In this illuminating conversation, Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqanni and The Atlantic correspondent Jeffrey Goldberg unravel the complexities of radical Islam in Pakistan and the greater Islamic world. The two men place the phenomenon in the context of current social, economic and political circumstances on a global scale and an individual-country scale. Handling the situation in affected countries will require a multi-tiered approach characterized by understanding and a mutual desire to communicate. This discussion is a crucial analysis of a dangerous trend that matters deeply to the future of the Middle East and the world.
MICHAEL CROMARTIE: Thank you for coming.
Now, as some of you know, I’m not one to just go ahead and read back to you the bios that you have in front of you of our speakers. Many of you know both of these gentlemen by reputation, by both their writing and their speaking and their knowledge of the topic. I would just say that we’re very grateful, especially in light of the world situation, that Ambassador Haqqani could join us for this time together.
Our speaker is the Pakistani Ambassador to the United States. He’s the author of a highly praised academic book called Pakistan: Between Mosque and Military. He is a former journalist, but also a former academic at Boston University where he was an associate professor at the Center for International Relations.
We could not have anyone both as a practitioner and as a scholar better to speak to our subject this morning than Ambassador Haqqani.
After he finishes I will introduce Jeffrey Goldberg, but the Ambassador will be addressing the question of “Radical Islam: The Challenge in Pakistan and Beyond.”
Ambassador, thank you so much for coming.
AMBASSADOR HUSAIN HAQQANI:Thank you very much, Michael.
Of course, everybody is here as we all know for the sun, sunshine and the sand, and you and I are major distractions from that more worthwhile pursuit. So I’m going to try and make this as short and as interesting as possible, but you all know that before I became Ambassador, I was a professor, and next to American Senators, professors are most well known for going on longer than they should.
Let me just start by saying that there are two or three things about Radical Islam that need to be understood and are not all widely understood in the United States.
So let me just say that Radical Islam has to be distinguished from Islam as practiced by over a billion people. One billion Muslims are not radical, and that needs to be understood, nor have many of the things that are associated with Radical Islam been part of normal Muslim practice for 1,400 years.
There is a tendency in the United States these days to try and sort of link things that are happening in the modern times to things that happened in the medieval times, ignoring the fact that in the medieval times whether you were Christian or Muslim, you behaved a certain way which you do not do in the modern times.
The Radical Islam phenomenon has to be understood in its actual context, which is political and not religious. Until recently—I don’t know if it’s still operating—the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir ran a Website which was www.1924.com, and I don’t know how many people in this room would be able to tell me why the Website was called 1924.
It’s the year that the Ottoman caliphate or the Ottoman Empire came to an end and the republic was proclaimed in Turkey. So for a lot of Radical Islamists, it is all about restoring a mythical glory from the past. It’s all about a reaction to a world in which the Muslims are not the key players. It’s all about restoring a world in which Islam is not just a religion of private practice, but a faith that drives a community that has global influence.
And that needs to be understood. Some people have done some good work on it. Bernard Lewis has What Went Wrong as a good explanation, for example, of how until the Treaty of Carlowitz in 1699 the Ottomans had never known a setback of any significance.
Similarly, the Mongols. The big setback in Islamic history was 1258, the fall of Baghdad to the Mongols, and it is very interesting that all Radical Islamists today find their theological justification in the writings of a man who in his time was not considered very significant as a religious interpreter or scholar, a man by the name if Ibn Taymiyyah, who actually wrote in response to the 1258 defeat. And so this obscure scholar was rediscovered at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by people like the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, the Salafist Movement that you have probably heard of, at least the term, and then a man by the name of Abul A’la Maududi, who founded the Islamic Party of Pakistan or what became the Islamic Party of Pakistan or the Islamic Party of India.
And Maududi’s great book on this subject, I think, is a small book that’s available in English now called A Short History of the Revivalist Movement in Islam, and if you read this book you actually understand the difference between Islam, which is my faith, and Islam, which is Maududi’s political ideology.
So the Muslim Brotherhood and these Islamic parties that arose at the beginning of the 20th century also saw Islam as the vehicle through which they would reorder the world. And then out of this grew many groups, et cetera, and I always say that somebody, some creative director at the risk of getting a fatwa against him should come up with a new version of Monty Python’s sort of Life of Brian with Islamists, you know, as the protagonists, in which sort of the front for the Liberation of Judea and the Judea Liberation Front have totally different and arcane ideological arguments between them over what happens.
And you see that all the time. You see that between the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, between the near enemy and the distant enemy. Who do you topple first? Who do you fight first? A distant enemy is America because it’s the global hegemon. The near enemy are the regimes or the governments, and then there is a nearer enemy which is the guy in the village who plays music, and so that’s a philosophical and ideological debate here.
The problem in the United States has been twofold. Most Americans didn’t pay any attention to Islam until 1979 when you had the Islamic Revolution in Iran, and then you had people from the Muslim world, mainly political leaders, who had agendas who helped you, quote, unquote, understand the Muslim world. So from ’79 to about until recently, there was a sort of little, simple thumbnail—until 9/11 actually—you had a thumbnail explanation of Radical Islam.
Oh, you know what? The Shi’ites, without going into the history of Shi’ism and Sunnism, the Shi’ites are the bad Muslims. The Sunnis are the okay Muslims. The Saudis are our partners. The Iranians are the bad guys, and you had that oversimplification over time.
And part of it was also politically driven here. For example, the war in Afghanistan, at that time Radical Islam was seen as a potential ally, a recruitment tool for people to fight the Soviet Empire, and again, without understanding the ideological dimensions of it.
I recall I was in a minority, a very small minority that at that time bothered to write in the English language that the United States should pay attention to the decommissioning, disarming and reintegration of the Mujahedeen because in 1989, ’79 to ’89, you armed, trained, supported the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, and you know, in strategic terms, it was not a bad policy. It made sense.
But then you also have to see about what are these tens or hundreds of thousands of people that have been trained to fight in the name of Islam for a global Islamic revival. What are we going to do when you walk away because they are ideologically motivated. They are not like other people who will just go home, and their ideology also has a hereafter dimension. It is not just here.
So you actually change or influence the changing of the faith of a lot of people because from docile through mosque attending—last night, for example, there was a bombing in Pakistan at a shrine. Now, Pakistan, India, Central Asia, most of them have an Islamic radiation which is essentially Sufi in which you have these—it’s a bit like, without getting into too much religious sort of analogies, but it’s a bit like sort of reverence for saints and reverence for and thinking of them as interceders between God and yourself, you know, for prayer.
And the Radical Islamists do not consider people who believe that, which is the vast majority, as fellow Muslims. So one approach would have been if they were really fair players, they would say, “We’ll try and convert the others. You know, we’ll tell them that this is not true Islam. Islam is this way. This is not the way to God. This is the other way.”
But, no, they won’t do that. They will blow them up, and so 42 people were killed, but here, how insignificant it is to the understanding of the phenomenon within the Muslim world, to the United States is, the story is just a one paragraph in USA Today on page 10-A, you know, A10, whatever. Because 42 people getting killed at a shrine by Radical Muslims is not the big story.
However, if an American soldier had got killed in Afghanistan, that would have been a page 1 story. So it doesn’t enable you to understand what we are going through, which is actually a civil war of ideas. It’s a civil war of ideas within the Muslim world. It’s a clash between those who consider Islam their faith and those who consider or want to articulate political ideologies in the name of religion.
It is a politically motivated philosophy couched in religious terminology. That’s how I see Radical Islam. Are some of these people religious? Yes, they are, but then they also have other doctrines. For example, Islam prohibits many things specifically, like all religions do, and they justify them on grounds of, oh, this is dissimilation. We can do it. You can lie for the greater good.
Now, that’s a very political view because, you know, in faith usually you do things out of moral purpose, not out of expediency. You don’t do things out of what will help you in a particular political combat. You’re not allowed to kill people just because.
You see, the asymmetry of power between us and the Super Power allows us, you know. A suicide bomber is a poor man’s F-16, which is one of the clichés that these guys have, you know. And all of that is essentially political.
So that’s my two cents worth on Radical Islam. That’s what you have to understand, that it’s essentially a big battle within our own societies, within our own communities. Here is where the radicals are much more assertive. There are areas where they are less assertive.
Then there is a second sort of concentric circle of problems, which is that in some of the societies because of political reasons, again, there is anti-Americanism, and Pakistan is one of the countries where there’s rampant anti-Americanism. There’s widespread anti-Americanism.
“What we are going through is actually a civil war of ideas. It’s a civil war of ideas within the Muslim world. It’s a clash between those who consider Islam their faith and those who consider or want to articulate political ideologies in the name of religion.”
And the widespread anti-Americanism sometimes overlaps with the Radical Islamists because it provides them an opportunity to grow, because they couched their ideology as a variation of anti-Americanism rather than of Radical Islam. So they confuse people in the process, and that’s what you see in Pakistan, the government making an effort with the United States. Sometimes people get very critical about the government’s sort of two steps forward, half step backwards, two steps forward, one step backward, because it’s a slow process. You do not want your society to totally disintegrate under the pressures of a political ideology that has religious ramifications and can affect the lives of millions and millions of people. And you do not want, for example, the Sufis could very easily be organized into fighting back, and they would be blowing up the mosques of the radicals.
But do you really want that in a society? You really do want to be able to disarm them, put them out of business, have a methodical approach, deny them control of territory, which is what the government of Pakistan has been doing.
And sometimes people forget what we have done in the last few years. For example, there were 10,000 casualties in 2009 of our military fighting the radicals. There were at least ten soldiers injured or killed every day of the Pakistani military in 2009, and Pakistan is now, for example, on the Iran-Pakistan border.
A lot more is happening than is said, and that is why I said the only thing off the record is going to be any comments I make about—because the last thing we want is our efforts at fighting the Radical Islamists within Pakistan to be seen or to be presented as essentially a continuum of American policy.
So the more we cooperate the less we want to talk about it, unless of course some Jason Bourne, you know, sort of look-alike shows up in Lahore and tries to do something in a silly manner in the streets and causes another problem for us.
But basically, because—
MR. CROMARTIE: That would never happen, would it?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And if it did, we’d just delete it from the memory, you know, using, of course, Islamic methods of doing so.
But it’s a phenomenon. There’s sort of faith, politics, global strategy sort of intersects.
Another damage into the challenge in Pakistan is that historic relationship with India. For example, the Radical Islamists tend to champion the call for anti-Indianism. Now, Pakistan has legitimate grievances, and complaints, and the government would stand for those, and we would like to have a resolution of our outstanding issues with India, but we do not think that under any circumstances terrorism is justified, whether it’s, you know, trying to settle scores with India, whether it’s trying to settle the matters in Kashmir, whether it’s anything.
But that said, it’s very difficult, again, to win the hearts and minds on this issue because the argument can be completely confused. Now, there are some other interesting numbers that I’ll throw at you before stopping, which is we also have real socioeconomic difficulties and problems. For example, last night over dinner somebody asked me—so, you know, when I said that there are all of these radical madrassas and religious schools cropping up, and of course, Jeff will talk about, I’m sure, his experience because he went to a religious madrassa and spent some time there, a radical one actually, the one that Muammar attended himself, and Jalal ad-Din Hakanai.
JEFFREY GOLDBERG: We’re both graduates.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And Jalal ad-Din Hakanai is a graduate of. Mullah Omar, as you know, and did not pass the final exam.
MR. GOLDBERG: He got an honorary degree.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yes.
MR. GOLDBERG: He got an honorary degree.
No, he really did.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: He failed the final exam. It’s a bit like sort of, you know, Bill Gates getting an honorary degree from Harvard.
But anyway, in that madrassa basically the kids are there not for the education. They are there because they get three square meals and they get two changes of clothes a year. And it’s really important to understand that one-third of Pakistan lives below the poverty line, which is a household living on less than a dollar a day, and then another one-third live below two dollars a day, and 48 percent of Pakistani school-going age children, children between the age of five and 15 do not attend school, and so there is a vacuum here that is being filled.
So if you are like the woman that I had once interviewed many, many years ago, and I said, “Why do you send your children to madrassa?”
She said, “I have nine kids. What am I supposed to do? I want them out of my hair. I don’t know what—they’re learning something, although they’re only memorizing the Qur’an in some of these madrassas.”
So the madrassas have proliferated. There used to be 241 in the year I was born, and I’m not about to tell you what year that was, but you know, it was in the 1950s, 1956—
—but there are 12,000 now and rising and increasing.
For example, if Islam was the reason why people were blowing themselves up, why weren’t they blowing themselves up in the ’50s or ’60s or ’70s or even ’80s? Why did it start in our part of the world only in the ’90s and the 21st century? Something to think about.
Islam came to the subcontinent in 712 A.D., and Muslims ruled from the 11th century to about 1857, which was the end of the Mogul Empire and the British formally took over all of modern day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.
So how was Islam in practice? And then a Muslim minority managed to rule over a non-Muslim majority. Obviously it couldn’t have been without some acquiescence of the populous. They must have had some respect. I mean, I’m just doing like a very superficial level because I don’t want this to be a history class.
But you know, so this is essentially a proselytizing, politicizing organization, and any effort to deal with it would have to have three components: an ideological component, an institutional component, and an individual. You have to target the individuals who are actually engaged in terrorism. You have to target the institutions that are training and preparing and creating terrorists in the region and radical terrorists, and then you have to combat the radical ideology, bring back the equilibrium in society where those 48 percent children who don’t go to school actually go to schools, but those schools teach them something other than Radical Islamic religions. They teach them how to do arithmetic. They teach them how to read, write, and add, and create some opportunities for jobs.
And it will take a fair bit of time, and I am somebody who is a self-professed “Americaphile”, although that word does not exist in the Webster dictionary because there was an assumption that no one would be that.
Of all the many, many qualities of the great American nation, patience is not one, and so you lose patience when it comes to doing something like that, but you brought the Soviet Union down, and that was done through a multi-layered strategy of ideological containment, political containment and military containment.
And you will have to do that with Radical Islam because other than ideological containment there is no option. You will end up, as Donald Rumsfeld once asked, he posed the question: are we killing the terrorists faster than the mothers are producing them? And if the answer is no, then you will not be able to defeat Radical Islam.
So those are the challenges. I think it would be much more sort of conducive to forwarding this dialogue by letting Jeffrey speak now and then move forward and have questions and answers. I’m sure there will be a lot to say then.
Thank you very much.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you very much.
Well, ladies and gentlemen. You know Jeffrey Goldberg. You may not know that while he’s the national correspondent at Atlantic and for many years was the Middle East correspondent and Washington correspondent for The New Yorker, he’s also the Atlantic magazine’s advice columnist. So that every issue in the back of every issue of the Atlantic you can read questions, and Jeffrey gives advice about matters personal, political, your dating life, your married life.
MR. GOLDBERG: Hygiene.
MR. CROMARTIE: Hygiene, everything.
Jeffrey is not only an expert on the Middle East. He’s an expert on personal advice.
He wrote a book called Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror, and that’s a wonderful book if you haven’t seen it. It received positive reviews in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and in Playboy Magazine.
And before Jeffrey begins, I want to ask him about the story of the review in Playboy Magazine. How you came to learn about it and what you did about it.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Jeff. You’re on.
MR. GOLDBERG: Michael loves to get me to tell this story in front of prominent religious figures.
I don’t know why. Well, I guess I do know why: deep perversity on your part.
It’s a silly story. A friend of mine—do I really have to?
MR. CROMARTIE: Yeah.
MR. GOLDBERG: Can’t we just go on to Radical Islam, something amusing?
A friend of mine called me and said that Playboy had just—he worked there—Playboy had just named my book one of the top eight, ten, whatever kind of list they have, books of the year. So this is obviously very exciting for me, and so I got in the car and I drove to the 7-Eleven in Tenleytown, for those of you in Washington, the Tenleytown 7-Eleven, and I went up to the counter or the magazine rack, and there were five copies of Playboy. So I grabbed all of them, one for my mom obviously.
And then I went to the counter and put the five copies down with a pack of twizzlers on top so that nobody would see the Playboys, and the guy at the counter is like—I don’t know—18 years old; looks at me, looks at the magazines, and he says, “You know you got five Playboys?”
And I said, “Yeah, yeah, I do.”
And he thinks about it for a minute, and he says, “You should really try Hustler.”
And I said, “No, no, no. You don’t understand. I’m in Playboy.”
And he looks me up and down and says, “You’re in Playboy?”
And I said, “Please give me the magazines,” but it was a very exciting moment. I mean, those of you who know know that it’s quite a literary magazine. It used to be a literary magazine.
Thank you, Michael, for making me do that.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Jeff.
MR. GOLDBERG: And thank you for having me, and thank you to the Ambassador, who is a rare figure in Washington for those of you who don’t already know him and those of you who work in Washington.
His book is actually a fantastic book. We’re not just up here saying that. If you need to read one thing that explains Pakistan’s predicament, its semi-dysfunctional relationship with the United States, how Islamism rose and sort of grabbed hold of many of the structures of Pakistani life, even though the Islamists represent only a minority of the Pakistani population, this is the book to read.
Ambassador Haqqani is, I think—and I’m sure somebody could add to this list—one of only two Ambassadors in Washington right now who you really can go to for deep understanding of not only his region, but of broader trends in history. The other one is Michael Oren, the Israeli Ambassador, who’s also an historian and is also published.
And the convenient thing about this is that Ambassador Haqqani’s office overlooks Ambassador Oren’s office right across Van Ness Street. So it is sort of one stop shopping for monotheistic analysis.
And I’m sure they’ve never met because, of course, how could they?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Don’t be sure of things.
MR. GOLDBERG: How could they?
Let me just talk a couple of seconds about Pakistan’s predicament and broaden it out to the moment that we’re in at the very beginning of the Great Arab Revolt of 2011, which has an obviously important and growing importance component of Islamism.
I’ve been visiting Pakistan regularly for years, and there are some people who might be surprised at this, but I have a kind of deep sympathy for Pakistan’s situation in the world. It is a country that was founded to be a refuge for a religious group, a place where a particular religious group, a minority in its region, could figure out a way to express itself in a national way. It is a country that ever since its founding has had its legitimacy questioned. It’s a country that faces various existential threats, some imagined but some real.
It has a deeply uncertain relationship with the United States, a very transactional relationship. Obviously, the conditions that I’m describing also do reflect the conditions in which Israel exists, and I might be the only person in the world who sees the parallels between Israel and Pakistan, but I think they do exist in great numbers.
The difference, one of the differences is that Israel’s relationship with the U.S. is less uncertain, although if you talk to the Israelis today about the relationship with the Obama administration you might hear a different story, but Pakistan’s relationship with the U.S. has been extremely dysfunctional, and that dysfunction has had great consequences over the years.
The key moment obviously in that dysfunction, I think, was in 1989. The Ambassador spoke obviously about the lack of American patience. When you talk about the lack of American patience in the Pakistan arena, you’re really talking more than anything else about 1989. Pakistan was a country that was absolutely crucial in the U.S. campaign. Without Pakistan there would have been no U.S. campaign in Afghanistan against the Soviets.
We won, and as soon as we won, we left Pakistan holding the bag, in essence: millions of Afghan refugees, and an Islamist rebellion that was not demilitarized, as the Ambassador said, that was left in place.
I’m not blaming the United States for the rise of Islamism in Pakistan. That was the product more than Maududi, more than a lot of people. The Ambassador referred to the former President Zia Haq who really grafted onto Pakistani legal and educational structures Islamist thought and ideals and really allowed Islamist thinking to penetrate the military and the consequences of which we’re dealing with today.
But of course, because there was a larger Cold War purpose to this, the U.S. not only acquiesced to the Islamization of many of the structures of Pakistani government and acquiesced to the formation of Mujahedeen groups that then, of course, turned their weapons that we gave them against us, but we actively abetted it because it served a larger purpose.
There is nothing wrong with defeating the Soviet Union. The problem came after the defeat of the Soviet Union when we left these groups in place.
So we have done things in Pakistan that have created or help create some of the conditions in which we’re dealing with today.
I want to jump ahead a little bit and talk about Pakistan at this moment and the way in which what we see in Pakistan is reflected now in what we’re seeing in places like Egypt, and we can use Pakistan almost as a warning.
It’s absolutely fascinating to me how when we talk about Pakistan most people don’t realize that the Islamists, the Muslim parties, represent only a small part of the Pakistani polity as a whole. Their influence, of course, is outsized.
And I just got back from Egypt, and in these conversations I was having in Egypt I felt almost as if we were talking about early stage Pakistan. It was absolutely fascinating because what you see and much of this book is about the relationship between the clerics and the military, and what you see in Egypt right now forming is a permanent or semi-permanent alliance of convenience between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. Small D democrats, liberal parties, are being shunted aside, and you’re seeing because of this the army acquiesce to the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood.
We should know this story because we saw this story in Pakistan, and yet I don’t think the administration is fully seized by this issue. Obviously—and this comes back to another point about Pakistan that’s important to make, and I would love the Ambassador to address this because it’s absolutely crucial—along with Iran, Pakistan is in the top, top tier of foreign policy challenges facing the United States. It is an impoverished state of 200 million people, almost 200 million people, experiencing pockets of civil war in which it has a huge Islamist presence, on which in the territory of Pakistan, of course, lives the leadership of Al-Qaeda central, and it’s a country with nuclear weapons.
Libya is not a national security interest of the United States. It is a humanitarian interest, but it’s not a national security interest of the United States. It’s a sixth or seventh tier problem in comparison to some of the other things that we’re facing.
And our inability to sort of merge all of these issues together and talk about them as an overarching problem, instead to just isolate them and look at one country at a time and move from crisis to crisis is really troubling, and it is really troubling because there are, in fact, lessons that Pakistan can teach us.
The Egypt model is the perfect one. The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, like some of the Islamist parties in Pakistan, runs a social service network, an educational network that is more effective than the state run operations. The Ambassador is absolutely right. The signal failure, I think, of Pakistani elites and of the American policy makers who supported them was not to grapple with the madrassa problem over the last 20 years in any significant way.
Ambassador Haqqani mentioned sort of an old experience I had with the madrassas. I went to this particular madrassa, lived there for a month and was struck—and this was before 9/11 actually—was struck by the fact that you had thousands and thousands of kids, mainly Pashtun kids. In this one madrassa—replicate this 1,000 times—in this one madrassa we’re learning the Qur’an, memorizing the Qur’an in a language they don’t know, memorizing the Qur’an in Arabic.
And what does that mean? It means that after the memorization is finished, then clerics, deeply politicized clerics will come in and tell them what it means. Their knowledge of Islam is less than our knowledge of Islam, actual knowledge, and this created people who—I would dare say that thousands, maybe hundreds and possibly even thousands of the graduates of this madrassa then went on to Afghanistan and are fighting America right now in Afghanistan, an absolute failure of policy on the part of the Pakistani leadership and a really gross sort of failing on the part of American policy makers of that region.
Let me just talk just for one more minute if I could about what’s happening in the broader Muslim world, and I’d love to hear Ambassador Haqqani talk about the rise of Islamist parties in this Great Arab Revolt.
I refer to it as the Great Arab Revolt now. Next year we might be talking about it as the Great Islamist Rising if we are not careful.
The one saving grace of people like Ben Ali in Tunisia and Mubarak—I don’t know if it’s a really saving grace, in fact—was that they did suppress groups like the Muslim Brotherhood and their more radical Salafist partners.
We supported them based on a crucial misunderstanding about the way the world works. The realist school of foreign policy holds that you can suppress your way to stability in perpetuity. I think that that philosophy, foreign policy realism, has been discredited by the events of the last couple of months. We could not suppress our way to stability forever, and what we got and what we are getting now, the rise in countries where you wouldn’t expect this of serious organized and savvy Muslim parties.
People who know Tunisia know that this is a fairly unbelievable thing. I was in Tunisia last weekend, and I was with a friend, and he said, “Would you like to go meet the leaders of the new Salafist party?”
And Tunisia is the most secular country in North Africa. Women are the most enfranchised of all the countries of North Africa, and the fact that two months after the removal of Ben Ali from power, who obviously suppressed Islamism in all its guises in Tunisia, that there is an actual Salafist party. Obviously, Salafism basically holds that the perfect expression of political Islam was found in the 8th century. I mean that the very beginning of Islam is what we should be aiming for and the sort of religious state that they believe the Prophet Muhammad created is what we should be aiming for.
So imagine a country where very few women cover themselves that has official equality between the sexes; that has very low mosque attendance; is now developing all of a sudden the Salafist party, and it is quite astonishing.
Obviously Tunisia is sort of the minor league version of Egypt, which is the majors.
The referendum a couple of weeks ago which passed, which allowed for these quick elections to take place, supported by the military, supported by the mostly discredited Mubarak party and by the Muslim Brotherhood, means that the Muslim Brotherhood is going to have an outsized say in how government is organized in Egypt in the coming years.
There is a debate going on obviously right now about whether the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is truly radicalized or not and whether it can legitimately be called an Islamist party. I’m in the camp that believes that the Muslim Brotherhood functions as a political party in the sense that it says what it thinks the traffic can bear. It talks about politics in a way that makes people comfortable with their rise. I’m not going to accuse it of dissembling because when you talk to these guys, they’re fairly certain about what they want, but it takes a little bit of doing.
One example, on the question of who can be and who cannot be president of Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood has stated that it believes that Egypt’s Christian population—Christians make up ten percent of the country—and that women could stand for president.
But then when you start to have an extended conversation with them, they can’t imagine a situation in which a Christian would dare run for president or a woman would ever stand for president because, of course, we know from the traditional Muslim family organization that the husband would have to give permission to the wife to run for president, and why would a husband give permission to the wife to run for president?
So you scratch the surface a little bit. There’s a lot of hopeful thinking in Washington right now about these groups, that they are going to participate in the system, but as the Ambassador—and we were talking last night about this—their understanding of what democracy is is very, very circumscribed, extremely circumscribed.
In other words, in Iran, to use another example of an actual Islamist government, there is democracy of a sort. People run for president. Multiple people run for president. In the last election, there were four candidates, I think it was, for president.
But what people don’t discuss is that 700 people applied to the Guardian Council to run for president and only four qualified because they subscribe to a certain set of beliefs that put them within a very narrow frame.
So we are moving very quickly, unfortunately, in some of these countries toward greater participation not of Muslim clerics, and I want to be very clear about this. It’s not about Islam and faith infusing politics. It’s about political Islamism coming into mainstream politics. We’re seeing that at a fast clip.
I think Pakistan, we should be able to look at Pakistan and see some of the down sides of that and work against it.
One final point, and then I will let the Ambassador comment. I would be fascinated to listen to this one. The question obviously, the policy question that seizes Washington at the moment is what do you do about the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood? We mistakenly believe that our allies, our authoritarian allies, could suppress out of existence these feelings and yearnings that the Muslim Brotherhood and organizations like it support. We were wrong about that, and so now we’re left with this essential question: how do we manage the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood? Do we actively oppose the Muslim Brotherhood? Do we acquiesce to it, assuming that maybe it will burn itself out?
Going around the Middle East the last few weeks, the best answer that I’ve collected from various people, including what we would think of as liberal democrats across the Arab world, is that overt and especially covert actions designed to suppress the Muslim Brotherhood will probably backfire. It makes a certain amount of sense, given suspicion about America, given the fact that these groups have an organic role to play in much of society.
The best answer I heard was that what we need to do is we need to expand the space for other types of politics. The amazing thing in Cairo, if some of you have been there lately, to see is you go to the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters, and it’s kind of a humming, thrumming place. You know, it’s like going to the DNC or the RNC. They’ve got offices for this and offices for that, and they’ve got copy machines, and they’re doing their thing in a quietly professional way.
You go to some of these new parties, you know, and I mean literally you want to talk about Life of Brian. I was visiting the Liberal Democratic Front, and I had gone over and I asked to speak to the leader of what translates as Liberal Democratic Front, and I was told that I was at the wrong place. You’re looking at the Front for Democratic Liberation, and I had gone to the wrong office.
There are just so many groups that are developing, and they’re so incompetent at politics, and that is fine. I mean, that is what you’d expect because Mubarak very cleverly suppressed all non-Muslim Brotherhood political organizations.
But the thing that we can do is help non-Muslim Brotherhood style organizations become competent at politics. It’s not about telling them what their positions need to be, but telling them how to develop a set of positions, how to communicate those positions, how to get voters to support those positions, and that might be the challenge of our age.
The second challenge, of course, is to support education reform and economic reform in various countries across the Muslim world. That requires, to close this out on a point that the Ambassador was making, that requires a level of patience, a level of attention, and a level of spending that we might not be capable of.
I mean, the only way to stop, for instance, the poison that is spread through the madrassa system in Pakistan is to create alternative educational structures in Pakistan. That costs money that Pakistan doesn’t have and we might not have, but there are no shortcuts. There are absolutely no shortcuts, and we’re going to find this over and over again, and we’re going to have to pay attention in ways that we might not be capable of to Egypt, to Pakistan, to a whole bunch of countries, and if we don’t, we’re going to go through a period like we saw, I think, in Pakistan where the religious parties backed by Saudi Arabia exploit the vacuum.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Jeff.
About five of you already want to get in, but before I do, the Ambassador should make a few comments. Ambassador, a couple comments?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Three or four quick comments. One is, of course, because Jeff raised it, the Islamist political groups, they adhere to a philosophy called tiered democracy instead of democracy. Maududi, one of the religious scholars who was the ideologue of the whole movement, in many ways has written a whole explanation of what tier democracy means. It basically means democracy in choosing leaders, but not democracy in choosing ideas and policies.
So the policies chosen by the ideologues, just like the Council of Guardians in Iran, and it is very interesting that a lot of puritanical Shia scholars think that the Iranian model is not traditional Shia philosophy. It’s actually adopted by a Sunni scholar of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Greater Alliance.
Second, so that has to be understood before starting to assume, but that doesn’t mean that some Islamic rooted political parties can’t eventually be taken over by people who really say, “You know what? We need to become like the Christian democratic parties of Europe or the conservative wings of conservative political parties.”
Turkey is one example where the AKP has done it. Morocco is another one where also the justice and development parties emerged. Malaysia’s Islamic party has created a similar model of working within the democratic framework and accepting the constitution. Indonesia is exactly identical, and Bangladesh is moving towards that with the Islamic party saying, you know, “We will give up any other option. We will run for office, and while we’re running for office, we will want more conservative religiously oriented policies.”
And that may be a way for the Middle Eastern groups, the difference being, as Jeff rightly pointed out, the Muslim Brotherhood and all these groups, because they were in some ways inspired in the 1920s and ’30s by fascist models, they’re very structured and organized in very sort of methodical ways, and the small D democrats are a little scattered, and they were also suppressed.
I mean, in Pakistan we saw Benazir Bhutto as exiled by Musharraf. Musharraf never exiled any of the Islamist political leaders because he thought he could deal with them because they have never got more than ten percent of the vote in Pakistan, and in fact, after Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, and my wife who sits in the back right there ran for office along on the Benazir Bhutto Pakistan People’s Party ticket in Pakistan and got elected and serves in Pakistan’s parliament right now; the PPP ended up with a majority, a plurality in parliament, but a significant majority in all the legislatures of the various states.
And the Islamists got less than four percent of the votes cast this time. So basically if the maximum is taken, that’s ten percent, but then they punch beyond their weight class in the terms of being able to mobilize in the streets, so if they get 10,000 votes, they can also put 10,000 people in the streets, whereas the small D democratic parties cannot do that, and they have had the weight of repression of many, many years under the dictatorships and autocratic rules.
So one policy option for the U.S. in my opinion is that instead of continuing to depend on autocratic allies who have always nurtured the Islamists as, you know, it’s either us or them, which is what Mubarak did in Egypt or Ben Ali tried to do in Tunisia. You actually allow and provide the assistance to small D democrats.
Another policy option is not necessarily for government. There’s something called the ICRD, and I’m forgetting what the C stands for, but I know that the I is for Institute and the RD is for Religious Development.
It’s a Washington based group, and what they’ve done is essentially they have focused on madrassa reform in Pakistan, and basically what they’ve done is they’ve brought madrassas that are willing to open; they’ve brought them here, and then they’ve taken American sort of people who run seminaries. They are Christians who will help them to say, “You know what? The faith is yours, but the way you learn it and how you educate it should be modern.”
And so read on seminaries in America. You know, I’m a Baptist and I run a seminary, and this is how I run my seminary. And if you can restructure out a curriculum, and then also in the process have a dialogue over this radical business, and certain madrassas have actually been de-radicalized, and it’s a very interesting process that is taking place.
Initiatives like that, especially for those who come from groups with religious sort of moorings, they should consider pairing up with groups there that are not completely radical but are religiously conservative because you do have something in common with them. Just because they have a different faith doesn’t mean, because you can have a modernization of the process of religious thinking and thereby getting them within the more democratic framework.
And my last point is if you really want to understand what happens in a madrassa, there’s Jeff when he went there. He came back and wrote something about it, and I did a piece because I studied at a madrassa as a child, and so I have an experience of madrassas in the ’60s and then madrassas in the 1990s and the 21st century.
I did a piece for Foreign Policy Magazine titled “Islam’s Medieval Outposts.” So if you just Google it, you might be able to find it. It actually describes the whole process and why the madrassas have become what they’ve become because they just froze.
For example, there is no textbook that was written after 1705, and stuff like that. So that really creates a lot of problems, but then there are all of these young kids who are unfit for modern. There is the 48 percent that are learning nothing that are going to no school, and then there are these kids who are only two to three percent of the total population, but still they have something to do which is not normal, functioning part of the contemporary economy. So they end up becoming the radical cannon fodder, so to speak.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Ambassador, and thank you, Jeffrey.
Karen, if you would pull the mic over to yourself, I’ve got Karen and Paul and Barbara and Michael and Sally and Fred and Clare and Lisa.
KAREN TUMULTY, The Washington Post:Yes. Well, thank you very much.
This has been fascinating. I was wondering though if you would mind addressing the most recent manifestation that we’ve seen of Radical Islam which was the horrific killings of these U.N. workers on Friday.
You know, what is kind of mystifying, I think, for people in this country is most of us were completely unaware of what this nutty pastor in Florida had done until we saw, you know, these eruptions on the other side of the world.
What kind of responsibility do governments of other Islamic countries feel, whether they should sort of step in here and say something or denounce what’s going on?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Well, the last time Pastor Jones announced that he was going to burn the Qur’an we actually were very active in trying to dissuade him and also to make it very clear that his actions will not be the actions of the American people and our government even this time did that.
The president of Pakistan said we condemn what he did. We understand that most Americans do not approve of what he has done; that this is just a provocation. And so in Pakistan the situation has relatively been managed.
But the reason why this happened was because the Radical Islamic political groups sit on the Internet looking for bases on which they can actually provoke the people. So they find this little thing, and then they actually spread it in our society.
And so even though none of you took notice because it was unimportant, it became important because there were clerics in the mosques saying, you know, this is being done deliberately. It’s because the West hates you. It’s because the West hates your religion. It’s because they’re deliberately insulting you.
And it brings us to the origins of Islamic Radicalism, as I keep saying, which is not so much about faith and relationship with God, but about your place in the world. It’s another manifestation of your helplessness, oh, Muslims, that you know, people can insult your prophet.
Prophet Muhammad himself, there’s a famous story in Islamic history which you’re taught or used to be taught when I was a kid about how there was this woman who used to throw garbage on the prophet because she didn’t approve of him, and one day he went and there was no garbage.
So he asked what has happened. Where is the old woman? Has she passed away or something? It turned out she was ill. She had nobody to take care of her. So Prophet Muhammad went and started taking care of her, and for the next few days, she says, you know, “Why do you do it?”
He says, “Because I am the Prophet of Mercy.” Now, this is what we were taught as kids. That’s also Islam.
And here are these people who say, you know, “Kill so-and-so because he’s blasphemed the prophet.” I’ve always asked the people who call for this blasphemy law. I want to know which person in the life of our holy prophet was ever punished for blasphemy, who was beheaded for blasphemy?
But that is the context. The context is Muslims are helpless. Muslims are weak, and our weakness and our helplessness is allowing these people who have more missiles than us, more power than us, more economic power than us, who are dominant, who are global hegemons and who are occupying your lands in the form of an army in Afghanistan, an army in Iraq, and that narrative is now becoming the meta narrative of the Islamic world.
And so in a situation like that, when somebody goes around sort of saying, “You know what? This was made possible because”—and look at Afghanistan literacy figures. Have you ever looked at them? I mean, you know, you have 80 percent plus illiteracy. So there are all of these illiterate persons, and the literate include the madrassa people who know nothing except being able to read the Qur’an. It is a lot of people who can just be provoked.
And so unfortunately, what happened was equivalent to lynchings in this country at some point based on race, when people just kind of—you know, you just—
MR. CROMARTIE: Stir them up.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: You stir people up. I do not think anybody who was part of that lynching actually did any thinking. It was just mob running to a frenzy with some people who were doing the provocation.
And now Jeffrey is going to take over to explain who did the provocation and why because as Ambassador, I can’t say it.
MR. GOLDBERG: It was Michael Cromartie actually.
He was the one.
No, no, but the question for you, Mr. Ambassador, and it’s actually not directly a question for you if we had the Afghan Ambassador here. The question is not just a matter of which ignorant preacher in a backwater village in Afghanistan stirred this up. The president of Afghanistan, our crucial ally in the War on Terror, Hamid Karzai did a magnificent job of stirring this up and is directly responsible, I think, for the deaths that occurred.
MR. CROMARTIE: How did he do that?
MR. GOLDBERG: What? He spoke about it and he said it publicly. He called it an insult to Islam. I mean, it was a very cynical, obviously an extremely cynical move on his part.
But the question, and I guess it’s not fair to ask you because you don’t actually represent him here, but a general question is what do you do with, to borrow from Sound of Music, what do you do with a problem like Maria here? What do you do with Hamid Karzai, who you’re dependent on and who is creating conditions in which innocent Westerners are being lynched for the actions of a raving lunatic in Florida, here in Florida?
You should have him the next time. That will be exciting.
MR. CROMARTIE: Oh, boy.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, that will be great.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you for that.
Paul, you’re up.
PAUL FARHI, The Washington Post: Thank you.
It’s very interesting. I have a probably naive question, and Ambassador, you touched on it briefly, but you went right by it, and this is about suicide bombing. This is about the Radical Islam turning literally radical and turning violent.
Why does it start in the ’90s? What are the conditions? And what are the circumstances in which this turns from a war of ideas into a war?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: For one thing, in Sudan there was a military takeover. The United States left in 1989 Afghanistan and Pakistan. So all of these groups are now looking for a new cause, and they come up with the whole thing that we defeated one Super Power. Now it’s time to defeat the other.
But here there’s a difference. There they could engage in conventional war and the other Super Power was supporting them. So what do you when you’re defeating the Super Power that had originally supported you? You use asymmetrical methods, and that’s when they adopted suicide bombing and terrorism completely.
Of course, to be very accurate, even against the Soviets they used similar methods. I mean, they did blow up sort of Soviet military people who were in Afghanistan or Soviet aid workers, et cetera. But we all at that time sort of let that pass. But it was the same method.
I mean, it’s interesting that I have found at least one report of a beheading of a Soviet. So they’re doing exactly the same things now, you know, which is beheading people in a ritual manner and all of that. So it was definitely part of their ideological composition even then, but we didn’t pay attention to it because we were focused totally on defeating the Soviet Union.
So then they turned around, and in Sudan there was a military takeover that brought an element of the Muslim Brotherhood to power. So they got a little base there.
There is the development in the Middle East that had already taken place and by now Mubarak is firmly in charge in Egypt, and he is really being repressive towards the Muslim Brotherhood at that time, and so a lot of them are saying political struggle is no longer possible. It has to go to the next level. And then there are some ideologues who actually wrote very interesting tracts during the early ’90s which became the basis. So it is like, again, sort of the Life of Brian kind of thing.
There’s a new wearing off. Muslim Brotherhood begets Islamic Jihad which begets Al-Qaeda, and that phenomenon starts taking place. And then when the Taliban took over Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda ended up in Afghanistan because they were driven out of Sudan as part of a bargain between the U.S. and the Sudan. But nobody paid attention to their arrival in Afghanistan.
And it is only after the USS Cole was attacked that actually the U.S. started taking Al-Qaeda seriously, but for some of us Al-Qaeda had started, and Al-Qaeda is the base. So the word “Al-Qaeda” means the base of the global Islamic transformation.
So we started noticing their emergence in ’91, ’92, ’93.
MR. FARHI: But the Muslim Brotherhood starts what, the late ’20s, I think?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yeah, 1924 or ’28, sorry.
MR. FARHI: We don’t see this in the ’30s.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: No.
MR. FARHI: We’re not going to see it in the ’40s with the World War. The ’50s, you’ve got—
MR. GOLDBERG: Well, in the ’40s what you see is marriage—in the ’30s and ’40s you see the marriage of Islamist, theocratic ideals with European modes of totalitarian thought. I mean, that’s where I think a lot of our problems stem from, from the literal marriage of Nazism and certain Muslim ideologues, the Mufti of Jerusalem most notoriously. But this is when some of the ideas crept in.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: But then because of the Cold War it becomes convenient for them to piggyback on the Cold War and spread, you know, spread influence. And so in that period they are kind of allies. So they are not doing this kind of thing.
But it is on the asymmetry of power in the 1990s that makes them do this or that makes them think that they can do this. And then, of course, some theologians come up with these new arguments because suicide was never, never accepted in Islamic theology historically ever.
And even now there are arguments within, and then of course, there is the unspoken thing, is the emergence of Hezbollah, the whole Lebanese and Palestinian sort of questions, and then in the case of South Asia, there is Kashmir, and even the Kashmiris didn’t use suicide bombing for a long time.
So it just kind of progressed in terms of people coming up with new methods of asymmetric warfare. And then the attention they got, Al Jazeera, et cetera, that enabled them to kind of glorify some of this because until 9/11, let’s be very honest. Until 9/11, none of the networks that are represented here and none of the media that’s represented here actually paid any attention to these guys in that sense, of understanding their ideology.
They were talking about it. You know, as I said, www.1924.com existed. You didn’t know it. It’s 9/11 when it just hit you in the face, and then everybody woke up, and then you know, instant experts were born.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Let me get others in here. It’s Barbara, then Sally.
BARBARA BRADLEY HAGERTY, NPR: This is a really terrific session. Thank you, both of you.
And, Mr. Ambassador, I’m just wondering if you can talk to us a little bit about the spate of assassinations of Christians in Pakistan and what you do about this. I mean, how do you address this issue?
And, Jeff, I’d love you to talk about if you could—we talked about it a few months ago before the Great Arab Uprising—is there something of a war against Christianity in this area? So if you could talk about those.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: It’s a recruitment tool for the extremists in Pakistan because they’re trying to—it’s a wedge issue. You know, this is a minority. For example, the ruling party right now has almost all of Christian representation in parliament is from the Pakistan People’s Party. Shabaz Bhatti, the Catholic minister, was from the Pakistan People’s Party and a dear friend of both my wife and myself.
And so it’s a way of sort of pointing the difference, you know: Pakistan for Muslims only. And the government has taken a firm stand on protecting Christians especially in their enclaves in the sense of where there are significant numbers.
But individual assassination is something that, you know, threatens me, my wife, the president, the prime minister. The governor of the Punjab was killed. So it’s something that you have to be prepared for while at the same time trying to find ways of reducing it.
But there are, as I said, various groups, and there are splinter groups. There’s one particular splinter group that targets the Christians, but more Shias have been targeted, for example, by other groups because they are seen as heretics by these people. So it’s a hierarchy of targets. As far as they’re concerned, they’re equal opportunity haters. So they hate everybody, and they’ll hit at everybody.
And as far as the Christian community is concerned, the key thing is to make sure that they are treated as equal citizens, and that’s what the government is hoping to try and do by protecting the communities.
For example, in a town called Gosha, they tried to create a kind of pogrom, and the army moved in and protected the Christian community. That doesn’t mean that six or seven people hadn’t been killed by the time the army came in, but 6,000 more were saved, and that’s what’s important.
MR. GOLDBERG: I mean, it’s true that the PPP, the party of President Zardari, is trying, I think, relatively hard or as hard as it can to protect Christians, and the truth is that we hear more about the attacks on Christians in Pakistan. In the hierarchy of enemies of purist Salafist Muslim groups, Christians are lower than Shia or other sort of—the close enemies, the people who claim to be Muslims, but aren’t according to their view.
I mean, on the broader question of Christianity in the Middle East, it’s one of the great unwritten stories of our time, I think. I mean, if you look at—
MR. CROMARTIE: You may write it.
MR. GOLDBERG: Well, you know, I have enough fights. I don’t need to go stand between Christianity and Islam on this one.
But if you look at what’s happening and the sheer numbers, I mean, obviously Hezbollah’s rise in Lebanon means a certain future for Lebanese Christians; the Copts in Egypt, ten million people, eight, nine million people are under intense pressure.
You know, we have to also understand the limits of politics. We want these governments to respond the way we would respond to the oppression of a particular religious group. The extremists have been so adept at manufacturing hatred that these governments, such as Pakistan’s government, have a hell of a hard time combating the things that we want, such as the blasphemy law, which I hope the Ambassador will talk about.
The Ambassador lost a very good friend, the governor of Punjab, for defending the Christian woman who was involved in that blasphemy case. This is the one who was murdered by his own bodyguard and who is then treated as a hero across a wide swath of Pakistan.
So the problem is so daunting as to be sort of unfixable.
MR. CROMARTIE: Sally, we’ll hear your question.
SALLY QUINN, The Washington Post:Ambassador, you touched briefly on Sufism. I know that there are a lot of people in Pakistan, a lot of members of the government who are Sufis, and you basically said that the Sufis could have the power if they wanted to.
I mean Sufis are obviously more peaceful than the Salafists, for instance. Libya, for instance, has a very large Sufi Muslim population, which I think most people don’t realize.
Why is it that Sufis can’t prevail over what you say is like a ten percent of the population which is really radical?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: President Zardari says—
MS. QUINN: Are you Sufi, by the way?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yes, my family, I have a Sufi background. We are from the Chistia Order of Sufis, and in Libya it’s the Senussi order, as you well know, and that’s how the royal family kind of came from the Senussi order.
Sufis because they are pacifists by temperament, they can prevail in a democratic situation, for example. I mean, the Prime Minister of Pakistan comes from a Sufi order, from the cadres. About half a dozen members of the cabinet come from different Sufi families, well known Sufi families.
They just aren’t kind of emotionally, psychologically equipped to become suicide bombers, retaliating suicide bombers. So, therefore, I think only in a political environment, in a political—India is a great example where most Muslims are also Sufi, and the Muslim Sufis of India are essentially part of the political mainstream, you know.
People forget the number of Muslims in Pakistan and the number of Muslims in India is more or less equal even though in Pakistan we have 97 percent of the population. In India they are just 14 percent of the total population, but the exact number is more or less the same, 180 million and 180 million.
And there they get subsumed in the political culture and the process because of that. So in the case of the Sufis, first of all, they have been totally clobbered with the radical movements, et cetera, resources. They don’t have the global networks of the kind that the radical movements have. As Jeff explained, you know, go to any of the Sufi places. They’re just kind of run down and, you know, there’s a shrine and there’s a mosque and there’s a drum line there somewhere for Sufi chanting at some point, et cetera, but they don’t have the modernized computers and sort of the wherewithal of a modern political force and whereas the radicals do. That’s the only reason.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Before the break, Jeffrey, did you want to make a comment?
MR. GOLDBERG: It’s one observation about how nothing in the Middle East is forever or nothing in the Muslim world is forever. You know, we forget, but until 1979 or the late ’70s, Shi’ism was a quietist movement, an apolitical movement, very, very passive, which is one of the reasons it found itself in such a downtrodden position. Ayatollah Khomeini essentially invented political Islam, the Shia branch of political Islam. Obviously, he would never admit it obviously, but immensely influenced by Sayyid Qutb and a whole line of radical Sunni thinkers.
So obviously, there are aspects of Sufism built in that militate against the idea of radical Sufism, but anything can happen if a community is pressured long enough.
MR. CROMARTIE: I have eight of you on the list, and we will get right into it.
If somebody doesn’t ask Jeffrey though, I will, which is how does he get all of these interviews that he gets in the Middle East when they know his writings and what he does. You seem to get into the most amazing situations. Think about the answer to that.
Are you going to give it right now?
MR. GOLDBERG: No.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Think about it.
Fred Barnes is up.
FRED BARNES, The Weekly Standard:That one is better than my question.
MR. CROMARTIE: Well, give a stab at it if you can, Jeffrey.
MR. BARNES: I’m going to ask anyway.
MR. CROMARTIE: Yeah, would you go ahead and ask it for me, Fred? Would you, besides the one you were planning to? Ask that one, too.
MR. BARNES: Okay. I get two questions. Jeffrey, how do you get all of these people from the Muslim Brotherhood?
What do you do? I’ve always found that sometimes you just show up and ask a question and people will answer it.
MR. GOLDBERG: I mean, when I went to this madrassa that we were talking about, I literally just went, and I said I’d like to. It was actually a great moment.
You know the head of it is really the spiritual godfather of the Taliban, and I asked to speak to him, and I said I wanted to study here and I’m very interested.
And, you know, everybody believes that they’re doing the right thing in the world. You know, Danny Pearl is the tragic exception to the rule where the murder was the message, but most of the time they want the messenger to carry the message.
And so I was sitting with this guy, Samiul Haq, who founded this madrassa, and he was trying to, you know, sort of relate to me, and he said, “Well, you know, we really don’t have problems, me and you.”
I said, “What do you mean?”
He says, “Well, you know, us Muslims and you Christians, you know”—
—”we get along fine. But you know, the problem is the Jews.”
And so I looked at him and I said, “Well, I’m Jewish.”
And he looked at me and he says, “Well, you are most welcome here,” and that was that.
MR. BARNES: Well, let me ask the Ambassador a question, and I’m interested in the subject of anti-Americanism in Pakistan and whether it is just the generalized anti-Americanism that you find in lots of parts of the world or whether it’s specific and modern. I mean, after all, the U.S. at least in policy back in the Nixon years and so on sided with Pakistan against India. In fact, General Zia and his efforts against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and I just wonder whether it is specific that has really arisen after 1989.
Is it religious? Is it merely political? What is it? What’s the source of it?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I think part of it is the source of—I mean, look. There was no anti-Americanism during the ’50s, ’60s in Pakistan, at least not so significant. Lyndon Johnson arrived in Karachi, and he drove in an open Cadillac and stopped his vehicle at one point because he was intrigued to see a camel cart. So he just stopped his motorcade and went into the crowd and developed this so-called rapport with Bashir, the camel driver, who ended up in the United States because Lyndon Johnson couldn’t understand why he had a camel cart and not a truck, and Johnson gave him a Ford truck as a gift after having him visit all the U.S. So this is the 1960s.
And Nixon came, and Nixon actually again got out of his car and walked around the streets of Lahore without security, with people showering him with flower petals like they do for the murderer of Sillman Tathil these days. So it was a different society. It was a different environment.
I first came to the United States, and I like to brag about it, because I beat the entire American Embassy in a game of Trivial Pursuit about American history.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And the American Ambassador at that time turned around and said, you know, “How long were you in the U.S. for?”
And I said, “I’ve never visited your country.”
And he said, “How do you know so much about our country?”
And I said, “Because I was raised poor and the only air conditioned library I could sit in and study in was the American library you guys ran in the country.”
So he sent me to the U.S. under something called the International Visitor Program. I came to the U.S. and traveled around for six weeks meeting journalists and everybody else. I was just, you know, 29 at that time and it was probably one of the best uses of American taxpayer money.
So it was a different era, but ’89 was the turning point. First of all, your support for Zia ul-Haq had consequences inside Pakistan. If you remember, Zia ul-Haq was a very brutal dictator at home. He executed the Zulfigar Ali Bhutto, who was the most popular political leader, put his daughter in confinement, and only to release her under American pressure and send her to London, Benazir Bhutto; arrested all sort of, you know, small L liberal and small L left intellectuals, et cetera, et cetera; had some of them lashed in public under Islamic law saying that, you know, they drank and stuff like that.
And so a segment of the population resents the fact that you chose each time there was an attempt to have a build at Pakistani democracy. That’s how it is perceived. It wasn’t that. It didn’t happen that way, but that’s how it’s perceived.
Zia ul-Haq didn’t come into power with American support, but he lasted in power through American support, and then Musharrif as well, and Musharrif is another dictator who ended up, you know, because it was just convenient that he was there. So you suffer from that there in Pakistan.
There is the religious parties’ driving anti-Americanism, and then what has happened is that as the media opened Musharrif always thought that Benazir Bhutto and the small D democrats and small L liberals were his main opponents. So he opened the air waves, but he gave licenses to groups and individuals who have made Pakistan into sort of, you know, they thrive on conspiracy theories.
I mean, I have been trying to get some people to do good stories on it. The Times did a small piece on how the Pakistani media is totally like the recent Japanese tsunami; is the result of a system that the Americans have created called HAARP, which is High whatever, whatever. It is done through satellites, and you create weather. I mean, that’s the conspiracy theory.
Now, a nation that is fed on those conspiracy theories day in and day out is not going to be pro-American, and then the government that is also described by the New York Times as pro American all the time also ends up.
It’s very interesting that at one point President Zardari’s approval ratings were like crashing, and they just gibed with the American ratings. So 17 percent people approved of President Zardari; 17 percent people approved of the United States, and it was just because of that, which is why President Zardari had requested that “can I be sort of seen and presented, you know, as less like an American? I mean, I won an election, for God’s sakes. So don’t describe me continuously as an American product. I’m not. I’m supporting your policy, but I’m doing it because I think it’s in Pakistan’s interest.”
It’s just a difficult environment actually. So the religious groups are contributing to it. The whole left is still smarting from the ’70s, ’80s and, you know, early ’90s. The ’89 abandonment of Pakistan, as it’s called in Pakistan, it’s taking its time, the recovery. You know, some of it was just self-defeating. You didn’t allow, for example—Congress at that time didn’t allow, despite our repeated requests, to continue to approve $2 million for training of our military officers.
It basically benefits you because these military officers come and train here, and then they become sort of friends with your officers, and they’re often very—and so that is why General Kayani, who became army chief for three years, has been extended to be army chief for six, because he’s the last four-star trained in the United States, and the next American trained general who could actually rise to four stars will take another four years or six years to rise to that position.
It’s just those kinds of things. It is just a series of mistakes on both sides and a pot that gets stirred frequently with conspiracy theories, a very hostile domestic media, a feeling of abandonment, and a regional environment in which, you know, Iran is anti-America and then you have sort of propaganda coming from the rest of the Muslim world, and that all plays into—and you have not cultivated a pro-American constituency as your friends.
It’s a typical kind of, you know, I’m your friend. Well, I should be grateful that you’ve allowed me to be a friend rather than you sort of occasionally giving me a pat on the back for being your friend. That makes your friends not as enthusiastic about fighting your battle.
MR. CROMARTIE: Jeffrey, wanted to add to this and the Clare and Lisa and Shelby and Peter are all next.
MR. GOLDBERG: There’s an obvious analogue between this experience and what happened in Egypt, which we’re just fully sort of understanding now, and this is really about the price you ultimately pay for supporting dictatorships in the Zia style.
What Mubarak did was very clever. He allowed no criticism of his regime in the media. He allowed the most outrageous criticism of America and the most outrageous expressions of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in his media; perpetuation of incredible conspiracy theories. Obviously the idea that the CIA was behind 9/11; that 3,000 Jews left the World Trade Center on 9/11.
I mean, I was in Cairo right after. This is where they were born. Mubarak did nothing obviously to stop that, and then what he did which was genius, I mean, if you’re a dictator looking to stay in power, was he went to his American benefactors and said, “Look at how much you’re hated. Look how much Israel is hated. Look at how much Jews are hated. I’m the only thing standing between you and this level of hatred.”
So that level of hatred which he fomented and allowed and encouraged created conditions in which endless series of American policy makers who should have known better said, “Well, look. It’s either Mubarak or the lunatics.” And that’s how we got to this day.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Clare Duffy and then Lisa Miller.
CLARE DUFFY, NBC Nightly News:Playing off of Fred’s question and what you just said, Mr. Ambassador, you talked about the need for America to provide assistance of some kind to small D democratic parties. Given what you’ve just said, what would that look like?
I mean, what exactly can be done to encourage this sort of Pakistani polity to more accurately reflect what are the influences that are at play, but really what can be done that doesn’t get tarred with that anti-American brush?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I mean, that’s the challenge that we’ve been dealing with, but I think more of it is people who have a local political momentum, they don’t really need assistance as in, you know, it’s more than tools really, you know. It’s training. It’s equipping them with the ability to run up because under military rule, the political parties were nominally tolerated, but they weren’t allowed to raise funds.
So Benazir Bhutto is sitting in exile, running a party from the Dubai, you know, or from London. Now the party is allowed and it’s functioning. So it’s time what was done in Latin America and in some other places.
The National Endowment for Democracy makes a great contribution, things like that. The two, you know, the IRI and the NDI, they bring training, et cetera, et cetera. So that the parties know how to maintain computerized. I mean, in 2011, there is no reason why a major political party with four million members should not have a computerized record of its members, et cetera, et cetera, especially if there is not going to be another coup and all those four million people are not going to be hounded.
So I think those are the things that you need to build, help provide the transformation from an old kind of—because since the 1960s Pakistan’s politics has always had the military taking over and then repression of one kind or another. If there’s going to be a genuine opening, then we, the political actors in Pakistan will need the tools and the resources of running a modern, 21st century political party.
I mean, India has it because they’ve never had the banning of political parties, and we want to get there. And that’s the area where you can, and it’s not where, you know, for those who are fiscal conservatives here, you don’t have to worry about spending enormous amounts of money. It is a lot cheaper than what you will have to do if, God forbid, you have to go to war when the cost is going to be $15, $20 billion a month. This is a low cost operation.
MS. DUFFY: And the people who run those parties aren’t going to be concerned about taking a teleconference system or a copier that says, you know, with thanks from the people of the United States of America?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: There are ways of working around that.
By the way, it’s very interesting. Recently when we had the floods, it’s very interesting that it was the government of Pakistan that was requesting the American government to brand its assistance, and it was the American NGOs that were saying, “Don’t do it.”
They didn’t resolve the argument in Washington over an eight-month period because you see, the last time Pakistan had an earthquake the Bush administration went in big time. Everything had the American label, et cetera, and opinion polling to this day shows that the area that was affected by the earthquake has the highest approval rating of the United States, where the Marines actually arrived with aid and the people say, “You know what? I can’t hate Americans who saved my children.”
So this time it was a much bigger area, and we actually requested the U.S. government. I went to Ambassador Holbrook, who was alive at that time and leading it, and he said, “Fine. We’ll do it.”
And then it became entangled in an endless series of memos and debates and all that and never got done. So there are people in villages in Pakistan who think that they got like one month’s food supply from the Saudis, and they think that came from Saudis. The other eight months of supplies that came from the United States were never branded, and so they don’t know they got it from the United States.
That was just a little aside and a footnote just to tell you how things can go crazy, but if the recipient is not worried about something, as President Zardari told President Obama—it’s very funny—he said, “Let me worry about my domestic politics. You and I need to worry together about the bigger picture. Don’t get concerned about whether I will be able to sustain this or that in my domestic environment or not. I’m the one who runs his party. I’m the one who runs for officer. I’m the one who won a fair and square election. So I can do it again, and if I lose, I lose. It’s my politics. It’s my country’s politics that I understand.”
And there’s some sense to it, you know. I mean, like—and Americans get it, by the way, when it’s your politics. I keep telling people all politics is local unless you don’t want to see it. There’s a local politics on our end as well which we understand and our politicians know how to get votes just as yours do.
What we need to do is kind of an understanding and alliance, and our politicians know what plays well in Sindh and what does not play well in Lahore, et cetera, et cetera, and that’s how they put together—all of your politics is also coalition building, you know. I mean, if you’re a Democrat and you don’t like unions, you still have to recognize the fact that your party needs the unions, et cetera, et cetera.
You know, you work it around that, and that’s how our politicians do it. So they’ll be able to do it. It’s just providing them, enabling them to cover the gap of when they were put out of business by dictators. They continued to keep their support base to be able to get votes, but they didn’t keep up the modern political machine building.
And, very frankly, the democracies that are going to emerge, and this is a point I need to say because the democracies that are going to emerge in the Muslim world, whether in Egypt or in Pakistan, et cetera, will be more—the political parties are going to be more like the GOP under Chester Allen Arthur. They’re not going to be, you know, parties as they are today.
The democracy that it going to emerge is going to be Louisiana under Huey Long, you know, and you have to be prepared for it. And this is something I notice all the time. There’s this desire. Since we’ve contributed $40 million to this country, then somehow they should overcome 100 years of nation building or culture evolution of democracy.
You know democracy is still evolving, and we will have debates between our judiciary and our executive and our executive and our legislature and this and that and constitutional arguments, et cetera, et cetera. Iraq is an example.
I mean, I’m amazed at how little is being written about how Iraq is actually evolving into a democracy, you know, with all the arguments they have. But those arguments are good as long as they’re not being resolved with suicide bombings.
They elected a legislature, and they were in limbo for six months. By God, if Belgium didn’t have a government in six months and a coalition wasn’t put together, Belgium would be in crisis, but the Iraqis were able to hold it and the system didn’t fall apart.
And your help, to the extent that it’s there, was there to help maintain that stability, and that’s something you have to be prepared for. Just get out of this kind of thing that, you know, either they do it exactly the way we’ve done it and in a shorter frame of time and on our time frame or they’ll never be able to do it. Let’s find some idiot who went to a college or university here and find him and install him and let him control everything. That doesn’t work.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Lisa Miller, then Shelby and Peter and then others, I have you down.
LISA MILLER, Newsweek/Daily Beast:Thank you.
This is really a great session.
I wanted to ask about the infusions of Saudi money here. There’s a political conversation about the mosques that are being funded by Saudis in this country, and on the right there is a lot of—especially on the extreme right—screaming that these mosques are creating or potentially creating homegrown terrorists; that they’re propagating the same kind of fundamentalist Islam that’s being propagated in the madrassas abroad.
And then on the left if you talk to progressive Muslims, they say, “Oh, yeah, no big deal. Yeah, we take Saudi money for our mosque because we need the building and we don’t have any money and they help us with books, but we don’t absorb the rigid theology.”
And I have no good sense of where the truth lies there.
MR. GOLDBERG: One just quick note. It’s a less important problem today than it was ten years ago because now YouTube has sort of built a bypass route between radicalism and American Muslim youth. You can just upload a video in Yemen and that will become easier in the coming days, in fact, and that will reach people in a way that only the preacher in a mosque 15 years ago could reach an American kid.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Shelby Coffey.
SHELBY COFFEY, Newseum: This goes to your remark, Mr. Ambassador, on the meta narrative and how to deal with it. While Jeffrey was off on his torpedo of truth tour, I went to Council on Foreign Relations, a much less raucous seminar all day about radicalization and the attempts to deal with it in the U.S. and the U.K. And one of the major themes throughout which Jeffrey just alluded to is the way in which the Internet, which we knew had potentials for radicalization, has accelerated in the last couple of years in being something that propels the meta narrative, tells the story.
So one of the questions is: why can’t the U.S. government tell a different story? And they had a number of people who explained the bureaucratic hurdles on agreeing on—Michael Gerson would probably know a lot about this—the hurdles on getting out a message that seems to deal with it.
Meanwhile all sorts of things are going on, including Zawahiri is now putting out messages that are prefiguring already the disillusion with the Arab spring, which is probably inevitable among some of the people who have taken part in it.
It seems you almost wish that there was something as in the movie The War Room, where the Clinton administration, you saw the Carville and Stephanopoulos countering everything within 24 hours and building a broad story.
What could the U.S. do? Do we need to turn to Silicon Valley?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Look. I mean, if I didn’t know better I would have thought that you were just sort of, you know, reading out from op-eds of mine from 2002 and 2003 when I was making exactly the same point.
I was on—was it Night Line on ABC?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I was on Night Line sort of saying this when—what was her name? President Bush’s—before Karen Hughes, the Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy.
PARTICIPANTS: Margaret Tutwiler.
PARTICIPANT: Karen Hughes?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: No, before Karen.
PARTICIPANT: Margaret Tutwiler.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: No, no, no. It was President Bush’s appointee and I’m trying to remember. Karen something, yeah, advertising person, and she came up with these grand advertisements for the Muslim world where they showed, you know, a woman in sort of hijab going around sort of a mall in the United States.
And I said, “Hey, no one says the Muslims in the United States don’t have it good. I mean if you did the visa test, 1.2 billion Muslims want to apply for an American visa. There’s no issue there. You have to answer the questions that are being raised and answer the propaganda.
And so I’ve advocated a war room. I’ve said all of this stuff before becoming Ambassador. I’ve said that you guys need to do it. It’s just a function of how you do government and how you do politics in this country. It’s never about the place you’re trying to sort out. It’s about your own little games and your own little politics. It’s about the Iowa caucus and the New Hampshire primary. It’s not about dealing with Egypt and Pakistan.
Otherwise, look, this is a nation that made sort of fizzy black sweet water into a global thirst quenching drink. So you think you can’t market—
—you can’t market the idea of America, the concept of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that appeals to everyone?
I mean, you did it against the Soviets and the communists in the Cold War. You did it. You found allies who spoke the languages. You had Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, and you had the Congress of Cultural Freedom, and you had all this stuff. And you went and you engaged in battle and you prevailed.
And just because there’s a religious dimension to this, you kind of get confused about, you know, God, this is somebody else’s religion. Do I need to touch it? Then there are lawyers, and of course, one thing I learned by being in the United States is you can always find the lawyers to blame for anything. They always come up with this, you know, will we be treading on First Amendment things. You know, should the State Department have anything?
For example, I once suggested that there is a global congress of Radical Islamists, you know, and they do it every—you know, they have an annual meeting. They have a mechanism. Why can’t there be a Congress of Muslim World Democrats and Muslim world sort of modernizers, reform sort of thing?
And you know, I traveled as a professor to Turkey, got the Turks to agree to it; got the Moroccans to agree to it, and you know, we could have it in Istanbul or Casablanca with an American presence and some non-governmental and possibly even governmental support from the United States for a major meta narrative effort.
Half the Muslim world doesn’t even know. I mean, I had to tell Richard Holbrook that when you first arrive in Pakistan remind them that you are the man who saved the Bosnian Muslims.
And he said, “Good point.”
I said, “Why not? Why doesn’t he talk about it?” You did something good. Go and tell the people you did it, you did something good.
And so it’s basically a failure. You have these massive machines that are still there, but they were for another era. It’s like Detroit refusing to reform. You know, they don’t make as good cars as they used to, and so, you know, Voice of America, Radio Free—I mean, Radio Free Europe now needs to be Radio Free Middle East, you know. It just needs to be reoriented.
They don’t need to have Russian language broadcasts anymore. Some people will become redundant. They need to have Arabic language broadcasts. You don’t need to create a radio Al Hora. What was it, Al Hora TV? What you need is—have you ever watched Al Jazeera? Just do it for me if you never have. The Israelis have their point of view on Al Jazeera much more than the Americans do. They have Arabic speakers. There is no issue relating to Israel that goes on Al Jazeera unrebutted.
They went to Al Jazeera and they said, “Do we have the right or don’t we?”
They said, “Absolutely.”
So they have an English spokesperson who comes on Al Jazeera in English, on the English side, and in Arabic on the Arabic side, and they have their spokesperson, the Arabic language spokesperson does eight-hour shifts. So there’s always one spokesperson at any time of the day or night.
Is it that impossible for the United States to do that? One of your, quote, unquote, diplomat shoots two people in the street and it takes you four days to put out a press release saying he was a diplomat and then the president of the country has to go on television and say he’s a diplomat. He should be accorded diplomatic—why couldn’t it have been done within the first hour?
I just do not understand. I just do not understand why it can’t happen, except bureaucratic sort of, you know, inertia, and an unwillingness to deal with it the right way.
PARTICIPANT: Well, Ambassador, in that case it took the CIA four days to tell the White House, but that’s a different story.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I’m not going to get into that.
All I’m saying is, I mean, you know, considering that you have—and then in the process, there are demonstrations against this guy.
Now, similarly with this Terry Jones thing. I mean, what was that? Okay. So the first time you discovered that it had happened, all you had to do was say, “You know, six Christian clerics, two Jewish rabbis, a couple of Muslim clerics standing. You know, what? America’s Constitution allows him to do it. It’s not something we can stop legally, but our heart tells us that this is not a good thing, and this is how we are.”
“The amazing thing about traveling around the [Middle East] in the last couple of months is this feeling of longing for America. Every conversation starts with a litany of America’s sins, but it’s all ultimately couched as America is the indispensable country to us. We need America. We want American approval, and we want to like America. It’s so tied up in real history and also false history. The feelings are incredibly complicated.”
And you just put them on television. It’s a two minute thing. You do it for Afghanistan with Pashto subtitles, and you do it for Pakistan in Urdu subtitles, and if there are riots in Egypt, you do it with Arabic subtitles. It’s easy to do. I could do it, you know, but then I represent Pakistan to the United States, not the United States to Pakistan.
MR. CROMARTIE: Peter, Peter David you’re up next, and then Tim Dalrymple.
PETER DAVID, The Economist: Before I ask the question that I originally planned, I think if I may I’d like to ask a follow-up to the question about anti-Americanism in Pakistan.
One thing that went unmentioned, I think, in your answer was the impact of the war in Afghanistan next door, and I’m not talking only about the unmentionable drone attacks which obviously have a negative impact within Pakistan, but is the whole enterprise there essentially misconceived from the point of view of winning over opinion in Pakistan?
I can see an argument that says it’s important for Pakistan to see the Taliban or Al Qaeda tendency defeated by the Americans, but I can also see how this is a constant fuel for those who would politicize Islam inside Pakistan itself.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Absolutely, absolutely it is. And it’s interesting that even that hasn’t been—I mean, there’s a marketing side to it as well, which we didn’t accompany that enterprise. So you have a massive enterprise going with the number of troops increasing, with sort of trucks going down Pakistan’s relatively beaten down highways with thousands of tons of supplies for troops in Afghanistan, et cetera, et cetera, and nobody explaining to the people if there is any benefit from this that comes to them.
I mean, so it’s two ways. It’s the enterprise itself, and then total failure to explain the enterprise. Both have a negative effect.
So it’s the presence. You’re absolutely right. It infuriates. Nobody likes that massive foreign presence next door, and it’s also a factor in Afghanistan. People don’t like all of these guys.
And second, the failure to explain the presence which could have been mitigated somewhat.
MR. DAVID: If the Americans left Afghanistan early, would this be a shot of adrenaline into the Jihadist cause regionally because—
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yes, yes. So we have—
MR. DAVID: So it’s bad to stay and bad to go, right?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Well, no, no, no. It’s not bad to stay if you can actually explain what you’re doing and then do it well.
MR. DAVID: I see.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And convince at least a—there will be some who will never want you, but there will be others who will say they are here for a specific mission, to help us, and will go, and try and avoid the Ugly American kind of image with sending people who have no clue.
There are incidents that can be avoided. You know, you don’t need sort of 17, 18 year old GIs who sort of stand on top of civilian bodies and get themselves photographed. That’s something you have to work very hard to avoid. I mean, that’s the kind of thing that plays into the propaganda.
You have to understand the nature of the war. Part of the war is actually fighting the enemy, but part of the war is actually convincing more and more people that you’re there to help and not to harm, and there you have to be very careful.
Now, there is an argument that some people make and I don’t make it, but some people do make it that maybe you’re not capable of doing that, and so therefore cut and run. But that is not supported at this moment either by the Afghan government or by us because we understand the security implications.
MR. DAVID: Can I ask my original question that I dreamt up before that came up?
MR. CROMARTIE: Sure, Peter. Please.
MR. DAVID: Right at the outset of your presentation, Ambassador, you said there were many people who had a false interpretation of Islam, who had sort of hijacked the faith in order to pursue a political agenda. It seems to me that at least in Sunni Islam one of the problems here is that there are no longer any sources of authority who can say, you know, this is the appropriate true faith and this isn’t.
What one has really seen is a sort of democratization of the faith in which any Tom, Dick and Harry can stand up and become a sheik or any man can claim that his version of the faith is authentic.
My question is: is there any chance of re-infusing the Sunni Islam with some sort of areas of authority where, you know, the edicts of Al Azar or some other sort of respected place of learning can come to reclaim, you know, from this rather chaotic, you know, democratized domain the true faith as you see it?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: First of all, I deliberately avoided the term hijack, et cetera, et cetera, because as far as I’m concerned, somebody has a perfect legitimate right being a Sunni Muslim. I think a person has a right to have a politicized interpretation. I just without judging the very fact of it, I was just putting it in context that what we really have a problem with, the people in this room and probably outside and everywhere, is with the ones who have the politicized interpretation and not with the others.
So they can have it as long as they play by the same rules that they want me to play by, which is I have the right to explain my faith to you. You can adopt it. You cannot adopt it. The problem comes from the fact that they are not willing to accept my right to live just because I don’t agree with their interpretation of faith, and that causes a problem.
So it’s not about hijacking or not hijacking. You know, it’s about the methods. It’s the totalitarian nature which bothers me.
I think one of the interesting things that I—and this is one of my observations—that what Jeff refers to as the Great Arab Awakening or whatever is not actually an Arab awakening. It’s an Egyptian awakening, a Libyan awakening, a Tunisian Awakening. It’s the first time that the nation-state is actually kind of operating as a nation-state. The Yemenis have a different agenda. Everybody is different. There’s no ban movement here.
Because after the end of the Ottoman Empire, the Muslim world ended up with pan Islamism versus pan Arabism, et cetera, et cetera. So if there are to be authorities that will emerge, I think they will be authorities within each state and nation, and they should, and they will have to emerge through a democratic means. They will have to emerge through a democratic means because that’s what Sunni Islam—there’s a deliberateness to this. The old Sunni Islamic approach was that communities must interpret faith themselves, and all attempts to try and create a central authority always ended up creating authoritarianism in Islamic history, which is why there are more or less 72 different sort of denominations and sects of Islam, of Sunni Islam, you know.
PARTICIPANT: Did you say Sunni Islam?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Well, the Shias and Sunni, the mainstreams, and then you have to sort of discount groups like—well, yeah, there are some groups that the Muslims do not consider as part of the mainstream. So they are excluded, but the others are 72 Shia and Sunni denominations.
And I think each denomination needs to evolve its own mechanism in a democratic manner, but if it’s going to be done in an authoritative manner, somebody will question its legitimacy. And very frankly, the Pakistanis are not about to turn around and say, “You know what? We’re going to accept Al Azar,” because you have to also understand that the reason why there were these denominations was that in many cases they responded to local situations.
For example, it’s very interesting that most coastal Muslims, like the south Indian coast, the Sri Lankans, the Indonesians, the Malays, they all ended up embracing the Shafi’i and they embraced it for the simple reason that the Shafi’i religions dietary code allowed everything from the sea, you know, to be eaten whereas the inland ones didn’t have to embrace the Shafi’i thing because they had other food, et cetera, et cetera.
So there are historic reasons why all of this happened, and it will have to be an internal process, but it’s something that needs to be encouraged. But then you could end up with a Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, which the British anointed. He wasn’t democratically elected, and then he went off on an anti-Semitic tirade and ended up creating a bigger mess than if there had been no Grand Mufti.
MR. CROMARTIE: Let me get Jeff in, and then Tim Dalrymple.
MR. GOLDBERG: So in reference to this Shafi’i question, if God had made Martha’s Vineyard the Jewish holy land, would you be allowed to eat lobster right now?
Because that would have been really—that would have been much better.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I am almost convinced that that would have been the case.
MR. GOLDBERG: Yeah, thou shalt eat clams between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: There would have been some rabbi who would have—
MR. GOLDBERG: Oh, God, bring him please.
No, you have come across, I think, the key question of all, which is the essential mystery, and maybe it’s not a mystery, is why a cleric like Yusuf Qaradawi, who is probably the most surpassingly important on a popular level—
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: In the Arab world.
MR. GOLDBERG:—in the Arab world, not necessarily in the Pakistani world—this is a guy for those of you who don’t know who is sort of the spiritual father of the Muslim Brotherhood and who says things like the Holocaust was God’s punishment for the perfidiousness of the Jews. Why is he seen broadly as the spokesman for a branch of Islam? Why do people ask their questions of him?
I mean the answer might be as simple as Al Jazeera gave him a show.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yeah.
MR. GOLDBERG: And not some moderate. Then the deeper question is why would Al Jazeera give him a show? I mean, these things are inexplicable and explicable at the same time. But that’s what we’re all waiting for, I think, is the rise of someone who is, you know—I don’t know. This analogy like all analogies will be inexact, but is not Pat Robinson but Rick Warren to use a context we understand here, or you know, not demanding the rise of a lesbian reform rabbi equivalent to be the spokesman for Sunni Islam. It’s not going to happen.
But some sort of moderate—unless maybe it will happen. That would be fantastic, huh?—but where are those people and why don’t they emerge? And this is the question I think a lot of people in the West are scratching their heads about this and say, “Well, all Islam is is the interpretation of a set of books and sayings by whichever preachers dominate, and why are these guys dominating?”
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Look. I mean, the reform preachers have been there for a long, long time. You haven’t heard of them because they’re not the ones who are preaching sort of fire and brimstone against you and, therefore, they don’t make it to your stories, but they’re there with millions of followers.
There’s a man in Pakistan who has only recently been on CNN and Britain TV. It’s a man called Tahir-ul-Qadri. He has millions of followers in Pakistan. He is totally like, you know, we need to embrace all modernity and faith. And there are others who are unknown to you—they support reform. They have written extensively on it, there are millions of followers, they are not noise makers, not out there marching, burning flags.
These people have their tapes and they have their DVDs and their CDs, et cetera, et cetera.
They will take a while before all of it comes out, and you can actually find Tahir-ul-Qadri online, but Kardavi was doing online fatwas 15 years ago.
MR. CROMARTIE: Let me get some others in here though. Tim Dalrymple, you are on or not? You wanted to pass and then I saw your eyebrows go up.
TIMOTHY DALRYMPLE, Patheos.com:Yes. Peter asked my question. So great minds think alike and so do ours, but I’ll go ahead and push a little further because it had to do with this distinction between the political and the religious, and even if Mr. Ambassador does not talk about hijacking, many do.
And just to note, I guess, that it’s not merely a Muslim problem. Like Jeff Goldberg, I’m a Christian, and—
MR. DALRYMPLE: That’s right, and you know, even I have to confess that there are substantial threads within Christian scripture and Christian tradition that under the wrong circumstances can be interpreted and appropriated to support violence.
So I worry that the attempts to differentiate the religious from the political, and I understand the desire to protect Islam from the taint of terrorism and so forth, but I worry that that short circuits the conversations that we need to have about religion and violence and why some religious communities have been maybe more successful than others recently at marginalizing and even defeating those ultraviolent interpretations.
So I don’t know if you have any more to say to that or if you’ve already kind of said everything.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: No, I think it’s a valid concern and it’s a valid point. But at the same time all I was talking about were the drivers. I was saying that the driver of Radical Islam is politics, and so in a way it’s comparable to sort of, you know, during the crusades, for example. A lot of the people in junctions of that era, et cetera, were politically driven, but couched in religious language, and that is similar in the Muslim world.
But look. People forget that when you are looking at the Muslim world, Abdurrahman Wahid, who became president of Indonesia, was a religious scholar from the biggest Indonesian religious movement, that is, Sunni, non-political spiritual movement, and that is anti the politicization of the faith, et cetera, and is very anti-Jihadism, et cetera.
And so it’s just that given the political context, it’s really difficult to talk about the movements within the faith that are not radical. That’s the only point I would like to make, without disagreeing with you that there are elements and they will always be picked up, and in history they were different. It is just that we are at a different era of our history, at a different point in our history.
But you know what? There were moments in European history where faith, you know, was used essentially to justify violence and all kinds of things and that’s what’s happening.
MR. GOLDBERG: Can I just defend my faith in Christianity for a minute here?
No, no, because there’s a serious point, and this is the challenge for Islam, is that the idea of conquering Christianity or of a warrior Christianity seems to me oxymoronic given the way Jesus led his life and experienced his death.
But as the saying goes, Muhammad was, in addition to the leader of the faith, he was his own Constantine in a way, and so he lived the life of a warrior, and he lived the life of an expansionist. You know, we just have to acknowledge this when we talk about this because when we say that a radical Muslim is hijacking his religion by engaging in some sort of violence, well, he has his sources, I mean, and he has a history that’s different than Christian history.
And so one of the base reasons that we have the problem that we have today is because you can as a Muslim interpret certain facts of Muhammad’s life in a way that allows for violence, and it’s a little bit harder, as an outsider, again, but it’s a little bit harder, I think, to take Christianity and derive the same lessons.
That being said, you know, a lot of the things that happen in the Prophet Muhammad’s name today he wouldn’t recognize, such as the beheading of blasphemers and other aspects that the Ambassador knows.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: The two traditions have a long history, I mean, of those who used the religious argument to fight and those who used the religious argument. My favorite which I keep reminding people, which by the way no one remembers these days, is the ink of the scholar is more precious to God than the blood of the martyr. No one remembers that one, you know.
And by the way, the same applies to scripture. I mean, you can find, you know, whatever, with the Malachites, go and kill them and whatever. You can find that and say that’s the injunction. So it’s the same. It’s pick and choose, and there’s a reason why, without going into a discussion of it.
I mean, God could have sent—I argue this with my fellow Muslims—God could have sent the Qur’an in the shape of a modern one, two, three, you know, thou shall do this, this, and this, in a rule book. There is a reason why it’s poetically written, and it’s written in such a language to allow people to interpret it at different stages in human evolution in different ways, and that is something a lot of theologians—Mohamed Arkoun, who is from Tunisia, a very good modernist scholar, he has done it. Syed Ahmed Khan did it in 1870. He did a modernist, and this was like, you know, the era of the dogma, et cetera. There’s all kinds of arguments going on. He did an exegesis of the Qur’an which is great. It’s six volumes, but you’re welcome to read it and—
MR. CROMARTIE: We’ll do that during the break.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yeah. It’s very different.
So all I’m saying is both trends have existed. It’s just that at this particular time, the whole post-colonial environment, the whole politicized environment in the Muslim world, building new countries, new societies, et cetera, et cetera has led to this whole notion that it’s all about the warrior faith rather than the non-warrior faith, which have both existed over history over the last 14 centuries.
MR. CROMARTIE: I want to get these other folks in: Dan Gilgoff, Brad Wilcox, Carl and Claire, and let’s try to be concise.
Dan Gilgoff, then Brad Wilcox.
DAN GILGOFF, CNN: Sure. Thanks to both of you for this real illuminating session.
I wanted to ask about the Obama administration. Early on President Obama rolled out with great fanfare his vision and something of a plan for really resetting and improving relations with the Muslim world, and that included his early trip to Istanbul and his visit to the Blue Mosque and talking to students there; obviously the speech in his first year from Cairo to the Muslim world; and since then he tasked his faith-based office with working with the National Security Council to foster this global interfaith dialogue, which is supposed to revolve largely around Muslim leaders.
And we’ve heard a very little bit about that since then, and I’m wondering if either of you from your respective vantage points have seen that plan in action in any meaningful way, in ways that might be invisible to us.
MR. CROMARTIE: Jeff, I think you have—
MR. GOLDBERG: Was that the Ambassador being discreet?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: No, it’s economy of time.
MR. GOLDBERG: Nice, very nice. You would know as well as I do what has happened to that. I don’t.
You know, there’s a lot of ferment now. I’m just hearing sort of a strong desire for people to see the President come out and do a Cairo II. What it would say I don’t know, and I think I’m sure Ben Rhodes is scribbling in Michael Gerson’s old office, trying to figure out what it would say.
I haven’t heard much about that. It’s actually kind of a mystery. It’s in that category of mysteries that include the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, sort of what happened, where did it go. You know, I think I would like to hear the Ambassador on this even off the record because I have a feeling that many people in the region and certainly the people who are on the let’s call it the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness side of the equation, the sort of liberal democratic equation in the Muslim world, you know, saw some flaws in his approach to more orthodox Islam, and that the approach that some people are demanding is to take sides a little bit more and to say, “You know what? This is who we are, and we support you and your pursuit of and your expression of religion,” but it’s not about our respect for the hijab. It’s about our respect for freedom.
But anyway, I hope you can illuminate us a little bit.
MR. CROMARTIE: Quickly?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I will pass right now.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. Brad, pull the microphone up, and then, Carl, did you still have a question?
CARL CANNON, RealClearPolitics.com: Short one.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay.
DR. BRADFORD WILCOX, University of Virginia: I just had a question about the issue of demography, and I’m wondering if either of you have any thoughts on, for instance, the issue of, you know, very large numbers of young men who can’t get married or can’t find decent work to allow them to get married in portions of the Middle East, and how that may be implicated in the kinds of topics we’ve been discussing this morning.
MR. GOLDBERG: Just very, very quickly, I mean, the amazing thing in Egypt and why it probably won’t work very well for a long time is that the number of jobs that have to be created to fulfill the demands of the youth bulge or the 20-something bulge are extraordinary. I mean, they need an eight percent or nine percent growth rate. Obviously they are kind of negative right now.
And the thing about conservative societies is that a male can’t get married until he has the wherewithal to support his marriage, but he can’t have sex either or at least licitly or at least in a way, and there’s a lot of frustration of all sorts that builds up in a society when you have that combination.
And then when a man who is 24 years old, who is a graduate who has a crappy degree in engineering from a crappy university in Egypt can’t get a job and can’t get a wife and can’t find any satisfaction in life, you know, it’s an obvious formula for disaster, which is why unfortunately we in the West and those in the Gulf who have a lot of money now because of what we’re paying at the gas pump need to be putting extraordinary efforts into trying to create that kind of job growth.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And just a very quick comment on this is also that, you know, the demographics actually need a lot more attention than people have actually been paying it because it’s not just that. It’s also the male-female ratio. Because, for example, the ability to predict or know, foretell the gender of the child has resulted especially in India both among Muslims and non-Muslims, a tendency to sort of have the male child and not have the female child, and that has really driven the male-female ratio into an adverse number.
And Al-Qaeda and the extremists are, again, ahead on this one because if you notice, this whole business about 72 virgins, et cetera, et cetera, in the hereafter, which is not really historically part of the mainstream Islamic discourse—I mean, I’ve always been arguing and you know that there are two interpretations—whether the Arabic word that is used in the Qur’an is for raisins or for virgins, and I certainly don’t want them and the reason why I’m not a Radical Islamist is because I don’t want to blow myself up and go up there and receive a tray of 72 raisins—
—because that’s what God promised me, whereas I was doing it for the 72 virgins. So it’s like, you know, it’s one of those little classic things.
But they play up the sensuousness, if you read some of their texts, they are very sensually written, and they’re appealing to the sensuality that if you blow yourself up as a volunteer, as a suicide bomber, a lot more sensuality awaits you in the hereafter.
So a 24 year old with a crappy degree, et cetera, et cetera, as Jeff described, he has this temptation, and there is nobody dealing with that side effect.
MR. CROMARTIE: Carl Cannon and then, Lisa, did you? You had your hand up?
MS. MILLER: I do.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. It will be Carl, Claire and then Lisa.
MR. CANNON: Ambassador, you alluded to the dispute between India and Pakistan. You mentioned Kashmir. That was the only thing you mentioned. This is something you see it in the American newspapers. Everybody at this table has written it ourselves, but it also is elusive to me.
I mean, we have a border dispute with Canada you probably don’t even know about. Nobody does.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: No, I do.
MR. CANNON: Okay. It’s the arctic region. There’s a lot at stake actually, but we’re not going to fight Canada, and we’re certainly not casually talking about dropping nuclear bombs on them.
So this eludes the American mind. Could you help us understand why—
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Well, it’s just a different level. I mean Pakistan and India got their independence in 1947. You had your Oregon wars with the Canadians long ago and you after that decided you know what, it’s far more conducive to prosperity to actually do business with each other than fight over defining the border and leave the border undefined.
And we’ll get there. Both Pakistan’s leaders and India’s leaders recognize the value of working things out, but we have to get our people to understand the value of peace more than the value of conflict, and it’s not always easy.
You were just lucky because of your sheer land mass and your sort of, you know, being between two huge oceans, and you know, at that time it wasn’t an issue of survival. There are many people in Pakistan who feel it’s an issue of survival because there are certain people in India who never reconciled to Pakistan’s break away from India. So in a way it’s a kind of what if the South had won the Civil War, and you actually had a Confederate States of America and the United States of America. How would have they felt towards one another?
I always say in the end Pakistan is the worst divorce you know in the world, both with nuclear weapons. They just can’t sit in the same room talking about the future. They always have to talk about “and do you remember when you were nasty to me?”
And so—and so there’s a whole generation of us that actually says, “You know what? Let’s resolve this,” and we tried to do that even last week. Our Prime Minister traveled just to be at a cricket match, which we lost, but you know? But it’s not going to—when it happens, when peace breaks out, it’s going to be very fast, but to get there will be a tough process because there are people in India who still think, “You know what? That spouse of ours called Pakistan should never have left us.”
And there are people in Pakistan who say, “Look at them. You know, we broke up 63 years ago, and they still won’t let us survive on our own. They’re nasty and they’re mean and they don’t want us to be prosperous and happy.”
And so that dynamic needs to be overcome, which is why something like discussing and understanding and finding formulas for things like Kashmir, et cetera, which by the way, you don’t realize now, but was done in your history at one point. Somebody made a conscious decision in Canada that you know what? We’ll leave this border issue or border dispute unmarked. Now, Canada and the United States only argue about softwood lumber every now and then.
MR. CANNON: No, no. I was talking about the new border dispute in the Arctic Circle. We never—
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yeah, yeah.
MR. CANNON: Because nobody ever thought they would go up there.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Yeah, yeah. Sorry. You haven’t resolved those, but you also have undemarcated parts of your seaboard, by the way. I hope you know that. There are many parts of your border with Canada that are undemarcated, and there are still unresolved issues from the treaty that followed the Oregon wars.
MR. GOLDBERG: People don’t know this, but Carl is pro-preemption on Canada.
He wants to go seize Quebec.
MR. CANNON: Five million people, with health insurance.
MR. GOLDBERG: We want to go take their health insurance.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And I’m willing to speak English.
MR. GOLDBERG: Carl’s question is sort of the ultimate American question which is, what are you doing—it’s Azerbaijan, Armenia, Israel, Palestine, India, Pakistan, and it reminds me of the great and often overlooked Condoleezza Rice quote about the Balkans in which she said, “You know, I just told those guys to get over it already.”
MR. CROMARTIE: I’m losing control. Claire, Lisa, can you both be real concise and then we’ll finish?
CLAIRE BRINBERG, ABC News: I didn’t expect to be hearing about Canadian health care this weekend, but to both of you I’d like to follow up on your point about President Obama, that there was a perception that he would be a lot more popular in the Muslim world than he’s turned out to be. I want to know what the perception of him is and how it compared to the perception of other American Presidents.
And then as a corollary to that, everybody paid attention to the speech that he gave in Cairo, but the State Department also decided to divert civil society and pro-democracy building funds in Egypt from those groups to groups that were sanctioned by Mubarak. I’m wondering how that decision was received and how it affected the perception of America there then and continues to affect it today.
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay, and then let’s let Lisa get in and then we’ll answer them both.
By the way, you can tell a very good session, ladies and gentlemen, when we have lunch waiting and we’re still going. This is a great credit to our speakers.
MR. GOLDBERG: I’m not sure everybody agrees with that formula.
MS. MILLER: I was struck, Mr. Ambassador, by your comments about Al Jazeera and how Al Jazeera, like our own cable news programs, prefers Pat Robertson to Rick Warren. And I was also reading all of the fallout of the Terry Jones debacle, and I wonder for those of us who don’t have the time or the space that Jeffrey has who have to write about these things what your advice for us is.
I mean, where you live in a world driven by SEO and cliques and conflict is what makes a story, and yet this whole session has been about sort of illuminating the corners that we don’t often talk about.
So how do we deal with Terry Jones? Do we not mention his name? Do we not cover it in hopes that, you know, it won’t get picked up and then spread around the world in an instant?
MR. CROMARTIE: Okay. So we have Claire’s question and Lisa’s.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: I’ll let Jeff answer Claire’s question and I’ll answer Lisa’s.
MR. GOLDBERG: Are you saying that the Daily Beast is driven by clicks?
MS. MILLER: I am not saying that.
MR. GOLDBERG: I can’t imagine. How could that be?
The question is an excellent one. You know, there’s a couple of contradictions of this moment. One is that America is said to be in decline, and yet across the Arab world people are looking to build their political systems in the manner of our political system. Nobody is trying to model themselves on China.
With Obama, there is disappointment because I think there were heightened expectations. He is seen in the Muslim world the way Donald Trump sees him, as one of their own in a kind of way.
In a positive sense. They don’t believe that he’s a Muslim. I also don’t believe that he’s a Muslim, but they see him as someone who really could understand them.
But your point on Egypt is actually true. Obama came into office, and we can figure out why this was. He came in as sort of an Avatar of stability. He was responding to what he saw as the neocon adventurism of the Bush administration. So he said, you know, Mubarak is our guy here and Ben Ali is our guy there, and we’re not going to push democracy, and I mean, that period now is over probably for good because the people disagreed.
So on that level in the reform circles there are real doubts about his commitment to that. Obviously his decision on Yemen yesterday, that narrative will slowly shift.
Just one final point, which is that the amazing thing about traveling around the region in the last couple of months is this feeling of longing for America. Every conversation starts with a litany of, you know, America’s sins, but it’s all ultimately couched as America is the indispensable country to us. We need America. We want American approval, and we want to like America.
It’s so complicated, and it’s so tied up in real history and also false history, and that’s the final point I would make, which is that in most of these countries which are not democratic, which didn’t have free presses, obviously the role of conspiracy and conspiratorial thinking has been huge, and it’s going to take time to unwind and unravel all of that.
So the feelings are incredibly complicated. On the reformer side, there are doubts. Look. I was in Tunisia with Hillary Clinton and in Egypt, and you know, the leaders of the revolution, some of them wouldn’t meet with her because of what she said early on about Mubarak being a stable leader and the Mubarak family being her friends. I mean the things that were necessary for a State Department, for a Secretary of State to say.
But you know, it’s complicated and ambiguous, but the one overarching truth is that they’re all thinking about us all the time and waiting for us to respond to them and waiting for us to help them, and if there is this American decline that people talk about, you don’t actually sort of experience it in the Middle East.
MR. CROMARTIE: Mr. Ambassador, a final word?
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: The sentiment in most of the Muslim world is sort of “Yankee, go home, but take me with you.”
That’s the story, and you have to do it, and you have to do it with what happens in our part of the world as well, you know. And I think people, really good reporters and writers, can do it, and they are able to do it.
Second, for people like you, and I had this conversation with David last night, the Daily Beast, you know, Real Clip, you can find a lot of people who write in the English language. The day when you actually needed to travel to Egypt and find a translator is gone. You don’t need that anymore. You have somebody in Egypt who actually writes very good English who’s local, who can actually contribute to you.
And you need to find those people so that they can explain local phenomena to your audiences much better than somebody who has kind of grown up in the American Midwest and travels there and with the help of an interpreter is trying to figure out what’s going on in the country.
I mean, there are very few Jeff Goldbergs left really who do get an understanding of the local flair—he was so kind about my book, I have to be nice about him.
MR. GOLDBERG: I appreciate it.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: And so, you know—
MR. GOLDBERG: Totally transactional, the relationship between Pakistan and America.
AMBASSADOR HAQQANI: Oh, come on, come on, come on now. Jeffrey really does get it, and there are a few others who get it, but then, you know, you don’t get Bernard Lewises every day who understand the language, have lived there. I mean, he speaks, you know, three of the four major languages of the Muslim world, you know, and so that knowledge is indispensable for explaining and understanding.
And similarly, when you write for a global audience, think global. I’m amazed at how many people in this country actually write for a global audience but think so locally that they assume—there’s every now and then a nerd like me who knows, you know, your local politics, et cetera, but there’s a lot of allusions, et cetera, with no explanations for people out there, you know. So that’s what you do.
Thank you all very much.
MR. CROMARTIE: Thank you, Ambassador. Thank you very much.