Omar Saif Ghobash: "These rock star clerics on Twitter need to reach out"

Tim Adams | The Guardian | January 15, 2017

What do your boys make of the book?
My younger son is enjoying it. My older son, for whom the book was really written and to whom it is directed in my mind – well, I like his reaction. He has read a couple of chapters, but at the moment he is not reading it. I am fine with that. I really don’t want to burden him with my own projections. He is free to read it whenever he wants, but I don’t want to pressure him if he is not ready for it just now.

It opens with your observation that many voices are competing for the attention of young Muslim men, and that some are much more strident than your own. There is an urgency about moderation…
Yes, I’ve been asking these questions of myself for many years. Part of the reason that I have not been able to come up with answers is because of a kind of self-censorship. But I felt some things had to be said. Recently I found out a friend of mine who had a brilliant western education, as I did, has really been unable to bridge the gap between that and his Islamic upbringing. Basically he has decided to shut his eyes and ears and just do what he is supposed to do as a Muslim. He has given up any personal responsibility. That sort of story really worries me.

Was there a moment when those worries formed?
11 September 2001 was a turning point for me personally. I was deeply upset by it. I had lived in New York from 1993 to 1995 and I had a strong attachment to the city. Some of the things I heard at the time in the Arab world – that it was payback time for Americans – I just rejected completely. I mean even if a crime has been committed against you I don’t believe you should ever respond with a crime in return. I wanted moral clarity around that. I felt for the first time that the rhetoric and the fantasies of the hardline clerics had turned into a reality. I had never expected that would happen. You always looked at these people as unhinged, and marginal, and then all of a sudden they seemed to have got the upper hand.

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Emily Goodrich