Khalid Yassin ist ein, in Harlem geborener,afro-amerikanischer Muslim. Er konvertierte im selben Jahr, als Malcolm X den Märtyrertod starb. Das war 1965. Heute lebt Khalid Yassin in Australien und hält diverse Vorträge über den letzten Glauben Gottes, den Islam. In diesen Vorträgen betont er sowohl die Universalität als auch die Ethik des letzten Glauben Gottes an die gesamte Menschheit, indem er auf gesamtgesellschaftlich-globale Probleme eingeht und zugleich Antworten und Lösungsansätze anbietet. Khalid Yassin hat sein akademisches Soziologie Wissen in Einklang mit seinem islamischen Wissen gebracht. Durch seine Zugehörigkeit zur afro-amerikanischen Gesellschaftsschicht, welche noch bis in die 60er Jahre düsteres Leid durch die weißen christlichen Amerikaner erfahren hat, bietet er nicht nur den Afro-Amerikanern, sondern allen Menschen einen Ausweg aus dem, durch weiße Christen manifestierte, Rassismus in den “modernen” Industrienstaaten. Das vorliegende Video bietet einen kurze Überblick über seine verschiedenen Vorträge mit unterschiedlichen Thematiken.
John Cleary: Right now we’re going to introduce you to someone who, well perhaps is giving a message that many people would be alarmed that is being put about.
Sheik Khalid Yasin is visiting Australia at the moment speaking to Muslim groups in mosques around the country. And as this marks the beginning of the week of the anniversary of the dreadful events of September 11th and the destruction of the World Trade Center, this quite frank and some may find disturbing interview with Khalid Yasin is something that I think deserves to be heard.
I spoke to Khalid Yasin on Friday. Let me give you an observation from a press release that the group who is sponsoring him brought out. This is what they say:
‘Last month, a prominent Sydney Islamic Imam accused scholars from abroad of brainwashing young Muslims in Australia. Sheik Yasin’s response to such inferences was that “There is no established religious body in Australia that can cast aspersions on other Muslims. Let anybody come to my talks and they will see that there is absolutely nothing in them that incites others to do wrong.”‘
Well on listening to this interview, you may decide otherwise. The controversial Imam spoke at Lakemba mosque on Thursday evening to a packed audience, and he pointed out that in the past ten years there have been more than 5,000 people convert to Islam through his institute and other bodies, and suggests that an additional 1,476 have converted since the September 11 attacks. That’s in the press release accompanying the visit of Sheik Khalid Yasin , our guest on Sunday Night.
John Cleary: Khalid Yasin grew up in the United States as a young man, served in the Vietnam War, was drawn to Islam by the preaching of Malcolm X among others, and spends his life these days touring and instructing young Muslims and people who are interested in converting to the faith, about Islam today. Khalid Yasin , welcome to the program.
Khalid Yasin : Thank you very much.
John Cleary: I hope I haven’t done violence to your biography in that brief potted version.
Khalid Yasin : No, I think I’ll get an opportunity to fill in some of those voids.
John Cleary: Islam is getting a very rough trot in the West today. How do you deal with that as a teacher?
Khalid Yasin : Well there’s two ways. For myself, and other co-religionists, I say we have to be tolerant. Along with being tolerant we should be ourselves stable, functional inside the religion, so that we personify the core principles of the religion, because if we do that, then at least we’re not going to be responsible for people taking a radical view of us. The second thing is that I try to take into account, to make an assessment of who I’m speaking to, and upon doing so, I try to from their perspective, correct the distortions, correct the misconceptions to the best of my ability, because that’s what an educator does. Now if there’s a matter of aversion or rejection, or ignorance on the part of the person that I’m unable to penetrate, then that’s not my fault, this is just a hill that I couldn’t quite climb.
John Cleary: Well me might get a chance to explore some of those difficulties that people present to you, during the course of the next few minutes. Let’s first begin though with your personal journey. You started off growing up as a young kid in the United States; when did you first become aware that there was a religious dimension to life, and then what led you to Islam?
Khalid Yasin : Well I guess I got sort of a unique experience to share with you today, John. I grew up in foster home environments, and for reasons that probably I don’t have time to share with you, I wasn’t an orphan, but nevertheless I grew up in an orphanage or orphan home type environment, and over the period from maybe three years old until I was about 15, I was sort of like farmed out to perhaps six or seven different foster homes. Well each one of those happened to have been a different Christian denomination, so I got the full spectrum of Christianity by the time I was 15. And what I didn’t taste in that environment, I went into the military service quite early, earlier than I should have, because I lied about my age. The Federal government at that time, maybe they just didn’t have the tools to find out how young I was but –
John Cleary: When is this, about 1964, ’65?
Khalid Yasin : This was 1963. I went into the military service, the early part, and there while I was in the military, the military was sort of like a challenge for me also. But while I was in the military, I sort of continued my exploration of religion, not because I was so religious but it was just a part of military life and a part of my upbringing as a child, and I even participated in Catholicism. I went to mass, I tried my best to appreciate the liturgy and the rituals of even the Catholic examination. So by the time I was 18 years old, just before my 18th birthday, I could probably say that I was a religious person, having a connection to God, having a feeling with Scripture, having a sensitivity towards prophethood and ideals of the church. But a bit confused because of all these different denominational things.
Well there was a question always in my mind, many questions that just were not answered. And so that kind of like led me, and of course this is now 1964, the turbulent ’60s, and the turbulent ’60s sort of uncovered a lot of rocks for people. The Vietnam War I think just opened up a whole new dimension for Americans, about our government, about the world, about values, about social values and also of religious values. And so at that time a group emerged in America called the Nation of Islam.
John Cleary: The Black Muslims.
Khalid Yasin : That’s what they were called by the press and the media.
John Cleary: Malcom X.
Khalid Yasin : Yes, they didn’t call themselves that, they were called the Black Muslims I think because they preached a sort of a black supremacy, so maybe the appendage was appropriate for them.
John Cleary: And of course the most noted convert there was Cassius Clay, Mohamed Ali.
Khalid Yasin : Yes, the central figure of that movement emerged, although the mentor of the movement was a man called Elijah Mohamed who called himself a prophet which of course mainstream Islam we reject that totally. But nevertheless he was a social reformer, there’s no doubt about that. But his spokesman was a man called Malcom X. Now there’s no doubt as to who Malcom X was, he was a very transparent person. The world now knows him as Malcom X, but later on it was the Al Haj Maleek Shabaz, this was what affected me, when he wrote the now world-renowned letter from Mecca, disclaiming his relationship with the Nation of Islam, and also acknowledging his mistakes and apologising for his radical, racist beliefs, I mean this took a lot of courage. And then he dedicated himself to preach Islam to the best of his ability from a universal point of view, of course with the commitment to help his downtrodden people. Well I was one of the youths who read that letter in The New York Times, something good that The New York Times did bring to us, and I was one of the youths who was present at his lecture called The Message to the Grassroots, which is that famous lecture when he came back from Mecca. I was able to shake his hand, I was able to see the man and to me that’s a historical day, but beyond that I had no connection with Malcolm X. But he touched my life, as he did many other people who even were non-Muslims of that age, and so that was January of 1965. Of course Malcolm X was assassinated in February of 1965, tragically so. In October of 1965 I became a Muslim. So I guess those chain of events certainly had some significance towards my becoming a Muslim.
John Cleary: Was that an intellectual conviction which led you there? You say Malcolm X touched with; I’m wondering to what extent there’s an experiential element to this as well? A personal experience?
Khalid Yasin : Well there was a famous book that I read called ‘The Rhetoric of No’, and it sort of like highlighted the lives of different people who said No to the system. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Bertrand Russell, others. Well Malcolm was one of the people, and they characterised his No as the radical No. Well I and others of that turbulent time period, we became radicals, because our response to the system was a radical response, reactionary. Well Malcolm touched me because Malcolm stood up as a man. Malcolm was willing to stand in the face of threat and sacrifice, and make the sacrifice.
John Cleary: I guess I’m asking, there were both Christian radicals and Muslim radicals in the black cause. If you go to Martin Luther King and other leaders of the NAACP, you come to the Muslim side, there are a number of leaders there. What moved you towards Islam rather than towards Luther King?
Khalid Yasin : Well the Christian church became sort of an impasse for me, an impenetrable wall of dogma that just didn’t seem to generate the answers. The other thing is that as I began to read and I was an avid reader; I mean I wasn’t very disciplined but I was an avid reader. And as I read I found that the Christian church itself sort of tolerated a great deal of transgression and oppression against different people, and colonialism and other things. I’m not saying that the Christian church promoted this, but it’s just been a fibre of Christian civilisation. So I think at that age I started to create a distaste of hypocrisy and inconsistency in my mind.
John Cleary: And that wall you speak of, too, there is a certain sense in which Islam is very clear on certain things, like the whole problem of the Trinity doesn’t exist for Islam. The whole nature of the incarnation doesn’t exist for Islam, so in some ways Islam is much closer to Judaism than it is to Christianity, in those senses.
Khalid Yasin : Yes from a scriptural point of view I think Islam is sort of a natural progression of the Hebrew prophets in scripture, and also we can say that Christianity, Judaism and Islam, they are the three monotheistic faiths of the world. It’s just that St Paul or the apostle Paul, and his contribution to the phenomenon of Christianity in the Western world, made quite a diversion from that scriptural, contextual view and so of course I didn’t know that, couldn’t identify it at that time, but I think that the fact that Islam answered questions that were always in my mind and answered them so easily, so effortlessly and so beautifully. And the other things is that the answers didn’t come from a clergy, the answers came from the Qu’ran itself, that we accept to be the word of God. The second thing was that the person of the Prophet Mohamed, peace and blessings upon, when I was a young person, we were always looking for heroes, we were always looking for that perfect man, or that person, that ideal. But when I read about the Prophet Mohamed and his lives, not as an Arab, but as a man, as a leader, as a mentor, as a Prophet, as a father, I couldn’t see any other human being that had that kind of personification, so these two elements, the Qu’ran and the life of the Prophet, peace and blessing upon him, I think is what sort of triggered my reversion. That’s what we like to call it.
John Cleary: My guest is Sheik Khalid Yasin , visiting Australia on a trip lecturing and informing Australians about Islam and speaking to young Muslims around the country.
Tell me about the great issues you’re faced with today. We mentioned at the start of our interview and said we’d touch on one or two of these things. What for you is the central dilemma facing Islam today as the West tries to tear itself apart almost over issues like terrorism. This is as much something for Islam to deal with as it is for the so-called West to deal with.
Khalid Yasin : I think that it’s a bit hypocritical and double-standard for the Western civilisation to use this issue of terrorism as equation to evaluate Islam and Muslims when its history in the world is one of terrorism. I mean we just go to South America, we just go to the issue of slavery in America, and how they were pulled out of Africa, we go to South Africa, we go to the Aborigines right here in Australia. I mean I don’t have to tell you the stories, I can go as a historian, which I am and a sociologist which I am, I can just give you so many stories. That doesn’t take away from the contribution of technology, civilisation, education, sophisticated institutions that the West has brought to the world. So to be very fair, what I always try to do as an educator, as I say to people that terrorism is not a place where we should start to evaluate, make an assessment of Muslims.
John Cleary: Yes, why don’t we start in the 14th century.
Khalid Yasin : Exactly. I mean let’s start with the Islamic values. Let’s start with the core of Islam. And let’s not start with Muslims, because it’s not fair for me to evaluate Christendom by Christians or even by the church.
John Cleary: Christianity recognises, and I should say the popular press recognises about Christianity that it’s been torn by internal divisions, and those internal divisions have often been the result of even more violence than the actual faith itself has. Is there a recognition within Islam that in some ways internal divisions have to be dealt with, but there has to be a way found? We have surely the division between Suna and Shia on one hand, but you also have other groups, Wahabis on one hand, other smaller groups which splinter off all around the world, and you will have variations on teaching. Now one of the great advantages of Islam is it’s not hierarchical, it’s not like the Roman model. The disadvantage is that how do you deal with groups that become aberrations, if you like?
Khalid Yasin : Well you know, John, one of the contemporary disadvantages that Muslims have was adhering to the Islamic values as a global body, is that there is no global representation for them. So therefore look, how does a government bring its citizens into compliance with the Constitution for instance? It’s through regulation, it’s through governmental institutions. So how do we expect that Muslim scholars or Muslim leaders are to bring their people into compliance with the core Islamic values? We don’t have government, we don’t have institutions to do that, we can only preach, we can only teach. So how can we then be blamed that we can’t bring the 1.4-billions of people, Muslims, who are spread all over the earth, into compliance with the core of Islam? This is going to happen gradually but the second thing, the same people who are blaming us for not being able to do that, they don’t want us to have global representation. I mean that seems to me not to be fair. The method by which, or the methodology by which other groups of people, bodies of people, governments of people or civilisations bring their people into compliance whether ideologically so or otherwise, is through legislation. We have to have global representation to do that. Now I don’t say that a Muslim government in Turkey or a Muslim government in Africa or a Muslim government in Pakistan would do that, because that’s not global representation. We don’t see ourselves as a national body, we see ourselves as a global body. In my estimation the Muslims without a global head, not for the sake of Jihad or expanding the empire of Islam, but just for the sake of globalising and having central government and regulation of Muslims, because our institutions require that. So in a very simplistic way, I would say that what we can do is what we do. We preach, we teach tolerance, we teach from the core of Islam, that is the Qu’ran and the Sunnah of the Prophet peace and blessing be upon him, we try to make what is called Insh’allah – which in Arabic means to make reconciliation between groups, to find common ways in which they can appreciate and tolerate each other. Then externally, we have to do the same thing for non-Muslims, whether it be the situation in Palestine, whether it be in Chechnya or whether it be the situation in Kashmir or wherever it is, we have to preach tolerance, patience, introspection, commitment to the core principles of the religion. And I think that if committed Christians, tolerant Christians and committed Muslims and tolerant Muslims, intellectual ones, influential ones come together in an atmosphere of tolerance and commitment, to try to put together principles and recommendations, this will help, but this is not necessarily going to execute what we want. We need I believe as Muslims, we need for things to come from the top down, and so for me, what I try to promote is that Muslims should have an attachment to community, because community develops the idea of society, and society then brings about nation. Nation inevitably brings about the idea of civilisation.
John Cleary: Do you foresee a day when you’d be able to have some sort of representative structures internationally?
Khalid Yasin : Of course. Inevitably. It has to happen. You see Islam, this is the seed of Islam, you’ll never, even when we study DNA, we find that its structure never changes. So the DNA of Islam is not going to change. When Islam evolves and comes out as a flower or as a plant or mineral, or whatever it’s going to be, the structure will never change. The Islamic structure is an institutional one, and it cannot function on an individual level. This is not a reactionary –
John Cleary: So community is at the essence of it.
Khalid Yasin : It’s at the essence. And what’s the essence of community? Family. So you’ve got to build the individuals to become good families. Build good families to build good communities. And so myself as a sociologist and teacher and a committed Muslim, I’m trying to come from the bottom to the top.
John Cleary: Where does the Sharia fit into that?
Khalid Yasin : Well the Sharia is the cement that keeps all the bricks together. The Sharia is the legislative element. The Sharia is the judicial element. This is where rules, this is where juristic decisions, this is where the courts, this is where law. And I mean if you don’t have a people that is governed by Sharia, then you have a lawless people.
John Cleary: Christianity once had a problem with that in the Middle Ages, and so canon law developed, and church law was the law of the State. And then alongside that civic law developed. And gradually over the years, they split and then civil law became predominant over church law. Do you see that sort of evolution taking place in Islam as well?
Khalid Yasin : No. As a matter of fact this dichotomy of church and State and civil law and religious law, doesn’t exist in Islam. Because the source of law has never been the human being. In Christianity the source of law, human beings have always had something to do with the evolution of the law, but in Islam it is not the case. The law is an inspiration from God, the Qu’ran is the word of God alone. Even it is not the law of Mohamed. Mohamed was inspired by God, it is his example of the law, his explanation of the law, his personal example of the law. So in this sense civil law and religious law are congruous together.
John Cleary: Could you have a secular Islamic state, like Turkey is trying to be over the years?
Khalid Yasin : No, it doesn’t work. These are experiments that have been tried but they haven’t worked. Now of course you can have it, but you’ll see that after a certain amount of time it disintegrates, it cannot work.
John Cleary: So ultimately the Sharia should become the law of the land?
Khalid Yasin : Exactly. It has to be. I mean, who is the best lawgiver? Who is the best legislator, the designer, the author, the creator or the human beings who themselves are subjected to that law? It has to be. So I think that if we have time to reflect and be honest and objective about the matter, if you asked me, ‘Kalid, who do you think has the best idea to regulate what should go on in this building? The people who designed it? Or the people who live in it?’ I’d say ‘The people that designed it.’ So we say that God is the creator of the human beings, the black, the white, the all. And therefore the law emanates from God. And then God sent prophets as examples, how to administrate the law. So those prophets were examples and they were inspired. It is not their own personal feelings that we use for law but it is their adherence to God and their personal examples of how to administrate that law. And so in that sense I think that the source of law in Islam is superior to that of anywhere else.
John Cleary: I’m trying to think of those countries which are struggling with this question at the moment. Indonesia and Malaysia, to our immediate north. What’s your view about the way then that has to be resolved in those countries?
Khalid Yasin : Well you know John, I think that the evolution of the Sharia within a country that has not been practising it, has got to take time. If we look at the evolution of the Sharia experiment in Nigeria for instance. It’s just a wonderful, phenomenal experience. It has brought about some sweeping changes, balances, within the society, regulations in terms of moral practices and so many things.
John Cleary: Yes but you’ve also got a case that’s making the news headlines of a woman who –
Khalid Yasin : One case of the –
John Cleary: Caught in adultery, or allegedly in adultery and now she’s to be killed and –
Khalid Yasin : Yes but I’m saying, should we in all fairness, should we take one case out of 10,000 cases that are being dealt with in this new Sharia court, and isolate that? No, that wouldn’t be fair.
John Cleary: Let’s talk about that Nigeria for example for a moment, because you’ve got a country there which has a large Christian population and a large Muslim population; how do you reconcile that? Do you think that the Sharia should prevail and Christians can live under the ambit of the Sharia, or do you think there should be a secular state which allows room for both Muslims and Christians to practice under their own religious codes?
Khalid Yasin : Well let me for a moment, let me take that question into a broader historical spectrum, and let’s look at it in that light. What did the Sharia provide for the Christians who are living in Spain, what did the Sharia provide for the Muslims who were living in Turkey, I mean historically. What did the Sharia provide for Muslims living in the Islamic state in Medina? What did the Sharia provide? Always dignity, protection, and the religious rights? Co-mingling, respect of their properties? So historically, Islam has always shown tolerance, dignity, protection for the non-Muslims living in the Muslim state. So from a historical perspective, I say that the Nigerian experiment is one where they are trying to get back to that model, but it’s not going to happen overnight, and in all fairness, you know, we people living in the West, we live in the shake and bake thing, we think that if some people choose, of a new parliament comes, if a new government body comes, they’re supposed to shake things up in three or four years or within that particular – that doesn’t happen. Nigeria degenerated over a number of years and I don’t have to talk about the level of degeneration, I have visited there. It’s not going to happen overnight, and the other thing is that this isolated case of this woman, it’s for the Nigerian court and the Sharia to decide her case, not an emotional Western reactionary, pragmatic, we’re not the ones to judge other people, they have to judge that. It’s good news, it’s good news, but to be very fair and objective I think that there are 9,999 other cases that if you were to review them, you’ll find that they might be even better news or a better example of how the Sharia works.
John Cleary: Well let’s broaden that out a little again. What then happens to concepts developed in the West over the last couple of hundred years, such as representative democracy, in that sort of system?
Khalid Yasin : Well representative democracy, that terminology, there’s a lot of people that gave that explanation to that terminology, but representative democracy is the will of the people, by the people, for the people. OK now in regards to Islam, the people are always subject to God. The people have no right to legislate where God has already legislated, and so of course there are going to be some conflicts that will come up and these are challenges historically that have been met and they will continue to be met. I mean I think that if Muslims and Christians, or Muslims and secularists come together and intellectually objectively discuss various issues, you’re going to find that there’s going to be an Islamic perspective, like for instance, issues in terms of prison reform.
John Cleary: Yes, but let me hang on to the representative democracy notion though for a moment, because essential to the nature of representative democracy is if the majority decides something and elects a set of representatives, it’s the representatives who make the law, that is, and the law in parliament is sovereign. There is no sovereignty above parliament, so it’s that notion I’m trying to get to.
Khalid Yasin : Yes and we understand that, and let me use if I might a very graphic example of representative democracy. So if representative democracy says that men can marry men, and women can marry women and those men, the women who marry each other, can also adopt children and create a whole different idea of family, what will happen to the basic segment, the very element of family that builds society, that’s one. If the law of parliament says that it’s OK for women just to be naked, men and women just to be naked, or for the idea of child pornography to be, because it’s the exercising of people’s free right to press and whatever the case might be. What happens to the morals of society? So it is quite clear that at times interest groups can become the majority, and their interests may be one that defiles and undermines the very core of the society. Well in Islamic law this cannot happen.
John Cleary: See at heart, what you are saying now is utterly at conflict with parliamentary democracy. You are saying there needs to be a law, a sovereign law, the law of God, revealed through the Sharia, which will be supreme over the elected will of the parliament.
Khalid Yasin : That’s exactly what we’re saying, and we’re saying this with no apology. Why? Because God says (LANGUAGE) This is in the Qu’ran. That means for him is the legislation, for him is the sovereignty and no human beings have any part in that sovereignty. So when God has legislated, that law is supreme. We are only representatives.
John Cleary: And where Christians say their version of the law of God is supreme, there you have the makings of conflict.
Khalid Yasin : Well conflict is inevitable, John, I think that we would be very immature and more than idealistic to think of living in a world without conflict. But conflicts can be bridged, and this is where –
John Cleary: But you’re saying only bridged if Christians step up onto the chariot with you, that is step up into the Sharia.
Khalid Yasin : No, we didn’t say that. Let me draw from something from a historical profile that both of us can probably appreciate. Ibn Kahldouhn, a well-known scholar of social history, the history of societies, he said that invariably, history tells us that governmental rule is a matter of competition. So governments inevitably, having their cultures and their ideas, are going to conflict with others in regards even for the acquisition of territories. And it is that competition and what powers they possess, that are going to determine who’s going to acquire, who’s going to inhabit, what areas. This is not your determination or mine, it’s the competition. At this point, Western civilisation has developed the institutions, the material power to acquire, to possess, to inhabit and to enforce sometimes, to impose. They don’t make any excuses about that, they do. And so when the Muslims are able to do so, they will. And this is a matter of history, it’s not a matter of us wishing to have an Islamic state or having some kind of Jihad, a paradigm against Christians or something like that, no. We Muslims, we wish for the opportunity to acquire, to inhabit, to install, and to live under Sharia. Now how we go about that, we have to try to strive with dignity, with tolerance, without subversion, without conspiracy, without rebellion. We have to try to do this and however idealistic it is, I don’t have all the answers, and to be very frank with you, I don’t think that a great deal of Muslim intellectuals or Christian intellectuals may even care about my opinions, because I’m not really an intellectual. But nevertheless we have to find a way to compete, and it’s only right that we be given the same opportunity to compete as others with our aspirations.
John Cleary: The idea of theocracy, which is essentially what we’ve been talking about, was tried a couple of times in Christian history, both in the Geneva of John Calvin, and in the England of Oliver Cromwell, and found wanting. Ultimately the people said No, the law needs to be supreme over the teachers of the Bible because the teachers of the Bible vary in their interpretation, and the law, parliament, needs to be supreme. Now wouldn’t it be the case that a Sharia ruled society would have much the same difficulties in that you have difficulties between a Shia interpretation, a Suna interpretation, or Wahabist interpretation, there’s all sorts of –
Khalid Yasin : Well for us, John, our paradigm for government is the government of the Prophet, peace and blessing upon him.
John Cleary: Yes but what did he mean when he says the things, that’s what people argue about isn’t it?
Khalid Yasin : Well the thing is the end results. What we want in a society is where everyone has access to the resources of the society, we want a society where there is a reasonable coexistence, peaceful coexistence. Here in a society we want progress, in a society we don’t want the imposition of a class system; in a society we want to know that the law is equally applied to everyone, and we go on and on and on. And I say that there is a historical paradigm. OK now if the Christians or Western civilisation say that they have a historical paradigm of a nearly ideal state, I mean Socrates, Plato and all of these guys, they kind of articulated things towards it, but they never reached such an ideal republican state. But we have a historical paradigm, not only just in the person of the Prophet peace and blessing upon him, but in that Medina state. Now how long it lasted is not the issue, the fact that it is a paradigm, so an apple is an apple, however long it stays on the tree, it’s still an apple, whether it falls on the ground and rots it’s still an apple. So I say we have a historical paradigm and for all arguments’ sake, we can look at that and then compare it with other examples.
John Cleary: Let’s talk about yourself and the things that make life worthwhile for you. What is it that gives you a buzz in the morning, when you get up in the morning what is it that gives you the most joy in life?
Khalid Yasin : The anticipation of speaking to guys like you. No honestly, John, the work that I do, to be honest with you, coming from my background, as I told you before, I was born in Harlem, New York, raised in Brooklyn, New York, what we call the inner city destabilised and socially deprived people, and for me to be travelling around the world speaking with people about ideas such as we’re discussing today, for me to be the guest of prestigious institutions, to share my views, and to have the privilege as an American citizen to be able to do that, and to be Muslim and to feel the confidence of having something to offer, because this is the way I see my work. I see my work that I’ve got a bag full of tools, people need things repaired, so I look in my bag of tools almost like a doctor. I take out the right tool and I try to offer and try to fix that. Now in this case what am I fixing? I’m fixing human beings. Human beings have voids in their life. Human beings needs answers, whether they be Muslims or non-Muslims. I give answers, I give propositions.
John Cleary: We all need moments of refreshment though, where from the focus that drives our life, we actually step back for a moment and reflect, or even recreate our bodies. What do you do for recreation to actually help you clear and focus and just unwind from time to time?
Khalid Yasin : Well I’m a fairly avid horseman, I swim, martial arts, I box, I read quite a bit. Probably once every two years I visit Mecca and I cleanse myself spiritually by performing the Omrah or the Haj, and then daily I pray five times a day. As a Muslim that gives me the refreshment and our Prophet peace and blessings be upon him, said that the prayer is the coolness of his eyes. So I have the opportunity to recede five times a day into that inner sanctum.
John Cleary: Do you feel that coolness?
Khalid Yasin : Yes I do.
John Cleary: Do you feel that peace?
Khalid Yasin : Yes.
John Cleary: So there is an experience associated with –
Khalid Yasin : Well let me be quite honest. Faith rises and declines so there are times when I feel it more apparent than other times, but it’s a habit, I mean it’s just like swallowing, blinking, we have to pray, and we do. And there are times when you feel the presence and the outcome in the fruits of the prayer, and other times you’re just doing it mechanically, but still we have to do it.
John Cleary: How does God, how does Allah express himself to you?
Khalid Yasin : Through the Qu’ran.
John Cleary: Through the Qu’ran. What about your own spiritual experience?
Khalid Yasin : Well yes, when I look at the landscape of Australia, the scenes the blessings that providence has given to this country, when I’m in America and I go from California to New York, or from Texas up to Niagara Falls, or whatever and I see the earth, when I see India, when I visit the world and I see the presence of God in space and outer space or in science or in medicine, I mean all these things for me are reflections of the signs of God.
John Cleary: What about, and I’m asking now something that actually broadens this questioning into the whole cultural life of Islam; what about the great works of art and music, you see that expressed in say, the Middle Ages, Islamic flowering in Spain, the glorious architecture of some of those cities. Where do you get your aesthetic sensibilities from?
Khalid Yasin : We believe that those aesthetic areas exist, and they do have some benefit for human beings but they are what we call the peripherals, and we can live without the peripherals. And for me, I’m not a person that promotes the ideas of art, except within the spectrum of Islam. We don’t use figures, we don’t draw human faces and portraits so there is the issue of art within Islam, even the Qu’ranic writing, calligraphy and the designing of buildings and landscapes and nature, all of these things are appreciated but again, the aesthetic part of Islam is the peripheral. It’s like we need food for nutrition but if the food tastes good, that’s even better, but if I didn’t have a sense of taste I would still need nutrition.
John Cleary: But God’s given you a sense of taste.
Khalid Yasin : That’s correct.
John Cleary: He’s given you a sense of form, style, of beauty.
Khalid Yasin : And therefore we should exercise it and we should tune it.
John Cleary: What about music, you mentioned tuning?
Khalid Yasin : Well to be frank with you, John, I grew up in a family loving music, dancing, singing, clapping, clowning. But Islam made me a little bit more serious than that, and our Prophet peace and blessing upon him, he didn’t incline us towards music. It tends to make the human being a little less responsible, less regulated, and then it sets a platform that we can see has manifested itself in Western society in particular. Music didn’t start out in the Western societies as it is today, having now been today almost sort of the breeding ground for all the vices that have torn the society apart. We don’t say that, that this is where everyone in music or art is headed, but it’s definitely the breeding ground. So if somebody asks me ‘Kalid, what do you think about smoking a little bit of weed, I mean it does seem to be the you know’, so I would agree that probably maybe smoking a little bit of weed may be harmless in the beginning, but what does it lead to? And so what has music and art, what has it led to in the West? I mean in the core of it. Some very powerful institutions no doubt, some big lobbies, I mean there’s no place in the West where you can go where music and art is not represented, and now these are the most probably the wealthiest influential people and things of that nature, but that’s not the issue, the issue is from a civilisational point of view, from a moral standpoint of view, what has it breeded, what kind of institutions has it established, and then what historical legacy will it lead? And so for me, I tolerate the love of music within my family and within the Muslims civilisations or societies, but it’s not something that we pursue and not something that we promote.
John Cleary: For you, as you tour the world, you’re moving through your life, where have you got your sense of greatest satisfaction, and what continues to be the central ground of your satisfaction?
Khalid Yasin : I have an internal dream and one of my internal dreams is to be able to restore the idea of the father, the family, the male figure. Perhaps I haven’t done enough in that regard. My children, my parents, perhaps my siblings would probably say there’s still something lacking in my own pursuit of that dream, but through my Islamic growth and development, I am praying that one day I’ll fill some of the voids in my own life, I will sort of fill some voids in some other people’s life, and I will restore the image of the man in the society, take the instability of the female head of family, give some stability back to the people of the inner cities, give the idea of family back, of clarity as opposed to this nebulous idea, so these are some of the things that really drive me because I guess it has a lot to do with my own youth. But outside of myself, I think that I want to have something, I want to contribute towards the reformation, if not of my own society, America, the reformation of the world in some small way. I’m not looking for recognition in terms of a Pulitzer Prize or Nobel Peace Prize or anything like that, but I hope that somewhere in history it will be written, and that my children, my grandchildren, or others who may be their peers, that they’ll pick up a book and somebody would have said that this man Khalid Yasin , came from such-and-such a background, but he made a powerful contribution to the upliftment of human beings in this respect, or that respect. To me I think that would be a great gift from God, and that’s what I’m striving to do.
John Cleary: Khalid Yasin for joining us on Sunday Night. It’s been a great pleasure to have you.
Khalid Yasin : Well I thank you for being a gracious non-provocative host.
John Cleary: Khalid Yasin, currently visiting Australia, here on a visit evangelising for Islam.
Producer: Noel Debien, Dan Driscoll