Following the tragic terrorist attack carried out by radicalized Muslim Syed Farook and his accomplice wife Tashfeen Malik, Breitbart News sat down for a one-on-one interview with Dr. Dany Doueiri, who is an associate professor at Cal State University San Bernardino and who had Farook briefly as a student when he attended the school. Dr. Doueiri is the coordinator of CSUSB’s Arabic Language Program.
The following is an exclusive interview on the topic of religion, radicalization and what Islam really means from an academic perspective.
BREITBART NEWS: Regarding people who are born Muslim and then become radicalized, do you believe that automatically deems them un-Islamic?
DR. DOUEIRI: That’s a great question. This issue of radicalization is very interesting because Muslims are no longer allowed, in the current narrative to be mentally sick. If someone goes to church and opens fire, he is mentally sick. If a Muslim goes and opens fire he is radicalized.
BBN: So is Farook a Muslim?
I can’t say that he’s not a Muslim. But he is a a bigot, an ignorant and an insult.
So we try to distance ourselves from these people [like Farook and Malik], but I cannot deny the fact that he’s a Muslim. If he came and prayed, I don’t say he’s not a Muslim. I say he’s an idiot and he’s a sick man. And this is where it starts and this is where it should end. Was he recruited and was he radicalized? With the amount of ammunition he had, this man is a sick man. However, the media was extremely silent on the mass shooting that happened also in Denver, Colorado. Every day we have a mass shooting. There was a mass shooting two days before, on the day of, and the day after [the San Bernardino shooting].
The bigots and the cowards don’t have the courage to come and stand up and say I am going to go up against every right-wing Christian group that is, if we’re going to use that phenomenon, that is radicalizing their own followers. I drove trucks for many years while I was getting my Ph.D. That’s how I raised money to pay for my education. I used to listen to Christian radio from Bakersfield to Sacramento, because it was my truck route in agriculture. What I heard in Christian radio scared me and gave me shivers because people in the Church were praying that God brings his wrath on California, on this nation for allowing gay marriages, for allowing 1.2 million abortions.
And the more people talk like this, the more some people could be–to use the radicalization word–brainwashed. So do I distance myself from it? Of course I distance myself. Syed Farook attacked me, attacked my religion. He has done far more harm to the Muslims than he has done to American, non-Muslims. Because right now there’s going to be more armed retaliation, in the United States, against Muslims.
You know, we are living with fear now in the Islamic centers. A lot of Muslims don’t go to the mosques now because they are scared for retaliation. Even in my own class, which you are welcome to come to, a lot of students said, “Professor, we don’t feel comfortable coming to class. Not because we don’t love your class [but] because we are scared that somebody in the class, or from outside, knowing about your class is going to come and open fire on you and other people.” Because we are accused today, the educators that we are–the left-wing terrorist sympathizer people–of trying to brainwash other people. If you come to class, I am always criticizing Islamic countries.
BBN: Do you believe that if someone is to read the Qur’an as it’s written, without the modern-day interpretation, that it could be seen as promulgating violence in the name of God?
The Qur’an does not need to be read by modern interpreters. The Qur’an never needed to be read by modern interpreters to be understood as something that is not promoting violence. All that’s needed is for people to be able to read the interpretation from the very early times of Islam. And time is of the Muslim favor. The reason time is of the Muslim favor is because the first suicide attacks in the history of Islam’s 1,400 years, may have started in 1983 or 1987 [in Lebanon].
And, of course, the number one place for suicide attacks–other than what’s happened recently [and] up until what’s happened in 2003 and 2005–was done in Sri Lanka; not in the Middle East. And it was not done by Muslims anyway. And the reason why they did the suicide attacks had nothing to do with religion…it was more on a psychological level.
In 1,400 years, Muslims have lived relatively peacefully with other religions. There were 750 years of Islam in Spain where there was a huge number of Christians and Jews that was called the Golden Age of Islam. But it was also called the Golden Age of Judaism, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived relatively very peacefully…
When Muslims had a pact with Christians and Jews that Christians and Jews will protect each other against people who were from the Quraish Tribe (a tribe that descends from the Prophet Ishmael) which were not Muslim, Christian or Jewish and later on a Jewish tribe went and broke that pact and sided with the Quraish, that created a lot of harm on the Muslims. During the time of Muhammad, about 14 years after the revelations, he said there was an order on the Muslims to go and attack the Jewish people. During the time of writing of the Qur’an there was a verse which ordered the Muslims to kill the Jews for siding with the Quraish tribe. But that was within the context of somebody who broke a pact. It’s pretty much like in the United States if you become a traitor you go to the death [penalty].
BBN: If people who see and read that in this 21st century, particularly converts into the religion, do you think there’s a likelihood they could become more susceptible to becoming extreme because of it?
Sure. Because they do not understand the context of it. Every single verse has got to be taken in its proper context of when and how it was revealed.
BBN: That’s why I say there needs to be someone to maybe interpret it for them and say, it doesn’t mean to literally go and kill people who do not adhere to the same beliefs as them.
You are absolutely correct….Anything can be taken out of context. And if you see the violent verses in the Qur’an and the violent verses in the Bible today, the Bible is far, far more violent in its own explicit verses. However, many God-loving Christians–or any person who is objective–knows that certain things had a certain time and a certain context and this is not what the overall mission of what Christianity is. And I would say the same thing with the Qur’an or of Islam.
BBN: Do you think that has something to do with the fact that Christianity has an established public figure (the Pope) to lead the interpretation of the Biblical texts in that regard? And that Islam doesn’t necessarily have an established leadership position, so to speak?
This is a very loaded question because leadership in the Islamic tradition goes through a different pathway than leadership in the Christian tradition. And among the Muslim traditions, leadership in the Shia tradition takes a different pathway than the leadership of the Sunni tradition. And today what we are seeing with terrorism–I mean, it’s done by many segments–if you want to localize or limit it to ISIS, which are of a Sunni tradition, there is today a lack of leadership.
But there are scholars who really speak for the overwhelming majority of Muslims today in the Middle East like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who lived in Qatar, or people in Egypt, Malaysia Saudi Arabia and many places who are really respected scholars. And for the Muslims in the United Staes we do have many very learned scholars who make rulings every years. They meet, they talk about issues on cloning, Islamic banking on non-Islamic banking and trade.
BBN: What is your reaction to Egyptian President al-Sisi’s calls for a reformation within Islam?
I don’t deny that there are many bigots and idiots and ignorant scholars. But I also don’t deny the fact that there are also very learned people who are not being heard or who are being heard but the politics of their own countries–or of other countries–are not letting them be heard. So Islam needs take its own course. Today, the Muslim world has gone into a little bit of an intellectual decline.
The call for a renaissance for Islam is not new. It’s at least 1,000 years old. And Muslims go through periods of enlightenment and then it goes back up and then down. It goes up and down.
BBN: Islam had not gone through a reformation the same way Christianity has.
The world’s 1.5 billion Muslims need to constantly refer back to the enlightened writings of the past and taking into account present conditions and seeing how we could relive the essence and essential teachings of Islam taking into account contemporary conditions. Pluralism, human rights, all of these have changed.
BBN: Do you think that there needs to be someone who will rise up within the Muslim world and take responsibility for shepherding everyone into one universal way of thinking so that they can weed out all the extremists?
Efforts have been done. People in the west who are known like Tariq Ramadan–who is a very respected, forthcoming and very balanced person who has a fair understanding of Islam with a very legitimate background from which his father and himself have come–[need] to be able to understand the complexity and the huge task ahead of Muslims to come and have a frank discussion over many issues.
[NOTE: Tariq Ramadan was born to an Egyptian Muslim family in Switzerland and is the grandson of Hassan al Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood inEgypt in 1928. In 2007, author Caroline Fourest published a book about him, entitled Brother Tariq: The Double Speak of Tariq Ramadan, which accuses him of saying one thing to an English-speaking audience and another thing to an Arabic-speaking audience. In her book, Fourest transcribed and translated several of Ramadan’s speeches which she suggests foster anti-Semitic and anti-Christian values of what is described as “fundamentalist Islam” and its battle against Western civilization.]
BBN: Please weigh in on the subject of terrorism carried out by Muslims and the Islamic State (ISIS) specifically in their war against the west.
How could you say this? How could you say ISIS is a war against the West when they have killed more Muslims than any other religion in the world? They have slaughtered 40 Lebanese army men and killed innocent people.
BBN: A war against humanity.
You should call it like this.
BBN: Part of it, is that western ideology doesn’t jive with their way of thinking and their beliefs.
But also, common sense Islam doesn’t jive with their ideology. These people are nuts. When we say western ideology, we have got to understand that the Muslim world from where Islam came is a western religion.
BBN: So ISIS is against Islam too?
100 percent. Because you have the eastern religions and you have western religions. And if somebody saved the great Greek and Roman traditions, it was the Islamic world in Baghdad when we had 1.5 million copies of books… [and] one of the reasons we still have the great traditions from the Greeks is because Muslim tradition preserved it.
BBN: What is your sentiment regarding the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)?
I remember the days when CAIR was still being formed. I think it is a grassroots organization that is speaking or fulfilling of a growing Muslims community in the United States, that is doing wonderful jobs. And because of it’s earlier nature of a lot of volunteerism, all organizations may have sometimes shortcomings. But, overall, CAIR is doing a wonderful job.
BBN: And what do you think of their alleged affiliation and ties to radical groups and terrorist organizations? What is your perception?
I don’t know exactly what was said about them. So I’ll say about what I think on this issue. The Muslim community is a very heterogeneous community and when you are a grass roots organization in touch with lots of people, you could sometimes be in touch with people of other things. And I’m not saying that they are or they’re not. What I’m saying is, somebody who may have attended the Republican Party Convention could go open fire and somebody who attended an Anarchist convention could open fire. But does it mean that the Republican or Democratic or any party in the United States or abroad specifically adheres to that?
I think CAIR has walked a very fine line. And I don’t know their affiliation. I don’t want to say false accusations. Sometimes the uncontextualized accusations that have to be done, I leave it up to law enforcement to investigate and give it all fair sides.