Panel II of a Hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee - Engaging with Muslim Communities Around the World
WITNESSES: DALIA MOGAHED, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, GALLUP CENTER FOR MUSLIM STUDIES; EBOO PATEL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTERFAITH YOUTH CORE; ZEYNO BARAN, SENIOR FELLOW, HUDSON INSTITUTE
CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN KERRY (D-MA)
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SEN. KERRY: Thank you very much for joining us.
Dalia, would you begin? Thank you.
Okay, if we could try to keep them into five minutes, that's going to give us -- and I'm going to have to disappear again because there's a vote on. I'll try to wait as long as I can in hopes that someone appears to continue it. If they don't, we'll have to recess.
MS. MOGAHED: Mr. Chairman, thank you very much for inviting me to share the findings of our massive poll on Muslim opinion around the world. It's a complicated issue and so, for the sake of time, I will get just -- get right to the highlights.
Though many have weighed in on the question of whether there is an inevitable clash between Muslims and the United States, and the West as a whole, the group that we seldom hear from are ordinary people. And that's why I felt that it was very important for our research to be heard by this panel.
SEN. KERRY: (Off mike.)
MS. MOGAHED: Sure.
SEN. KERRY: -- people who you are and how you do that?
MS. MOGAHED: Okay, absolutely.
Ongoing, since 2001, Gallup has conducted tens of thousands of hour-long, face-to-face interviews with Muslims in more than 40 nations, including Europe and the United States. We spoke to men and women, young and old, educated and illiterate, from urban and rural settings. In totality, we surveyed a sample representing 90 percent of the global Muslim population, making this the largest, most comprehensive study of contemporary Muslims ever done.
Our research uncovered a number of surprising insights, but the most important was this: A massive conflict between the U.S. and the Muslim world is not inevitable. Our differences are driven by politics, not a clash of principles. Our findings suggest that Americans and Muslims who are Asians, Arabs and Africans share a great deal in common but that three primary filters shape the views of those who disapprove of the U.S. They are perceptions of being disrespected, politically dominated, and anger at acute conflicts. To improve relations and further decrease the appeal of violent extremism, we must turn to what I will call "the three Rs:" resolution of conflict, political and economic reform, and mutual respect.
So, contrary to popular media images, residents of Muslim- majority countries share a great deal in common with many Americans. This includes a shared admiration for democratic values and good governance; valuing faith and family, and a good job; as well as an overwhelming public rejection of violent extremism against civilians.
Most agree that interaction between Muslims and Western communities is more a benefit than a threat, and majorities world- wide, from Boston to Baghdad, also say better relations between the two communities is of personal importance. In general, Muslims around the world are slightly more likely than the American public to unequivocally reject targeting civilians by individuals or the military. Our study found that those who sympathize with attacks on American civilians support that position by using political ideology, not religious fervor.
In contrast, those who say that terrorism is wrong explain that position using religious prohibitions on murder. This means that what is at the heart of support -- public support for terrorism is not religious extremism, but an extremist political ideology. Furthermore, Muslims are more likely than the American public to say that they themselves are afraid of being victim to a terrorist attack, and feel -- even more often mention this than the American public, that they must work to stop violent extremism in their own communities. So, though violent extremism may seem to be at the heart of what divides the U.S. and Muslims around the world, it is actually our common enemy.
With so much shared, why do so many in Muslim-majority countries have unfavorable views of the U.S.? Rather than a hatred of our principles, three policy-driven perceptions drive the views of those who disapprove of the United States. They are: anger at acute conflicts, perceived political domination, and disrespect.
Acute conflicts begin this list. Most believe the invasion of Iraq did more harm than good, and very few believe that we take an even-handed approach to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In addition to these conflicts, as you pointed out, Mr. Chairman, other events, such as abuses in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, contribute to perceptions of being under attack.
Political domination is the second, and it's very important to understand that many Muslims around the world admire what they say are universal values that are practiced so well in the West, including good governance, and self-determination, as well as human rights. However, they doubt that the United States -- they're skeptical as to the United States' true intentions in promoting these values in their regions and point to our support, or our perceived support for dictatorships.
Finally, disrespect. And I will spend a few minutes on this because it's so important. When asked what the West can do to improve relations with the Muslim world -- whether we were talking to someone in Casablanca or Kuala Lumpur, the most frequent response was for the West to demonstrate more respect for Islam and to regard Muslims as equals, not inferior.
Where does this perception of disrespect come from? Ironically, it stems from the perception that we don't live the values that they so admire about us in our treatment of them: rule of law, self- determination and human rights. Many believe that the U.S. is denying Muslims these rights by supporting dictatorships, direct occupation of Muslim lands, and what is seen as passive support for Israeli violence. To explain the perceived gap between America's espoused values and its treatment of Muslims -- or perceived treatment of Muslims, they turn to this idea that we must be singling them out and looking at them as less than we are.
What is the way forward? And I will refer to the same report that Secretary Albright mentioned, the "Changing Course" report put out by a high-level commission. I'm going to focus on one specific aspect of that report, in addition to what I just said, which is this idea of mutual respect. How do we show mutual respect?
First, we must think and speak and act to the reality that Muslims are allies, not suspects in the fight against violent extremism. We must talk about this issue by recognizing that they are the primary targets of terrorism. This will mean deemphasizing the unquenchable demand for mainstream Muslims to condemn terrorism again and again, as it -- this assumes their co-membership in one group with the terrorists, instead of with us as fellow victims of terrorism.
Terms like "Islamic terrorism" or "jihadists" glorify the terrorists by giving them religious veneration. Instead of using terms like this, or using terms even like "radical Islam" -- which is a little like saying "totalitarian democracy," they're simply a contradiction in terms -- we should use a term simply like "bin- Ladenism," and --
SEN. KERRY: Can I stop you there?
MS. MOGAHED: Mm hmm.
SEN. KERRY: Party because I have some questions, but I need -- I've got two minutes to go vote.
MS. MOGAHED: Absolutely.
SEN. KERRY: So, we need to recess until we get back, and so we'll stand in recess for a few minutes. Thank you.
SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): I call the committee back to order and we'll continue with testimony by Dalia Mogahed.
MS. MOGAHED: Thank you. Second, we will have to condemn Islamophobia as un-American. This is where the U.S. must stand head and shoulders above what sometimes seems as Europe's less-developed comprehension of free speech. We don't use racial slurs in public, not because they are prohibited in the legal realm, but because our society has evolved beyond that in the moral realm. European societies, for whom living in a multicultural society is still relatively new, must grow in the same way. This also includes constructive exchange and accurate depictions of media.
Three is listening. While many Muslims are critical of actions carried out by both our government as well as their own, from the wars in Iraq and Gaza to economic corruption and lack of freedom, the majority reject terrorism as a legitimate response. To further weaken the extremists, we must listen to, not necessarily agree with, mainstream Muslims' concerns over injustices and engage those peacefully working to address these concerns.
And finally, I'll end with the vital role for Muslim Americans to play. Not only are Muslim Americans ambassadors of America's inclusiveness in engaging Muslims around the world, but represent a valuable brain trust for crafting smart, equitable policies for an interdependent world. Groups like the Muslim congressional staffers and many other groups are vital resources for thinking about these issues. In addition, Muslim Americans' legal and social welfare in their own country is viewed as a litmus test for America's position toward Muslims in general. We must therefore continue to promote our core American values of due process, justice and equality in our treatment of all people. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you very much. Mr. Patel.
MR. PATEL: Mr. Chairman, my name is Eboo Patel. I'm the founder and director -- executive director of an organization called the Interfaith Youth Core. Our mission is to spread the message of religious pluralism to tens of millions of people worldwide, and to train and mobilize tens of thousands of young people to be its architects. I would like to say that I am the son of Muslim immigrants from India that came to America, not just for the opportunities of personal and professional advancement, but also for the opportunity to contribute to a nation that was built on the contributions of many from all over the world. They view my testimony here as a partial fulfillment of their American dream.
Mr. Chairman, I believe that the question of the 21st century will be the question of the faith line. That is how diverse religious communities choose to interact, whether that interaction moves toward conflict or towards cooperation. The biggest mistake we can make on the question of the faith line is to define it wrong. The wrong definition of the faith line pits Muslims against Christians, or believers against non-believers. If we define the faith line as Muslims against Christians, we are left with a world of 2 billion people at war with a world of 1.3 billion people. That is an eternal war.
I prefer to define the faith line as a line that divides people I call religious pluralists from religious totalitarians. I have a very simple definition for religious pluralist. It's somebody who believes in a society where people from diverse backgrounds live in equal dignity and mutual loyalty. I have a very simple definition of a religious totalitarian. It's somebody who wants their community to dominate and everyone else to suffocate.
I believe that young people will make the difference between whether we live in a century defined by religious pluralism or a century defined by religious totalitarianism. Unfortunately I believe we are losing this battle, and the answer to that is very simple. It is because religious extremist movements target, in particular, young people. Al Qaeda can very easily be understood as a movement of young people taking action. Osama bin Laden himself was recruited when he was a teenager by a man barely a decade older than him. When he became a 20-something, he in turn started recruiting teenagers for a new global force that he called al Qaeda.
The youth bulge, particularly in the most religiously volatile parts of the world, is remarkable. The median age in Iraq is 19.5. There are more children in India than are citizens in the United States. We can not forfeit this powerful terrain, this major opportunity to religious extremists simply because they are the ones targeting, training and mobilizing these young people.
The other truth is that young people have played an absolutely key role in building religious pluralism throughout the ages. Martin Luther King, Jr. was only 26 years old when he led the Montgomery bus boycott. He worked, through the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi, arm in arm with the Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, and through an inspirational correspondence with the venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk. Mahatma Gandhi, the great Indian Hindu leader, was 24 when he started his movement against the racist caste laws in South Africa. And a too-little-known Muslim leader named Abdul Ghaffar Khan was a young man when he mobilized thousands of Muslims to be part of the movement to free the subcontinent.
These are the youth leaders of interfaith cooperation. They exist amidst us today. We need to be inspiring them, training them, and mobilizing them. America and Islam have an enormous shared value when it comes to pluralism. As the American philosopher Michael Walzer once said, "The challenge of America is to embrace its differences and maintain a common life." That strikes me as deeply resonate with a line from the Holy Koran. In Sura 49 we are told that God made us different nations and tribes that we may come to know one another. I think it is -- the time is now to declare the 21st century the century of religious pluralism, and to declare this generation the architects of that value.
I have a couple of specific recommendations for the United States government to make. My organization has had a presence on six continents. Many of our programs have been facilitated by wonderful institutions like the State Department. Unfortunately, too many of those initiatives have been ad hoc. I believe it is time to move from scattered initiatives to strategic approaches. I believe it is time to go from seeding programs to scaling programs. Two of my colleagues recently did a tour of European countries where they engaged several hundred mostly young Muslim leaders in Europe and trained several hundred others to be the architects of religious pluralism. Why shouldn't this be tens of thousands? It is simply a matter of concentrated resources and coherent mechanisms at institutions like the State Department.
Mr. Chairman, imagine if 2 billion Christians on the planet and the 1.3 billion Muslims, the several hundred million Hindus, the 15 million Jews viewed themselves as partners in fighting malaria or AIDS, or the various ills that afflict humankind. That is the century we could live in. The United States can play a major role in that. Thank you.
SEN. CARDIN: Thank you. Ms. Baran.
MS. BARAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you. I believe the biggest challenge in outreach programs has been the inability to identify what is that America wants from Muslims. In other words, what is the purpose of engagement? Is it merely to stop terror attacks against Americans and its allies? Is it to learn about a religion and its many cultural, political and historic aspects? Is it to genuinely try to improve the lives of Muslims, whether they live in Pakistan, Somalia or in America? I would argue that we will see an end to terror, radicalism and extremism when our intention becomes the empowerment of Muslims so they can achieve their full human potential.
However, for a long time we've been trapped in a war-on-terror mindset, and thereby forgetting that terror is a tool used as part of a bigger strategy. This strategy encourages division, separating the West from the rest, so that those in the latter category will be left with no choice but to support Islamist political ideology. I've written extensively about the difference between Islam the religion and Islam the political ideology and how we need to expose the extremists' cynical exploitation of the religion as a means of convincing the moderate majority of their fellow Muslims that the current conflict is religious in nature.
Today the Islamist movement is unfortunately much stronger compared to where it was in 2001, and it will continue to get stronger over the next decade unless we realize we are faced with a long-term social transformation project. It is transforming Muslims into angry and fearful people who can then be easily controlled.
So what should the U.S. do? Don't reduce Muslims to people whose main identity is their religious affiliation. They have hopes, frustrations and aspirations, just like everyone else. Don't expect a silent majority to speak up until and unless they see a clear sign that the U.S. has decided to win, which means empowering the two democrats and ending existing unholy alliances. In choosing partners to engage, listen to what they say and look at what they do when they are with their own people, not what they say to you in private meetings behind closed doors. Don't assume an individual or group that sounds moderate in fact is moderate. It is therefore critically important to shine a light on what is truly going on under the so- called Islamic regimes so Muslims can see for themselves and no longer be manipulated into believing, for example, life under a Sharia- based legal system will be much better than life under liberal democracy.
Most people believe it is possible to take only good aspects and leave bad aspects of Sharia. Maybe one day this will be possible, but today the implementers of Shari'a do not allow such choices, because in Islamist ideology, Islamic law, Sharia, regulates every aspect of an individual's life, and since it is considered to be God's law, no compromise is possible. You don't need to believe me, but please don't also believe men whose lives are not as affected as women, and please don't also believe women who have never lived under the Shari'a system. Just ask women who have lived and continue to live under a Shari'a system. Ask them if their lives have improved, or ask them if they want their daughters to live under this system.
Unfortunately, the media -- especially those sources that cater to Muslim audiences -- hardly ever show things such as images of Muslims being killed by other Muslims, imams preaching hatred or mothers celebrating their son's suicide bombing success or teachers indoctrinating young brains with hatred toward Jews and Christians and anyone they consider to be the "other".
These are not seen or heard by the mainstream -- the silent majority. They are kept ignorant and in denial. The only time they see heartbreaking images of women and children dying is when it is non-Muslims, especially Americans, killing them. Most people have no idea what is going on in places like Darfur or even in the middle of a European capital. Unless people have the information and can analyze it for themselves, they will never say "enough" to the abuse of their faith or stop hating America.
One of the most important areas the U.S. can help is by increasing funding and coverage of information sources like Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty and find other ways -- maybe like the American Center -- to enlighten people so that they can see and hear the truth for themselves.
This is especially important when it comes to the most critical Muslim partners -- women. Of all the various segments of the Muslim communities, women, I believe, have to be the primary focus of engagement -- in addition to the youth, of course. This is not just some feminist jargon. Women are the focus of the Islamists, who have correctly identified them as the most important starting point. Women are the nucleus of the family and society. Mothers raise the next generation. A woman kept ignorant, illiterate and living in fear can easily be controlled.
If we neglect the women, we neglect the next generation. So if the U.S. wants to see a different kind of social transformation, then women have to be at the center of all programs and not filed away under "women's issues".
To start with, there is absolutely no excuse or justification for beating or otherwise violating a woman. The offenders -- whether they are husbands, fathers, brothers or cousins -- need to receive the appropriate punishment. At the same time, women need to know where and how to get help and such places as shelters need to be available.
In addition to the basic safety and security, women need to be empowered and their imagination needs to be kept alive. And here, culture, arts and literature are essential tools. And it's also why these are the first areas targeted by the Islamists. Anything that will keep the imagination alive so they can dream of a different life is banned by the Taliban and the like.
It is also limited and controlled by secular authoritarian leaders. After all, the Islamists and the secular authoritarians are the two sides of the same coin. Both want to control the hearts and minds. Instead, we need to free minds and fill hearts with love. Only then will anti-Americanism be subsiding.
Like everyone else, Muslim women need to read or be told about uplifting and empowering stories from their own cultures. For example, the tale of Scheherazade and her stories that span 1,001 nights is one of the most beautiful ones and still not available in most parts of the world where Muslims live. It is often banned when books that preach hatred are distributed freely.
Scheherazade's tale has many different lessons for many of us. It is the story about a king who would marry and then kill his wives after their first night, because he feared they would betray him. Scheherazade, however, survived, thanks to her whit and imagination. She began telling a tale that continued 1,001 nights. And in this process, she gradually opened the king's heart and soul to love. In the end, he spared her. In many ways, she spared him too by awakening his humanity.
This is the kind of story we need to be told -- that mothers need to be telling their daughters. And this is a kind of a story men need to hear as boys so they don't become hardened radicals. They don't need to fear women or keep them oppressed. If Scheherazade did not have the right tools to capture the king's imagination, she would have been killed, like many others before her and the king and the kingdom would have continued to suffer.
By spreading stories like hers, we can help save other women and men, the rulers and the ruled, and ultimately ourselves.
SEN. KERRY: Zeyno, thank you. Very important testimony. I apologize, Eboo, for missing yours, but I have it here in person.
And I apologize to all of you that this has been a little bit disjointed. I hate that and just the schedules seem to be getting jammed.
Regrettably also, the White House has asked me to come down now in about 15 minutes for a meeting on the president's announcements on Iraq tomorrow. So I'm going to have to leave here momentarily.
But as I said, this is a beginning and not an ending. And what I think I may do is really, perhaps, even set up a roundtable maybe the next time we do this and invite some of you back to be part of that so we can have a little more give and take and back and forth on some of this, which I think would be helpful.
As I listened to your testimony -- and I listened to yours, Dalia. It strikes me that there is actually a little bit of a contradiction in what you're saying to what the first panel said in the sense that while -- and even in some of my comments. When I draw this line of what is the real teaching of the Koran or the real teaching of Islam, you're, obviously, painting a picture of how that's being abused.
But we are obviously not the right people for all the obvious reasons to point that out to anybody. So when the question was asked earlier by Senator Wicker about sort of a reformation -- or whatever you want to call it -- it's obviously inappropriate for us to call for it. The question looms large: Who will stand up? Who will define the realities here?
I mean, when you have people who clearly are told if you wrap a bunch of plastic satchels around you, and you walk into a nightclub and blow yourself up, you're going to go to paradise and there are 72 virgins waiting there and you're going to have breakfast with the prophet and so forth, what do you do? Who does what?
MS. MOGAHED: If I may, Mr. Chairman, I think you're asking a very important question.
What I would like to propose, though, is that this radical ideology is a byproduct of a deeper issue, which is a radical political ideology. And that's where we can have a much greater effect.
SEN. KERRY: Who's the "we"?
MS. MOGAHED: The United States of America.
The religious extremism is really just a veneer around a very deep political extremism -- political ideology around widely held grievances. And so what people are hearing is that the terrorists are telling them, we can solve your problems if you will use violence. Violence is the way to solve your problems. And they're using religious terminology to give that approach --
SEN. KERRY: I understand that. We all understand that.
MS. MOGAHED: I understand. But let me explain -- the second piece is that if we can deal with the grievances and show people that you can change things through peaceful means, the religious extremism will no longer appeal to people.
The appeal of the religious extremism is the byproduct of --
SEN. KERRY: Of the failure of governance, to some degree.
MS. MOGAHED: Absolutely.
SEN. KERRY: But isn't that also a failure of opportunity to some degree? I mean, there are countries -- I'm not going to go through them all here now -- where there are some very unwritten, and I will use the term "unholy alliances", between the existing regime and an extreme practice of religion. And one sort of says, well, we'll leave you here to rule, but we're going to rule the minds and the hearts and souls.
And so whether it's wahhabism or some other extreme, a lot of money is being invested in that today in the world.
And so who and how, I mean, will stand up to say, this is in fact a distortion; this is a hijacking of the legitimacy? Because countless numbers of Muslims have come to me and said, Senator, you should know killing innocent people is outlawed in the Koran and you'll go down the list of things that are outlawed. And in fact, then, on the positive side there isn't any religion that doesn't live by the Golden Rule, and yet obviously, these folks aren't.
But what we're searching for is the most effective mechanism. I mean, there are long term ones. We can certainly keep reaching out and keep talking, but if these governments are going to ignore some of the fundamental complaints of their own citizens, and some of the fundamental empowerment of their own citizens, it's going to be hard, it seems to me, for us to break through that.
I'd like to have both of you respond.
MS. MOGAHED: If I may, I will just say very quickly, our data shows that what drives public sympathy for terrorism is not religious fervor and it's not even religious extremism. It is political views. The people who sympathize with terrorism look different than the mainstream in their perception of politics, not in their perception of religion.
And so to get at that sympathy for terrorism, it's not by reforming Islam. It's by offering people a different way to make change then the violence that the extremists say is the only way.
SEN. KERRY: Zeyno?
MS. BARAN: Well, I would say the problem we have is that -- what you've mentioned, Senator, Wahhabism has reformed Islam. And it has not reformed it in a way that we usually think about it -- in a positive direction, but it has actually silenced pluralist voices within Islam.
We can't say there is a single Christian voice. There are many, many different Christian voices, and through, unfortunately, very bloody periods. There are different groups that established, and now we know who are the radicals and who are the not-radical voices.
Unfortunately, over decades and decades, of billions of dollars spent, the Wahhabi ideology -- which sometimes is used in different terms -- that is now clouding over all other interpretations, all other understandings. There are thousands of Muslims who disagree with that, but usually they are silenced. They don't have money; they don't have resources; they don't have safety. Often, anybody who disagrees with certain views, they are killed. So, it becomes a very dangerous enterprise and I think, if anything, the U.S. can at least support those people.
You're right. The U.S. does not have legitimacy to speak about the Quran or the different understandings of Islam. There is not a single correct interpretation. But there are people who are trying to bring out the different understandings and the plurality of Islam.
Now, on the grievance issue, I've studied Islamist groups, working all over the place including America. The grievance will never end because the ideology is based on provoking sometimes, and highlighting the grievances. We all have problems in our lives. The question is, how do we deal with it? And if you are told that all the answer(s) to your problem is -- problems is to change the world order so that we all will under an Islamic caliphate, and then everything is going to be great, and there will be justice and peace, finally, it will never end.
So, we need to do both: making sure that ideology is no longer taking hold, especially of the young minds, and also address some of the legitimate grievances; but also recognize that grievances -- they're always something to be upset about.
SEN. KERRY: Let me leave Senator Kaufmann in charge here. And I thank you very much.
I promise you we will get back, and set this up in a structure where we continue this discussion with other experts. And I promise you that will be interesting. Thank you very, very much.
SEN. KAUFMANN: Thank you.
Mr. Patel talked a lot about youth, and I think that anyone who looks at the demographics of many of the -- especially the Middle East, the demographics are overwhelmingly it's a youth-based culture.
Can the three of you kind of give me some practical suggestions on how we should engage the youth in the Islam world? I know you can -- (laughs) -- Go ahead.
MR. PATEL: So, Mr. Chair, let me begin with some of those and then turn it over to my esteemed colleagues here.
Let me first, though, address some of the -- (inaudible) -- dimensions of the past question. And let me begin by asking a question, which is, what is going to lead tomorrow in the Arab Press about the conversations about Islam on Capitol Hill? Is it going to be this hearing, or is it going to be the fact that an unbelievably offensive film was shown amongst the most ornate rooms of Capitol Hill?
SEN. KAUFMANN: Mr. Patel, let me just cut it short. That's true about everything. I mean, that's not -- don't take this as personal, but every day the media is led by the outrageous, the scandal, the -- where there's division, where there's arguments on Capitol Hill. The unusual is always driving out the, kind of, normal dialogue. So, this is not special to just this question.
MR. PATEL: Well, I think I agree with that. I think that part of what is happening is a mirror reflection of itself. Which is to say, we here are asking the question about, where are the peaceful voices in the Muslim world? My sense is, the vast majority of the peaceful world are speaking and singing in peaceful voices. What they hear of -- what we see of them are only the most violent voices. What they see of us are our version of violent voices.
SEN. KAUFMANN: Absolutely.
MR. PATEL: The Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu once said, if we do not -- "If you do not understand yourself, and you do not understand the enemy, you will lose every battle." My big fear is that we are getting the "us" and the "them" wrong. And instead of focusing, as Dalia said, on bin-Ladenism, and seeking to destroy that and uplift the rest of humanity, there are too many people sending messages about the "them," being 1.3 billion people.
How we get clarity around that, get our own -- communicate our own values, our own sense of "us" as including Muslims and Christians, secularists and Buddhists, Arabs and Americans; and a sense of "them," which is about groups of people, of whatever religion, who want to dominate others.
My favorite line on this is simple: The terrorists of all traditions belong to one tradition, the tradition of terrorism. How we communicate that, I think, is going to be the difference between conflict and peace in the 21st century. How we communicate that to young people is going to be especially important.
SEN. KAUFMANN: But, could I just say that, you know, this is always the problem. And we're going to have to do it in a world where we have a free Press. I mean, I think this Ms. Baran was talking about Voice America, and Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Alhurra Television, Sawa -- all these people. I mean, the basic message there is freedom of the Press and free exchange of ideas. So, whatever we do we have to do it with the understanding that there's going to be people saying all kinds of crazy things about, you know, about "us," and about people that encourage a free Press.
So, the real question here is, realizing that that's the start -- and it's compounded by the fact that many of the countries that we're broadcasting into does not have a free Press, as you said -- I think it was Ms. Baran, talked about Al-Jazeera showing just one side of the story, showing just the fact that, you know -- does not show Muslims killing Muslims, does not show many of the things that are going on. So, it makes it even more complicated.
So, that's just the reality. As long as we're pushing -- as long as we're saying we should have a free Press; as long as we're calling for the free exchange of ideas, which I think is one of the basic beliefs that we have, as a way to deal with this, it has the unintended, kind of, ugly side-effect of allowing people that have rather radical ideas in our society to get a platform for doing it.
But, taking that into account as a given -- unless you don't agree that's the given, kind of, what do we do in order to engage with the youth, understanding that reality?
MR. PATEL: I think that that is a given. I think that there is an additional given. I'll close with this comment, which is that how we frame the question matters a great deal. There is no good answer to the question, "When did you stop kicking your dog?"
SEN. KAUFMANN: Absolutely.
MR. PATEL: And there is no good answer to the question, "Why are you people so violent?" As Dalia suggested in her testimony, when we approach 1.3 billion people as suspects, and not allies; when we say, "Where are your peaceful voices?," when, in fact, the truth is the United States has the most prominent and important scholars of Islam in all of the Western world -- scholars who are deeply regarded even in the great learned cities of the Muslim world, and we don't know them, we don't know their names in a common way the way we know, for example, Christian names, we reveal our ignorance in a way that makes a fifth of humanity feel like suspects.
SEN. KAUFMANN: Okay.
MR. PATEL: I think the fact that the majority of that fifth of humanity are young people and we are nurturing this poisoned relationship, in part by the framing of the question. Instead of saying, what can we -- who are you; how do we relate to each other; and what can we do together, we are saying "Why are you people a problem?" That is going to lead us downhill in this century.
SEN. KAUFMANN: Ms. Baran.
MS. BARAN: Well, I will say, on this issue, since this film showing has been raised, this actually goes to some of the basic lack of understanding of -- I agree, of the, sort of, the "us" and "them," but also, in general, what America is about.
In America there are all kinds of opinions that we hear we may detest. And we learn how to deal with it. If we don't agree with a particular opinion, we try to get together and then we try to explain to others why that opinion may be hurtful, why it may do damage, but we don't try to silence it. Because when we silence, then we're no different than some of the oppressive regimes of the Middle East.
Now, as a Muslim, I, of course, disagree with -- (inaudible) -- understanding of what the Quran is, but I would like to be discussing with him in the way that we talk about engaging with Muslims. Muslims also need to also engage with voices that say, "Well, here are some of your leadership saying these things. Do you agree, do you not agree?" And by just saying that "These things are horrible views," it seems almost that we are in denial that in the leadership positions people are actually doing very damaging things, in terms of poisoning minds of people.
And the difficulty, though, is when there is not a culture and practice of challenging, or free thinking, or free Press, then people assume these are intentional, these are intended to hurt Muslims, these sort of acts are intended by the U.S. Congress, for example, to insult Islam. I think there's a lot of engagement that is needed on that level to explain why some of that -- (inaudible) -- might take place. We may not agree with it, but we may be able to explain it.
And, another thing is that education then becomes even more important, because people need to be able to understand for themselves when certain things happen that it's not the U.S. government, or it's not Christians, that it's individual people.
And then we also need to learn how to deal with it. When we say, "He's saying Islam is a violent religion," and if our response is going and demonstrating, then we all make his case.
SEN. KAUFMANN: Great.
-- (inaudible) -
MS. MOGAHED: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
My biggest recommendation to engage youth is around job creation. The largest unemployment rate among youth in the world is in the Middle East. It's higher than 25 percent.
In the Palestinian territories it's 50 percent. The biggest issue on the minds of young people in the Middle East and in the greater Muslim world, where there is a youth bulge, is employment and job opportunities.
And so anything we can do to stimulate economic growth, to create jobs, is the most -- is going to be the most important and most valuable thing that we can do to engage young people in this part of the world.
SEN. KAUFMANN: Great.
Listen, I want to -- I want to thank you for being here. And I'm really, really pleased the chairman says we're going to continue this because, obviously, we could go on for another two or three hours and not even begin to touch the surface. But, I think it's really been an education.
And I think that, you know, to answer your question about the message we send, the fact that we're having this hearing today I think sends a message. The fact that there's two here -- two things going on in the Capitol at the same time, it just sends a message on what we're all about.
I think that one of my main concerns -- I'm kind of prejudice because I was on the Broadcasting Board of Governors, but I think broadcasting to the -- to not just the Muslim world but the entire world, so that people can better understand what our system is, and see first-hand what our system is, and understand what a free Press is, and what the examples of free Press (are), is one of the big things we can do in order to answer the problems.
I also think that the economic issue is probably, you know, the single most important thing to youth. But, I think, looking at the survey data, and you know better than I do, a lot of the youth in the Muslim world are very taken with American culture. I'm not talking about the bad part of our American culture -- "bad" in quotes, but the good part of American culture.
So, I think in many countries, as I see, you know, the extent that our culture is out front, is a good thing to kind of help people at least begin to engage. And, finally, I think you're all right, in terms of, clearly, some of the grievances -- part of this is about grievances, and how we deal with grievances, and what our policies are, and the rest of it.
So, I want to thank you all for coming here. It's been a great hearing. And I'm looking forward to the next one already.
So, the committee's adjourned.