Below are 9 quotes taken from an interview from the Guardian with Jack O’Sullivan, a few weeks after 9/11. O’Sullivan quite rightly described the Shaykh as “arguably the west’s most influential Islamic scholar,” a statement that still rings true today.
The quotes are interesting to read in context of the time they were given, i.e. with the west crying for Muslim blood in revenge for the collapse of those twin towers, and they are also still relevant over 14 years later…
- Many people in the west do not realise how oppressive some Muslim states are, both for men and for women. This is a cultural issue, not an Islamic one. I would rather live as a Muslim in the west than in most of the Muslim countries, because I think the way Muslims are allowed to live in the west is closer to the Muslim way. A lot of Muslim immigrants feel the same way, which is why they are here.
- Many Muslims seem to be in deep denial about what has happened [on 9/11]. They are coming up with different conspiracy theories and don’t entertain the real possibility that it was indeed Muslims who did this. Yet we do have people within our ranks who have reached that level of hatred and misguidance.
- Some Muslims tried to explain what has happened [on 9/11]. But if you say you condemn something and then try to explain the background, it can mistakenly sound like a justification, as though this is their comeuppance.
- I would say to them [extremists in Britain] that if they are going to rant and rave about the west, they should emigrate to a Muslim country. The good will of these countries to immigrants must be recognised by Muslims.
- We Muslims have lost theologically sound understanding of our teaching. We are living through a reformation, but without any theologians to guide us through it. Islam has been hijacked by a discourse of anger and the rhetoric of rage. We have lost our bearings because we have lost our theology.
- So they [extremists] see things in very simplistic, black-and-white terms. They don’t understand the subtleties of the human soul that you get, for example, from poetry. Take the Iliad, for example. It is the ultimate text on war, yet you never know whether Homer is really on the side of the Greeks or the Trojans. It helps you understand the moral ambiguities of war.
- Did you realise that [General George] Paton wrote in his diary on his first day in Morocco, ‘Just finished the Koran. A good book. Makes interesting reading.’
- I will get a lot of flak from Muslim countries, because times are so emotional they are losing the ability to reason things through.
- Yes, I think there is a real risk from ignorant people who have no respect for divergent opinions. There are Muslim fascists who are intellectually bankrupt. The only way they can argue is to eliminate the voices they don’t agree with.