding motivation behind anything and everything we do.
Question: President Musharraf if you could just snap your fingers and make a change what would that be?
President Musharraf: There is a conflict in the minds of all the Islamic countries, in the people and the conflict resides in the fact that all the countries of the Islamic world and so in 4 Pakistan, the teaching of Islam have been hijacked by the obscurantist unfortunately, before 9/11 the educated class the enlightened, the forward looking, the progressive like all of us advocated the position on religion and left it in the hands of these obscurantist clerics, we did not bother really to project what is Islam in its essence, it is far more than the rituals, it’s a ‘deen’, it’s a way of life, its not just ritualistic, it deals with your responsibilities to your society, to your people to your nation to your family now we don’t talk about that, we have two terms called Haqooqul Allah and Haqooqul Ibad, Haqooqul Allah is between yourself and your God whereas Haqooqul Ibad is between you and the people and the society, now the obscurantist easily ignores all that and took us to the path of only Haqooqul Allah, how to pray, how to fast these ritualistic elements which do not create an impact on the society on the progress of the society or the dynamism of the society, unfortunately this was the reality and if you see the examples in some of the Islamic countries, though I wont name the countries but we want to impose a sudden transition and this transition sometimes is imposed when we are sometimes confusing modernization with westernization. We cannot impose a change and who ever tried that failed miserably and we have the examples of that in the Muslim world, societies only transform and they take three to four generations to transform, now the issue is that the masses in the Islamic world are less literate but are confused of what is Islam in essence, it is what this obscurantist cleric telling us or is it something more than that so now as we leaders in the Islamic world, we are confronted with a problem 9/11 came, we did not know that this issue will be so critical so we are confronted with an issue we need to take the masses out of this mould, hands of this dominance of these obscurantist and tell them that this is not what Islam is but may I say that the leadership must be very aware that we cannot negate anti religion because masses are religious, we are emotionally religious. So the bottom line is that we need to bring about a societal transformation in every country and that is what I would like to do in Pakistan that the way forward is not the way of the obscurantist, the way forward is the Islamic way that the real essence and values needs to be followed.
Question: President Karzai take out your magic wand?
President Karzai: Well in this we cannot speak of the whole of Islamic Ummah because different countries are at different stages of development. On Afghanistan when you speak of organization and when you go to an Afghan village, in an Afghan village if you tell what modernization means it would be a road not a paved road but a dirt road so for one village in Afghanistan a road is modernization, for a boy or girl in Kabul going to a school which is tented, modernization would mean a school that has a cement roof and another boy would tell you better education or a computer skill, I don’t think you can apply this one button solution in Afghanistan, Afghanistan would need a million buttons to push in order to go ahead so talking of modernization applied to your left and not to your right to here, in Afghanistan speak of development speak of progress yes in terms of social change, in terms of democracy, we are probably at a better position to speak authoritatively of how it is achieved and how the masses react but in terms of economic growth development, we are at the bottom 6th i.e. lowest countries of the world so for us it is so many buttons and I would like to push all the buttons at the same time.
Question: President Hasni which button would you push.
President Hasni: I think being modern is being dynamic and to be dynamic I feel you have institution, to me the button to push in Iraq is to make everything institutionalized, build democratic institution that Iraq suffered too much from dictatorship for a very very long time, institution did not work in Iraq so that is the button to push, that is the button for education, that is the button to overcome corruption, that is the button to spread democracy, that is the button to separate judicial system from legislative system, the legislative system from the executive system that’s what we need to push now.
Question: Let me ask an American question, lets assume that President Bush was here and the subject is modernization in the Muslim world what is the most important thing US could do right now to enhance and advance difficult agenda of modernization in each of your country.
President Hasni: If we look, you know what United States did in Iraq in the last three years you know, there are a lot of positive things and there are a lot of negative things, I feel what 5 US needs to do is to really understand Iraq in a different way. Iraq is not Afghanistan, it is not Pakistan and it is not Jordon, there are certain things in Iraq which differs from other places without that understanding you will have wrong policy without that understanding you will implement policies on wrong information and that’s why US suffered so much in Iraq in implementing policies that did not work in Iraq, either you need to understand the Iraqi culture and you need to understand what the Iraqi’s require as a start and that what I will ask President Bush actually which I have already asked him.
Question: President Karzai….
President Karzai: In case of Afghanistan, President Bush should reward just for our success and give us much more money along with that carry on with us the strategic way, the fight against terrorism because if he does not stop it in our region it is going to go back where it strike you in the rest of the world so the fight against terrorism is important other than giving more money to Afghanistan.
Question: President Musharraf….
President Musharraf: I think this is the easiest question for me to answer resolve the Kashmir dispute, to ensure permanent peace in the region.
Queen Rania: I would say to really decide when it is right to intervene and when it is right to back off and I think that comes from a deeper understanding of our world, in this age of very intense globalization it is very dangerous to not to know the country’s world, often the most important aspects are in the details, in new answers and its so dangerous to get the answers wrong and it can lead to terrible effects so I think over simplification of this can be very dangerous in this age, it may previously have a social function of trying to make sense of our complex world but I think now a days it is going to rob us of accurate perspective, you cannot reduce humanity to simplified mould that could lead to disaster results. Please take time to understand the Muslim world what is it we stand for and not try to influence Islam and not try to manipulate it because it will just alienate us even more.
Question: Comment on the surprising victory of Hamas in the parliamentary elections and where do you think they would be heading towards peace and prosperity in Middle East.
President Musharraf: I tend to see things optimistically, the reality should always respond in accordance with the environment and in accordance with realities and the reality is that Hamas has won, they have been voted by the people, by the Palestinian so the dictates of democracy have been met and why should we deny that, so they have come and we should accept this reality, now the issue is what is their attitude to be I would see optimistically when a person or a group is outside government, its very easy to agitate and to bring about all kinds of utopian ideas of what and how we should behave but when the responsibility of governance comes on your head and shoulders then one really thinks and deliberates and then takes action so I hope that this is the case with Hamas and now responsibility of governance, responsibility of development, prosperity of the Palestinians, the responsibility of security of the Palestinians is on their shoulders, they are responsible so they may change, now having said that I would also like to say that this reality has to be accepted on the Israeli side and I only hope that they shun the path of confrontation and adopt the path of reconciliation and go on the path of negotiations with Israel, in diplomacy we learn always never shut the door so therefore the responses from the world ought to be to accept this reality, don’t shut the door on Hamas, let us evaluate what their attitudes are and lets put pressure on them to behave in the right manner so that we reach a solution but equal amount of pressure would have to put on Israel while one accepts the reality of Israel, they have to accept the reality of the creation of the Palestinian homeland and lets give Hamas a chance. Hamas was the organization which was obstructing peace previously they may be the organization who have the power to reach for peace also after in the past we never knew the Prime Minister Aerial Sharon would be welcome by the Muslim world as the man of peace we always thought he was the man who never could reach peace but then he understood reality and went for peace why shouldn’t we give Hamas a chance. 6
Question: Islamist terrorists notice I said Islamists not Islamic , Islamist terrorist who quote from the Quran and insist that violence committed is act of faith so even if we don’t want to acknowledge that religion may play a role in their behavior, we believe the religion motives much of their behavior . It seems to me we as Muslims are loosing a crucial opportunity to build trust with West when we deny that religion has any role to play in this violence because we rise suspicions as we have some thing to hide, I like to know from the panel why I am wrong that we are loosing crucial opportunity to build trust with the West.
President Musharraf Maybe I am not to clear on your question but I will try to give my views I think I said earlier that there is conflict in our minds their is conflict on the Western understanding of Islam I think there is misperception of Islam in their minds they take the views of obscurantist to be Islamic views which is not the truth that is not what Islam is. Unfortunately when ever you see in the West they want to find about Islam they bring a cleric they project that what to be what is Islam. There is no concept of terrorism in Islam but West presumes in many quarters maybe Islam inherently it is extremist and militant in concept which it is not. On our part in Islamic world we also have defaulted as I said we haven’t being able to project the right essence of Islam to the West. Therefore, I come to conclusion that there is a requirement to bring inter faith harmony, of discussing what is really Islam, understanding what is really Islam and when I propose the idea of Enlighten Moderation as two prong strategy as Islamic World rejecting terrorism and extremism going on the path of socio-economic development through restructuring of OIC which we are doing now and I believe there must be department of Islamic thoughts. This department should analyze in an enlightened way in real essence, we should have scholars of Islam to project the essence of Islam within first of all ourselves because there are so much of diversion in the understanding of Islam and as I said unfortunately realities inspite of all that there are so many diversion and then these are hijack by these obscurantist and we have never made a serious attempt to take away from obscurantist. Now after 9/11 we are exactly involved in this exercise, so therefore it would take a lot of time and I feel first of all at OIC level we must have department which considers Islam which analyze and spread the understanding of Islam within and also projects the real Islam outside the Islamic world this is what is acquired one would expect from the West to understand the real Islam and I don’t thing then we are loosing an opportunity if this understanding comes about. I don’t think there is opportunity being lost as progress in world, development of the world and bringing peace to the world is concerned.