Program Particulars: Reflections of a Former Islamist Extremist

Program Particulars

*Times indicated refer to web version of audio


» Enlarge the image Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks at a June 2007 conference in London dedicated to educating and training home-grown Muslim imams. In his speech, Blair underlined the need to separate mainstream Islam from Muslim extremists.   <br><cite>(photo: Luke Macgregor/AFP/Getty Images)

Prime Minister Tony Blair speaks at a June 2007 conference in London dedicated to educating and training home-grown Muslim imams. In his speech, Blair underlined the need to separate mainstream Islam from Muslim extremists.
(photo: Luke Macgregor/AFP/Getty Images)

(01:06) Memoir That's Sparked Debate

A large number of voices — both critical and praising, Muslim and non-Muslim — have emerged in response to The Islamist. In his book, Husain recounts his participation in radical Islamic groups during the 1990s in London. He challenges the policies of the British government for allowing ideological groups such as Hizb ut-Tahrir to operate and use, what Husain considers to be, controversial methods.

In The Guardian, Madeleine Bunting questions Husain's lack of generosity when it comes to others:

It is as if, just as Husain once swallowed large chunks of Hizb ut-Tahrir propaganda, he now seems to have swallowed undigested the prevailing critique of British Muslims. He has no truck with the idea of Islamophobia, which he dismisses as the squeal of an Islamist leadership pleading special favours; he criticises Asian racism and castigates Muslims "who go back home to get married" and produce "another generation confused about home". On issues such as segregation, he is confident it is the fault of multiculturalism.

Other intellectuals and scholars argue that Husain's experiences are less relevant today than they may have been a decade ago. Some question his ability to effectively analyze the causes of extremism and terrorism — challenging everything from his use of an anglicized name, his propensity for extreme views, and his use of the term "Islamist." Yahya Birt, a Muslim intellectual and researcher, challenges the simplicity of Husain's recommendation to ban HT:

Husain makes the case for banning Hizb ut-Tahrir on the basis of his personal journey rather than considering the political implications as carefully as he should have done. There is no doubt that Hizb ut-Tahrir should be pressurised in all sorts of ways short of banning, but let us not lose sight of the fact that criminalising its membership might end up alienating Muslim communities up and down the country and scotching any effective “hearts and minds” strategy. Academic estimates of the Party’s size in the UK, including members and sympathisers, hover at around 8,500. Given its size, the ripple effect would be immense, a consideration that no doubt bore upon the decision to not, as yet, ban the Party. The other effect would be the chilling of the dissident political voice of young Muslims, who would no doubt draw their own conclusions. Would this be preferable to taking ideas on while preserving the democratic right to speak out? One worries that the litmus test of being a good liberal, especially of the Muslim variety, might have come to rely on a preference for security over liberty on issues like this. A common argument one will hear is that Hizb ut-Tahrir has opened up somewhat since 2005, and Husain characterises this as a divergence between a comparatively more moderate leadership seeking political survival while trying to keep a more unreconstructed membership on board. This judgement is sound, and he is also right to remind us of Hizb ut-Tahrir's Leninist orientation. It has not given up on the idea of a totalitarian expansionist state or the coup d'etat as a means of establishing it.

Husain has found strong allies in writer and literary critic Martin Amis and former Prime Minister Tony Blair. The endorsement of conservative and liberal hawks gives pause to many in the Muslim community, as well as those who are opposed to the policies of the "war on terror." They fear advocates may reduce the complexity of the Muslim community and open the door for Islamophobia, overt racism, and persecution.

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(02:17–03:54) Music Element

"The Multiples of One" from Awakening, performed by Joseph Curiale


(02:22) Muslim Population in the United Kingdom

An April 2001 census [.xls document] conducted by the Office for National Statistics shows that nearly three percent of the 60 million residents in England and Wales are Muslims. Including Muslims living in Scotland and Ireland, this statistic increases to nearly four percent, or about two million Muslims.

(02:29) "Officially Anglican"

The Queen of England, head of state for the United Kingdom, is also the titular head of the Church of England, otherwise known as the Anglican Church.

(02:38) British Colonial Rule in India

The Indian subcontinent was officially colonized by Britain from 1858 to 1947. Prior to official rule, the British had significant economic interests in the region, dating back to 1600. In 1857, a widespread rebellion against the increasingly powerful British presence was defeated. This set the stage for a formal takeover of the subcontinent by the British crown.

After decades of struggle against the Indian independence movement, Pakistan (composed of what is today Pakistan and Bangladesh) came into existence on August 14, 1947. A day later, the modern nation-state of India came into existence.

(02:48) Terror Attacks and Attempts in Britain

On July 7th, 2005 (commonly referred to as 7/7), four British men committed a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks around London. The four men were all young British Muslims, the oldest being 30 years old. Three attacks targeted the subway system during morning rush-hour. A fourth bomb targeted a London bus an hour later. A total of 52 people were killed (in addition to the four bombers), and 770 people were injured. Exactly two weeks later, a very similar series of attacks were attempted but failed.

On June 29, 2007, two undetonated car bombs were discovered — one outside the Tiger Tiger nightclub mentioned by Husain later on in this interview. The following day a flaming jeep rammed into the Glasgow International Airport's main terminal building. The vehicle failed to explode.

The suspects in these attacks were doctors, medical students, and other technical or scientific professionals. All were Muslims. In response, many members of the British Muslim community publicly condemned the attacks.

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(03:52–04:05) Music Element

"Vartani Mor Vort" from Under the Olive Tree, performed by Yuval Ron


(05:10) Welsh Issue, Scottish Issue, Irish Issue

Wales and Scotland, both part of the island of Britain and members of the United Kingdom, have distinct ethnic cultures that have, at various times in history, asserted the desire for independence from the rule of the British crown. In recent times, this nationalism has expressed itself in movements for devolution of powers or for outright separation from the United Kingdom. A 2007 study proposed that Welsh and Scottish youth were more prone to supporting nationalist political parties than past generations.

The isle of Ireland is partitioned into two states. , meanwhile, has long sought its independence from the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland, the northern portion of the Island of Ireland, is currently under British rule. The southern half, the Republic of Ireland, is independent.

(07:17) A "Sufistic" Islam

Sufism is the mystical tradition of Islam that originated in the seventh century after the death of the Prophet Muhammad. The spiritual movement originated as an expression against increasing worldliness in the expanding Muslim community. There are many Sufi orders or paths (tariqa) in which a follower pledges his allegiance to a sheikh. Sufis aspire to a special intimacy with God and the eternal in this earthly existence rather than only in the afterlife.

Sufism is not a distinct branch of Islam such as Sunnism or Shi'ism. It does build Islam's legal and textual traditions, and also draws on aspects of the Prophet Muhammad's life — in particular his meditative retreats outside Mecca and his ascension from Mecca to higher realms alluded to in the Qur'an — to focus on internal spiritual life as much as outward social one. This internal spiritual life is cultivated through diverse practices such as meditation, poetry, storytelling, song, and dance, all which aim to erase destructive human egotism, develop compassion for others, and gain direct, intimate knowledge of God.

In the On Being program "The Spirit of Islam," Islamic scholar Omid Safi describes his own understanding and experience of Sufi tradition. The thirteenth-century Sufi master Rumi is perhaps the best-known practitioner of Sufism. His poetry expressed a longing for connection with the divine. In his poem "The Song of The Reed," Rume compares a spiritual seeker to a reed flute:

Listen to the story told by the reed of being separated. Since I was cut from the reed bed, I have made this crying sound. Anyone apart from someone he loves understands what I say. Anyone pulled from a source longs to go back. At any gathering, I'm there, lingering and laughing and grieving, a friend to each, but few will hear the secrets hidden within the notes. No ears for that. Body flowing out of spirit, spirit out from body, no concealing that mixing. But it's not given us to see, so the reed flute is fire, not wind. Leave that empty.

(07:34) Balkan Crisis

Following the end of the Cold War and the collapse of Soviet influence in Eastern Eruope, the country of Yugoslavia was split into several smaller countries. In Bosnia-Herzegovina, three major ethnic groups — Serbs, Bosniaks, and Croats — had a significant presence. Political disputes about the future of the country and competing claims of rule led to open hostilities between these groups. Religion also played a part in the ethnic identities of the three groups: Serbs were predominantly Orthodox Christians, Croats were predominantly Roman Catholic Christians, and Bosniaks were predominantly Sunni Muslims. The presence of Islam in Europe dates back to the period of the Ottoman Empire, when the entire Balkan region was under Ottoman control.

During the conflict, formal armies and paramilitary groups were formed by all three groups. According to the Bosniaks, the Serb forces attempted to "ethnically cleanse" the area of Bosnian Muslims. This "cleansing" included mass deportations, killings, concentration camps, and terror tactics such as rape.

While this was reported in the international media from 1992 onward, military intervention in the region did not take place until August 1995. A peace treaty was implemented later that year. By that time, however, some 100,000 to 200,000 Bosniaks had been killed, with another 20,000 unaccounted for and 2 million displaced as refugees. In the intervening time, radical and violent Islamist groups assisted the Bosniak resistance movement against the Serbs. In 2007, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, declared that genocide had indeed taken place in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

» Enlarge the image Abu Hamza Al-Misri (foreground) and Omar Bakri Mohammad (center) speak at the 2nd Conference of the Islamic Revival Movement in 1999 in Euston Central London.    <br><cite>(photo: Gerry Penny/AFP/Getty Images)

Abu Hamza Al-Misri (foreground) and Omar Bakri Mohammad (center) speak at the 2nd Conference of the Islamic Revival Movement in 1999 in Euston Central London.
(photo: Gerry Penny/AFP/Getty Images)

(07:49) Omar Bakri

Omar Bakri Mohammad was born in Syria in 1958. He joined the Muslim Brotherhood in 1972, formed another radical group called al-Muhajiroun in 1983, and traveled around the Middle East before seeking political asylum in the UK in 1986. In the UK, he assumed leadership of Hizb ut-Tahrir, until 1996. He then formed a British branch of al-Muhajiroun. While under investigation for treason in 2005, he left the country for Lebanon.

During the 2006 Israel-Lebanon War, the British government helped repatriate citizens in Lebanon who were in danger. However, Omar Bakri Mohammad — who railed for separation of Muslims from British culture — attempted to board a British rescue vessel. He was turned away when he did not present a British passport.

(09:31) Freemasons

Freemasonry is an international fraternal organization that, because of its secretive nature, is sometimes associated with global conspiracy theories.

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(09:36–12:27) Music Element

"Pilgrims" from Bon Voyage, performed by United Future Organization


(10:51) The Ummah

The concept of the ummah, or global community, is one that is central to Islam. The original ummah was a confederation of tribes in Medina, in the country now known as Saudi Arabia. The confederation consisted mostly of Muslims exiled from persecution in Mecca, but also included allied Jewish, pagan, and loosely monotheistic tribes, most of whom later fully embraced the new religion preached by Muhammad.

The confederation was based not on ethnicity, class, or tribal status, but on ideals of monotheism and social ethics. As the early Muslim community expanded to become a global empire, and as Islam became more institutional, the ummah evolved to mean a transnational but strictly Islamic community.

The ideal of ummah continues to be expressed in the Islamic ritual pilgrimage of the Hajj. Millions of Muslims from around the world gather in Mecca to perform rites associated with Abraham, and live for a period of seven days as a multinational, multicultural body of believers united by their devotion.

It can be argued that the ideal of a unified ummah is far from the practical reality, as culture and customs often serve as divisive factors in mixed Muslim communities worldwide. However, the sense of belonging to a larger, unified nation of Muslims remains an important aspect of Islamic identity today.

Because it touches upon the issue of identity, the concept has also been exploited by Islamist ideologues. The ummah is used as a rallying point, delineating an "us" and a "them" at odds with one another, much like the "clash of civilizations" theory championed by some Western thinkers after the end of the Cold War.

» Enlarge the image The Need for Khilafah Poster in Urdu. A recruiting poster for implementing a global caliphate reads: Oh Who Believe, Our Allah is One. Our Kalima is One. Our Quran is One. Our Rasool is One. Our Ka'ba is One. Our Ummah is One. Then, Why are We not One? Because We do not have One Ameer upon us, An Ameer who... Resolves our differences in the light of the Quran & Sunnah; Protects our lives, property & honor; Shapes our lives in accordance with Sharee'ah; Spreads the message of the Prophet to every corner of the world; Implements Islam and its system; And who liberates humans from slavery of human beings to slavery of Allah. Such an Ameer has been referred as Ameer ul Mumineen, Naib e Rasool or the Khaleefah. Is it not binding on us to work for such a noble cause which is the restoration of Khalifah? Come, let us all be a part of this great & world-wide effort and be successful in this life and the Aakhirah <cite>(source: khilafah.com)

The Need for Khilafah Poster in Urdu. A recruiting poster for implementing a global caliphate reads: Oh Who Believe, Our Allah is One. Our Kalima is One. Our Quran is One. Our Rasool is One. Our Ka'ba is One. Our Ummah is One. Then, Why are We not One? Because We do not have One Ameer upon us, An Ameer who... Resolves our differences in the light of the Quran & Sunnah; Protects our lives, property & honor; Shapes our lives in accordance with Sharee'ah; Spreads the message of the Prophet to every corner of the world; Implements Islam and its system; And who liberates humans from slavery of human beings to slavery of Allah. Such an Ameer has been referred as Ameer ul Mumineen, Naib e Rasool or the Khaleefah. Is it not binding on us to work for such a noble cause which is the restoration of Khalifah? Come, let us all be a part of this great & world-wide effort and be successful in this life and the Aakhirah <cite>(source: khilafah.com)

(11:04) Hizb ut-Tahrir

The "party of liberation," Hizb ut-Tahrir was formed in 1953 by Taqiuddin an-Nabhani in Jerusalem. Its stated goal is the formation of a caliphate, a global theocratic nation-state deriving its laws from Islamic law, and ruled by a caliph.

Throughout Islamic history, a caliph was a head of state who ruled over a land governed by Islamic law. The last state to have a caliph was the Ottoman Empire, which was dissolved after its defeat in World War I. Prior to that, the Islamic empires throughout history were governed by a succession of caliphs. Although originally the caliph was merely the administrator of laws, and chosen by a council of peers, the title evolved into a more traditional form of monarchy as Islamic empires grew in size, scope and wealth. The practical historical power of the caliph, however, waned after separate and competing Islamic empires formed across North Africa, Spain, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The desire for a caliphate, then, is the desire to see the birth (or, arguably, rebirth) of a utopian Islamic empire, one where strict Islamic law is absolute and permanent.

In that vein, Hizb ut-Tahrir acts as a means to spread its interpretation of Islam throughout the world and promote the idea of caliphate. Building on this idea is the call for Muslims worldwide to find their place among the ummah, the global Islamic community, which is given a transnational political dimension that is meant to rise above nationality.

In the UK, Hizb ut-Tahrir has been found to be a purely ideological group. However, its ideology is markedly separatist and politically radical. The group operates worldwide. In Muslim-majority countries, Hizb ut-Tahrir advocates against ruling governments, which in many instances are autocratic. There, the organization's presence is often banned and its members jailed as political prisoners.

In Western countries, branches of Hizb ut-Tahrir promote anti-Western thought, and discourage its members from participating in democratic processes. Democracy, in their view, wrongly asserts the power of the individual over the sovereignty of God.

Debate has occurred in Britain over whether or not the group should be banned for its role in introducing young Muslims to radical Islamist thought. The argument is that youth participate in increasingly radical groups until they cross the threshold from ideology to violence. This is the argument Ed Husain makes in his book The Islamist.

However, there are also multiple arguments against banning the group: There is no proven link between the ideological campaign of Hizb ut-Tahrir and violent extremism; There is concern that a ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir would feed into its separatist ideology, or that a ban would cause members to splinter off into more radical groups; and some critics would prefer openly engaging and debating Hizb ut-Tahrir, thus defeating its ideology using intellectual means rather than counterterrorist ones.

(111:37) Sayyid Qutb and Milestones

An ideologue for the social-action group the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyid Qutb (1906-1966) became involved in the activism against the secular dictatorship of Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. He spent a major part of his early life as a literary critic and then as a functionary in various government ministries, and had a solitary, puritan religious view of social life that affected his political outlook. He never studied in an Islamic seminary and had no formal grounding in classical Islamic theology or law, but wrote highly influential books on Islamic history and theology that spoke to the political ferment of the Middle East in the 1950s and 1960s.

» Enlarge the image Sayyid Qutb

Sayyid Qutb

While with the Egyptian Ministry of Education, Qutb lived in the United States from 1948-1950. He began to criticize what he viewed as the materialism and sexual freedom of the American ethos. His view of America was also tainted by the policies of Britain, France, and the U.S. in the Middle East. He became convinced that the secular West was antithetical to the religiously grounded Middle East. After joining the Muslim Brotherhood in 1953, he campaigned against the secular-nationalist regime of Nasser. In 1954, he was arrested and imprisoned for 15 years.

In prison, his puritanical views radicalized. He drew on the Qur'anic concept of jahiliyyah to make his criticisms of the modern world. In early Islamic history, the Prophet Muhammad had decried the jahiliyyah, or "existential ingratitude," of the rich, violent tribal society around him. The wealthy tribes did nothing to better the condition of the weaker members of society because they arrogantly refused to acknowledge that their wealth had been a blessing from God. In turn, this arrogance has been conflated with the ignorance and corruption emblematic of pre-Islamic Arabia.

Qutb drew parallels between the Meccan pagan tribes who refused Muhammad's message and the modern dictators who lived luxuriously while the societies under them withered. To Qutb, a dictator like Nasser was a jahili tribal lord like those in Mecca. Where Muhammad had been persecuted and exiled by these tribes, Qutb experienced persecution at the hands of the Egyptian regime. As Muhammad had moved into a war of survival against the belligerent Meccan tribes, Qutb saw it fit to engage in war and revolution against the jahiliyyah of his own time:

The jahili society is any society other than the Muslim society; and if we want a more specific definition, we may say that any society is a jahili society which does not dedicate itself to submission to God alone, in its beliefs and ideas in its observances of worship, and in its legal regulations. According to this definition, all the societies existing in the world today are jahili. … All the existing so-called 'Muslim' societies are also jahili societies. (from the fifth chapter of Milestones)

Qutb viewed Islam as a revolutionary ideology comparable to Marxism, one that was essentially political. In his reductionist view, he neglected the social ethics, spiritual innovations, and creative political solutions of Muhammad's mission and found, instead, a rationalization for revolutionary armed struggle. This armed struggle was the final stage of a larger program; the first stage involved setting up a faithful Islamic vanguard that separated itself from the jahiliyyah.

Qutb also picked up on some classical Islamic scholarship that saw the word split between the Dar al-Islam (the House of Islam) and the Dar al-Kufr (the House of Unbelief), itself a subdivision of the Dal al-Harb (the House of War). Where trained scholars explained that the Dar al-Kufr referred to, at base, a non-Muslim land and, at worst, a land that persecuted its Muslim citizens — thus a legitimate target for military action — Qutb conflated his own views of jahiliyyah with an expanded worldview of "us" and "them."

There is only one place on earth which can be called the home of Islam (Dar al-Islam), and it is that place where the Islamic state is established and the Shari'ah [Islamic law] is the authority and God's limits are observed, and where all the Muslims administer the affairs of the state with mutual consultation. The rest of the world is the home of hostility (Dar al-Harb). A Muslim can have only two possible relations with Dar al-Harb: peace with a contractual agreement, or war. A country with which there is a treaty will not be considered the home of Islam. (from the ninth chapter of Milestones)

He viewed all countries as un-Islamic and war was the only suitable response to these countries. Qutb codified these ideas in his book Milestones, which he wrote during his time in prison and later published after his release in 1964.

The Egyptian regime, however, soon discovered that the Muslim Brotherhood had been stockpiling weapons, and was in the planning stages of an assassination attempt of Nasser. Members of the Brotherhood were once again rounded up. As a leading ideologue in that radicalized Muslim Brotherhood, Qutb was executed in 1966.

(13:18) Marxist-Gramscian way of looking at the world

Karl Marx (1818-1883) was a German philosopher who imagined the world as constituted of two groups: a minority ruling class that, in a capitalist economy, owned and operated the means of production (i.e, factories, centers of finance, etc.) and drew a majority of the material rewards from the labor of others; and a majority working class that served the interests of the ruling class, but saw little gain proportionate to their numbers. Marx imagined that workers would achieve "class consciousness," a rational understanding of the structure of society that would lead to revolution.

Russian politician Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924) felt that this passive method of waiting for class consciousness was ineffective. In Lenin's view, the revolution would be triggered by a "vanguard" of revolutionary thinkers, a group of highly committed intellectuals who could actively work against the ruling capitalist class.

Antonia Gramsci (1891-1937), meanwhile, was an Italian political theorist who developed the idea of hegemony. Hegemony was defined as an overarching consensus of thought constructed by a ruling class, for the benefit of the ruling class — and even ignorantly supported by the working class.

In Marx's world, the ruling class derived wealth and ownership by putting forth the argument that work was its own reward, or that financial success comes through hard work. As the argument seeped into the ethos of the working class, it became championed by them to the point where proponents would see anyone who disagreed with this self-evident truth as lazy. One would strive to be a productive member of society rather than the opposite. By working, it was imagined that one could better one's social condition. All the while, the diligent effort of well-intentioned workers contributes significantly to the wealth and power of the ruling class. The benefit to individual workers is minimal, if any.

In Gramsci's view, the only way the working class could counteract hegemony would be to set up its own institutions and culture, where its values — instead of those of the ruling class — would be championed.

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(19:09–19:44) Music Element

"Riffs And Variations On A Single Note For Jelly Roll, Earl Hines, Louis Armstrong, Baby Dodds, And The King of Swing, To Name A Few" from Come On Feel the Illinoise!, performed by Sufjan Stevens


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(19:09–19:44) Music Element

"Under Tha Influence (Follow Me)" from Cee-Lo Green and His Perfect Imperfections, performed by Cee-Lo


(29:01) Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former Dutch parliamentarian of Somali descent. She spent her teens living in Kenya and was granted political asylum in 1992 at the age of 22. Hirsi Ali sought refuge claiming she was abused by her mother and was being forced into an arranged marriage, though her family disputes this. In the Netherlands, she studied political science and worked as a translator and interpreter helping Somali asylum seekers, many of whom described experiences of spousal abuse.

Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, she declared herself an atheist. She emerged in Dutch media as a vocal critic of Islam, and subsequently began to receive death threats. In March 2006, she and 11 other signatories, many of whom were critics of Islam, published a statement in support of freedom of speech and human rights as a response to the cartoon controversy of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark.

This struggle will not be won by arms, but in the ideological field. It is not a clash of civilisations nor an antagonism between West and East that we are witnessing, but a global struggle that confronts democrats and theocrats.

Salman Rushdie, Indian-British author who famously generated a worldwide controversy in 1989 with his novel The Satanic Verses, also signed the statement.

Between 2003 and 2006, Hirsi Ali served as a member of the Dutch parliament. In recent years, Hirsi Ali wrote a memoir of her experiences: Infidel. It appeared in the original Dutch in 2006, and was published in English in 2007, becoming a bestseller and a critical favorite.

Some, however, found problems with her assertions that her experiences and those of women she knew could easily be blamed on one factor: the religion of Islam. A review of the book in The Economist [subscription required] stated:

Mental illness, abortion, failed marriages, illicit affairs and differing interpretations of religion: much as she tries, the kind of problems that Ms. Hirsi Ali describes in Infidel are all too human to be blamed entirely on Islam. Her book shows that her life, like those of other Muslims, is more complex than many people in the West may have realised. But the West's tendency to seek simplistic explanations is a weakness that Ms. Hirsi Ali also shows she has been happy to exploit.

Hirsi Ali is currently living in the United States, serving as a fellow of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank based in Washington, D.C.

(30:45) Averroes and Avicenna

Ibn Sina (980-1037) was a Persian philosopher, scientist, and theologian who is better known in the West as Avicenna. His methods of systematic experimentation lead to significant advances in the field of medicine. He also studied the works of Aristotle and other Greek and Muslim philosophers, and made his own contributions.

Ibn Rushd (1126-1198), otherwise known as Averroes, was a Spanish philosopher, scientist and physician. He also made major contributions to philosophy, and to the fields of astronomy, medicine, and physics.

(32:29) Hamza Yusuf Hanson

Hamza Yusuf Hanson is an American-born convert to Islam, and now prominent leader and speaker in the American Muslim community. His California-based Zaytuna Institute provides education and leadership training.

(34:44) ISNA conference, twinning with Jewish congregations

The Islamic Society of North America, led by Ingrid Mattson, and the Union For Reform Judaism announced during ISNA's annual conference in August 2007 that they would launch "a joint dialogue and education program for synagogues and mosques."

This followed a joint statement in May 2007 by ISNA and a broad spectrum of leaders in the Jewish and Christian communities, who addressed Congress and called for government action in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and combating the human causes of climate change.

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(37:40–38:48) Music Element

"To The Workers Of The Rock River Valley Region, I Have An Idea Concerning Your Predicament" from Come On Feel the Illinoise!, performed by Sufjan Stevens


(43:11) Quoting Booker T. Washington

African-American civil rights campaigner Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) delivered a famous address in 1895, later called the Atlanta Compromise, during which he said:

A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: "Water, water. We die of thirst." The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: "Cast down your bucket where you are." A second time, the signal, "Water, send us water!" went up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: "Cast down your bucket where you are." A third and fourth signal for water was answered: "Cast down your bucket where you are." The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land, or who underestimate the importance of preservating friendly relations with the southern white man who is their next door neighbor, I would say: "Cast down your bucket where you are." Cast it down, making friends in every manly way of the people of all races, by whom you are surrounded.

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(45:34–46:14) Music Element

"Arc" from Riot Act, performed by Pearl Jam


(47:50) Ihsan

Variously translated as "moral excellence" or "beauty," the concept of ihsan involves maintaining a stance of virtue as one moves through the world. In one tradition of the Prophet Muhammad, the concept of ihsan is explained as being the final of three stages of spiritual development.

The first stage of this progression, islam or surrender to God, is religious practice, as embodied by the five pillars of Islam: the proclamation of belief in God and the message of Muhammad, daily worship, charity, fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

The second stage, iman or faith, involves developing faith in the unseen world of God and the angels, internalizing the teachings of the holy revelations (the Torah, the Psalms of David, and the gospel teachings of Jesus, and the Qur'an), including belief in the Day of Judgment and the concept of divine predestination, and the messages of prophets from Adam, through to Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, and countless others throughout history.

The final stage, ihsan or moral excellence, involves moving through the world with continuous and direct consciousness of God, to act and pray as if God was before us.

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(49:41–52:47) Music Element

"Out Of Egypt, Into The Great Laugh Of Mankind, And I Shake The Dirt From My Sandals As I Run" from Come On Feel the Illinoise!, performed by Sufjan Stevens


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is a former fundamentalist and member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, and author of The Islamist.