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Mamoun Fandy

Professor of Politics with an expertise on the Arab World, Mamoun Fandy. He teaches at the Near-East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. He written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and regularly for The Christian Science Monitor. His latest book is Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent.


Other segments from the episode on September 27, 2001

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, September 27, 2001: Interview with Mamoun Fandy; Commentary on music.


DATE September 27, 2001 ACCOUNT NUMBER N/A
TIME 12:00 Noon-1:00 PM AUDIENCE N/A

Interview: Professor Mamoun Fandy discusses his book, "Saudi
Arabia and the Politics of Dissent," and his interviews with
dissident clerics in Saudi Arabia

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

We've been trying to understand the motivations of the terrorists who attacked
us. My guest, Mamoun Fandy, has followed the development of extremist
Islamist groups in Saudi Arabia, including Osama bin Laden's group. Fandy
spent two years in Saudi Arabia interviewing dissident Saudi clerics who
preached an extremist form of Islam. He also collected, translated and
analyzed a hundred and fifty taped sermons. Fandy's book, "Saudi Arabia and
the Politics of Dissent," was published in 1999. Fandy recently left
Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies to become a
professor at The Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, which is
affiliated with the National Defense University. He grew up in Egypt.
Earlier today, I asked him when and why he started interviewing dissident
clerics in Saudi Arabia.

Professor MAMOUN FANDY (The Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic
Studies): I started interviewing some of them immediately after the Gulf War,
so the project started in 1994. And my main concern was that probably we've
seen all these Islamist movements throughout the Middle East, some of them in
countries that are very poor, and the theory has always been that these are
poor people who are deprived of economic and political rights. And then you
have this phenomenon in a country that's extremely rich like Saudi Arabia, so
the question was why would these people get involved in issues of dissent, as
well as some of them might engage in violent acts. So it was curious for me
to look at this puzzle that's extremely different from the rest of the
movement, whether they are in Egypt or Algeria or Morocco or in the occupied

GROSS: And what better illustration than Osama bin Laden, who comes from an
extremely wealthy family and has a lot of money on his own. So what are some
of the answers that you found? What were some of the reasons that these
clerics became very extreme in their thinking?

Prof. FANDY: Well, some of the answers really relate to Saudi Arabia itself,
but one interesting aspect is the kind of connection that some of these groups
have straddled the borderlines of international politics in a sense that it
really became a global question, in a way. Some of their Web sites and
cassette tapes and other things started to reflect strands of thoughts from
other movements that are not Islamist, like Zapatistas in southern Mexico or
other violent groups, the Tamil Tigers, and other groups, so there was a great
deal of globalization of dissent and resistance, as well as violence.

But some of these movements, like some clerics were relating their issues to
Saudi Arabia specifically, and there was a great deal of anger at corrupt
practices within the kingdom. But I think the most interesting aspect of all
of this is really what I call borderline dissidents, those who straddle
international borders and moved into failed states, like Somalia, Sudan,
Afghanistan, and connected with other local groups, whether they are in Egypt
or in Saudi Arabia or in Algeria.

GROSS: And why did they do that? Why did they move to countries like that?

Prof. FANDY: Well, because some of these countries, whether Saudi Arabia or
Egypt, have extreme measures in dealing with dissent. So most of them, it is
not something like the United States where the whole state is fighting with
one hand tied behind its back by its constitutions and laws and other things.
In places like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, these measures are extremely harsh, so
these people fled. But one other component that's very specific to Saudi
Arabia was that in the 1980s, there was the Jihad in Afghanistan or resisting
the whole Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, so there was a great deal of
charitable organizations within Saudi Arabia supporting fellow Muslims in
Afghanistan, so there was a nod, actually, from the ruling elite in Saudi
Arabia, the government of Saudi Arabia, as well as the United States at the
time, they encouraged these people.

So they left for Afghanistan, and they came back to Saudi Arabia after--they
called it the defeat of the evil empire. When they came back to Saudi Arabia,
they came during the Gulf War, especially Osama bin Laden, and asked the royal
family--he asked the royal family to fight Saddam Hussein with his Afghan men
or the Mujahedeen that came with him from Afghanistan. Of course, the royal
family refused his offer, and he had to flee to leave for Sudan. But the idea
is really the main frustration of these groups, who went to Afghanistan and
fought. They thought they will receive a hero welcome when they came back,
and some of them came very much, more or less, shell-shocked and confused and
all of that, and when they went home, they realized that the population did
not care that much about international issues, like Afghanistan. So there was
a great deal of disappointment, and when Osama bin Laden left for Sudan, he
started his whole Jihad campaign against Saudi Arabia and against its global
patron, if you will, the United States from Sudan.

GROSS: So you're saying that one of the things that alienated bin Laden is
that at the time of the Gulf War, he offered his own troops to Saudi Arabia to
defend them.

Prof. FANDY: That's correct.

GROSS: Saudi Arabia turned them down and made a deal...

Prof. FANDY: That's correct.

GROSS: ...with the United States instead. So you think he took that very

Prof. FANDY: I think for some of them, they felt that the Saudi regime is
redeemable in a way, and it had Islamic forces that would fight on its behalf.
They might accept it, but at that point, they felt the Saudi alliance with the
United States is extremely strong, and this is when he launched his campaign
from Sudan against Saudi Arabia and against the United States. Now both the
United States and Saudi Arabia pressured the Sudanese government to let
Osama bin Laden leave Sudan. But really, it is that Sudan experience that
created Osama bin Laden as we know him today.

GROSS: You interviewed many Saudi dissident clerics, extreme Islamists.

Prof. FANDY: That's right.

GROSS: Where does bin Laden fit in? Now I know you didn't personally
interview bin Laden, but you certainly know a lot about him. Where does he
fit into this larger group? I mean, he's now very well-known by all of us in
the United States or at least we know about him through the media. The other
extremists are less well-known to us.

Prof. FANDY: Right.

GROSS: Why did bin Laden become the main power broker?

Prof. FANDY: I think partly because bin Laden was a wealthy man. He
inherited some $262 million from his family fortune. Before the coming of bin
Laden as we know him today, the bin Laden group or the bin Laden family was
really in some kind of symbiotic relationship with the ruling family of Saudi
Arabia. They were--it's a big construction company that ran the major
projects of Saudi Arabia. They built all kinds of projects, from the
renovation of the two holy mosques to major roads in Saudi Arabia. So bin
Laden--he was the man with, really, the means to actually recruit and pay some
of these people, and he was the major fund-raiser in Saudi Arabia on behalf of
Muslim fighters in Chechnya and Bosnia and other places. So in a sense, Osama
bin Laden is different from the rest. The rest were really more of reformists
who want the regime to open up and to democratize and other things. Osama
felt that this is something that need to be eradicated completely because of
that special relationship of Saudi Arabia with the United States.

I did not interview Osama directly, but I interviewed his number-two man, who
was in London at the time, and I met him in London. His name is Khaled
al-Fawwaz, and he was picked up by the British, actually, after the first
World Trade Center attack. And it was obvious in their language and their
ideological orientation, as well as the network, that these people who are
really interested in violence and, in a sense, they are really different.
They learn their lessons from Egyptian Jihad and other violent movements

GROSS: My guest is Mamoun Fandy, a professor at The Near East-South Asia
Center for Strategic Studies, which is affiliated with the National Defense
University. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Mamoun Fandy, author of the book "Saudi Arabia and the
Politics of Dissent," which is based on his interviews with extremist clerics.

What else did you learn about the bin Laden network by interviewing bin
Laden's number two?

Prof. FANDY: What I learned is that, actually, these guys, there were two
components. One is that these guys sincerely believe that somehow, they
defeated the first superpower, Soviet Union, at the time, and they are willing
to take on the only left superpower and what they call the leader of the
capitalist system, the United States. So there was that adamant kind of
attitude towards the United States. Some people might...

GROSS: Can I stop you a second?

Prof. FANDY: Sure.

GROSS: When you say that they sincerely believe that they defeated the
Soviets, are you implying there that they really didn't do that
singlehandedly; they defeated them because the CIA was involved, too, and
they're forgetting that?

Prof. FANDY: They are forgetting that there were all kinds of--not just the
CIA but all kinds of regional players, like Saudi Arabia itself pumped a great
deal of money into that Afghan operation. So in a sense, they really sort
of--after awhile, they started convincing themselves that they are the ones
who did it singlehandedly and they are capable to defeat the United States.
They have started in London and here in the United States to recruit not the
poor Egyptians and poor Sudanese and people like that, but mainly to recruit
amongst those who are committed Islamists, who are studying engineering and
physics and sciences in general, to prepare for these operations. I think
they felt sincerely that the system throughout the West had laxed and they can
get away with that.

And some of them actually didn't know much about the United States in a sense
of what are the targets in the United States, which for them the United States
is just a global power. But gradually, they learned, and they learned from
the media what is the symbolic value of, let's say, a place like the World
Trade Center or the Pentagon or something like that; that, for them, America
was just something amorphous and just this huge power. But the targeting was
things that they learned from counterterrorism pamphlets that they translated
avidly and things of that sort. So it was very disturbing as I talked to some
of these people that actually--they read and translate things from the United
States that make them, more or less, identify their targets.

GROSS: When you interviewed bin Laden's second in command, did you get the
impression that they were planning really large acts of terrorism? Did you
get that sense?

Prof. FANDY: Well, I think that was--that interview took place in 1998, and
it was--and I had an interview before, but I think there was a major
difference between the bin Laden group--it was a shocking difference between
the bin Laden group and other Saudi dissidents, and I was shocked by the
degree of coordination they have with other Islamist groups, mainly the
Egyptian Jihad, as well as the GIA in Algeria. That's the armed Islamic
group. It goes by its French acronym. And the level of organization and the
level of communication was absolutely disturbing. Did I know of planned acts?
I think all their activities were pointing towards that, but I had no specific
information of what their plan might be. But I was not surprised by the
attack on the embassies in Kenya and I was not surprised even with the first
World Trade Center attack. I was extremely surprised by the September 11th
attack because they were just unbelievable in the level of organization, and
it shows that these groups have become very, very sophisticated.

GROSS: I think that the September 11th attack on the World Trade Center was
amazing in its degree of sadism. It struck me as just a particularly sadistic

Prof. FANDY: That's true.

GROSS: ...for them to make their point. I mean, it was not only violent. It
was just violent in a--I can't think of a better word than sadism. And I'm
wondering if you saw an undertone of that when you were talking to the second
in command of bin Laden's group?

Prof. FANDY: I talked to not just second in command but other also fringe
sort of elements that I suspected they were connected to bin Laden. But in
their conversation, you can feel there is a dance of death that is really not
for Allah and the tribe, as other Islamists would have it. These are people
who are really sort of killing for air time, for some kind of--to see
themselves as part of these global heroes. There is a conversion between pop
stars and criminality, and the movement acquired a logic of its own that's not
necessarily related to the ideology itself. It became part of a world where
the line between television picture and reality seemed to collapse. It's kind
of a simulation and simulacre kind of thing, I mean, where even their talk
about Osama bin Laden was really like talking about Mick Jagger or something
like that. It's very confused.

So in a way, there's something mentally wrong in their language and discourse
in general that tells you that, as you aptly described, these are people who
are in a very sadistic kind of mood, and they see that as sort of a game.
It's a game of destruction, and they seem to--I mean, unlike many of us who
would be probably scared of the notion of seeing somebody bleeding, these are
people who are just--they are so callous and their conversation is so
antiseptic that the notion of just--blood doesn't enter there. It's mainly a
notion of--they see the world in terms of TV images and images of destruction,
and sometimes when you talk to them about incidents that they did and they
tell you it wasn't that good, there's something disturbing. There's something
disturbing. Whenever I had an interview with any of these guys, I always left
extremely disturbed about, you know--I mean, is it worth it to do social
science research to come out of an interview that disturbed about how the
modern world is breeding a certain vicious component or creating monsters out
of otherwise would-be human beings?

GROSS: Mamoun Fandy is a professor at The Near East-South Asia Center for
Strategic Studies of the National Defense University. He's the author of the
book "Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent." Our interview was recorded
this morning. We'll hear more in the second half of the show. I'm Terry
Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music; credits)

GROSS: Coming up, we continue our discussion about extreme Islamic movements
with Professor Mamoun Fandy. He's been studying them since the end of the
Gulf War. And classical music critic Lloyd Schwartz talks about why he hasn't
felt much like listening to music lately.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Mamoun Fandy. He's a
professor at the Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies. After the
Gulf War, he spent two years interviewing extremist Islamist clerics in Saudi
Arabia. Fandy translated and analyzed 150 recorded sermons. His book "Saudi
Arabia and the Politics of Dissent" includes a chapter on Osama bin Laden.

You talk about how some of the people in networks, even Laden, as if he was
Mick Jagger. Bin Laden, it seems--would you describe him as really knowing
how to use the media, not necessarily the mass media, but, you know, to
distribute tapes in which he's the hero of the tape, he's the charismatic
leader on the tape. It seems like a lot of the Islamist clerics that you
interviewed made names for themselves by their cassette tapes and their
videotapes, and in some instances, their canny use of mass media.

Prof. FANDY: Mm-hmm. Well, I think they were uncanny in their ability to use
mass media and alternative means of communication. Actually, the Internet
usage in Saudi Arabia and other places started by the Islamists. And the
earliest Web site that appears on the Internet from the Middle East, as well
as other parts of the world, came from Islam's groups. Some of that relates
to the notion that throughout the Middle East, actually, the media is
government controlled, so people are really hungry for some kind of
independent thought. So the cassette was really the underground media in the
beginning. Of course, you remember the revolution of Khameini started with
the cassette tapes in Iran in '79.

So these people also moved beyond small media like the cassette tape to major
media, and they manipulate this media very carefully. And some of them,
actually, they have some of their men, you know, working for major media. Bin
Laden lately sent his recent fax to al-Jazirah network in Qatar. And some of
the people actually who worked in al-Jazirah network, some of them fought in
Afghanistan, and now they are in a three-piece suit having a local show.

GROSS: You've said that in Saudi Arabia, a lot of the extremist Islamists are
educated, they have money. And that distinguishes them from some of the
extremists in other Arab countries where they're not necessarily as educated;
they don't necessarily have money. I think it's easy to think of people who
are prone to conspiracy theories and to stereotyping and extremism as being
uneducated and therefore susceptible to outlandish theories and to simplistic
conspiracies. How do you explain a more educated group of people falling prey
to this? Or not even falling prey; creating these conspiracy theories and
creating this extreme stereotyping and hatred?

Prof. FANDY: Well, I think, Terry, if you look at the incidents that took
place by the poor vs. the rich of Islamists, I mean, the poor have very
limited goals in Egypt and in other places. They want the system to open up
or they want to be integrated in the system, some of them acting on
ideological beliefs. But their tactics are really sort of scare tactics. But
it is the rich class that actually engaged in that world of fantasy where
television violence and real violence converged. These are people who want to
settle scores with the West because they are touched by it. They have come
here and studied here, but somehow they don't feel that they fit. And they
seem to have a distorted notion, I mean, sort of half-baked ideas about what
the West is all about. The poor really don't know the West. They haven't
traveled in the West and they just don't have very specific ideas.

But I found out that in most of these Islamists in Saudi Arabia have responses
to fundamentalist groups here in the United States and what they think and
what they do. Most of the--there is--one of the Saudi Islamists, Safar
al-Hawali, wrote a long book and series that was also broadcast in cassette, a
response to Pat Robertson or a response to Jerry Falwell. These are people
who really engaged in these global debates and they connect the regional
issues like Arab-Israeli conflict with local issues. And they fancy
themselves to be the defenders of the faith and somehow the traditional ulema
or the traditional scholars of religion. Some have been submissive as far as
their relationship to the West and their relationship with local governments,
so they feel like these are the liberators of Islam, but in their own ways, in
that fantasy world where money and criminality and hyperreality sort of
converge in a very disturbing way.

So in that sense, it's different from the poor who have really sort of--the
terrorism is sort of small business enterprises, but these people are sort of
the megaterror groups and they are transnational. They are the IBM of terror.

GROSS: What would you say is the agenda, the goals of al-Qaida? I mean, I
know that they want the United States military out of Saudi Arabia.

Prof. FANDY: Mm-hmm.

GROSS: What are the other goals? Are they...

Prof. FANDY: I think they started out with very specific goals, like wanting
the American military out of Saudi Arabia. They wanted Israel out of the
occupied territories. But really these goals seem to take a back seat to
their fight with the United States because they think the United States is the
global patron of many of the moderate Arab regimes in Egypt or in Saudi
Arabia. So they feel that they had to take on that major power. But there is
something really sort of, if you talk to them, it seems to me, or it seemed to
me very clearly that these people do not have specific goals. The dance of
violence and death seem to have this sort of effect on them, psychological
effect, that it's a high in a way. So the idea of goals seem to take a back

seat to that logic of violence.

They seem to have become professional groups that they can take over weak
states. I mean, they noticed Afghanistan is a defunct place and now actually
they run Afghanistan. I mean, most people talk about the Taliban movement as
the leadership in Afghanistan, but in actuality the head of Afghanistan is
really bin Laden and Iman al-Zawahiri. As for the rest of the political class,
like Mularma(ph) and others, they really come in secondary. And they did that
in the Sudan.

GROSS: My guest is Mamoun Fandy, a professor at the Near East-South Asia
Center for Strategic Studies. We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: My guest is Mamoun Fandy, author of the book "Saudi Arabia and the
Politics of Dissent," which is based on his interviews with extremist clerics.

If bin Laden is apprehended or if he's assassinated, and that seems like it
might be part of the goal for the alliance, would the networks still really be

Prof. FANDY: I think it is a mistake to really make bin Laden the story. It
is the network that's the story. It is--I mean, one has to think of networks
of power even at the level of states. In this new world, you cannot afford to
think of Saudi Arabia as a closed state, or the United States as a closed
state. What we have now is really sort of networks, varieties of networks of
flows, if you will. You have a financial flow and the flow of people, flow of
technology and guns, flow of ideas and media. All these flows, they
constitute what we understand to be our world today. The attack on the World
Trade Center was not just the attack on the fixed target. It disrupted the
airlines and the movement of people.

So what you need to do is really sort of--you can't have a visible power
against an invisible enemy. You have to--the alliance has really to mirror
bin Laden's cells. It has to be amorphous and flexible. To attack these
organizations, you have to attack their money flow, their people flow.
Draining the swamps is not really the idea, but you have to think of how these
people--what kinds of people move across boundaries. What kind of money moves
there. How they acquire technology, how do they use the media, how do they
manipulate these global flows and become part and parcel of it? It's very
surprising that these groups are everywhere. I mean, they have front
organizations that they're running, quote, unquote, "legitimate" businesses.

So you have--the first step that was done recently about really taking on the
financial network of al-Qaida is very important. So bin Laden the man is not
as much important as bin Laden the web of organization structures that are
connecting in terms of money, media, guns and technology, as well as the
variety of global flows, if you will. So to focus on one country at a time is
the wrong approach. You have to really attack the whole network itself, the
web itself. And the node of power of that web is in Afghanistan.

GROSS: You grew up in Egypt and you were educated in Egypt, I believe, before
coming to the United States.

Prof. FANDY: Yes.

GROSS: I'm wondering if any of your friends became extremists; in other
words, if you watched extremists develop.

Prof. FANDY: Yes, I did, unfortunately. I finished my college from Azut
University(ph), which is in southern Egypt, in 1980; 1981, actually. And some
of the people that I knew at that university, I discovered that year when I
was receiving my degree from the college that they were implicated in the
Sadat assassination. And Iman al-Zawahiri was one of those people who were
implicated. Iman was from the neighboring governorate or state called Minya,
in middle Egypt. At that university, there was Niga Habrahim(ph) and Hasan
Madalmaji(ph), who became the leaders of an Islamic group and they have ties
to the Jihad. And I watched these people at the beginning of post-Iran
revolution atmosphere that gripped Egypt. And I was a college student at the
time, so I watched them for four years.

GROSS: And what are some of the things you learned from watching them?

Prof. FANDY: At the time, and I think probably best to think with Egyptian
eyes rather than with the eyes of a Western intellectual now, but at the time
there was--the government of President Sadat thought that the left of Egypt,
the Communists as well as leftist groups, seemed to dominate the national
scene. And he had to come back to establish his own legitimacy. So he
decided to use religion as the legitimating force. And he tried to present
himself as the commander of the faithful and use religious symbolism
throughout. So at the time, all of a sudden, we saw at the universities that
the student unions that used to be dominated by leftist activists all of a
sudden became dominated by those Islam-oriented groups whose main focus was to
have their women colleagues sort of cover their hairs and things like that.

The same pattern--I mean, Sadat played with fire and the fire got him in 1981.
And I think we did the same when we encouraged these groups in Afghanistan and
thought they were our allies, that they will defeat the Soviet Union. We were
not aware of the blow-back effect that this thing will come and haunt us.

GROSS: Have you been running into any problems as an Arab American since
September 11th? You know, are you being looked at with any suspicion or

Prof. FANDY: The short answer is yes, but also I think as somebody who is
American and who also indicated I sort of appreciate the gravity of the moment
and sort of it's expected. And I think the sad thing is that the only sad
thing for me is that I cannot express my sadness and anger at what happened
without being looked at as disingenuous in a way. And that makes the feeling
of sadness when you say it and then it looks on the face of the recipient of
that message as something that has no meaning or not sticking is a horrible
feeling. You feel hollow inside. So I think that's the heavy price. It's an
emotional price.

GROSS: Are you afraid now? Are you walking around with a lot of fear on both
counts, stereotyping because you're Arab American, but just, you know, a
larger fear of another terrorist attack?

Prof. FANDY: In my mind, I think that the ceiling of terror--that this is the
ceiling of what will take place. And I don't expect any attacks to take place
again, because these guys think in sports terms. They scored a big goal and
any operation that might falter next will overshadow this one. I think they
want to go out with a bang, as they say. So the idea that they will try again
something else is not in my mind. I think my worry is that we go into here a
witch-hunt in terms of Arabs and Muslims and all of that.

But at the same time, I think also Muslims and Arabs ought to also look into
the gravity of the moment and also see why people get angry. And I think it
would be--certain inconveniences come with the territory. It might not be a
big problem for--if I were called, let's say, by an FBI agent asking me for
one hour of my time to tell them what I know, I wouldn't consider that to be
any form of harassment. I think we should all give of our time at the moment
of distress in the country. And it's the country that we live in. This is
where we make our living. And this is the place that--we came here to better
our lives and sort of to get sidetracked by focusing on what the general
public calls me, me, me kind of attitude is extremely dangerous.

I'm aware of the danger around me, but also I think I can avoid that danger
and, of course, can also appreciate the anger that exists in society. And
probably unlike most Americans who grew up here, when you grow up in a place
where there was terrorism around, you take precautions generally. Even the
way you walk, the way you enter the subway and things like that. You're
alert. It's not like the general public who was complacent throughout and
doesn't see the signals.

GROSS: I want to thank you so much for talking with us.

Prof. FANDY: Thank you.

GROSS: Mamoun Fandy is a professor at the Near East-South Asia Center for
Strategic Studies at the National Defense University. He's the author of the
book "Saudi Arabia and the Politics of Dissent." Our interview was recorded
this morning.

Coming up, our classical music critic, Lloyd Schwartz, on why he hasn't felt
much like listening to music lately. This is FRESH AIR.

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

Commentary: Importance of music during difficult times

Our classical music critic, Lloyd Schwartz, says that although music is
usually a source of comfort in a time of crisis, he hasn't been feeling much
like listening to music lately.


The problem is that I'm not sure I want to be comforted. The day of the
terrorist attack, I turned to poetry, not music. `All things fall and are
built again,' Yeats says in his poem "Lapis Lazuli." Hamlet in "King Lear,"
he says, `If worthy their prominent part in the play, do not break up their
lines to weep.' Yet all I felt like doing was cry.

The day after, when our possible response to the tragedy became as frightening
as the attack itself, I was reading a different Yeats poem, a poem he wrote
during the Irish civil war; a prayer, really, for sweetness and renewal called
"The Stare's Nest By My Window." Stare is the Irish word for starling. `We
have fed the heart on fantasies. The heart's grown brutal from the fare.
More substance in our enmities than in our love. Oh, honeybees, come, build
in the empty house of the stare.'

On the weekend, I went to hear an old friend in a chamber music concert given
at the Friends' Meeting House in Cambridge by a group called Sarasa, a group
that does a lot of community service. It was the concert they had planned.
No special music in response to the horrible events. And I was moved and
warmed by (technical difficulties) program. Haydn, beautiful and restrained.
A colorful musical picture by Boccherini of Spanish street life at night,
inventive and appealing. And a rhapsodic quintet by Dvorak. Just music, with
no message, and played in the spirit of loving cooperation, as if to say it's
music itself that's important. It's part of what's best about human beings.

By Sunday, I wanted to hear more music. A Bach cantata performed during the
service at Boston's Emmanuel Church. It was one with a powerful, sublime aria
about sacrifice for love; music with a dark but explicit spiritual message. I
wasn't much comforted by the strictly Christian message of the sermon, but the
profundity of the music, the intensity of the performance, moved me far beyond
the self-congratulatory bromides of organized religion.

During the Gulf War, I said on FRESH AIR that music was not just consoling;
that it makes us feel a little less helpless; that if the human spirit is
capable of such sweetness and generosity, such harmony, there's still a chance
it might survive. But this time, that's not what I feel, though it's
something I'd still like to believe. This time, I feel frightened about our
very survival and overwhelmed by the devastation, the evil human beings are
capable of. And music isn't likely to change that.

The season has just started. I'm a critic; I had to cover an opera. I
shouldn't have been startled to hear the orchestra begin with the familiar
notes of "The Star-Spangled Banner." It was written during the War of 1812,
the last time before September 11th that a foreign invader attacked us on home
soil. This was the first time since the terrorist attack I was in an audience
asked to sing it. I'm nervous about patriotic music, about flag-waving and
saber-rattling in general. But this time, as the melody of that old drinking
song began to soar on `the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air,'
making the words, as always, so hard to sing, our national anthem has never
seemed so chillingly real.

I'm looking forward to more music. I want our cultural life to continue, and
I want to be part of it. I also want to be reassured that art consists of
more than a simple message of grief or defiance or consolation. I'm looking
forward to more music. I'm just dreading the requiems.

GROSS: Lloyd Schwartz is the classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix and
director of the creative writing program at the University of Massachusetts in

Well, we're feeling ready to get back to some music on FRESH AIR. Yesterday,
I recorded a concert with singer, songwriter and guitarist Nick Lowe. We'll
hear it sometime next week. In the meantime, we'll close with a song from
Nick Lowe's new CD, "The Convincer." I'm Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. NICK LOWE: (Singing) When you feel you're all in and you decided you
can't win, tell yourself it won't be for long. You're between dark and dawn.
You've got too much time you can't kill, your wheels a-spinning, yet you're
standing still. It's all flat and forlorn in between dark and dawn. You're
so blue you can't see one day all this will be history. Now I've been a fool,
but I'm not wrong, you're between dark and dawn. Mm, you're between dark and
dawn. Between dark and dawn. That's where nothing's...
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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