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Answering questions about Muslim politics

Carlson talks with Islamic activist about elements many don't understand
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Earlier this month, nationally syndicated radio talk show host Dennis Prager wrote an editorial in the Los Angeles Times entitled "Five questions non-Muslims would like answered.'

Prager's five questions were:
1. Why are Muslims so quiet?
2. Why are none of the Palestinian terrorists Christian?
3. Why is only one of the 47 Muslim-majority countries a free country?
4. Why are so many atrocities committed and threatened by Muslims in the name of Islam?
5. Why do countries governed by religious Muslims persecute other religions?

On Monday, Hussam Ayldush, executive director from the Southern California Office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations joined MSNBC's Tucker Carlson to discuss some of Prager's inquiries.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

TUCKER CARLSON:  Good evening.  You, I think, are familiar with the questions.  ... I just want to start with the first question, which I found really compelling.  And it's why are Muslims so quiet, that is, so quiet in the face of really this unending series of terror attacks perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Islam since 9/11?

I can only think of two mass demonstrations, spontaneous demonstrations, where thousands of people got into the streets and said, "Not in my name."  And they are recently in Jordan, when Zarqawi from Iraq bombed what turned out to be a Muslim wedding, Jordanian wedding, and then demonstrations that took place in Beirut after President Ariri was killed by Muslims.  But I can't think of massive spontaneous demonstrations to protest acts of terror against non-Muslims the past 40 years, and I don't understand why. 

HUSSAM AYLDUSH:  Actually there were a lot of protests, even immediately after September 11, but protests and vigils are not the only way to demonstrate our faith against those terrorist attacks.  There were many, many statements from every single scholar of Islam that I know of, in and outside of America. 

CARLSON:  Yes, and they're not working.  They're not -- I understand, you make a fair point.  That's not the only way to get things done, you are right.  But those statements from isolated imams, and because Islam is not hierarchical, you know, there's no central church to issue any statement.  They haven't worked very well, obviously.  Right?

And so why haven't -- you did see demonstrations when Muslims were killed by Muslims.  Why haven't you seen those when Muslims kill non-Muslims?

AYLDUSH:  Two premises we need to be aware of.  First, these were not isolated.  Every Islamic institution in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and Egypt, all the mainstream ones, have condemned the act of terrorism, in a very clear-cut way. 

In the U.S., it was condemned very clear-cut by the American Muslim organizations.  That's the first premise.  The second premise is 1.3 or 1.4 billion Muslims do not feel they need to condemn every act of crime, of terrorism committed by anyone who claims to be Muslim. 

CARLSON:  OK.  How about one?  How about a single one?  I don't remember -- look, here's what Mr. Prager said.  He said, and I think it's a very good point, 1982, in Lebanon, then occupied by the Israelis, the Israeli army, led by Ariel Sharon, allowed these lunatics to shoot up two refugee camps at Sabra Shatila and killed a lot of people, and it was horrible. 

And Israeli citizens reacted to those massacres by going out in the streets and saying, "You're doing this in our name.  Or it appears that you're doing it in our name, and we don't like it." 

And why haven't you seen anything like that take place in any Islamic capitol?  Doesn't that trouble you a little bit?

AYLDUSH:  No.  There were a lot of writings, a lot of vigils, in Tehran, in Iran itself, immediately, a week after the September 11 attacks.  Thousands of young Iranians went out in the street in support of America and the Americans. 

Well, the question could be asked also to Mr. Prager himself.  When the Israeli massacre against Palestinians happened, it happened in the name of the Jewish state, obviously not presenting the good teaching of Judaism, but did Mr. Dennis Prager himself went out on the streets, condemning those acts?

CARLSON:  No, I doubt he did, because I don't think those are his politics.  But a lot of Israelis did.  There was, as you know, the peace now movement in Israel, without getting caught up in the Israel thing.  But there's a very vibrant left wing in Israel that is constantly protesting, tens of thousands of them, as you know, against any sort of overreach by the Israeli army. 

But I want to get to a second question that bothered me personally that he asked.  And that is, why are Islamic countries typically so intolerant of other religions?  I'm thinking now of Saudi Arabia, which if any place, it really is the seat of Islam.  Mecca and Medina, the holy cities, are there. 

And it is illegal to proselytize Christianity there.  There are no mosques and no churches in Saudi Arabia, as it is illegal to proselytize, I believe, throughout the Islamic Middle East.  Why is that?  And are you bothered by it?

AYLDUSH:  Actually, the example you picked of Saudi Arabia is a very unique example.  There are over 57 countries that claim to have a Muslim majority in them, and in all of these countries, I have visited dozens of them, churches and mosques are side by side.  Muslims, Christians share holidays. 

CARLSON:  How about Saudi Arabia?  Should Christians be able to practice their religion openly in Saudi Arabia?  What is your opinion?

AYLDUSH:  Personally, I think Christians who live in Saudi Arabia should be entitled to the right to practice their religion.  And by the way, many of them, because I visited Saudi Arabia, and I have Christian friends from Lebanon, and many of them practice religion in the privacy of their homes. 

I would wish for them -- if Saudi Arabia is in need of people, of workers, who not Muslims, to work there, the least Saudi Arabia should do is to allow them to practice. 

CARLSON:  Well, good for you.

AYLDUSH:  You cannot have it both ways.  I don't think we can have it both ways.