Guest Host: Nia-Malika Henderson

Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization units hold an Islamic State (IS) group upside down June 4 in the village of al-Azraqiyah as they advance towards a village north west of Fallujah during an operation to regain territory.

Shiite fighters from the Popular Mobilization units hold an Islamic State (IS) group upside down June 4 in the village of al-Azraqiyah as they advance towards a village north west of Fallujah during an operation to regain territory.

Earlier this year, the U.S. announced an intensification of the war on Islamic State with more air strikes and more American troops on the ground to assist allied forces. Now, U.S. and Iraqi forces are said to be on the verge of retaking Fallujah from ISIS. And in Libya, reports are that Islamic State may have lost all of its territory. But the group continues to make terror attacks on Western Europe, Turkey and the U.S. And their extremist ideology continues to draw young people to join, including some Americans. Guest host Nia-Malika Henderson and guests discuss the history of ISIS, the struggle over Islam and how both are shaping the future of the Middle East.


  • Shadi Hamid Senior fellow, Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution; author of, "Islamic Exceptionalism: How the Struggle Over Islam is Reshaping the World" (June 2016)
  • Fawaz Gerges Professor and chair, Middle Eastern Center, London School of Economics; author of, "ISIS: A History" (June 2016)


  • 11:06:55

    MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONThanks for joining us. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN sitting in for Diane Rehm. She's off today. As the battle against Islamic State forces rages on in the Middle East, Americans are reeling from the worst terror attack in US history. A shooter in Orlando, Florida, killed 49 people in a gay nightclub while claiming allegiance to Islamic State. Joining me in the studio to discuss the historical rise of ISIS, the continuing appeal of its ideology to recruits abroad and here in the US and how Islamist exceptionalism is reshaping the future of the Middle East, Shadi Hamid of the Brookings Institution and Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics.

  • 11:07:41

    MS. NIA-MALIKA HENDERSONWe'll be taking your comments, questions throughout the hour. You can call us on 800-433-8850. Send us an email at Also, join us on Facebook or on Twitter. Shadi, I want to go to you right off of the top here and get your reaction to what has happened over the weekend in Orlando.

  • 11:08:09

    MR. SHADI HAMIDYeah, sure. So I think that, you know, just seeing the reactions on Twitter and social media yesterday, I mean, obviously, you know, we started the day horrified by what happened, but then, to see, as someone who studies Islam and Islamist movements, to see a lot of the problematic and bigoted rhetoric that came out very shortly after the attack, I mean, people wasted very little time casting blame in places where, I think, that were inappropriate.

  • 11:08:44

    MR. SHADI HAMIDAnd, obviously, we've had this discussion for a long time over the past year, year and a half, with the rise of Trump and the far right, this tendency to cast Islam as one thing, as some kind of monolithic entity, but also that Islamism is the problem and not being able to really define our terms and distinguish between different groups and movements. And I think what's very, I think, important to remember any time there's a terrorist attack either her in the US or in Europe is that ISIS wants to create more division.

  • 11:09:20

    MR. SHADI HAMIDThey want to say to Muslims throughout the world that you have to pick a side. So anti-Muslim sentiment contributes to that sense that there isn't a place for Muslims in the West, that they aren't going to be accepted as full citizens either in France, Britain or in the US So that's what I'm very frightened about because after the terror attack, there's not a lot we can do. It happened. What we can do now, in addition to law enforcement doing whatever we can to prevent future attacks, is to make sure we don't fall into this trap that ISIS wants us to fall in, which is indulging in this anti-Muslim bigotry.

  • 11:10:01

    HENDERSONAnd Fawaz, we've seen from President Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump weighing in very differently in terms of the terminology they use to describe what happened in Orlando.

  • 11:10:14

    MR. FAWAZ GERGESYou know, I'm extremely anxious about some of the terminology used by the right. Not just by the far right in the United States, particularly Mr. Donald Trump. The idea of using -- talking about radical Islam. It's not radical Islam. It's radical Islamist movement. It's Salafi jihadist movement. A tiny minority that basically trying to hijack agency in the Muslim world and also hijack the Islamist movement because most of the Islamists do not really use violence as a tool in the politics.

  • 11:10:48

    MR. FAWAZ GERGESAnd I think if I can really summarize -- and I'm not being very harsh on Mr. Trump, the idea that Trump -- he subscribes to the clash of civilization, Islam versus the West. And that's exactly what ISIS would like the Islamic world to believe in because ISIS is trying to say to Muslims worldwide, we are Islam. We are the authentic Islam. We are defending the Sunni Muslim community. And the rhetoric of Mr. Donald Trump pours fuel on the raging fire. It's not about a clash of civilization.

  • 11:11:20

    MR. FAWAZ GERGESThis is about a clash of civilization. This is a clash within the Islamic world. There are civil wars in the Muslim world, civil wars among and between the Islamists and also between the Muslim world and ISIS. We must understand what we are seeing here are basically the flames, the flames of civil wars that are raging in the very heart of the Middle East. This is not a clash of civilization. This is a clash within civilization. And the rhetoric of Mr. Donald Trump does not help in trying to really either to understand this complex phenomenon, called Salafi jihadism, or also trying to basically mend the bridge that exists between some Muslim societies and Western societies.

  • 11:12:00

    HENDERSONAnd over the recent months, we've been hearing that Islamic State is on the run, you know, in retreat. How much progress are we really making against ISIS strongholds in Syria and in Iraq?

  • 11:12:15

    GERGESWell, I don't think we can say that this is the beginning of the end. As long as DAESH, the term, I mean, in the Muslim the term is used, DAESH -- dismissively because it's a very negative term. That is, as long as ISIS controls Mosul in Iraq, the second largest Iraqi city and Raqqa -- Raqqa is a major province. It's the capital of ISIS. I think ISIS continues to show resilience, endurance, organizational capacity, even though in the past six or seven months, ISIS is losing, it's bleeding, it's on the run.

  • 11:12:54

    GERGESIt has lost about 25,000 fighters. It has lost about 40 percent of territories in Iraq, about 30 percent in Syria. Also, now you have multiple fronts opened up against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria. It has lost major cities. So in this particular sense, even though ISIS has suffered major setbacks, it continues to show resilience. It's fighting to the last man. Every single town and city ISIS has basically made a last stand and this tells us that this is a long fight. It's not going to be done in six months or nine months or even a year.

  • 11:13:30

    HENDERSONShadi, how was Islamic State able to surpass al-Qaida in the Middle East?

  • 11:13:37

    HAMIDSo I think what we have to understand about ISIS is that it's set a new standard for extremist groups and that's why, even if ISIS is defeated tomorrow, I think it's, in a sense, too late. You can't undo the damage. So for me, what's more interesting and relevant in the long run is not the kind of battlefield dynamics and who has what city or loses what city, but rather what ISIS means, what it stands for. And that's where ISIS is unusually pronounced interest in governance is quite fascinating and frightening.

  • 11:14:11

    HAMIDBefore ISIS, groups like al-Qaida were much better at destroying things. They didn't really have a vision for rebuilding something in the place of what they destroyed. But ISIS has really focused on capturing and holding territory so we're going to have to live with that legacy for the rest of their lives in the sense that wherever you have an ungoverned or ungovernable space in the Middle East or the broader Islamic world, you're going to have that local extremist group thinking to itself, oh, ISIS has set the standard.

  • 11:14:44

    HAMIDWhy don't we try to establish our own little mini caliphate or mini emirate?

  • 11:14:50

    HENDERSONAnd your book, "Islamist Exceptionalism: How The Struggle Over Islam Is Reshaping The World," could you talk about why it is that you argue that Islam is exceptional?

  • 11:15:01

    HAMIDYeah, sure. So I have to say, I'm worried that some people are going to misconstrue my arguments. I'll try to be careful here. But I do think Islam is exceptional in how it relates to law, politics and governance. Islam has proven to be historically, currently and I argue for the foreseeable future will be resistant to secularization. So this idea that I think is implicit in so many of our conversations here in the US that, oh, it's just a matter of time before Muslims go through their own reformation process, they secularize, then modernity and liberal democracy and all of that.

  • 11:15:44

    HAMIDI think we have problematize some of those assumptions. Not all religions are the same. Islam does have a political component from the very founding moment of the faith that Christianity does not have, in the sense that Prophet Muhammad was not just a cleric or a theologian or a prophet, but also a head of state. So the religious and political functions are intertwined from that very moment. And I don’t think that's necessarily a bad thing for religion to play a role in politics. It's just a question of what role it plays. Is it violent? Is it nonviolent? How does it manifest itself in everyday life?

  • 11:16:23

    HAMIDBut what I want to sort of, with this book, challenge Americans on is this idea that difference is necessarily a bad thing and that if other religions go their own way or play more of a central or prominent role in politics, that that's something that's bad and evil and we have to fight. No. I would argue, actually, that we have to find a way to come to terms with Islam's role in public life in the Middle East and find a way to accommodate people who care deeply about their religion and make sure they have a place in the political process instead of saying that, oh, if you're not secular, you're bad.

  • 11:16:59

    HAMIDYou have to be pushed out. And that, to me, runs the greater risk of contributing to radicalization.

  • 11:17:07

    HENDERSONSpeaking with Shadi Hamid whose new -- who has a new book out, "Islamist Exceptionalism," as well as Fawaz Gerges. Coming up, more of our conversation. We -- I wonder, Fawaz, what your assessment of this idea is. Here, he's talked about Islam being an exceptional religion. What do you make of that?

  • 11:17:32

    GERGESWell, with all my due respect to Shadi and his idea about the uniqueness of Islam, of course, there are major differences between Islam and other religions. There is no doubt about it. We're not talking about Islam. We're talking about Islamic societies. We're talking about Muslims in various contexts. Secularization is taking place whether we like it or not.

  • 11:18:01

    HENDERSONComing up, more of our conversation with Shadi Hamid and Fawaz Gerges.

  • 11:20:02

    HENDERSONWelcome back. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Fawaz, if you could pick up, we were talking about Islam as an exceptional faith. What do you make of that?

  • 11:20:17

    GERGESI'm not suggesting that Islam is not different. I am suggesting it would be very misleading to talk about Islam rather than Islamic societies. It would be very misleading to talk about Islam instead of talking about Muslims. What we have seen in the last 30 or 40 years in the Middle East is a basically implicit secularization of Muslim societies. Even the Islamist movement, even the mainstream Islamist movement, have -- are undergoing a process of secularization.

  • 11:20:48

    GERGESHere you have another party in Tunisia, another party, the Renaissance Party, a movement now that has accepted, you know, give and take, the separations of power, accepted the separation of religion and politics. In fact for your own listeners, for most Americans who do not know, ISIS, the rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS, really is a blowback, a backlash against the process of globalization and secularization that's taken place.

  • 11:21:15

    GERGESThis does not mean that the identity of the state in the Muslim world will be identical to the identity of the West. No one is suggesting that the process of secularization in the Islamic world will be identical to that of the West because the struggles in the Middle East today are about the identity of the state, and surely Islam is a critical, pivotal component of the public space and the private space. But the reality is Muslim societies, like all their counterparts worldwide, are going a process -- powerful, dynamic process of secularization.

  • 11:21:50

    GERGESMy argument is that when the dust settles on the battlefields in Syria and Iraq, in Egypt and Lebanon, you're going to see societies that basically define a new constitutional mandate. This particular mandate will be based on the separations of power, on pluralism, on the separation of the sacred and the political.

  • 11:22:09

    HENDERSONAnd in your book, "A History of ISIS," you argue that even if the West defeated ISIS, that wouldn't necessarily spell the end of Islamic fundamentalism.

  • 11:22:24

    GERGESYou know, Shadi has made a very important point earlier. It's not really about what's happening on the battlefields. It's the idea, what ISIS and what al-Qaeda stands for, this ideology, and many of your listeners probably don't -- are not really fully aware of the Salafi jihadism. Salafi jihadism is a family of which the various al-Qaeda affiliates and ISIS are a part of. It's a gene pool. And this ideology has been with us for many, many years. And sadly it's not a mass movement, but it's a social movement. You have many converts.

  • 11:22:57

    GERGESI mean regardless, Omar Mateen, the killer in Orlando, basically pledged allegiance to ISIS. Whether he was directed by ISIS or not, it tells you about this important ideology. And this ideology has found home in the greater Middle East and some of the Islamic societies because of the state of chaos, of instability, the creeping sectarianism, the security vacuum, the institutional vacuum of the -- broadly speaking, the organic crisis.

  • 11:23:29

    GERGESYou have a massive developmental failure. You have state failure. And one of the lessons we have learned about this ideology, Salafi jihadism, it basically is nourished in conflict zones on instability and chaos without reconstructing the state system, whether you're talking about Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and other places. This particular ideology will be able to basically find home and refuge.

  • 11:23:57

    HENDERSONAnd Shadi, in your book you talk about the evolution of Islam, and you compare it to the evolution of Christianity. What do you know about those sort of divergent paths and what it means for what we see today going on?

  • 11:24:11

    MS. SHADI HAMIDYeah, so, you know, Muslims aren't bound to their founding moment, but they can't fully escape their founding moment, either, in the sense that if you are a believing Muslim, then the Prophet Muhammad matters to you, and that history matters to you. If you look at Christianity, Jesus was a dissident against a reigning state. So the New Testament naturally doesn't have much to say about law or governance because that's not what Jesus was trying to do. That wasn't his project.

  • 11:24:43

    MS. SHADI HAMIDAnd also in those critical early centuries of Christianity's evolution, Christians were living as minorities under the rule of others. So again, it wasn't until several centuries into their experience that they finally are controlling territory. So it's almost banal to say that history matters, but history does matter, and that's where I also think that if we look at the broader sweep of 14 centuries of Islamic history, there had always been a caliphate or competing caliphates.

  • 11:25:17

    MS. SHADI HAMIDIslam imbued every aspect of public life. It was an overarching, religious, legal and moral culture. So it went without saying, so it wasn't said. What's different about the modern era is that for the first time, there is this challenge of secularism that's tied to the imperial project in the late 19th century, going into the 20th century and so on. So Muslims then are kind of forced to choose. Do we assert our Islamic identity? Do we go along a secular route?

  • 11:25:49

    MS. SHADI HAMIDBut what I do think we have to realize is that some of this is quite recent. So when we talk about the rise of ISIS, we think about maybe the start of the Arab Spring in 2011 or the Iraq invasion of 2003. But another very important date is 1924.

  • 11:26:07


  • 11:26:08

    HAMIDWhich marked the formal abolition of the last caliphate, the Ottoman caliphate. And I would argue that ever since then, there's been a struggle to establish a legitimate political order in the Middle East. Why? Because these questions over the role of religion, public life and Islam's relationship to the state have remained unresolved. And that's what people in many of these countries are fundamentally fighting over.

  • 11:26:34

    HAMIDSo you have Islamists on one side and non-Islamists on the other. There's considerable polarization. And I don't think we should minimize that people to some extent hate each other in Egypt or Tunisia or Jordan because they want their countries to go in fundamentally different directions. And that's okay. What I would argue is that they have to agree to resolve those foundational differences through a peaceful political process, and that will require accommodating Islam.

  • 11:27:05

    HAMIDAnd I do agree with Fawaz that you have some of these more mainstream or quote-unquote moderate Islamist groups, like Ennahda in Tunisia for example, that are trying to rethink some of their assumptions. But at the end of the day, they still are Islamists in that they want Islam to play an important role in public life.

  • 11:27:27

    HENDERSONAnd Fawaz, what actually derailed the Arab Spring, and how did that contribute to the rise of ISIS?

  • 11:27:35

    GERGESA major challenge, if you ask me what is the biggest fault line in the region, in the greater Middle East and some Islamic countries, I would say it's the vacuum of ideas. You have a vacuum of ideas. The post-colonial state basically has state, the post-colonial state that replaced the colonial state, because it promised to establish organic states. It promised development. It promised unity. It promised modernization.

  • 11:28:04

    GERGESIf you look at the landscape in the greater Middle East, they promised heaven and delivered dust. This is not about Islam per se, this is about the social contract that was supposed to govern relations between the post-colonial state that came into being after the end of World War II and the societies. I mean, look at what's happening in the Middle East. We're talking about Islam in a vacuum here.

  • 11:28:27

    GERGESWhat you have in the Middle East is 40 percent of the people who live in the Middle East live either in poverty or in abject poverty. In Egypt you have between 30 and 40 percent of the 90 million people who live either in poverty or in abject poverty. In Algeria, in Lebanon, in Sudan, in Yemen, you have a demographic crisis. Nearly 65 percent of the population in the Middle East are below 28 years old. You have political tyranny. You have systemic corruption. You have basically blockage in the system to come back to your question about the Arab Spring.

  • 11:29:01

    GERGESLet's go back to that particular moment, 2010, 2012. Let's think about the rallying cries of the millions of people in Tunisia, in Egypt, in Libya, in Bahrain, everywhere. What were the rallying cries? Dignity, freedom, justice, universal values. Secularization does not need colonialism. It needs universalism. They were calling for universal values to take the state back from the bloody dictators. We did not see many black flags. There were no calls to establish Islamic states.

  • 11:29:39

    GERGESIn fact when I go back to the idea about the vacuum of ideas, the Islamic movements have failed. They have failed, and militarism has failed, and that's now -- now you have the Islamic state and al-Qaeda. What the Islamic state is trying to do, yes, we have a big idea. We can fill the vacuum of ideas. We have the caliphate, the Islamic state, as my colleague said. Middle Eastern societies are not about the caliphate. It's not about Islam. It's about a new social contract. It's about constitutional mandates. It's about getting rid of tyranny, political tyranny, and having bread and butter.

  • 11:30:13

    GERGESThese are the questions that dominate the landscape in the Middle East, and that's why anti-hegemonic movements like al-Qaeda and ISIS have been able to find a home, because the social contract has collapsed, the state system that was put in place by the colonial powers has basically vanished, and this is why the struggle in the Middle East.

  • 11:30:33

    HENDERSONAnd the US' role or lack of any role in the Arab Spring, how did that contribute to what we see going on today?

  • 11:30:40

    HAMIDSo I think external factors are actually quite important. I mean, when the Arab Spring started, we heard all of this rhetoric from senior US officials, it's not about us, it's about them, and we have to kind of take a step back and let events play out on their own. But I think what we've actually learned is that external powers can play an influential or even decisive role. If we look at some of the stalled or failed revolutions, whether it is Libya, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, outside powers played a very important role, whether in the region or beyond.

  • 11:31:20

    HAMIDAnd if divides are so foundational in these countries, if people are struggling to resolve the role of religion in public life, that means they need as much help as they can possibly get from the international community to help manage these divides. And I think it was a fundamental mistake looking back that President Obama did not prioritize democratic reform. There was a moment where there was optimism, but then when we saw the destruction in Libya and elsewhere, a lot of Americans, including our own leader, said we want to get away from all this, we're tired with the Middle East.

  • 11:31:58

    HAMIDAnd I think that especially when it comes to Syria, where we've seen more than 400,000 killed, the way that I see it, that will -- our failure to act there as Americans, that will be remembered as Obama's Iraq, that we could've done more, we could've helped stop the killing, but we decided to look away. And I think there's a real moral question here about when people are struggling for freedom and democracy in places like the Middle East, what do we as Americans believe in, what do we stand for, and I think that's really where there's a crisis in our own liberal democratic faith, in our own country.

  • 11:32:38

    HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. You're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. If you'd like to join us, call 1-800-433-8850, or send an email to Find us on Facebook, or send us a tweet. Fawaz, I want to go to you on this. One of the sort of foundational divides is the Sunni-Shiite divide. Is that getting worse? How is that playing into what we're seeing?

  • 11:33:11

    GERGESFirst of all, I don't think we -- ISIS would have done as well as it has without using and exploiting the creeping Sunni-Shiite divide in Iraq and Syria. It's a creeping divide. It's a powerful divide. It's the fuel that powers ISIS, even though I would argue that the Sunni-Shiite divide masks geostrategic struggles, as opposed to really a -- because in Islam there is no divide between Sunnis and Shiites. There is no doctrinal divide in Islam, like there is in Christianity.

  • 11:33:44

    GERGESBut the Sunni-Shiite divide is used and abused for political and power dialectics in the Middle East, in particular between Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia and Shiite-dominated Iran. And this fierce struggle between the two powerful states have really basically -- is playing out on Arab streets in Iraq and Syria, in Yemen and Lebanon, point one. Point two, you ask a very important question about the role of the United States. I mean, we have been talking about ISIS.

  • 11:34:10

    GERGESISIS -- there is nothing mysterious about ISIS. ISIS is a different name for al-Qaeda in Iraq. And if you ask me what's the most important, significant factor in the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq, it was the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the destruction of Iraqi institutions, the disbanding of the army and the security forces, the importation of a sectarian-based regime, the view of the Sunni community in Iraq, which is a minority, the Sunni Arab represent about 20 percent, that the Americans basically engaged in the political emasculation of the Sunni community, the torture that took place in Iraq.

  • 11:34:46

    GERGESAll these factors played a major role in the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq and now in the rise of ISIS. But the reality is to come and also in the post-Arab Spring uprising. Another factor about the spectacular resurgence of ISIS is the derailment of the Arab Spring by the geostrategic regional powers, both Saudi Arabia and Iran played a major role in the derailment of the Arab Spring, and also about the United States that as my colleague Shadi said did not invest either social capital or resources in helping struggling societies to reconstruct state and society and establish productive bases.

  • 11:35:26

    HENDERSONAnd what about the war in Syria? How has that empowered the Islamic State? Do you want to take that, Shadi?

  • 11:35:36

    HAMIDSure. So I think -- well first of all, Syria is where ISIS revived itself and came to be what we know it today, and that -- then we see ISIS becoming more powerful in Syria. That spills over into Iraq. And this is where the failure of governance is such a critical consideration, and we see Assad's brutality, and we see vacuums of leadership, where essentially there's either absolute chaos or warring rebel factions in large parts of Syria, and ISIS and other radical groups are able to step into that vacuum and say you might not like our ideology, but we will impose a tough, brutal justice, and at least -- at least if you keep your head down, you'll be safe.

  • 11:36:24

    HAMIDAnd that was the message they were able to send. So even if you're a Sunni Muslim in Syria, and you hate ISIS' ideology, you're comparing not between ISIS and liberal democracy, you're comparing between ISIS and chaos or ISIS and the brutality of the Assad regime. So unless we're able to offer alternatives in the Middle East to ISIS, then the root causes are still going to be there, and we just end up in an endless cycle.

  • 11:36:55

    HAMIDIn other words, so we're talking a lot these days about Fallujah being retaken from ISIS, and there are major battlefield gains. But the question is what replaces ISIS the day after. And if it's just Shiite militias, which are brutal towards a Sunni population, where we see a strong Iranian influence, you see a strong sectarianism, then the risk is that Sunnis in the coming -- in the coming years will again return to radical options.

  • 11:37:25

    HENDERSONComing up, your calls and questions for Shadi Hamid and Fawaz Gerges. We'll be right back.

  • 11:40:02

    HENDERSONWelcome back. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson of CNN, sitting in for Diane Rehm. We are talking about Islam and the rise of ISIS in the wake of the deadliest shooting in US history. Here with me is Shadi Hamid of The Brookings Institution and Fawaz Gerges of the London School of Economics. We're gonna go right to a call. Steve, from Ann Arbor, Mich., you're on the air with "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:40:30

    STEVEGood morning. Thank you for this conversation. I have a simple question, I think. Why, for goodness sake, do we keep using the word Islam or Islamist, which is inherent in ISIS/ISIL as abbreviations, when all we're doing every time we say that or use the abbreviation we are propagating their view of themselves. If the dismissive term in the Middle East is Daesh or some other word, then let's use that word. Why are the media complicit in their terrorist propaganda by using their names? For goodness sakes, everybody…

  • 11:41:15

    HENDERSONThank you, Steve. Fawaz?

  • 11:41:17

    GERGESI mean, the so-called Islamic State calls itself al-Dawla al-Islamiya. In Arabic al-Dawla al-Islamiya is the Islamic State. Many religious personalities and clerics in the Muslim world, including radical clerics, radical jihadist clerics, argue that it's not Islamic nor a state, even though it has been able to establish a state as big as the United Kingdom, where I live.

  • 11:41:46

    GERGESIt controls the lives between six and eight million people. It has a mini army between 30,000 and 100,000, give and take. A mini financial empire. In the Arab and the Islamic world, mostly the term is used Daesh, in Arabic, which really to dismiss the so-called Islamic State or ISIS. But the reality is what we are here, is to understand beyond the rhetoric, beyond the propaganda on all sides.

  • 11:42:11

    GERGESWe're trying to understand the drivers behind the rise of this phenomenon called ISIS or the Islamic State or -- I mean, why the spectacular resurgence, the motivation, the key goals, its strengths and weaknesses. But the reality is there are differences. Some of the media in Britain a big debate at the BBC, whether they should use the so-called Islamic State or ISIS. In Europe now, in the political establishment the term Daesh. In the Arab world, Daesh. In the United States it's ISIL, it's not ISIS.

  • 11:42:42

    GERGESPresident Barack Obama always -- the Islamic State of Syria, of Iraq, and the Levant. The Levant is stand the "L" for the fertile presence of Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine and -- so different interpretation, different terminologies, but the reality is for some of us, for me as an academic, I want to understand the context, the drivers, what does it mean and where it's going in the next few years.

  • 11:43:04

    HENDERSONAnd, Shadi, where do you come down on this terminology and what to call them?

  • 11:43:08

    HAMIDYeah, so I'm actually a strong proponent of calling it either ISIS or the Islamic State. I'm a strong believer that we have to call things as they are. And if organizations call themselves something, that's generally how we refer to them as well. So the al-Qaida affiliate in Syria calls itself the Victory Front. We don't call them the Failure Front. Past terrorist or militant groups, Shining Path in Latin America. We didn't think to ourselves, oh, we don't like the shining part. Let's call them the Path of Darkness.

  • 11:43:42

    HAMIDSo it just -- it's just sort of an illogical precedent, I think, to call it something different. But I would also say this, I very much sympathize with the idea of separating Islam or Islamic from ISIS. I'm an American Muslim. I believe ISIS is a terrible perversion of my religion. As Fawaz said, they represent a tiny minority of the 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. At the same time though, I don't think we should fall into the trap of saying, well, ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. Very clearly ISIS fighters and leaders, they believe that what they're doing is right.

  • 11:44:21

    HAMIDWe can say that they're perverted. They're -- they have a perverted, distorted approach to it. But I worry that we underestimate the power of religion as a motivating force. And I think to truly understand ISIS we have to take that part of it seriously.

  • 11:44:40

    HENDERSONI'm gonna go to a caller here. Osama, from Baltimore, Md. You are on the air with "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:44:49

    OSAMAHi. Thanks for having me on the call. I was a little flabbergasted in the beginning of the program where a lot of callers were calling in regarding why isn't the Muslim community standing up. And I would just answer them with data. And I would love if you would start having data journalists in this panel as a lot of this could be solved with just understanding the data.

  • 11:45:08

    OSAMAThere -- and I'm gonna quote some (unintelligible) statistics where 94 percent of terrorist attacks carried out between 1980 and 2005 have not been Muslims. Plus, most of the terrorist attacks are not in this country. One-thousand, seven hundred people died in Afghanistan last year due to terrorist attacks. This is not related to the war. A thousand people died in Pakistan. So I don't understand why this mild, like, narrative always wins and why don't we talk about data which could really make them understand where they issues really lie.

  • 11:45:38

    HENDERSONThank you, Osama. Fawaz?

  • 11:45:40

    GERGESFirst of all, we have made it very clear. I am basically -- I feel very terribly disturbed when I hear the idea of collective responsibility. Who are the Muslims? Why should we talk about Muslims as a collective? I'm sorry. Not in our name, not in the Muslim's name, point one. Point two, I think what we need to understand, and to come back to this so-called Islamic State, when I talk about the Islamic State, many Muslims feel basically angry with me.

  • 11:46:09

    GERGESThey say, look, you are basically belittling our religion. You are basically investing these Islamic State with religious authority. Yes. The Islamic State, I mean, cites the scripture, but in a very narrow, very selective, very horrific way. It does not represent other Muslims or the Islamic society. And finally about Muslims, out of -- in the narrative in the United States, we have not really addressed the question is that the Muslim community is doing a great deal.

  • 11:46:40

    GERGESMuslim leaders are doing a great deal. Some of the Muslim clerics in the United States have taken on ISIS. And, in fact, they are on the death list of ISIS. And the FBI is providing protection for many American cleric, Muslim clerics who have stood up and tried to basically disinvest and disentangle the myth from reality.

  • 11:47:01

    HAMIDCan I…

  • 11:47:02

    HENDERSONShadi, go ahead.

  • 11:47:03

    HAMIDI just -- just to add something on the data/journalism aspect of this. I'm actually skeptical of -- so it is true that there's a bigger chance that a piano will fall from an apartment and land on your head then being killed in a terrorist attack in the US So we know those numbers and they're circulated a lot in social media and all of that. But the problem here is that we as human beings are not necessarily rational.

  • 11:47:28

    HAMIDYou give us some data and you say, well, look, you shouldn't worry about terrorism. You're probably gonna be fine. But that's the whole point of terrorism. It provokes the irrational side of human nature. Because you don't know when it will come. Because it does seem foreign. All of these things affect how Americans perceive the threat. So I think we also shouldn't dismiss it and say, well, look, it doesn't actually happen that often. Americans shouldn't be too worried. We don't live in that ideal world of data journalism. We live in a world where fear is very effective.

  • 11:48:04

    GERGESI'm afraid, that is, terrorism is being politically manipulated and exploited by politicians. I fear that these particular deadly, horrible, insidious actions are overblown out of proportion. I fear there is a political agenda behind some of the statements that invest collective responsibility for the Muslim community or Muslim communities. And that's really what we need to keep reminding our audiences. This is not about Islam. This is not about Muslims. This is about an ideology, traveling ideology masquerading as religious, even though it cites from the scripture.

  • 11:48:43

    HENDERSONShadi, I wonder if you have any thoughts about how much theology should actually be incorporated in the governments of predominately Muslim nations. I know you write, for instance, in your book about Turkey.

  • 11:48:55

    HAMIDYeah, so I think it really has to be up to the people in their own societies. And that's where democracy and democratic processes become so important. So if there is a majority in Turkey or Egypt that votes for an Islamist party and they say they want Islam to play more of a role in politics, not less, I think we as Americans, even if we're uncomfortable with those outcomes, we have to say, well, the democratic process has to be respected.

  • 11:49:23

    HAMIDNow, we don't know exactly what that will look like. And it differs from one society to another. Egypt is a more conservative society than say Turkey is. But if you look across the board, there do seem to be, according to the polling we have, large majorities in places like Egypt, Jordan, but also Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia that say they want there to be at least some kinds of religiously inspired criminal punishments. Or they do want restrictions on alcohol consumption or they do not believe in full gender equality.

  • 11:50:00

    HAMIDSo there is a kind of illiberalism that is present in some of these societies. Now, there have to be limits to what majorities can do. But at the same time, we can't pretend -- we can't force people to be liberal if they don't want to be liberal. Right? And I think also we shouldn't pretend this is only a problem in the Middle East. I mean, I think throughout the world we're seeing the rise of illiberal democracy. In India, far-right Hindu nationalists have won elections.

  • 11:50:32

    HAMIDPoland just recently elected illiberal politicians. Austria almost elected a far-right politician as its president. The rise of the far-right in France, and for God's sake, the rise of Donald Trump in the US If there's ever been an illiberal Democrat, in other words, someone who believes in the democratic process, but doesn't necessarily believe in Constitutional protections for minorities, like Muslims, like me, that's what Donald Trump represents. Right? So I think more and more Americans and Europeans are seeing that there are real tensions here.

  • 11:51:09

    HENDERSONWe're gonna take a caller. Andy, from Orlando, Fla., you are on the air with "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:51:16

    ANDYHi. Good morning. Thank you for taking the call. So my real name isn't Andy, actually, though. And I'm -- I grew up half my life in India and I'm from the Sikh religion. And we -- well, I mean, my question actually -- my -- or the comment that I wanted to say is that from years -- from these thousands of years, you know, I feel that Islam itself, the ideology itself, you know, does not want to separate religion and politics.

  • 11:51:45

    ANDYI mean, they want to govern my religious views. And because of that point, the religious leaders do not stand up and spread that message all across. And, you know, I'm not talking about, let's say, spiritual or religious leaders just in the America. I mean, the -- where is the voice from the center of Islam saying -- spreading that word and saying that -- stop this, this is nonsense. We need to move ahead with the times.

  • 11:52:20

    ANDYWe need to understand that we need to assimilate, otherwise, you know, our religion is just, you know, we are getting to a point where we are just becoming, you know, everybody just looks at us as terrorists. So, you know, that's what my point is. That's what my question is. And I'll -- I'd love to, you know, hear what your panelists are saying.

  • 11:52:41

    HENDERSONOkay. Shadi, you wanna take that?

  • 11:52:43

    HAMIDYeah, so my reaction to that is wait a second. Why do -- what does even mean for Muslims to move ahead with the times? I mean, there's something I worry that's a little bit patronizing about that. That, oh, you Muslims are troublesome. Get your act together. Why aren't you modern and all of this. Why should Muslims necessarily assimilate? Yes, they should integrate. They should be a part of their societies in the West.

  • 11:53:08

    HAMIDBut if they wanna hold onto their religious traditions and express a conservative view of religion or wear the head scarf in France, for example, they should have that right. And I think we have to be more comfortable with the idea that other cultures or societies may want religion to play more of a role. Why do we see that as necessarily and always being a bad thing and that everyone in the world has to get on board with secularism?

  • 11:53:35

    HAMIDWe, individually, I as an American liberal, I as someone who grew up in America, I sympathize with your caller. I'm skeptical of religious governance here in the US or Christian evangelicals. But that doesn't mean that I can superimpose my own views on hundreds of millions of Muslims in other places, who may have a different perspective than I have.

  • 11:53:58

    HENDERSONI'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. You're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And, Fawaz, what do you make of what the caller said?

  • 11:54:08

    GERGESLet me be very direct. I have student the Middle East most of my life and I really have come to a simple conclusion, that the separation of the mosque and government is critical, is pivotal, is fundamental to the protection of the sacred. The protection of the sacred. Time and again, the scared in the Middle East and the Islamic world has been manipulated and exploited by secular politicians, by false prophets, like Osama Bin Laden, Ayman Al-Zawahiri, Abu Al-Baghdadi and others.

  • 11:54:48

    GERGESAnd as long as you have to separate the political from the religious in order for societies, basically, to focus not on identity, on what matters. The major problems in the Middle East is not religious. The major problems in the Middle East is the social contract between government and the people, massive developmental failure, the state failure, institutional building. And without separating this particular, I mean fundamental line, we're gonna be talking about identity.

  • 11:55:16

    GERGESHow -- and the struggles -- a final point. The struggles in the Middle East today about the identity of the state. How much sacred? In Tunisia it has been resolved. It is really -- Tunisia represents an important model. The first Arab-Islamist movement, the first Arab-Islamist movement to accept the separations of power, to accept the rule of law, to accept citizenship as opposed to sacred text, which really basically mediate between the individual and the state.

  • 11:55:43

    HENDERSONAnd, Shadi, what do you see happening in the coming months? On the one hand, with this fight against ISIS. And then some of the identity politics that are going on in some of these Arab nations.

  • 11:55:57

    HAMIDSo my unfortunate motto when it comes to the Middle East is, if it can get worse it probably will. And I remember thinking in 2013, wow, this was a really bad year for the Middle East. But then 2014 was worse. Then 2015 was worse. So on and so forth. There is progress being made against ISIS as we've talked about, but I don't see any broader vision, a long-term vision from US or European politicians.

  • 11:56:27

    HAMIDAnd some of this of course will depend on who wins the election, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. But either way I don't think we're having a real conversation in the US about a longer-term engagement with the Middle East. And even this phrase, nation-building, I think that as Americans we have to think seriously about how we can help these nations reconstruct themselves. We have to be willing to commit financial resources. But there is no politician who's even comfortable using the phrase nation-building. So it's hard for me to be optimistic.

  • 11:57:05

    HENDERSONThanks so much for listening. I'm Nia-Malika Henderson with CNN. I'm joined today by Shadi Hamid, who has a new book out called, "Islamic Exceptionalism." And Fawaz Gerges, who also has a new book out, "A History of ISIS." Thank you so much for spending time with us today.

  • 11:57:22

    HAMIDThank you.

  • 11:57:22

    GERGESThank you.

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