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Asma Gull Hasan

American Muslim Asma Gull Hasan. She the author of the book, now in paperback, –American Muslims: The New Generation— (Continuum press). ASMA was born in Chicago and is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants.


Other segments from the episode on September 19, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 19, 2001: Interview with Thomas Friedman; Interview with Karen Armstrong; Interview with Sayed Hassan Qazwini; Interview with Asma Gull Hasan.


DATE September 19, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Thomas Friedman examines the roots of Muslim
extremist terrorism and various Middle Eastern attitudes toward
the Western world

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

My guest, Tom Friedman, has written extensively about terrorism in the Middle
East. Now he's writing about terrorism hitting home. Friedman is a foreign
affairs columnist for The New York Times. He's based in Washington, DC. He
won Pulitzer Prizes for his reporting from Beirut and Jerusalem, and is the
author of "From Beirut to Jerusalem." His latest book, "The Lexus and the
Olive Tree," is about the globalization of economics, politics and culture.

In yesterday's column, Friedman wrote, "One need only to visit some of the
most popular Arabic Web sites and chat rooms to see that public opinion in the
Arab world is split about 50:50 between those appalled by the terrorist
attacks and those applauding it." We called Tom Friedman this morning, and
asked why he thinks so many people in the Arab world hate the United States.

Mr. THOMAS FRIEDMAN (The New York Times): It's a really complicated
cocktail. For some, you know, there's no question it's been our long support
for Israel, a democratic ally of the United States. For some it is the
frustration of living in basically authoritarian, dictatorial states, the
Saudi Arabias, the Egypts, where the regimes seem to be supported by the
United States. For some it's the Gulf War, the fact that we're starving and
bombing Iraqis, or the Iraqi regime--for good reason, I would say--but the way
it's depicted in that part of the world. For some, Terry, it's the fact that
these are societies which, in many cases, but not all, have really been
failing at modernization. Egypt's per capita income, today, is the same as it
was in 1950. That is a tremendous failure at modernization, and somebody has
to be blamed, and if this happens in a post-colonial era, where you are
independent, then really in many ways the blame is your own, but people don't
want to blame themselves.

It's all of these things. It's envy, it's jealousy, it's just lashing out at
somebody. I wish I could tell you exactly what produced it, but, boy, it's
there. And also what's happened over the last decade, you really have to
remember--you know, you read, say, the Egyptian press, which is the most
important Arab press--it is vitriolically anti-American and anti-Semitic.
Basically what these regimes do--because you have deeply illegitimate regimes
in a lot of these countries, so they kind of let the press let off steam and
deflect the frustration that people have toward their regime onto external
targets like the United States, like Israel. And that's not to say we have
been perfect, or that Israel has been perfect.

But these regimes have not been perfect either, and they allow no criticism of
their own behavior and action. And so basically what they've done is taken
the frustration of these societies that have been failing at development and
modernization and directed it all, in their press, for decades now, on the
United States and Israel. Well, this is the mother's milk of a lot of these
people, so is it any wonder that these people grow up with a very perverted
notion of what the United States is and what it stands for.

That's not to say, again, that we're perfect, but they grow up with no mixed
picture of America whatsoever. They grow up with a very dark picture of
America, and it's not surprising that it produces people at the extreme end
who would do this, and not surprising that it produces a wider silent majority
that would quietly applaud it.

GROSS: You just got back from Jordan, and while you were there, one of the
people who spoke to was King Abdullah, who you describe as one of America's
real friends. He said to you the terrorists actually want to provoke attacks
on Arabs or Muslims in the United States, because if the American communities
start going after each other, then you destroy that special thing that America
stands for. Can you elaborate on what he said, or interpret...


GROSS: ...what you think he meant by that?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, you know, one of the things, you know, that is
underlying all this, you know, people who don't like us in the Middle East,
are many people who do, many people who really admire and envy what America
stands for in the best sense of the word and would like it for their own
societies; they admire our freedom; they admire our naive optimism; they
admire our believe that, you know, the future--it doesn't have to be buried by
the past, and that tomorrow can be different and better from yesterday. Those
are not abiding attitudes, you know, in a lot of their societies, and they
admire that a lot. And they admire the fact that anyone can come here and
make it; that Americans have ownership over their government, you know, and
that's why so many of them have their kids here.

And basically what King Abdullah was saying is that--you have to understand,
too, that bombing of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon was just stage
one for the people who planned it. These people think strategically, and they
see this as a series of dominoes they're trying to set falling. And what
they're hoping is that in response to this attack on America, we will then
lash out at the Muslim world indiscriminately and basically become the main
recruiting officer for Osama bin Laden and a new generation of American-hating
Muslim publics and Muslim fighters. And really what our friends in the region
are saying is, `Lord knows we understand your need to respond and to respond
effectively and firmly, but please do it carefully and in a targeted surgical
manner so that you don't become the recruiting officer of Osama bin Laden and
don't put your friends in the region in a situation where there publics are so
hostile to you, let alone these terrorist groups, that it becomes impossible
to cooperate with you publicly and maybe even privately.'

GROSS: Well, did King Abdullah of Jordan share with you any of his concerns
about what the aftermath of military strikes would be in his part of the

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Definitely. I mean, he's very concerned that it will lead to
a new wave of anti-Americanism and attacks on American businesses and
embassies and maybe even individuals throughout the region, and, you know,
people like him are on shaky ground. They know how fragile public opinion is
out there. They know that there is a significant portion of people out there
who--for whom no act, Terry, of no level of depravity against America or
American targets, is too much, and 5,000 Americans killed in the collapse of
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, for a lot of people out there, some
significant, you know, portion of those populations, is just nothing to be
mourned, and these leaders understand that, and they're urging us to be

GROSS: Let's look a little bit about what's happening in the Middle East now.
Things had really escalated in the Middle East conflict between Israel and the
Palestinians. I read in your paper, The New York Times today that Arafat
declared a cease-fire and even said he wanted to volunteer for the
anti-terrorism effort. How do you interpret that?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, Arafat knows that, you know, he's on shaky ground.
Basically, he's been winking at, if not encouraging, Islamic suicide bombers
against Israel over the last six months. So I think he wants to be on the
right side of this coalition after having been on the wrong side of the
anti-Saddam coalition, having sided with Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War.

You know, my feelings about what's going on in the Arab-Israeli theater--I was
just in Israel, Terry, at the ...(unintelligible). There is no connection, in
my mind, whatsoever, between these suicide bombings of our World Trade Center
and the Pentagon, and the Arab-Israel conflict. Think about it for a second.
These bombings were planned a year ago. We know that--at least a year ago.
What was happening a year ago, right now, Terry? What was happening a year
ago right now was the Camp David peace process. The United States was
involved at the very highest level in trying to bring about a solution to this
conflict, just as this was being planned. These bombers aren't looking for a
two-state solution in the Middle East. They're looking for a one-state,
one-civilization solution in which there would be no Israel whatsoever and no
America whatsoever in that part of the world. So let's be very, very clear
about that.

GROSS: Tom Friedman, in one of your recent columns, you quoted an Israeli
columnist as saying that the terrorists, when they strike Israel, they hit the
Sbarro pizza parlor, and the shopping mall. They hit the yuppie Israel, not
the Yeshiva Israel. Can you talk about that a little bit, like what he meant
by that and your understanding of that phenomenon?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, what he was really trying to say is that you know, these
terrorists, you know, what they hate as much if not more than Israel itself
is, you know, consumer, material, secular, Western civilization. So you have
this odd phenomena of these suicide bombers, basically. They don't attack
Yeshivas, they don't attack--they've never set off a suicide bomb in a
settlement. They attack, you know, pizza parlors and discos, the very symbols
of, you know, Western, secular behavior and attitudes in the Middle East, that
that is what they are fighting. They are at war with American civilization at
every level, you know. To think that they really just want the border to be a
little more to the east or west is absurd.

GROSS: You've seen people in Israel living with this constant, maybe
low-level fear maybe that anything could happen at any minute. They know that
there might be a bomb going off at any minute. I'm wondering what it's
like--I mean, Americans are learning now what it's like to live with that
fear. What have you noticed about what it's like to live with it for a long

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Well, what I noticed first in Beirut--you know, there were two
kind of people in Beirut. There were what I called thrivers and there were
survivors. I have a whole long section of this in "Beirut to Jerusalem," and
you know, thrivers, basically--well, survivors were people who took in too
much information. That is, I'm in Beirut, I'm walking down the street, an
Israeli F-15 is flying overhead. I say to myself, `Is it trying to bomb me?
No. Fine. Then I'm going to go on and play tennis. OK.' In other words
thrivers are people who know what's going on around them, but they don't take
in too much information so that their life is paralyzed. Survivors were the
people who take in so much information, who are thinking about every possible
threat all the time that they are paralyzed and basically couldn't leave their

You know, most people in Lebanon learned to be thrivers. They learned to just
sort of focus on what they wanted to do, to factor out the risks in their head
as much as possible, to not take in too much information, and go about their
daily life.

At the same time--you know, I was walking down the street in Jerusalem the
other day, and it was the day before the bombings in America. But on that day
in Israel, a suicide bomber had blown up the train station in Nahariyya,
another suicide bomber had set off a car bomb at a main intersection in the
town of Bet Ledh(ph), and some Palestinian gunmen had shot up a bus in the
Jordan valley, killing an Israeli schoolteacher. This all happened in a
period of about three hours on the morning of this day.

So I went for a walk down this Jerusalem street, Jabatinski Street(ph), and I
was walking by a house where an Israeli woman was standing on her balcony and
was speaking on her cell phone, very loudly, in English. And I heard her say
something like, `Everything's fine. Tell Dad I said hello. Did you have a
nice Shabbes?'--`Did you have a nice Sabbath?' And I thought to myself,
there's something very Israeli about that moment. That is, these people are
used to living in a situation--all I can think of--think what happened today,
and this lady was saying, you know, `Everything's fine. Did you have a nice

You know, they are used to living in the situation. They aren't going
anywhere. And, you know, the suicide bombings in Israel are really based on
the notion that the Israelis are going to run from Lebanon--or run from Israel
the way they ran out of Lebanon. That is just not going to happen.

GROSS: Tom Friedman is my guest, and he writes an op-ed column for The New
York Times. He's also the author of "From Beirut to Jerusalem" and "The Lexus
and the Olive Tree." Let's take a short break here and then we'll talk some

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Joining us on the telephone is Tom Friedman. He's a columnist for The
New York Times. He's written extensively about the Middle East and about the
global economy. His books include "From Beirut to Jerusalem" and "The Lexus
and the Olive Tree."

You're very angry about the terrorist strikes against your country. Most
Americans are very angry about it. But I think on the other hand, most
Americans have to figure out how to channel that anger in a way that isn't

Mr. FRIEDMAN: No question.

GROSS: Is that a real concern of yours?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah, that's a real concern of mine, and that's what I've been
trying to point out in the column, you know. Look, you know, this is going to
be a very, very different war. As I said in my first column, you know, we're
not fighting another superpower. We're not even fighting another state.
We're fighting what I called in "Lexus and the Olive Tree" super-empowered
people. These are people, basically, who use the network society and the
whole globalization system to turn it against itself.

You know, Terry, one of the things I said in "Lexus," `All roads lead to
Rome.' And they were great roads. And when the Visigoths and the vandals
wanted to sack Rome, they came right up the roads. That's exactly what
happened here. You know, these guys made their reservations, one group of
them, on Travelocity, the most popular Web travel site, OK? They communicated
over the Web, using a very sophisticated, you know, Web encryption program
that made it very difficult to detect their communications. They used all the
strengths and networks of the globalization system against the globalization
system. So fighting them--OK?--is very much a police action, not an army
action. I mean, I don't know what we're going to do vis-a-vis Afghanistan,
and we'll have to decide, you know, what is effective and what is useful
against the state of Afghanistan for harboring these people. But in terms of
actually fighting the terrorists themselves, it's something you have to do
eye-to-eye, one-to-one, through very careful intelligence and police work.
And, you know, that's a very different kind of war.

And, obviously, we're going to have to take a whole new set of precautions.
When I checked in to my British Air flight in London, you know, coming home
and went through one, you know, X-ray check and went through another, I mean,
I told the British Air people, `You can X-ray me till I glow in the dark, OK?
That's just fine with me.' I will be ready to put up with any rational
security precaution. But at the same time, we have to be careful we don't
imprison ourselves. I really hope they reopen Washington Reagan Airport.
We--there is no perfect security. We have to take every rational precaution,
but at the same time, we've got to learn how to fight this very different war,
which requires intelligence, police work and rooting out people one by one.
There is no Osama bin Laden, 15 Park Avenue, Kabul, Afghanistan, that you can
bomb or go into and close up and arrest. I wish there were, but it's not.
It's a very different war against a super-empowered individual and group of

GROSS: Tom Friedman, I've really been reading with great interest your
columns in The New York Times. Let me read for you the sentence I really
didn't like at all. You write, `While this may have been the first major
battle of World War III'--I hate to hear that--`it may be the last one that
involves only conventional non-nuclear weapons.' I really hated to hear that.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Yeah. I'd say, Terry--yeah.

GROSS: I really didn't like that sentence.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Right. I really...

GROSS: Why do you think such--go ahead.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: I really hated to write it, you know, but it just really struck
me, you know, how easy it would have been for them to have had, you know, one
nuclear mortar in a suitcase, one vial of germ--you know, some sort of
chemical or germ bomb. It's just very frightening to me. I go back to where
I start. You see, what's happened is, you know, we've moved to this world
without walls, and, you know, I don't want to get people all frightened. I
don't want to get myself frightened. But we have to understand that, you
know, the more integrated we become, the more we're tied together, the less
amount of dynamite it takes to create wider and wider havoc, basically, when
we're all this integrated and tied together. And when people will do what
these guys did, it tells me they'll stop at nothing.

I mean, to me, the most frightening thing about this incident is that, you
know, every time I see the video clip of the plane slamming into the building,
I realize that I feel like I'm seeing something extraterrestrial. I feel like
I'm seeing something that I always assumed, even all the violence I've seen,
that was beyond the capability and imagination of human beings, that only
someone from Mars could have done that. And what is so scary about this event
is that I now realize I inhabit a planet with these people. I could have been
in the airport with them. We all could have been in the airport with them.
It's why I don't blame the CIA and the FBI. I mean, I wish they would have
found this out, and if there were real screw-ups, you know, people, you know,
should be called to account.

But the failure here, Terry, was not one of intelligence. It was of
imagination. Who could have imagined this? You could have laid out all the
data in front of the most, you know, sophisticated CIA analyst, and he would
simply--it would have been almost inhuman for him to stand back and say, `I
see it. This group of people who have been living in this country amongst us
for at least a year, some of whom are secular people, educated in our
universities, with their families here, are going to hijack four planes with
all their lives and all these civilians in them and slam them into the World
Trade Center. I see it.' Well, next time we will see it. But who could
blame anyone for not being able to imagine that? And that's what's so
frightening to me. I look at my girls, age 13 and 16. I go back to where I
began and I say, `What kind of world are they going to grow up in?'

And I wish I had an easy answer for this. I don't, but we've just got to
fight it, you know, one by one right now, and hope that the number of people
who live, you know, on this frontier of our imagination and beyond are not
that many, and that we can somehow defend ourselves against them.

GROSS: Any final thoughts you'd like to leave us with?

Mr. FRIEDMAN: My only, you know, final thought is, despite everything I've
said, you know, I really urge everyone to be a thriver, to learn, you know,
how to change the channel, not to be overwhelmed by information and anxiety.
I'm taking my wife and kids to the baseball game on Friday night to see the
Orioles play the Yankees, because, you know, I've only got one world and I
only got one family, and I am not going to let these terrorists imprison me or
my society. You know, we have to fight them in the hills, in the valleys, on
the mountains, in the airplanes. But the most important thing we can do is
not imprison ourselves and to preserve the way of life that we have, which is
precisely what they want to destroy.

GROSS: Tom Friedman, I thank you so much for talking with us.

Mr. FRIEDMAN: Thank you.

GROSS: Tom Friedman is foreign affairs columnist for The New York Times and
author of "From Beirut to Jerusalem" and "The Lexus and the Olive Tree," which
is about the globalization of economics, politics and culture. Our interview
was recorded earlier today.

I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: Coming up, concerns in America's Muslim community about an anti-Muslim
backlash. We talk with Imam Hassan Qazwini, religious leader of the Islamic
Center of America in Detroit, and Asma Hassan, a self-proclaimed Muslim
feminist cowgirl who is the author of "American Muslims: The New Generation."
And we talk with religion scholar Karen Armstrong.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Karen Armstrong discusses the true meaning of Islam
religion and how it is being perverted by Osama bin Laden

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Although terrorists have said they're on a holy war against the United States
and have used the Koran to justify their actions, many scholars and Islamic
religious leaders agree that this is a profound misinterpretation of the
Koran. We quote Karen Armstrong, one of the world's leading religion
scholars. She's the author of "Islam: A Short History," as well as the
"History of God" and "The Battle for God," which is a history of

What's been going through your mind as you watch Islam being used as a
rationale for terrorist attacks that have killed thousands of people?

Ms. KAREN ARMSTRONG (Religion Scholar; Author): Well, I'm completely
heartbroken by it and sickened, devastated and sad. I'm particularly sad
because when I think of the prophet Muhammad, his mission was precisely to
stop this kind of killing. When he was living in the 7th century in Arabia,
the whole of his society was caught up in an endless bloodbath. Nobody felt
safe. And he was able to bring peace to that part of the world, and so that
people could congregate together peacefully and begin the service of God. So
that to watch this peace-loving ethic--and the word Islam is related to the
world shalom, for peace--this is just an awful indication of the way we can
take something that is good and healthy and somehow distort it. It's a very
sad comment on human nature.

GROSS: Is there anything that you can find in the Koran that justifies the
acts of terror that we saw last week?

Ms. ARMSTRONG: There are one or two ferocious passages, and one in
particular, which is quoted by the chief suspect Osama bin Laden, which has to
the effect that you must hunt out unbelievers wherever they are and kill them.
But then, of course, we go on to say that God always forgives, that these
things are often quoted out of context. But there are no more of these
ferocious passages in the Koran than there are in either the Jewish scriptures
or the Christian Scriptures. So basically it's not really just that people
read a verse from the Koran and rush out to implement it. The fundamentalists
in the Sunni world--that's the Sunni Islam being the chief form of Islam of
the majority--tend to follow a program that is based on the life of the
prophet Muhammad. They see Muhammad as leaving the godless society of his
day, withdrawing from it, and then beginning a jihad, a holy war, to conquer
that society and impose Islam by force. And so they say we must follow the
same pattern. We must also withdraw into our camps or special enclaves or
special concentrations of society, we must prepare ourselves, and then we must
engage in an all-out jihad.

Now this is entirely to distort the meaning of the prophet's own life because
the prophet was fighting. He was fighting a desperate war of self-defense
because his community was faced with the prospect of extermination. But at
the very moment when he knew that his community was no longer in danger of
being killed, then he stopped all violence and achieved the final conquest by
a most ingenious form, a brave and inspired form, a campaign of non-violence.
He put himself, unarmed, into the enemy hands and conquered Mecca, finally,
without shedding a single drop of blood. And the Koran makes it very clear
that there must be no coercion in religion.

So, of course, by following this program, by making it so aggressive, some
fundamentalists in Islam, like fundamentalists in other faiths, too, are
distorting and perverting the originally pacifistic message of the religion.

GROSS: How is Muhammad said to have brought peace through non-violence?

Ms. ARMSTRONG: He did it in an extraordinary way. The Muslims had been
fighting with their backs to the wall against the most powerful state, most
powerful city in the Arabian Peninsula. But then suddenly Muhammad said
`Enough,' that he was going to go on the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. At the
time he was living in Medina, some 250 miles to the north. And every year
Arabs from all over the peninsula would gather in this holy city of Mecca to
make the hajj pilgrimage. And the essential thing about the hajj is it must
be peaceful. Nobody may carry arms. And so Muhammad and a thousand of his
Muslims went absolutely unarmed wearing the pilgrim dress into the city of
Mecca and said, `Now we're here. We are peaceful pilgrims.' The Meccans
could easily have killed them, but that would have been to violate the
traditions of the hajj. And so they sat down and they talked and they worked
out a solution. And as a result of that peace treaty, made in these
extraordinary conditions, conditions that were considered very unpopular by
the Muslims. They were yearning to fight, but Muhammad said, `No. Peace is
the thing. Non-violence is the thing.' The Meccans eventually opened their
doors to him voluntarily. They realized that their policies were outdated.

GROSS: Any final words you'd like to leave us with?

Ms. ARMSTRONG: Yes. There's something I would like to share with people,
and this may be too soon because we're still rocked with grief and horror, but
I am--naturally, as a theologian I'm desperately concerned about the way
religion has been abused in this. And somehow we've got to make sure that
religious practice somehow makes this hideous event into--brings some kind of
healing to the situation. And I've been thinking hard about this, about the
events of the 11th of September and the spectacle of it. And I don't
expect--this is a long process, and perhaps we people can just store it away
while they go through their grief, their anger, their rage, but to think about
for later.

It seems to me that this is a revelation. The word revelation means an
unveiling, that a veil has been stripped away, and we now see a reality that
we didn't see before. And we are now seeing our predicament in the world in
an entirely new way. We're seeing that we are not in isolation from the rest
of the world. We are one people. We cannot, in our privileged countries, cut
ourselves off from the rest of the world.

Shortly, just before this outrage, this hideous, evil atrocity, the main item
in British news was our asylum seekers. People were making desperate attempts
night after night to cross the channel and come to Britain. And we were
trying to keep them out. Suddenly we had a sense of Britain as a little
privileged fortress trying to keep out these hordes that were clamoring to
come in. And now we're beginning to see that we're not a fortress. We're not
cut off from the rest of the world in our privilege. In some terrible way,
the world will come to us.

GROSS: Well, Karen Armstrong, I want to thank you very much for talking with

Ms. ARMSTRONG: Thank you. Thank you.

GROSS: Karen Armstrong recorded from London. She's the author of several
books about religion, including "Islam: A Short History."

Coming up, Imam Hassan Qazwini, religious leader of the Islamic Center of
America in Detroit. This is FRESH AIR.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Interview: Imam Hassan Qazwini discusses the misuse of the Islam
religion by Osama bin Laden and his followers

Imam Hassan Qazwini is one of the many religious leaders in the United States
who don't want Osama bin Laden to represent what Islam stands for. Imam
Qazwini is the religious leader of the Islamic Center of America in Detroit,
which includes a mosque.

What is your interpretation of jihad, and how does that compare to the
interpretation that, say, bin Laden offers to his followers?

Mr. IMAM HASSAN QAZWINI (Religious Leader, Islamic Center of America in
Detroit): Well, we have to focus on the meaning of jihad, what does it mean?
Jihad and the Islamic heritage simply means `struggle within.' I still
struggle with myself to make myself a better person, to fight against my
deviant inclinations, to be a better individual in this society. That's what
jihad originally means. Later on, it was used to refer to defensive war Islam
had to go through. We know that Islam went through defensive war once it was
established 14 centuries ago.

When Prophet Muhammad declare Islam, there were many other people, many other
countries and empires that did not like to see a new faith arising. As Jesus
was challenged by some people, Abraham was challenged, all other pulpits were
challenged, Muhammad was challenged by people. That is certain people,
certain governments and parties and powers; therefore he had to go through a
defensive war. And that war was holy war. Almost in a sense it requires that
they would defend their religion, their faith and their people.

Now some people are misusing this. Osama bin Laden is trying to say now that
I am in war with America, defending me is like defending your faith, which is
not true. Most people, the majority of Muslims, know that Osama bin Laden
does not represent Islam. He is not even a scholar. And now he is using the
word jihad. But I don't think people, masses and Muslim countries will be
fooled with his claim, with what he says. I don't think people would really
think what he is doing is a holy war. It's a filthy war.

GROSS: What are some of the passages you are turning to now in the Koran to
help comprehend what has happened and to offer some kind of comfort or meaning
in a time of tragedy?

Mr. QAZWINI: Well, we believe that Koran is our holy text. You want to know
something Islam believes, go to the holy Koran. Koran indicates that killing
one innocent people is like killing the entire mankind. That's in chapter 5,
verse 35.

GROSS: What brought you to America?

Mr. QAZWINI: Well, I was born in Iraq, and I have been deprived from my own
country since over 30 years, since Saddam Hussein, that dictator, came to
power. My family had to leave and live in exile for over 30 years. Fifteen
members from my own family were imprisoned in Iraq by Saddam Hussein, only
because they intellectually were opposing Saddam Hussein. So I had to leave
my country since early childhood, and I went first to Iran, and then,
ultimately, I came to America. America that's provided me with a dignified
life, a very respectful life. I love America because I believe that America
gave me the kind of life I was looking for. I don't live in fear here in this
country. I am a citizen. And this is the beauty of America that brings
people from all around the world, provides them with the kind of a dignified

GROSS: Are there a lot of people in your mosque who are concerned that if the
United States and its allies bombs countries who are perceived as harboring
terrorists that these people will have family members in the countries they
have left behind who might be hurt?

Mr. QAZWINI: Well, I have to be honest with you. I think my community is
concerned about the safety of innocent people regardless whether they have
relatives there or not. And I think all of us should be concerned about the
safety of people out there. If the government of the United States is going
to seek justice and bring those who committed the crimes, to bring them to
justice and to punish the perpetrators of the crimes in Washington and New
York, that's fine with me. All I'm concerned is once we go there to
Afghanistan or to any other country, what does guarantee me that there would
not be harm directed to innocent people?

Look at Iraq now. We know that Saddam is a bad guy and he is the main
troublemaker in the region. But now it's been over 10 years that Iraqi people
are suffering. We are imposing sanctions on Iraqi people. And when there
would be an attack on Iraq, mostly the innocent people are getting harmed. It
is no Saddam. Saddam is OK. We have been fighting with him over a decade,
yet he is in power; yet he is more stronger than ever.

I'm so afraid that if we launch a war against Afghanistan, I'm afraid that
Osama bin Laden will remain OK and he will be able to find a shelter for
himself. So the one who will pay the price will be the people of Afghanistan.
So I am concerned about the safety of innocent people in Afghanistan or any
other country that might be a target of our retaliatory operation.

GROSS: Imam Qazwini, I want to thank you very much for talking with us.

Mr. QAZWINI: Thank you so much. Thank you, Terry.

GROSS: Imam Hassan Qazwini is the religious leader of the Islamic Center of
America in Detroit.

Coming up, Asma Hasan, author of "American Muslims: The New Generation."
This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

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Interview: Asma Hasan discusses her views of feminism in her Muslim

Asma Hasan is an American-born Muslim in her mid-20s who describes herself as
a Muslim feminist cowgirl. She writes about the differences between her
generation and her parents' in her new book, "American Muslims: The New
Generation." Her parents are from Pakistan. Asma Hasan grew up in Colorado
and studied at Wellesley College and New York University Law School. We
called Asma Hasan earlier today at her home in Pueblo, Colorado.

Asma Hasan, welcome to FRESH AIR.

Ms. ASMA HASAN (Author, "American Muslims: The New Generation"): Thank you,

GROSS: Have you, your family or any of your friends had any trouble since the
attacks, trouble stemming from stereotyping?

Ms. HASAN: Well, actually my uncle lives in LA and he owns several 7-Eleven
stores, and he said that the day after, on Wednesday, that this man came in
and was being very rowdy and sort of knocking things off the counter--or off
the shelves, and then he finally jumped up on the counter and was asking if
they were related to bin Laden and associated with him. And so finally they
called the police and the police came and took care of him. So fortunately
we've been lucky. And to be totally honest, I mean, I really haven't been
going out very much. So I've been sort of keeping a low profile.

GROSS: But is that intentional, is that a result of last week's attacks and
the aftermath?

Ms. HASAN: Yes, it is intentional. I just think that, you know, I don't want
to go out and, you know--I'm happy to talk, you know, on this show and other,
you know, radio shows, but I just--I don't want to, you know, hurt anybody's
feelings or, you know, be, you know, rubbing things in or--you know, you don't
know how your acts would be interpreted. I did go to a church service on
Friday 'cause I wanted to show solidarity and support, but in general I've
just been sort of staying home.

I am going to go to New York this weekend for an event that was planned ahead
of time. And I know that I'll be thinking about my book, and I know that it's
been advertised. And I am, you know, a little scared. And I don't want to be
naive about it, so I'm considering, you know, hiring some security. The
people who are, you know, running the event say, `Oh, you know, we don't
expect any trouble.' But my feeling is, you know, we didn't really expect any
trouble last week, you know, and look what's happened. So, you know, I just
don't want to be, you know, stupid about these things and put myself in a
situation where people who are reasonably upset and angry do unreasonable

GROSS: You say that one of the reasons why you're staying home is that you
don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I didn't understand what you meant by

Ms. HASAN: I don't want to, you know, be in a position like at the grocery
store where I keep hearing people complaining about, you know, what happened
and that, you know, we should get rid of Muslims. And, you know, I'll feel
obligated because of who I am and the type of the person I am to go up to
them and say, `Well, you know, not all Muslims are like this. In fact, the
majority of Muslims are not like this. They're not extremists.' So, you
know, I just saying hurting--I don't want to hurt their feelings is a nice way
of saying I don't want to get into any kind of trouble. And, also, maybe
they're just not ready to hear that. Maybe everything's just too raw right

GROSS: You consider yourself a feminist. Do you consider it a setback to
Islam to have fundamentalist Muslims and--I don't know. A lot of people
think fundamentalist isn't exactly the right word--but extremist Muslims who,
like the Taliban, really deny women just about all rights and civil liberties?

Ms. HASAN: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: Do you consider that a setback for the Islamic world?

Ms. HASAN: I--you know, I do in some ways, but, you know, the Taliban is
so--such a rogue government. I mean, it's not really recognized by anybody.
It doesn't--it's not having that much influence on the Islamic world,
especially not here in the United States. I subscribe to a school of thought
that believes that the Koran is a living document and should be updated with
the times. Most Arabs belong to a school that has a different view; in fact,
a literalist view of the Koran in that, you know, you don't update it with the
times. You follow it strictly and, you know, as we--as you can easily tell
whenever you're a strict interpretationist about something, it does cause a
sort of harsh extreme outcome. And that's one of the reasons why I'm really
glad I'm an American Muslim because being in America I have the freedom to go
to the Koran and interpret it from a fresh perspective. I don't have, you
know, years of cultural baggage and patriarchy that is going to force me to do
certain things without me meaningfully engaging with the Koran and deciding
what do I want to do and what do I think the Koran is asking me to do.

GROSS: It strikes me that you are in both a very difficult position and a
very important position right now. You know, on the one hand you're afraid
that there's going to be a backlash within America toward Muslims and you see
it as part of your job now to help explain what Islam is and especially what
it means to an American Muslim such as yourself. You know, on the other hand,
within the Islamic world you see yourself as being a kind of modernizing
force; a force that wants to bring feminism into Islam. And in that sense
you're kind of breaking with a lot of other Muslims.

Ms. HASAN: Mm-hmm. Yes, that's a good way to put it. I am sort of caught
between two different scenes. You know, when I go to events that are mostly
attended by non-Muslim Americans, people come up to me, and also people who
have read my book have written to me and e-mailed me and said, `You know, I've
learned so much and, you know, your book--it just answered so many questions
for me. Everything that I, you know, wanted to ask about that was scared to
ask about, or embarrassed, you know, it really addressed so many things for me
and I'm just so, you know, amazed that Islam is, you know, a normal religion
and it's not a bunch of, you know--it's not like the stereotype. It's not a
bunch of terrorists and women oppressors.' And, you know, so they're very
excited, you know, at the new knowledge that they've gained.

And, on the other hand, when I go to events where there are a lot of Muslims,
there's always at least a couple very conservative Muslims who, you know,
come to me and say, you know, `You don't wear the cover and that's wrong.
You should wear the cover.' And then they also say, you know, `I don't like
some of the things you said in your book and you don't talk about the Koran
enough in your book and you don't talk about the prophet enough and, you
know, this--you know, you really need to be more conservative.' And, you
know, they're sort of--in a way you get--I get the feeling that they're
unhappy about me being sort of the--you know, this ambassador, you know, to
Americans about Islam. I feel like I'm doing a lot of good, you know, and I
think that those people who say that to me, you know, they don't realize how
much misinformation there is out there and, you know, how much people don't

I've grown up as an American Muslim--you know, I've been a Muslim all my life
and I've been an American all my life. And I've met so many people who, you
know, on planes, on buses and, you know, they'll say, `You're Muslim?' I mean,
they're truly shocked, you know, when they meet me and they're, like, `I don't
believe that you're Muslim. You're not really, you know, Muslim,' like I'm
faking it or something, you know. So that--you know, that always seemed odd
to me that in my own head and my own mind I knew who I was and that it was OK
to be American and Muslim at the same time. In fact, it made a lot of sense,
but you're totally right. Within the Muslim community I'm a rebel. You know,
I'm on sort of the fringe. And within the larger American community, I'm--you
know, I'm just one of those people saying, you know, `This is my community.
We're nice people don't be mean to us. And I want to tell you who I am, you
know.' So on that end I look sort of, you know, not rebellious; sort of, if
anything, you know, very much for tolerance and asking for people, you know,
to understand me. I don't really seem like a rebel.

GROSS: Your parents are from Pakistan. What are your concerns about how
possible military action will affect Pakistan? I assume that they still have
friends or family who are there?

Ms. HASAN: Yes, we do have friends and family that are there. And,
actually, they all have been calling us in the past week to say, you know,
`How are you? Are you OK?' And many of them don't know that I moved from New
York. They know that I lived there, but they don't know that I recently
moved, so they've been concerned about me. And then almost immediately after
we tell them that I'm fine, then we say, `Are you OK?,' you know. `Is
anything going on over there?' And, you know, and they say, `Well, you know,
we think we're fine.' You know, they're brave about it. They realize that
they're in a precarious position. They think it's important to support the US
and they're shocked at what happened, but at the same time they don't know how
much their government and their country can withstand.

They're a poor country, too, so as it is they've been accommodating refugees
from Afghanistan for years and, you know, they're worried about how much they
can withstand. And they're also worried about if the people of Pakistan don't
support President Musharraf supporting the United States, they're worried if
there might be another, you know, coup or, you know, takeover by another
military general who's more sympathetic to the Pakistani people who say `We
should not be supporting the US.' So that's a concern as well.

GROSS: Well, Asma Hasan, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Ms. HASAN: Thank you, Terry. I enjoyed being on.

GROSS: And I wish the best to you and your family. Thank you.

Asma Hasan is the author of "American Muslims: The New Generation." Our
interview was recorded earlier today.


GROSS: I'm Terry Gross.
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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