Omar Saif Ghobash - "Letters to a Young Muslim" & Hopes for Donald Trump's Presidency

January 4, 2017 - Omar Saif Ghobash 01/04/2017 Views: 1,363

Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Russia Omar Saif Ghobash discusses Donald Trump's impending presidency and shares insights from his book "Letters to a Young Muslim." (7:50)

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Please welcomeOmar Saif Ghobash.

(cheers and applause)

Welcome to the show.

Thank you very much.

This is, uh, great for me.

I-I don't often get to chat

to ambassadors and diplomats,

especially someone who's

an ambassador to Russia.

It's an interesting place.

I'm sure it is.

I'm really sure it is.

Let's talk a little bitabout that.

You are the ambassadorof the UAE to Russia,

at a time when Russia seemsto be, you know, uh...

What's the way I can phrase it?

Causing some (bleep)in the world

is the best way I can put it.

How do you liaise between themand your country?

Well, I'll tell you, I mean,causing a (bleep) in the world

is one way of looking at it.

I would say that they'reexerting influence in the region

and it's extremely important forus to be able to speak to them

to understand exactly whatthey're trying to-to do.

And there are sort of,

there are a coupleof different versions

of what they're trying to do.

One of the versions is thatthey're trying to, you know,

sort of impose their ownimperial might

on a, on a, with a-- through agreat Russian empire.

The other one, which I'm moreinclined to believe,

because, because, you know,coming from the region,

is that they aretrying to contain

the problem of radical Islam.

And I think you should knowthat a lot of people

who, are from-from Russia, inthe southern part of Russia,

are Muslim, and many of themare actually radicals

who are fighting in Syriaand Iraq,

and even places like Libya.

So they do have a seriouskind of issue

with radical Islam, which wehave in common with them.

If you have Russiancounterparts,

the question I think a lotof people would like to know

is do your Russian counterpartsthink that the Russians

were responsible for, you know,

hacking into the DNC's servers?

Yeah, interesting question.

Um, I, uh...

They don't-- even if they haddone it, they wouldn't tell me.

-I mean...-(laughter)

They're-they're all great guys.

There is no doubtthat Russia has

a very, very good computerscience education,

and there are a whole bunchof young hackers

who do a really fantastic job.

-Now, whether they're doing...-Did you say a fantastic job?


A really fantastic job.

Now, I don't know whether

they're doing it on behalfof the Russian government,

and that they're actuallydoing it in the U.S.

Um, you know, this is an area

where we're never really gonnaget down to the...

-to the reality, the... what'sreally going on. -What...

Then what is the opinionof Russians?

-I mean, you stay in the region.-Yeah.

You know a lot of people there.

What is their opinion on...

on even Donald Trumpand his ascent to power?

Because from the U.S. side,a lot of people go,

"Oh, the Russians must bereally happy about Donald Trump,

because of how he feels about,you know, the Kremlin."

You know, there isthis whole idea around here

that he's some kindof Manchurian Candidate

workingfor the Russian authorities.

I think you guys have to have

a little more pridein your system.

Uh, it's highly unlikelythat that is the case.

I think Donald Trumpis very likely

to become a great president.

And, you know, he's done it onU.S. terms, on American terms.

He's done itfrom within the system.

We need to put thingsinto perspective.

There is the pre-electionkind of generation of ideas,

and some of them may have been

not particularlyattractive ideas,

but it appealed to somethingwithin the American people.

So I think it's...

From my perspective, it's less

what Trump said in the past,

and what people want to hear

in the American population.

So that's, I think,is one thing.

-The other... -I'm goingto interrupt you there...

-Sure. -...because that's aninteresting point that you make.

'Cause I watched a town hall.

And I know it's anecdotal,and it's not a...

representativeof all Trump voters.

But there was a Trump voterwho said,

"I heard him sayingthese things,

"and I just likethat he was saying it,

but I don't actually expect himto do it."

-Hmm. -"And I don't thinkhe's gonna do it."

So you're saying that'ssomething you almost agree with

in that way by saying that?

Well, I think that there aremany more constraints,

uh, on the powerof the president

once he's in office,

uh, as comparedto when he's campaigning.

When you're campaigning,presumably you can say

-pretty much whatever you want.-Yes.

But once you come into power,

then you havethe laws of the land,

you have the Constitution, youhave all these different kinds

of constraints,um, and, you know,

what we in the outside world,outside of the U.S.,

have been taughtis-is we've been taught

that the Founding Fathershad a certain kind of genius,

uh, that they had builta system that would, uh,

would... would make surethat no populist or demagogue

would actually come to power,

and if somebodydid come to power,

there were enough constraintsin place.

So, I don't know,maybe-maybe I'm more optimistic

and more of a...have more confidence

in American democracythan many Americans.

But, uh, you know, I would...I would have hope.

Uh, maybe you're justa really good diplomat.

-Um...-No. (laughs)

-Let's-let's talk a little bitabout the book, then. -Sure.

Because it really isan optimistic book.

This is a bookthat you've written,

and it's Letters to a Young Muslim,

but more specifically,it is letters from a father..

-Yeah.-who is Muslim.

And talking... to a child

that is growing up in a world

where you are worried...

about the role that theymay be influenced into playing

-in the world. You know, I mean,-Yeah.

I don't wantto give a lot of it away,

but one of the most interestingpieces I read in the book

was where you talked abouthow your son, you realized,

-in the UAE,-Yeah.

was being radicalizedby his teacher at school.

Yes. Uh, absolutely.And I think this is

one of our key problems,is that it's not necessarily

part of the curriculum,

it's not necessarilypart of government policy,

but, you know, there is a...a readiness or an ease

with which certain peopletalk about fairly radical ideas.

And I think there'salways been a disconnect

between having the radical ideas

and then implementingand carrying them out.

And I think, unfortunately,September 11 was, uh,

for me, a turning pointwhere I saw radical ideas

actually taking expressionphysically.

Uh, which is, you know,a great tragedy.

So, in writing this book,

what is the one thingyou want young people

to take abou...take away from it?

-'Cause it is Letters to a Young Muslim. -Yeah.

What specifically do you want,uh, Muslim people to take away

from this book and even maybe,uh, non... non-Muslim people?

Well, I-I would say that, um...

go with your questions.

Don't be afraid of having doubt,

um, at-at any one particularpoint in time.

Certainty, uh, in matterof religion and matters of life,

uh, is... is a privilege.

Um, and so, uh,you-you need to believe

that you can beconstructively critical.

These are the key things thatI'd like to say to young people.

Uh, and thatthey should continually

ac-accept, um, questions.

Um, I also think that it's veryimportant that we don't

per-perpetuate this myththat Islam is incompatible

with modernityor is-is incompatible

with Western values.In fact, there are

many, many valuesthat we share in common.

Uh, and-and these arebasic human values.

I mean, the value of-of freedom,um, speak to young Muslims.

I... You know, they-they feel,

uh, the same urge for freedom,

um, and they have...But the problem is that

there is a theological kind of,uh, fear of freedom,

uh, that we really need to-towork out.

So what I'm asking for hereis not-not reform of Islam

but clarifying Islamfor the 21st century.

What does it mean in today'sworld to be a Muslim,

uh, and how-how do we justget on with life?

It's a powerful book and, uh,I hope to have you back again.

-Thank you very much.-Good luck in Russia, my friend.

-Thank you. -Thank you, sir,for being here.

(cheering, applause)

Letters to a Young Muslim is available now.

Omar Saif Ghobash, everybody.