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Islam And The West: What Unites And What Divides Us?


http://gdb.rferl.org/A72FE94F-C407-4DA7-BA30-0A9386FBE37D_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/A72FE94F-C407-4DA7-BA30-0A9386FBE37D_mw800_mh600.jpg Panelists at RFE/RL's Prague headquarters (RFE/RL) October 30, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- What Unites And What Divides Us? Senior diplomats and experts on Islam from the United States, Iraq, Turkey, Germany, Hungary, and the Czech Republic met to discuss that topic at a conference in Prague. Here is a selection of quotes from some of those who took part.



First Panel: "The View From The West: Are Muslim Values Compatible With Those Of The West?"

Moderator: Reuel Marc Gerecht, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.

Alexander Ritzmann, European Foundation for Democracy, Brussels:

"The majority of homegrown terrorists in the West are not poor and uneducated and jobless, but they are the opposite. They are, from an outside perspective, well integrated, they have careers, or they are students."

Zdenek Muller, France-based specialist in Islamic and Arabic Studies:

"Radical Islam is also due to the social and economic impoverishment of large part of [Europe's] Muslim population."

Sebestyen L.v. Gorka, Institute for Transitional Democracy and International Security, Budapest:

"The West is not divided as much as the media would have one believe. Where there is, however, serious division is within the intellectual and political elites of the West. There are those that say religion is irrelevant to our understanding of September 11 and related violence. These people are very wrong."

Michael Rubin, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.:

"One has to recognize that there is an interrelation between religion and terrorism and this goes into the definition of religion...what I would posit is that we need a new definition of religion, which is quite simply religion is what its practitioners believe it to be."

Listen to the entire panel discussion (about 75 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


Second Panel: "Muslims And The West: The View From Islam"

Moderator: Akbar Ayazi, RFE/RL, Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Prague

Muhammad Jusic, Bosnian journalist:

"Who are Muslims in Bosnia trying to be? We are trying to be the bridge between East and West, to understand East and West, and until now we are only paying the price [for that] and nothing more, and a high price, I can say."

Mustafa Akyol, "Turkish Daily News," Istanbul:

"The context of the Muslims, the social context in which we are living very much influences how we understand our religion. A Muslim who wakes up in Gaza has a different experience than the Muslim who wakes up in Istanbul or Bosnia or London...he understands his religion according to that social context."

Abubakar Siddiqui, RFE/RL, correspondent for Radio Free Afghanistan, Prague:

"The Western world is spending a lot more, phenomenally more, on funding its defense budget compared to what they are spending on defending human rights, democracy promotion, and combating poverty, malnourishment, and chronic disease."

Listen to the entire panel discussion (about 79 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media


Third Panel: "What Unites And What Divides Us"

Moderator: Joyce Davis, RFE/RL Associate Director of Broadcasting

Mustafa Akyol, "Turkish Daily News," Istanbul:

"I think the reason why [Muslims] don't like the term 'moderate Muslim,' or 'moderate Islam' especially, is that when it is used they think that it means Islam per se is problematic and then there is a nicer version of that, but that unrefined or untouched Islam is not moderate."

Muhammad Jusic, Bosnian journalist:

"There are people who think that when you say moderate Muslim you are actually talking about people who are willing to look through their fingers to the West and whatever [it says] is considered to be right and they do not try to be a partner in dialogue but rather somebody who is listening to and obeying what the West is saying."

Akbar Ayazi, RFE/RL, Director of Radio Free Afghanistan, Prague:

"There is the term fundamentalism, or fundamentalist, and we call people fundamentalist Muslims while this is not even a Muslim term, it is a Christian term."

Abubakar Siddiqui, RFE/RL, correspondent for Radio Free Afghanistan, Prague:

"I don't want to be labeled this or that kind of Muslim. I am Muslim, it just happens that I was born in a Muslim society in a Muslim household. Nobody has ever written an application to God to be born in a Christian home or a Muslim home, it just happens."

Alexander Ritzmann, European Foundation for Democracy, Brussels:

"Is Islam itself the problem? Are we fighting Islam, do we have problems with Muslims just because they are Muslims. That is not what I am advocating. I am advocating fighting radical Islam."

Zdenek Muller, France-based specialist in Islamic and Arabic Studies:

"Secularism in the public sphere [in Europe]...is not aimed against religion but to maintain some kind of harmony and balance, some kind of neutrality, in the public sphere."

Michael Rubin, American Enterprise Institute, Washington, D.C.:

"Multiculturalism is not just about the good, it is not just about being able to order sushi with a mojito. It has much more to do with recognizing that when cultures come together, there are both positive aspects and negative aspects, and that in a Western society standards provided by the rule of law have to become paramount."

Listen to the entire panel discussion (about 72 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media
Religion And Tolerance

A thematic webpage devoted to issues of religious tolerance in RFE/RL's broadcast region and around the globe.
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