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Moderate Muslims Speak out Against Extremism

Aired March 5, 2007 - 19:00:00   ET


GLENN BECK, HOST: Tonight -- I` at a conference where Muslims are saying the things that Americans have wanted to hear since 9/11. They are trying to change Islam from within. Do not miss this next hour of honest questions and passionate debate. The fight for Islam next.
Tonight, from St. Petersburg, Florida, I` here for the secular Islam summit. And when I arrived yesterday, I really had no idea what to expect. People have come here literally from all over the world. Even more extraordinary, some have had to cancel due to threats on their life. It is a convention of fatwas.

But the one thing that people here have in common, and let me tell you something, they don`t have a lot in common. They don`t agree on a lot. Is that terrorism and violence in the name of Allah must stop.

Now I want to make this clear. I` not even pretending this is a fair and balanced look at the Islamic world or Muslim reformers. This is a fair and balanced look at this summit. It is one point of view. A group of brave people who are willing to speak out.

It is important that you know that some of the people today here are Muslims. Some are former Muslim that are now Christian. Some are atheists, agnostic. People at this conference include scholars from Jordan. I met a policeman from Baghdad. He was the guy who saved Jessica Lynch. A single woman from Toronto.

Their diversity is rich, but how many are actually living the religion that they`re trying to change? I don`t know. But I have been struck personally by one thing.

Back in the 1990s I was an air quote "Catholic." I wasn`t living the Catholic lifestyle at all. I disagreed with the pope, or at least that was the easy thing for me to say instead of changing my life. Why doesn`t the pope say this is OK?

That`s really not the approach one should take. It seemed to me, it would be easier to seek the changes from the church than from within me.

Now, should I have changed my life? Sure. But did I have a right to speak out about anything that the Catholic Church was doing that, you know, was bad at the time, hypothetically speaking?

If you think people are hijacking your religion for power or killing in the name of that religion, if that would have been the case, oh, be it Catholicism, Judaism or Islam, you not only have the right, you have the obligation to speak out. No matter who you are, stand up, defend your religion and theirs, demand that it be restored to a faith of peace and justice.

Tonight -- you`re going to hear voices that so many people all over the world don`t want you to hear. I` asking you to listen to their stories, listen to their messages, and judge for yourselves. These people are speaking out for change. And no one knows the threat better than they do.

Many of the seats in the conference are sitting next to empty seats. They were empty because of direct and current threats to people`s lives if they showed up here in St. Petersburg. No one walks the walk or talks the talk better than the people you`re going to meet in the next hour.

I took some time yesterday to ask some of the key speakers why they continue to speak out when their lives and the lives of their families are in such great danger. Here`s what they told me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When I got a serious, real death threat, I talked to the person who has a right to know. That`s my wife. And you know what my wife said? "If you think you`re doing the correct thing, never submit to any threat."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I` told all the time, you know, you have so much courage. But I would say that it would probably take more strength for me to sit on my hands and do nothing. Because I live in a part of the world where I do have precious freedoms to think and express and challenge and be challenged on matters of religion. And here`s the key, without fear of government retaliation for doing so.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My personal jihad is to allow Islam to go through some kind of reformation so I can raise my head as a Muslim and be proud of being a Muslim.


BECK: Joining me now are two people who have stood up to fundamentalist Islamic leaders in the face of incredible danger. Wafa Sultan, who is -- had a debate with a Sheik on Al Jazeera. She has been downloaded on the Internet over a million times. I want you to take a look at this.



GRAPHIC: When you recite to a child still in his early years the verse: `They will be killed or crucified` or have their hands and feet on alternate sides cut off, regardless of this verse`s interpretation and regardless of the reasons it was conveyed or its time you have made the first step towards creating a great terrorist.


BECK: Also joining me is Shaker al-Nabusi. He is -- he has written many editorials published around the world, demanding among other things, that religious leaders of Islam create a fatwa against Osama bin Laden.

Shaker, let`s start there. Has anyone ever issued a fatwa against Osama bin Laden?


BECK: Why?

AL-NABUSI: I don`t know exactly but it seems, you know, those people, you know, who are in the Middle East, they`re not so interested in bin Laden or in fatwa or in something like this. So they are closing, you know, their eyes on what`s going on in the Middle East.

So you know, as far as you know, the fatwas, you know, concerning the Iraqi people or concerning Hamas or concerning, you know, any party in the Middle East, you know, they are ready to issue no such fatwas.

But as far as against Osama bin Laden, it seems, you know, most of the sheer establishment, you know, in the Middle East, they are with Osama bin Laden. And the question, you know, if they are not with Osama bin Laden, why they did not up until this point issue any fatwa against him?

BECK: OK. You were a practicing Muslim for 30...

SULTAN: Thirty-two years.

BECK: Thirty-two years. What was the turning point for you?

SULTAN: I was born and raised as a Muslim. Thirty-two years of my life was stolen by Islam. Now I am free, and I feel obligated to speak out and to fight for the human rights for others.

BECK: OK. How -- how can you reform a religion if you right now are saying to me, free yourself of this religion?

SULTAN: Believe me, personally, I don`t believe Islam really can be reformed unless we recreate a totally new belief system and keep it.

BECK: What about it is -- that it`s not Islam, that it is cultural? The life in the Middle East is...

SULTAN: Terrible.

BECK: Different.

AL-NABUSI: It is different but it`s not terrible, as Wafa said. I think...

BECK: I don`t know.

AL-NABUSI: I think it is no different. And to reform Islam, I am against, you know, what somebody who is saying that there is no hope to reform Islam. If you would like to reform Islam, we have to reform it from inside Islam, not from outside Islam.

First of all, you know, we have to understand what is Islam? Most of us, you know, we did not read, you know, the actual history of Islam. And we did not read, you know, the actual literature of Islam.

And we are -- and we depend now on the certain interpretation of Islam, which is, you know, coming from that chair or this chair. And this is the wrong interpretation.

We need a new interpretation for Islam according to the freedom concept, in order to have these days and according to democracy concepts, which we have these days. We need a new interpretation for Islam.


AL-NABUSI: But to change Islam, it`s no way to change Islam. This is urgent. And nobody can change it.

BECK: OK. You are from Syria?

SULTAN: Yes, I am.

BECK: You have said some pretty amazing things. Being in Syria I have to imagine it`s caused some great danger for you and your family. What is the -- what is the main message that you want people to hear?

SULTAN: My mission is to educate America and the international community about the danger and the nature of radical Islam. This is my message.

BECK: OK. And what is the danger?

SULTAN: It is very danger belief system.

BECK: What is the difference...

SULTAN: It is calling for the destruction of the other, of the west...

BECK: Yes.

SULTAN: ... of the non-Muslim people, and it is not humane job to do.

BECK: Right. But you just said the dangers of radical Muslim, which I will agree with. But then you also said earlier about Islam. Is there a difference between -- is there a moderate, peace loving Islam?

SULTAN: I don`t see any difference between radical Islam and regular Islam. Because Islam is not only a religion. Islam is a religion and is a political ideology deeply rooted in its teaching.

BECK: Is that a view that you would hold here in the United States, or is that a Syrian view?

SULTAN: I was taught at a very early age in order to be Muslim you have to believe in Islam as a religion and a state -- and as a state. Like let me give you an example. You cannot be American and Muslim at the same time.

BECK: OK. So then because I`ve seen this and I`ve heard talk about it at the conference this weekend. Church -- separation of mosque and state, is that -- is that a big problem? Will that help?

AL-NABUSI: It`s not a big problem, no. But I would like to draw your attention to the very important point, that when we are asking, you know, to separate mosque and state, we are asking from political point of view and not from a religious point of view.

BECK: Got it.

AL-NABUSI: Because what we have these days as far as terrorism, you know, it`s not coming 100 percent, you know, from the religion. It`s coming from the political interpretation of the religion. The religion has been founded 14 centuries ago.

BECK: Yes.

AL-NABUSI: Why these type of terrorism, you know, waves these days? Because there is a certain political interpretation to Islam.


AL-NABUSI: So our problem is with the interpretation and not with the honor of Islam.

BECK: Good. Thank you very much.


BECK: We will -- we have much more from the conference today. We`re going to take a look at the younger generation of Muslims here in America. And the large role that they`re going to play in the reaffirmation of Islam here in America and worldwide. Stay with us.

Our coverage from the secular Islam summit in St. Petersburg, Florida.


BECK: From St. Petersburg, Florida, radical Muslim. When I say that to you, what do you picture in your mind? Is it poor, uneducated? Is it a guy? Maybe somebody who`s lost and hopeless, who hates the west for our liberty and our democracy.

If that`s what you`re picturing, you couldn`t be more wrong.

Based on analysis of a world Gallup poll, which was 9,000 interviews conducted in nine Muslim countries, it`s now apparent that everything we thought about who`s most likely to become radicalized, completely wrong.

For example, while 38 percent of moderate Muslims have completed secondary school or gone to college, 44 percent of radicals have.

While 21 percent of moderate Muslims are above average or very high income, 25 percent of radicals do.

And it`s certainly not a feeling of hopelessness that drives Muslims to become extremists. Fifty-three percent of radical Muslims believe they`ll be better off in five years than they are today. Only 44 percent of moderates feel that way.

And lastly, being a radical doesn`t really have much to do with hating the western life. An equal number of radicals and moderate admire our technology and our freedoms, including our freedom of speech.

If we really want to help promote reform, we need to understand exactly who these reformers are. Is it the young? Is it the wealthy, the educated that we should focus on? Or is it something else entirely different?

Raquel Evita...


BECK: Saraswati is a 23-year-old practicing Muslim who is the leader of Project Ijtiad, which is described as Islam`s lost tradition of independent thinking. How are you?

Nice to see you.

BECK: Nice to see you. Tell me what your life is like. You`re a reformer, 23 years old. You live up in the northeast. And what have you experienced? What have you seen?

SARASWATI: A lot. At the moment, what I`m seeing is a real resistance among Muslims as a whole to step up and recognize what the flaws are, a real defensiveness.

BECK: Is it fear or is it mistrust?

SARASWATI: I think it`s a bit of both. But one thing you did touch on as far as education, you mentioned education. And my thought on that is that education at present, I feel like some of it is being used to sort of propagate that defensiveness. So if you...

BECK: In what way? Be more specific.

SARASWATI: To explain sort of briefly, I feel like a lot of higher education at the moment is very concerned about multiculturalism, appearing to be racist, about all of that.

BECK: Liberal professors.

SARASWATI: Right. And you know, I do identify as a liberal. However, I do think that if we are so afraid to look critically at Islam, because we don`t want to offend people, then nothing is going to happen. And these people who get sent to these universities are just being made to think the way they think.

BECK: OK. So you are a practicing Muslim.


BECK: I mean, really, you`re not like the air quote "Catholic" that I was.

SARASWATI: Really. More than five times a day I pray.

BECK: What is the sign of hope that you see with the people that you hang around, your age? What is -- is there -- don`t look at me like that. Is there a sign of hope that you see, OK, here`s the way to connect and here`s where the reform is going to come?

SARASWATI: There is. I mean, it is very difficult, but I think there is a potential for courage there. And I think that technology, for one, the fact that we do have these rights and freedoms to explore in that way, it`s a responsibility.

BECK: But technology has been used. "60 Minutes" just did a piece last night that the Internet is the super highway to death. And technology is also going to be the death of us.

SARASWATI: Right. That`s how I got involved with this, actually.

BECK: Explain.

SARASWATI: I was -- a loved one was looking up my name online and found me in a list of 16 women who shame Islam before I became involved with the Ijtiad, because I knew what Ijtiad was. I was No. 4 on that list in this list.

BECK: How do you shame Islam?

SARASWATI: Well, I have done some modeling, and I`m a performer in the Boston area.

BECK: OK. When you say modeling, it`s not like...

SARASWATI: Oh, no. Here.

BECK: OK. And that`s shaming Islam?

SARASWATI: That`s shaming Islam. I also am openly lesbian and an activist. So and really speaking at all, using your mind at all was part of the problem, as well.

BECK: OK. Is it true that you don`t -- and I`ve heard this from several women, that you don`t necessarily receive death threats as a woman who speaks their mind. You receive rape threats. Is that true?

SARASWATI: Very true. I do receive a limited amount of death threats, but the real pervasive issue for me is threats of sexual violence and physical mutilation.

BECK: How do you live with that? How does your mom live with that, your dad?

SARASWATI: I`m estranged from them for other reasons that I can`t get into.


SARASWATI: But I do have support in my -- people who know about this to some degree, but I don`t tell a lot of folks about that. Now I do.

BECK: Yes, I was going to say. I`ve got news for you, it`s not just you and me.

SARASWATI: You know, I think about it, that threats of rape aren`t about sex; they`re about power. And if you don`t see a woman as capable of having an intellectual conversation or worthy of having a conversation at all, the only thing that you can use against her is sexual violence.

BECK: God bless you.

SARASWATI: Thank you.

BECK: Thank you very much. Back in a minute.


BECK: Putting together an event with the scope of the Secular Islam Summit has been no easy task. One woman who knows what a challenge is really is Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi. She is one of the summit organizers.

Banafsheh, a lot of resistance?

BANAFSHEH ZAND-BONAZZI, SECULAR ISLAM SUMMIT: Well, that was expected and we were kind of hoping for it. Because, you know, if we had gotten ignored, it would have been a total surprise.

BECK: You know, what was fascinating to me was it wasn`t really covered by the national media here in America but, boy, did I see Al Jazeera here. I saw television from Saudi Arabia. They are covering this in the Middle East.


BECK: Is that the target of coverage, or would you have rather seen more coverage here? I felt a little lonely.

ZAND-BONAZZI: Well, we are going to get coverage. We have a great article coming out in "The Wall Street Journal". You know, we have -- had other channels that were there to cover the reading of the declaration that we put out. It`s been, you know, pretty decent.

And I have to say that luckily al Jazeera was pretty decent and kind. We really had a 15-minute segment. Apparently, they are very positive, from what I hear, and 30 million to 40 million people got to see it yesterday.

BECK: Really? I was sitting there. I was in one of the conference rooms, and I seen the guys from Al Jazeera, and I thought what is the spin going to be on this? And they treated you well?

ZAND-BONAZZI: Yes, they treated us very well.

BECK: Good.

ZAND-BONAZZI: The thing is that we hear that most people in the Middle East are really quite sick and tired of the intimidation and the threats and that they really do want kind of a sanctuary like our group.

BECK: I don`t think people really understand -- it`s one thing. It`s one thing for people to say, oh, yes, people are living under threat. It`s another thing for me to say it, because I have seen a taste of what can come if you speak out.

But people like you and the people at the summit, it`s a whole different world. But I don`t think people really understand. What is the -- what`s the next step?

ZAND-BONAZZI: Well, I mean, we are going to keep on developing all kinds of projects with human rights groups, with -- hopefully with groups like Reporters Without Borders, with media groups, with let`s say, Amnesty International, educational groups.

And we hope basically also to be able to dispel a lot of the distortions and the lies that come out in the Islamist media and out of the Islamist organizations.

BECK: OK. Let me give you a tough question. One of your detractors has come out and said you`re a front for the CIA.

ZAND-BONAZZI: Well, of course we are.

BECK: Right.

ZAND-BONAZZI: You know, all I can say is that, considering who that comes from, the group that it comes from, all I can say is that, considering the fact that it`s common knowledge and it`s open information that -- where their money come from and they deny their funding, you know, it`s spin, spin, spin. If you can`t join them, bash them, I`d say.

BECK: You`re not a spook?

ZAND-BONAZZI: You know what?

BECK: Don`t say it. Because if you tell me, then you`ll have to kill me.

All right. Back in a minute.


BECK: Today, we`re broadcasting from St. Petersburg, Florida, the site of the Secular Islam Summit. This is where Muslims and former Muslims have come to, at least according to the brochure, bring about a new age of enlightenment to the Islamic world. Sounds like a noble cause, but critics say the summit isn`t legitimate because many of the participants here are not practicing Muslims.

The summit organizers, on the other hand, say that`s a good thing. They say that the summit isn`t about religion; it`s about human rights; it`s about bringing together the thinkers and the activists who are most interested in generating new ideas and promoting reform. You don`t really have to be a practicing Muslim to do that, or do you?

Yesterday, we had a chance to go out and talk to just a few of the over 400-some participants. I asked each one of them to tell Americans, what is the one thing they want everyone to know about this summit?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the most important message for people to understand today is that asking questions out loud is key to ensuring that people can live their faith without fear. And just because it`s not your faith doesn`t mean that you don`t have the right to ask questions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m not against Islam. We are not against any faith.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My message to Americans is: Trust Muslims. We have identified the mechanism of reforming Islam. We are trying to undo that. And that would be good for Muslims and humankind, as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Empower those Muslims who are fighting from within to reform Islam, from change Islam from being threatening, violent, into a peaceful religion, which can contribute towards the advancement of love and peace.


BECK: Great messages. But the question remains: Are these the right people delivering them?

Joining me now is a former terrorist and author of "The Roots of Jihad," Dr. Tawfik Hamid. Also, Ahmed Bedier, he is from the Council of American-Islamic Relations.

Both of you, welcome to the program.


BECK: Let`s start with the criticism. Why is this not a message that you want people to hear?

AHMED BEDIER, COUNCIL ON AMERICAN-ISLAMIC RELATIONS: Tremendous reform is needed for Muslims; however, in order to have legitimate reform in the Muslim world, you need to have the right messengers doing that. You need to have people who love and are concerned about the Muslim faith and Islamic faith in order to give it legitimacy.

The concern that we have about this summit is that it`s being organized, and the majority of the speakers here are atheists or anti- Muslim people and are taking the opportunity to just simply bash Islam without offering solutions.

In order to have a legitimate dialogue, you need to bring the players to the table, the Muslim organizations, the Muslim clergy. They`re already here in America to be able to bring that message.

BECK: OK. I find reason in that argument. I have talked to many of the people. I`ve spent the last couple of days talking a little to many of the people. I have to tell you, when I`m introduced to a former terrorist, my eyebrows go up, but I`ve enjoyed talking to you, and you don`t seem like somebody who hates Islam. I have met some that don`t have respect for Islam. I have found other Muslims who love it and just want reform.

How do you respond to that?

TAWFIK HAMID, M.D., FORMER TERRORIST: My response to this is that, number one, the truth should be independent, whoever says it. If I said to you, one plus one equals two, it doesn`t make a difference if I`m a believer or not a believer. This is number one.

Number two, the summit includes many people who truly love Islam. I`m doing this because I love Islam, and declaring a war only on the violent aspects of Salafi Islam, which -- I`m sure you know about things like killing the apostates, beating women, and stoning women to death, and which is practiced until now in countries that apply Sharia law, like Saudi Arabia.

And it will be wonderful if you tell us now your position and the position of CAIR organizations, from the practices of Saudi Arabia of these things, like killing the apostate, which is not written in the Koran, but is written in Habiz al-Buharia (ph) (inaudible), "Whoever converts, you kill him," beating women and stoning women to death.

BEDIER: I`ll be glad to do that. CAIR`s history and Muslim organizations and clergy in America have denounced any type of killing because somebody leaves a faith. That`s very clear.


BEDIER: Let me finish. The Koran says, in Chapter 2, Verse 256, there`s no coercion in religion. The whole concept about Islam is to make people free to practice whatever they want. No God is going to want you to be forced to believe in something. The issue here is secular Islam, and who are the organizers behind this?

You`re coming to my town. I live in St. Petersburg, Florida. Nobody is engaging the Muslim leader that`s already organized. You`re not from this country. When you come to a country and you want to have dialogue about Islam, guess what? You`re going to have to join and engage the Muslim community, because that`s the community you`re trying to reform.

It doesn`t make sense to go talk about reforming Islam with atheists, from Christians, and Jews, and others.

BECK: Hang on. Let me ask you this question. There is a concerted effort to silence the voices that are crying out. Women in Saudi Arabia -- will you condemn Saudi Arabia...

BEDIER: Of course.

BECK: Will you condemn Saudi Arabia...

BEDIER: Ask President Bush to condemn Saudi Arabia.

BECK: No, we`re asking you.

BEDIER: I will not condemn an entire nation. I will condemn the un- Islamic practices of specific people, but you cannot...


HAMID: ... what is happening in Saudi Arabia is un-Islamic? I want to hear from you.

BEDIER: Of course. Denying a woman`s right -- OK, let`s get back -- this show here is not about Saudi Arabia, but let`s get to the issue.


BECK: Wait a minute.

BEDIER: Are you the show host?

BECK: Let`s get back to it in a second. This is the fundamental principle.

BEDIER: Ask the question.

BECK: I agree with you that you`ve got to fight it from within inside. So you`ve got a great point there. But there`s also a concerted effort to silence the voice of people who stand up and say, "You don`t beat women. And any country," Saudi Arabia, let`s just use it as an example, will you condemn Saudi Arabia for the Sharia law that is practiced, where it is stoning of women, where they allow beating of women?

BEDIER: We condemn any nation, country or group that uses Islam or misuses and misinterprets Islam in violent ways. But we`re not going to sit here and put me on the spot to condemn an entire nation of people, with millions of people. That would be like saying, oh, do you want to condemn London because of their actions, or Iran, or other places? You can`t not alienate everybody in those nations. There are plenty of reformers and progressive people that are trying...


BECK: You know what? This is great, because we had this conversation with Tony Snow. I had this conversation. And he said, "I will not condemn the country of Iran." And I said, "I`m not asking you to. Will you" -- and he did -- "will you say that the government of Iran is evil? Will you say that the government of Iran is"...

BEDIER: I would not say that the government of Saudi Arabia is evil or the entire government of Egypt is evil or Jordan is evil. You can`t just simply use, you know, a broad brushstroke like that to condemn an entire nation. You have to -- but they need help. They need reform. They need democracy. They need freedom. Legitimate voices, not atheists, not from Muslim-bashers.

BECK: Are you a Muslim basher?

HAMID: No, I am a Muslim, and I am supporting a new understanding of Islam. And I would like to mention clearly that I was the first person to created a Web site called It was the first time in history to have something like this.

And I was clear in this Web site, which I was not able to continue because I wasn`t able to get enough funds to continue it, and I started a smaller Web site called Muslim for Human Rights Reform, where I reinterpreted the Koranic verses in a new manner, that does not allow killing the apostate, that does not allow beating women, that does not allow calling Jews pigs.


BEDIER: That`s already happening, sir. That`s already happening.

HAMID: You didn`t do this in CAIR organization. And I`m asking you to have clear stand against these fundamental concepts that are written in every -- most Islamic books.

BEDIER: That is not true. That`s not true.

HAMID: See, now, we don`t have a single interpretation of the Koran that stand clearly, in an unambiguous manner, against killing the apostate, or beating a women, or calling Jews pigs or monkeys. I want you to mention me one single Koranic interpretation (INAUDIBLE) that stood clearly against the concept...


BEDIER: First of all, sir, let`s get to the issues, OK? The Koran is in the same form as it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad. The only version, true nature of the Koran is in the Arabic language. If you have an issue with that, then you can go on and you can try to reinterpret the Koran. You`re free to do whatever you want. But don`t come to a summit and say, "We`re going to have a debate about secular Islam," and not organize it by Muslims. Don`t have a summit...


BEDIER: According to your book, you said you are Muslim by birth, you are Christian by spirit, you are Jewish by heart. You wrote that; that`s not the definition of a practicing Muslim.

HAMID: You should ask me why. You should ask me why.

BEDIER: I don`t want to ask you why.

BECK: I will ask you why.

BEDIER: OK, go ahead.

HAMID: Why? Because I am a Muslim by birth. That is a reality. Christian by the spirit is a verse in the Koran that says (speaking Arabic) "God sends his holy spirit to support his prophet."

So as a concept of having the holy spirit of Christianity to support you is there in the Koran. And Jew by birth -- or Jew by heart, because the word "Jew" in the Koran was given to the Jews when they returned it back to God. They said in (INAUDIBLE) meaning return it back to you. And anyone who returns it back to God could be considered a Jew in Arabic language. So there is no contradiction.


BEDIER: The main point about the summit here is that the funding for this is not coming from you. It`s coming from a specific group of people from the Intelligence Summit.

The Intelligence Summit is a group of neoconservatives and private intelligence agencies that are benefiting from the war on terrorism. And opportunists like yourself and others at this event are bashing and cashing and making money from it.

HAMID: Thank you for being...


BEDIER: You`re welcome. I`m being truthful.

BECK: I have met with several of the people. I have met with Karen (ph). I have met with several of the people here. I think everyone`s agenda here, on both sides, is to find a peaceful solution to what we are facing.

Back in a minute.


BECK: Most of us see Iran and its radical Islamic regime as oppressive and intolerant. No matter how bad they may seem to us here in the West, those who are hurt most and denied almost every freedom are women and children.

Some believe education and awareness are the best tools to dismantle the extremism. And my next guest is a shining, outspoken example of this approach.

She`s Manda Zand Ervin. She`s the president of the Alliance of Iranian Women.

Manda, what amazes me is that most people don`t really see the struggle that we`re in right now as probably the biggest women`s issue the world has ever faced.

MANDA ZAND ERVIN, PRESIDENT, ALLIANCE OF IRANIAN WOMEN: Absolutely. Absolutely. The largest number of the victims of Islamic rules and laws are women and children. The Sharia law aims at women and children.

BECK: How are children affected? I know the stoning of women, the burqas, you can`t walk outside without a man, women aren`t really even full value. Are they half the value of men?

ERVIN: Yes. Women are half the value of men. They inherit half. Their testimony, takes two women to one man.

BECK: And when you say that, you mean in a court of law?

ERVIN: In the court of law or any court.

BECK: That`s amazing.

ERVIN: It is. It is amazing. And that`s why nobody in this world wants to believe it, because if they do believe it, then they are obligated to do something about it.

BECK: Tell me about children. How are children affected?

ERVIN: Well, in a society that would rather keep people illiterate and poor and needy, Islam would be the great candidate for that. They don`t want to educate the children. They build more mosques in Iran than schools for children. They build more mosques, madrassas, than orphanages for the children on the sidewalks of Tehran. They are four years, five years, they have to cover their heads, but they don`t have shoes to put on their feet.

BECK: Is there a difference between the way children that are girls and boys are treated? Are they treated different from birth?

ERVIN: Well, absolutely. I mean, all the laws of Islam treats boys differently than the girls. Like, in Islam, mothers do not have the right to their children as soon as the child is born. The father can take the children, and as soon as they are born, and give them to somebody else to raise.

For example, the mothers can see or fight for the custody of child, not the custody away from the father, but to raise her own child, for girls to 7 years old, boys for 2 years old. Then the boy goes to the father and becomes an abusive Muslim man.

BECK: You said you grew up in Iran. You were there for the Islamic revolution.

ERVIN: Yes, I was.

BECK: You said something amazing, that you see this -- and it totally changed my perspective -- you see this as apartheid.

ERVIN: Yes, it is. It`s gender apartheid, absolutely. What else do you call it?

BECK: You know, I don`t know. I didn`t think of it that way. I mean, I see it as slavery, absolutely. Apartheid was such a movement. We had so many people standing up against apartheid, took people for a long time to finally do it, but they did it.

Why is it or what will it take for women`s organizations, and full governments, and even the people here in the United States to stand up, women to stand up and say, "No woman should be treated like this"?

ERVIN: Well, a lot of women, people ask me, what could we do to help change this issue? And I say, what did we do for racial apartheid in South Africa? The whole world stood by the people against the regime in South Africa, and that was the only time that they succeeded to put the regime aside and bring justice.

BECK: But the idea at that time was to solve it, you don`t do business with South Africa.

ERVIN: The same thing with Iran.

BECK: We`re not doing business.

ERVIN: We don`t do business. Well, we`re not, but Europe is.

BECK: Do you really think we`re ever going to get Russia and Europe on this, though?

ERVIN: We should. If we really, really are serious in solving this problem of terrorism, which is serious...

BECK: Right.

ERVIN: ... it is not a joke, and it`s not -- we cannot sit here, in all our arrogance, and say it doesn`t exist.

BECK: Do you believe that -- I mean, I`ve been reading a lot about Sharia law and how it worms its way in slowly, and then expands, and before you know it the women are wearing burqas. Do you believe that this is a global effort, that their objective is not just Iran, but it is for the women here in the United States, and it`s the entire world of Sharia law?

ERVIN: When the Islamic ruled, the caliphate, Islamic caliphate is for real, and that`s what they want, and that`s what they`re after.

BECK: And that is one global Islamic government?

ERVIN: One Islamic government, global, from Indonesia all the way, to let`s take Spain back, and go on further, and get rid of the infidel Christians and the Jews, throw them in the sea.

BECK: Best of luck to you.

ERVIN: Thank you very much. We need it.

BECK: Thank you. Thank you.


BECK: I have to tell you, I`ve never been in a hotel where there wasn`t a president or a governor staying with security on the streets before you even turn onto the property. To be in a room full of people who are literally marked for death is, well, an interesting place to be, especially when you turn your head and you see a 7-year-old girl in a pink baseball cap, with a mitt and a ponytail, on vacation with her dad, and little kids running in from the pool, or playing full-fledged baseball game right across the street from the hotel.

It was a place this weekend where reality, a tangible sense of danger, met the essence and beauty of American life. It really seemed appropriate that the Salvador Dali museum was just a few doors down.

This weekend, I`ve heard a lot of things. And I don`t know if I agree with all of them, but that isn`t really the point. Let me be clear: Muslims, Catholics, Jews, Episcopalians, Hindus -- if we`re going to survive, we need to be able to accept different opinions and learn from our struggles to find the truth. That`s what jihad really is supposed to mean. It`s not killing innocent people; it`s the struggle, my struggle.

I don`t know about you, but I struggle every day. I struggled this weekend. Do I really believe this? How do I feel about that? Is this taking reform of Islam too far or not far enough? That`s the struggle that I believe that all of the great prophets, including Muhammad to Jesus, were talking about, the eternal debate, the struggle to find truth.

This weekend, I listened to scholars and activists speak about the 6th century, and 12th century, it was way over my head, the rich history of Islam. I heard them debate about how the events of hundreds of years ago still affect all of us today.

One gentleman told me, in broken English, this isn`t the responsibility of Muslims to fix. Everyone can and should speak out. Jews, Muslims, Christians, whatever your background, whatever your belief, this is something that all of us need to take part in.

Everyone`s voice is valid and welcome. It is an open discussion that will bring all of us together. We need to take our defenses down when we speak about our differences, truly listen to all of the points of view. We need to know, at least, that violence and hatred and bigotry and hypocrisy have no place in a civilized world.

It`s not our TVs, it`s not our iPods, our PlayStations that make us civilized. It`s we, the people, we, the people. We are the solution.

And we`ll be back tomorrow in New York. From St. Petersburg, Florida, I hate to leave the place, good night.


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