interview with Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini

Michael Totten interviews the soft-spoken moderate Shia cleric at his home in Lebanon. There is much wisdom that Sayyid Husseini has to offer, such as:

“I believe that plenty of the Western people believe that there are two kinds of people,” Husseini said. “Some who believe in peace and God and some that believe in violence and the devil. While I was in Germany, I met a student. He told me that I am a Muslim, that I am a terrorist. I told him that he is the German, that he burned people. I said Why are you talking to me? I didn’t burn anybody. I told him also that I didn’t terrorize anybody, and that I was the first person to condemn what Osama bin Laden did to America on 9/11. I told him that we, the Shia people, in Iraq we were the first victims. Saddam killed civilian people, he cut off our heads, he blew up our houses. I told him that Hitler burned the Jews. Nobody in the world has done what he did. Then I told him we are the same. You are German, and you are not Hitler. I am a Muslim, but I am not Osama bin Laden.”

However, Michael has his own insights as well:

It’s extraordinary how the violent extremists of the Middle East have managed to portray themselves as mainstream in front of Westerners. In some countries, such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, perhaps at least the passive supporters of Islamists really are mainstream. In most places, though, they are not. Religiously moderate Muslims are easy to find in the Middle East, especially in modern countries like Turkey and Lebanon. But they get precious little attention in the media. Those with the rocket launchers and the self-detonation belts are more newsworthy and get much more press.

This is why demands of moderate muslims to somehow account for or do something about the extremists are so misguided. Read Totten's entire interview with Husseini - it's a fantastic interview. And support Michael's travels in the Middle East as well.

1 comment:

Jim Haber said...

Did you get to ask him about the nonviolence handbook he wrote? I read about it in The Mennonite.

Also, you interviewed him just after he survived an assasination attempt. What did he have to say about that. Was anyone killed? Was he hurt at all?

He has risen in the leadership of Shiites in Lebanon. What does he make of that?