Islam, Israel and Insurgents
Australian Broadcast Corp: Q&A - Adventures in democracy
Translations of this item:
N.B. This is a condensed version. For the full transcript, with discussion of several Australian issues, please see the ABC website.
TONY JONES: Good evening and welcome to Q&A. I'm Tony Jones and answering your questions tonight: former Liberal Party Minister Nick Minchin; whistleblowing researcher and WikiLeaks co-author Suelette Dreyfus; Islamic feminist and human rights advocate Hanifa Deen; visiting American conservative commentator Daniel Pipes; and trade unionist turned Labor Senator Doug Cameron. Please welcome our panel.
Q&A is live from 9.35 Eastern Time. It's simulcast on ABC News 24 and News Radio and Australia Network and you can go to our website to send in questions now and you can join the Twitter conversation using the hash tag that's just appeared on your screen. …
Future of Arab Spring
CAROL LEWER: With Libyan rebels reaching Tripoli and appearing to be about to overthrow Gaddafi, do you think the uprisings in Libya, Egypt, Syria and Yemen will lead to a more democratic Middle East or one that is dominated by Islamic fundamentalists?
TONY JONES: Hanifa?
HANIFA DEEN: Well, it's early days yet but that is a very valid question and it's a question many people would be asking themselves. So, yeah, it is something I am grappling with at the moment. It's sort of spreading, isn't it? It is like the ripple effect going across and the problem is for me, and I guess for others, is that all we're seeing are soldiers marching. We don't know what lies behind. I mean, now we look at Egypt and what's happened in the Egyptian Spring, so to speak, but obviously the Government there is continuing. We have seen this recently with some of the diplomatic shots not figuratively, you know what I mean at Israel about they're not happy what happened to their soldiers in the Sinai Peninsula. So we don't really know what's behind the soldiers and the firing and the spontaneous crowd outburst et cetera. Libya is not a poor country and one can only hope that the enthusiasm of the people there and the diplomatic support that they will receive will lead to something solid and this happens throughout the Middle East, that the spontaneous uprising of people doesn't go for nothing. It's very early days. I think we're going to have to be watching and waiting and being optimistic about what is yet to come.
TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, what do you think, bearing in mind we don't know what's happened to Gaddafi?
DANIEL PIPES: I think the smoke is clearing and we can see more and more which way it's going. Tunisia and Egypt are rather parallel and in both cases what we saw in January and February was an effective coup d'état, where the military security apparatus said to the President, "Go. You're too unpopular. Your family is too rapacious, go." And what we see since then is continuity basically. New rulers have taken the place of the old rules and they're still in charge of the security and military apparatus. So no basic change, neither in the direction of democracy nor Islamism. In the case of Libya, which is about to reach a climax, it appears, we don't know what is in Benghazi, who the rebels are. My suspicion is that the Islamists will emerge as the power. In Yemen, catastrophe looms and likely Islam will emerge. In Syria, where there's still probably several months before the regime falls, again likely the Islamists will emerge. So in general it's either continuity or Islamists. Democracy is not being forwarded.
HANIFA DEEN: But you sort of talk about Islamists as if it's one group, it's just a single entity and so on. We've seen in Egypt that there are many different parties there, many different religious parties. Even the Muslim Brotherhood is not a single entity. So I don't think you can just lump and use terms like "Islamists", et cetera, as if it's a monolith.
DANIEL PIPES: Well, if this were a seminar, we would go into all the various different kinds of Islamists but Islamists are people who wish to apply Islamic law in its entirety. Yes, there's some who use violence and some who don't and some who are more radical and some who are less radical. I was using it as a general term as I would say Communist, whereas there are - Mao and Stalinists and so one.
DOUG CAMERON: A derogatory term.
DANIEL PIPES: A very derogatory terms.
DOUG CAMERON: Yeah.
DANIEL PIPES: Fascists, Communists and Islamists are representative of the three radical, utopian ideologies over the century, the ugliest phenomena of our time. Yes, very, very derogatory.
TONY JONES: Doug Cameron?
DOUG CAMERON: Well, look, I just think if you look at Indonesia, it's clear that Islam and democracy can co exist. I just think there is far too much of a position being developed around the world that if you are Islam, then you are seen not to be able to have democracy. I just don't believe that saying, "Democracy should apply." The Westminster system, I don't think, will be in a number of Islamic countries. I don't think the American system will be there. Islam and other countries will need to develop their own type of democracy. I think that's important.
TONY JONES: Okay, we've just a question from the front. I'll just let him get in.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is for Hanifa. On that note, do you feel that the issue is, when we think of human rights abuses or extremist violence, that what we call "moderate Muslims" - and I know that's not a great term - is that nobody is listening or that, rather, moderate Muslims aren't speaking out? What would you put it down to?
HANIFA DEEN: Well, there's problems. You know, you and I obviously have problems with the term "moderate Muslims." I mean, we've been talking about all of these countries with all of these Islamist religious parties ready to, you know, go to battle but what about Turkey? I mean Turkey has been governed by a religious party. I don't know whether you want to call them a "moderate party" et cetera or whatever you want to call them, they seem to be doing rather well and I expect, hopefully in the next decade, that they will go into the European Union.
DANIEL PIPES: That's dead. It's an Islamist party. It seeks application of Islamic law. We have a big, big problem. In Turkey, indeed just three weeks ago...
HANIFA DEEN: We have a big, big difference of opinion on this.
DANIEL PIPES: ...three weeks ago the secular republic, founded by Kemal Ataturk in 1923 came to an end on the 28th of July, three weeks ago, and now we're in the second republic, which is now an Islamist republic, I'm sorry to report.
TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, can I just interrupt there. Did your heart not leap, even for a moment, when you saw those hundreds of thousands of young people on the streets in Cairo, in Tunisia, the demonstrators for democracy in Syria and in other places?
DANIEL PIPES: Absolutely. Absolutely. No I think there's - you're pointing to something very important, which is the fact that what we have seen in 2011 is that there really is a democratic spirit. There really is a faction that wants democracy and while it is far from the corridors of power today, I do have hopes and as you suggested, Doug, that there will be an emergence of Islamic democracy and these people in Tahrir Square and elsewhere will be its key elements. Absolutely.
TONY JONES: Okay. We've got a question down there, just hold on because I'm going to just hear from the other side of the panel and I'll come back to you. Suelette Dreyfus, I mean, you had a connection to WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks took some well not responsibility but it claimed certain responsibility for the demonstrations in Tunisia.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: Yeah, so Julian Assange, the editor-in-chief, and I co-authored a book together. I'm optimistic. I - you know, I don't have the sort of pessimistic view. I think there's hope. I think those images of, you know, young people storming the secret police archives in Egypt and, you know, shouting with the same vigour that you saw when East Germany was freed, opened the files and doing just that it's, I hope, a portent of things to come. I think that the difference today versus, you know, at an earlier period of time is that you do have Twitter. You do have social media. These are making an impact and I know from speaking to people dealing with journalists and others on the ground, bloggers and stuff in Tunisia, that they are looking for law reform and there is an opportunity - there's an opening there for it. You know, if you look at the move towards our Western style democracy, if you even want to view it as the logical end point, as a slide on the spectrum, to say that there's been no movement on that, no shift at all, I think is not right.
TONY JONES: Nick Minchin?
NICK MINCHIN: Well, those of us who champion liberal democracy, of course, have been delighted to see what's been happening in the Middle East but, I must say, as a conservative it does concern me and I think this is where Daniel comes from too, that what is going to take the place of the regimes? I mean, there'd be nothing better than the end of Gaddafi but who exactly is going to take over Libya?
TONY JONES: I'm trying to understand what you mean by 'being a conservative'. I mean, would a conservative have argued that the status quo should have remained in place?
NICK MINCHIN: No, well, a conservative neither likes authoritarian dictators nor anarchy and that's the issue that if you replace one dictatorship with another or with complete anarchy, are the people better off? Are you any way towards the eventual outcome which we'd all love to see, which is liberal democracy in these countries?
TONY JONES: So, I mean, is the argument then the dictator you know, stick with them?
NICK MINCHIN: Well, there - as I say, no one likes dictatorship but there are, regrettably, some things worse than benign dictatorship.
HANIFA DEEN: But they weren't being called regimes et cetera when they were friends of the USA. They were our allies then.
DANIEL PIPES: None of these were friends of the USA. None. None of these were our allies. None of these were friends.
TONY JONES: Let me interrupt our panel for a couple of questions. We'll come back to you in a moment, sir. We've actually got a question from Barry McCurdie.
Arab Spring and Israel
BARRY MCCURDIE: My question is to Hanifa Deen. Do you think that the real reason behind the so called "Arab Spring" is that the populations of Arab countries involved have looked at democratic Israel and Western democracies, seen how we live, realised that they've been misled by their religious and political leaders, who spent years demonising both Israel and the West?
HANIFA DEEN: I don't see Israel as a model of democracy for what's happened recently. No, I do not see that at all. But I think that through a whole process of education, through a whole spontaneous process of social media, people moving backwards and forwards before their countries, people just got fed up with issues, domestic issues, unemployment, rising costs et cetera, and, yes, looking around and saying "It can improve. We can do better," and that is the hope and optimism that they've brought with them. But I really don't believe that Israel was the ideal model or a model of democracy for those countries.
DANIEL PIPES: Among the liberals it certainly is. Among the people in Tahrir Square, the model of Israel: economic growth, creativity, musical achievement, military prowess, this is a very powerful model.
HANIFA DEEN: It sounds like bit of a fairytale to me.
DANIEL PIPES: You're missing - you're missing...
HANIFA DEEN: No, I'm not missing your point.
DANIEL PIPES: You're missing the realities. You're missing the realities.
HANIFA DEEN: That's a myth.
DANIEL PIPES: Myth. You better do a little more study.
TONY JONES: We've got another question - yes, I know we've got some questions down the front. We're just going to go quickly George Abraham, who has a question that relates to what we've just been talking about.
Islam & Democracy
GEORGE ABRAHAM: The question is to Hanifa Deen. Can you categorically assert that intellectuals can or have any serious influence on Islamic thought patterns? From my reading of the Qur'an, Islam seems incapable of espousing change of any kind? Can Islam ever espouse democracy?
HANIFA DEEN: Yes, I believe that Islam can espouse democracy. I believe that particularly we're in a phase where in the diaspora in many European countries and in Australia people are debating issues. Men and women are debating issues, looking at liberal renditions and interpretations. I'm not pessimistic about this. I see this as a process of change that is happening, particularly amongst diaspora Muslims.
TONY JONES: Nick Minchin.
NICK MINCHIN: Well, I just wonder - I'd pose the question whether Islamic States can actually make that jump to the separation of church and State, which is fundamental to a functioning democracy? And that's, I guess, the thing that concerns me, as someone who's not an expert on Islam or Islamism, but my observation is that is the most difficult things for Islamic states to make that fundamental break and therefore establish what is a pure democracy. If you ensure me that that is case...
TONY JONES: Let's go to Daniel Pipes on this, because it has actually been quite difficult for America to make that jump.
DANIEL PIPES: It is? Not the America I know.
TONY JONES: Well, I mean, school prayer is still a huge issue, the attitudes on abortion are deeply aligned on political lines and you get plenty of people at a Tea Party who want to prove the President is a Muslim.
DANIEL PIPES: Those are voters. A lot of issues you brought up here but let me just say...
TONY JONES: Just to give you a few examples.
DOUG CAMERON: I thought Daniel did as well.
DANIEL PIPES: Voters come to the voting booth with attitude shaped by religion. That's quite different from having religion and state as one. We have a first amendment, which I believe is older than this country, which has been in place for over two centuries and which has been very powerfully effective. So let's put the United States aside. To answer the question about Islam or democracy, I think it's a mistake to see Islam as a static entity. Just as Christianity and Judaism and other religions have changed over the centuries, indeed the millennia, so does Islam. And in my own career, I have watched Islam - let me put it simply, go down, become more medieval-like and more difficult and if it can get worse, it can get better, to put it in rather crude terms and it can become democratic, yes. There's nothing to stop it. Or in the words of a favourite philosopher of mine, an Egyptian philosopher, said the Qur'an is like a supermarket, you can take from it what you will and I believe that's correct. Islam is what Muslims make of it.
TONY JONES: Incidentally, I wasn't saying that America doesn't have the separation of church and state, merely that you struggle with it. Let's hear from Doug Cameron.
DOUG CAMERON: Look, I think the issue of Israel and Palestine is huge in terms of trying to get world peace. I think Israel have had a massive amount of support from the world community over the years to establish the Israeli state but with that, I think, comes responsibility. And I don't think it's a beacon of democracy to have Operation Cast Lead. I don't think it is a beacon of democracy to use phosphorous bombs on kids. I don't think it is a beacon of democracy to be demolishing infrastructure in Palestine. So I just think we've got to get a bit of balance in this.
TONY JONES: Daniel Pipes, you probably want to respond to that?
DANIEL PIPES: Israel has been, from it's very origin, from the day it was created on 15 May 1948, has been under assault under assault militarily, demographically, economically, ideologically and so forth. The neighbours have, for six plus decades, been attacking it. The Israelis are, by dint of force, having to respond. Do they always do it perfectly and in exactly the way you would wish it? No, clearly they don't but they are under assault. So I think you would better direct your concerns towards the Palestinians and others who continuously are assaulting Israel.
DOUG CAMERON: But it doesn't - no, it doesn't justify barbaric response.
DANIEL PIPES: And, does - look, it just happened only a couple of days ago that eight Israelis going in a bus were killed and soldiers attending protecting them.
DOUG CAMERON: Sure.
DANIEL PIPES: And the Israelis responded by killing 15 Palestinians. Where is the barbarism? Is it in killing people on a bus or in responding and trying to defend the country?
DOUG CAMERON: I think on both sides.
DANIEL PIPES: I think to ask that question is to answer the question.
DOUG CAMERON: I think on both sides.
DANIEL PIPES: I don't.
DOUG CAMERON: And I think there's a great responsibility on both sides...
DANIEL PIPES: But why are you - but why did you bring up only Israel? Why did you not bring up the Palestinian attackers on Israel?
DOUG CAMERON: Because I've looked at what you have written and I know how biased you are on this.
DANIEL PIPES: This wasn't about me. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. This was a question for...
TONY JONES: Just hold on. We actually had another questioner on the floor there. Yes, go ahead.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: My question is for Mr Pipes. I had seven relatives die in south Lebanon because of the Israeli attack. Of course Hezbollah did commence that by kidnapping Shalit. But do you believe the Israeli response, killing over a thousand civilians, mostly kids in southern Lebanon, is justified? How can you, or how can I have sympathy towards Israel? You please explain that to me right now, someone who has lost six members of his family, had nothing to do with it? You tell me how can I have sympathy for you and your cause?
DANIEL PIPES: I am glad you acknowledge that this war began in 2006 due to the fact that two Israeli soldiers...
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Absolutely, yes.
DANIEL PIPES: ...not Gilad Shalit but two other soldiers were abducted.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Two soldiers and a thousand civilians died.
DANIEL PIPES: And I will, in turn, agree with you that the Israeli response was not the one I would have like to see and, as I said earlier, the Israeli responses are not always the way you or Doug or I would like to see them. There is a fog of war. I don't believe the Israelis were trying to kill any civilians, including your relatives. They were trying to defend themselves and trying to defend themselves by attacking their attackers. Do they always succeed? No. And, you know, one of the reasons why they don't succeed is because Hamas, Hezbollah and other attackers of Israel specifically and intentionally hide among civilians, so that your relatives will get killed and in large part the onus for this moral responsibility lies on those who hide among them, not those who are trying to protect themselves. So while I'm not saying everything Israel does is correct, I think the onus - moral onus lies on Hamas and Hezbollah.
TONY JONES: Just before I hear from the rest of the panel I've got another questioner at the back there. Yes, go ahead, sir. Yep, it's above you.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Tony, I'll put it to Doug. Doug, wouldn't you say that Israel is the same as South Africa an apartheid state, the way the - hang on a minute, mate. I'm entitled to my opinion the way that the Palestinians are treated? I am not saying that all Israelis treat them that way but.
TONY JONES: Okay, we'll take that as a comment. I want to hear from Suelette Dreyfus on what we've been talking about.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: I'm interested and intrigued by the debate. One of the things Doug pointed out correctly is a lot of money has been paid to support Israel over its time and I think, if Daniel is right, that it has a model of democracy, no doubt that these funds from the US and other countries have helped build that. So now that we see the Arab Spring happening with such fervour among the people, hopefully those funds can be taken away from the well established democracy of Israel and diverted towards building a civil society in these Arab countries.
TONY JONES: Nick Minchin?
NICK MINCHIN: Well, look, I mean I have Lebanese relatives and I understand, you know, the position that the gentleman there is taking and it's right that this is the most troubled, difficult region in the world, North Korea excepting, I suppose. But to come back to Doug's point, you've got to understand that Israel is there in a region with countries like Iran committed to the extermination of Israel. To wipe - as, you know, the leader of Iran says - to wipe it from the face of the earth. Now, you know...
TONY JONES: I think that was Daniel's point actually.
NICK MINCHIN: Yeah, I mean, look, rightly or wrongly, we have Israel. The world created Israel as a country for the Jewish people. It has been an outstanding success. There's no question that to create a country from nothing since 1949 into one of the most extraordinary and I was Minister for Science and was exposed to the extraordinary scientific capacity of that country. It is a wealth creator. It is the only democracy in that region. But while you've got other countries that want to wipe it out, terrorist groups that want to wipe it out, it is going to fight for its survival. Now, we've got to find a two state solution. I mean the world is working towards that. We've got to make that work and I think both sides have got to, you know, genuinely commit to bringing it about. …
TONY JONES: Can I just interrupt? We've had a Tweet come in from Michael Fullilove, which goes to the intensity of politics in the US at the moment: "Does Daniel Pipes still believe that Barack Obama was once a Muslim?"
DANIEL PIPES: Of course. Of course. There's a lot of - no, let me start that again. I don't know what you're laughing at. I would like to make it clear that I'm not saying that he is a Muslim. I'm saying that he was a Muslim. There is a lot of evidence from his father to his stepfather to his going to mosque, to his going to Qur'an class to his knowing the Islamic prayers, to the testimony of his sister.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: When he was six.
DANIEL PIPES: Exactly. Precisely.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: Who has control over their life when they are six?
DANIEL PIPES: Excuse me, the question was, Was he raised a Muslim? And I'm saying, yes, he was.
DOUG CAMERON: Was there a problem?
DANIEL PIPES: I am not saying it is a problem.
DOUG CAMERON: That's good.
DANIEL PIPES: What I'm saying is a problem is the fact that he denies it and that lies about his childhood religion.
TONY JONES: Suelette.
DANIEL PIPES: That is a problem to me.
TONY JONES: Okay, Suelette Dreyfus to respond to that.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: I think it's just a hyped-up excuse to throw mud at Barack Obama because he is on the other side of the political fence.
DANIEL PIPES: I'm not saying there's anything wrong with his being a Muslim.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: It is a pedantic point that you argue and you've argued it in essays.
DANIEL PIPES: Excuse me.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: It's a pedantic point and the fact is is that, you know, Barack Obama goes to church on Sundays.
DANIEL PIPES: Agreed.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: He makes a very visible case of it. He is, you know, a Christian. That's what his belief system is and the fact, you know, his mother ticked a box because he happened to be going to school in Indonesia when he was six years old, really, I mean that's just mischief making.
DANIEL PIPES: I see...
TONY JONES: Can I just ask a quick question here?
DANIEL PIPES: I don't understand how it's...
TONY JONES: Just a quick question here.
DANIEL PIPES: Yeah.
TONY JONES: Do you have any trouble convincing Christian fundamentalists that Jesus was once a Jew?
DANIEL PIPES: I fail to understand why you are resisting. I have written extensively on this. There are plenty of facts about it. You call it pedantic. You call it all sorts of names but the fact is that there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he was born and raised a Muslim. Nothing wrong with that. I have a problem with the fact he that denies it. He comes out explicitly and said "I never was a Muslim" and yet the evidence is overwhelming that he was born and raised a Muslim. He then converted to Christianity, fine. But I have a problem with his lying about something so very fundamental as his childhood religion.
DOUG CAMERON: But surely there's bigger problems in the United States than that.
SUELETTE DREYFUS: Yeah, than what he ...(indistinct)...
TONY JONES: I don't think anyone is denying that. Let's move on. We can...
HANIFA DEEN: I was just going to ask Daniel would he settle for Prince Charles being a Muslim then?
DANIEL PIPES: Prince Charles is very favourable to Islam but it's quite clear to me he is not a Muslim.
HANIFA DEEN: He'll be very pleased to hear that, I'm sure. …
TONY JONES: Well, I'm afraid that's all we have time for. Please thank our fascinating panel: Nick Minchin, Suelette Dreyfus, Hanifa Deen, Daniel Pipes and Doug Cameron. Thank you very much.
Reader comments (46) on this item
Comment on this item
You can help support Daniel Pipes' work by making a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes