Should the West dialogue with Islamists?

Should the West dialogue with Islamists?

“…what Muslims hate is the West’s monopoly on the socio-economic implementation of values such as justice, freedom, good governance, which all Muslims share. Muslims don’t believe simply that the West is the only model of the implementation of these values, and the only way you can have good governance is to have Western good governance. In fact, they are not sure the West has good governance in many respects.” Alastair Crooke

Abdullah Faliq: In an article posted on the Conflicts Forum website, you cited findings of a public poll in Egypt which asked a cross-section of Egyptians to name the two political leaders they most admired. Hizbullah’s Hassan Nasrallah came top of the list, followed by Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad. Why do you think this is and how does this bode for future stability of Arab governments?

Alastair Crooke: I think it is extremely significant that we have seen in the wake of the Lebanon conflict a poll in the heart of the Sunni Arab world, that is articulating clear support, not only for the winner who seemed to have led the successful defence of the Lebanon, in terms of Hassan Nasrullah. More significantly the number two on this poll, was the President of Iran and I think that is very striking, and particularly that a Sunni country like Egypt should find its number two spot being occupied by an Iranian President. We see from this two things: the significance is first of all a strong sense among the streets of Egypt that there has been a successful challenge to Western hegemony. The psychology of military hegemony has been successfully confronted and broken in the case of Lebanon. That is going to have a long term and strategic impact on the thinking of not only Egyptians but people throughout the region.

More importantly, we are seeing the acceptance of a leadership of what I call an “activist wing” of Sunni movements as opposed to a “quietist” model. I am borrowing from a Shi’a terminology, but if you think of movements like the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas as activist movements, I think the sense of the acceptance of Shi’a leadership is not particularly directed towards Iranian leadership but the activist leadership and it is a powerful element for the future and a swing and a move towards activism. No longer you just simply have to accept what is asked of you i.e. accommodation and acquiescence to Western hegemony; this can now be challenged. So this is a huge strategic change and the poll to a certain extent reflects that symbolically. It happens that the activist movement this time is led by Iran but I think for many Sunni Arabs the Shi’a-led struggle does significantly chime with the Arab streets. It’s an important change whereby you have, if you like, the Arab masses walking on one side of the street and certain Arab governments walking on the opposite side.

AF: Interesting, but how to explain the apparent dichotomy between the Shi’a-Sunni divide? You have at the global level, Shi’a-Sunni movements and even governments converging whilst at the local level, such as in Iraq, the infighting between Shi’a-Sunni is evermore entrenched?

AC: I think you do have a complete dichotomy here because in a sense the Iranian ability to talk over the heads of Arab governments strikes a chord with the Arab streets and is very evident, not only in what happened in Lebanon but before that. They have largely been able to avoid what happened in 1981 and after the first Gulf War when they found themselves partly circumscribed and facing an organised Sunni effort to try and circumscribe and contain Iran. So to an extent they have been quite successful in finding a common ground. I think Iraq is an exception to that because Iraqis feel they are now marginalised and excluded from the seat of the table of power. This is possibly because of an alliance between certain Shi’a forces and the United States in Iraq.

AF: I don’t know if you are aware but it was interesting and somewhat striking to see the former prime minister of Iran, Muhammad Khattami being hosted by the Muslim Council of Britain at the London Muslim Centre, which is predominantly Sunni.

AC: Yes, I think it is a very important and a huge change, a shifting pendulum. It’s not that they are Shi’a or that they are Iranian, I believe the predominant characteristic is that they are activist and that they are not willing to simply acquiesce to the inevitability of Western military, political and economic hegemony, which is distinguishing. This is why we are finding the Sunni Street willing to support them. Although the conflict in Iraq has largely taken a sectarian shape, it is fundamentally about the difference between activist outlook and a quietist approach.

AF: Can I pick up on the terms you used to describe different trends within the Islamists. What is the difference between an ‘activist’ and ‘radical’? Can’t an activist also be radical?

AC: Well, I’m not sure there is a great distinction between the two. I think an activist slowly flows into a radical when frustrated.

AF: Okay, how would you therefore categorise Islamists here and abroad who actively seek political change in their respective countries?

AC: I don’t think there really is a very clear distinction. The division we try and make is between what I call “revivalists” and “revolutionaries”. The former are people who seek to revive Islam and Islamism and bring about real reforms and changes in their society. Those attributes apply to both activists and radicals. I then separate those with what I call “revolutionaries” who are one stage beyond that. The revolutionaries believe that there can be no reform, change or evolution in the system without first completely burning it down. That to me is the most important distinction rather than the terminologies. I have no problem with radicals because they play a very important role in bringing change in societies and I don’t use the term to denigrate them.

AF: Digressing a little but staying broadly on the theme of Islamists-state relations, we’ve recently seen the launch of government-backed initiatives like the Sufi Council of Britain purporting to represent British Muslims and also the funding of the Radical Middle Way. What do you think is the motivation behind these and can you explain their timing?

AC: Well, I think it would be wrong for me to comment on those organisations without my knowing a great deal about them. I would just say some general things, which may or may not apply to these groups. The government policy has made it very clear that they are going to try and attach financial support to those groups that subscribe to certain criteria which the government approves. That criteria essentially involves being moderate and standing up against what the government describes as “extremism”. Therefore we will see an effort by the government to try to fund and promote groups that fit the government’s bill. That’s not to say that all partnership or collaborative work with the government is bad, for surely there exist genuine and commendable partnerships.

AF: The British government repudiates claims of there being any link between British foreign policy and terrorism, radicalisation and extremism within the Muslim community. How do you respond?

AC: I can’t say why they take that view but it seems to me that everybody that looks and talks to Muslims, and looks at the polls, clearly finds that Muslims themselves see a very strong link between foreign policy. Whether others choose to deny it or say that is wrong or it is a misconception, the reality is the perception that there exists a very strong connection. Muslims are extremely angry at what they see and what they have experienced in countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, and in terms of policies what they have seen in the Sudan, and in Palestine with the election victory of Hamas and so on. All these policies impact hugely on Muslims all over the world. A large proportion of the British population that is non-Muslim feels the same sense of alienation from British foreign policy; there is a huge problem of alienation from British foreign policy that impacts primarily on British Muslims because they see themselves as the victims. But it is apparent in Britain as a whole; there is a much wider problem and it is not only a problem of alienation, but there is a real problem of impotence and a sense of failure of democracy taking place. The number of British people who have come out and said “what do we do about Iraq?”, “how do we change policy?”, when there appear to many non-Muslim British people that whatever you do, and however many people demonstrate — one million or two million, there seems to be a cosy understanding between the political parties that sensitive issues like this could simply not appear on the agenda of political discussion. This attitude does not bode well for Western democracy. I think there is huge frustration and concern about that which extends well beyond the Muslim population.

AF: A survey carried out recently polled a cross-section of British Muslims, which looked at factors that contribute to the politicisation of Muslims in Britain. Allow me to raise one or two of the findings with you, which I found to be rather striking. Over 50% of the respondents believed there to be a new crusade against Islam today such as through the ‘war on terror’? Are you surprised by this? Why do you think there is such a strong perception?

AC: I don’t think it is surprising at all. I believe within the Muslim community there is a real sense of feeling of victims, of being demonised, and of being targeted. As a casual observer coming back to London, every time I go down the underground or onto a railway station, you are confronted by a posse of police carrying out stop and search. I have never yet seen the police stop and search anyone that is not Asian or carrying a backpack; I’ve never been stopped and searched myself. Muslims feel that their freedom of movement and ability to speak out is being restricted. For many Muslims, they are really concerned about whether they could continue to live here.

The fear is sufficiently real as many people feel there is a slow and concerted effort to try and make them feel unwelcome. You see this not only in the way Muslims are treated through the stops and searches and the security apparatus but you see this in the way the anti-terrorist police operations are conducted such as in Forest Gate, which created enormous anxiety and unease within the community. You see it in the way the government is trying to impose the entire onus on the Muslims, to be responsible for so called extremists in their midst. Moderate Muslims should take responsibility for those Muslims the government describes as “acting as perversion to Islam”. Moreover, the call on Muslims to report to the police and to act almost like informants is unacceptable. There was a suggestion recently that universities should report to the authorities students considered vulnerable to extremism. All these create a sense that Muslims are under investigation and that they are held to be suspect.

I think that in the general climate on the “war on terror” which is seen as targeting Muslims as terrorists and making the equation between terrorism and Islam, and the language used by political leaders, suggest that this is a war of civilisations and that our Western values must persevere. What this implies is that the values which are expected not to persevere — which are implicitly but not explicitly stated — are values of Islam and values of Islamist movements. Although this may possibly be a reference to the revolutionaries who are more interested in burning society it nonetheless gives the sense of anxiety to all Muslims more generally. So I think it is not at all surprising that they feel victimised and persecuted.

AF: So what do you think the Muslim community ought to do as there seems to be an impasse?

AC: I think there is only one thing they need to do, and that is to find — which I don’t think they have at the moment — a credible, articulate, forthright and fearless voice for Muslims. I realise this is very difficult for any Muslim leader if he/she does not wish to have travel restrictions. I don’t think at the moment they are able to do this because the actual forums and meetings to which they are invited to express their views, in fact tell them that there can be no discussion or views on foreign policy, because it is considered outrageous to link the feelings of Muslims in Britain to what’s happening in Afghanistan and Iraq. Well, if you take that out of the debate, there’s going to be no debate! I think it’s rather a paradox in some ways, the only voice that actually speaks out in some strong way for Muslims is George Galloway. Although I know in some respects he does not represent the Muslims, but to a certain extent he is able to articulate something that is deeply felt by Muslims but which is not being expressed through the typical Muslim organisations that find the only way to be accepted is to portray themselves as so called moderates.

AF: Is it true that Arabs, Muslims and third world nations hate the US and the West generally and why is that? This anti-Western feeling is growing, is it not? How could we rectify this situation?

AC: I take issue with this. I think there is a real conflation here between two things. I don’t accept this proposition because what Muslims hate is the West’s monopoly on the socio-economic implementation of values such as justice, freedom, good governance, which all Muslims share. Muslims don’t believe simply that the West is the only model of the implementation of these values, and the only way you can have good governance is to have Western good governance. In fact, they are not sure the West has good governance in many respects. I think it is a mistake to view a desire to contest Western hegemony over these issues with being hatred towards the West as such. Nor should Muslim criticism of Israeli policies automatically be regarded as anti-Semitic. Muslims in my experience want to take what they see as best from Western experience but they don’t want all the flaws like the sink cities, the problem that we have with young people, and the social problems too. I don’t think that equates simply to hatred of the West. Yes, there may be a few who do hate the West but that is really limited to a few people.

Mark Perry: We look at liberty like we look at the light bulb. We invented it so we can export it. Only when the Arabs and Muslims discover liberty, everything will be okay. Following the second Intifada, the National Democratic Party Institute went into the West Bank to teach the Palestinians democracy as if democracy had not been there already. It was so offensive and I tried to tell people in the United States that the problem is not that the Palestinians do not have democracy, but that they have too much. We have a perception in the West that we invented liberty and democracy, which was passed down on us from the Greeks and now we are passing onto the Muslims and Arabs. The problem here is not with democracy or terrorism or hatred or anything, this is an odd perception. We feel that we need to educate them and that we invented history. This is the problem. Changing this perception is very difficult. The fact that geometry came out of the Arab world, never occurs to the Westerner and is very difficult to convince people in the West. The question about hatred of the US is that Muslims hate the fact that the West presumes that Arabs and Muslims need to be taught, I think that’s what they hate. They don’t hate our values, they accept our values. They hate the Hundred and First Airborne being in Kirkuk — that’s what they hate.

AF: Sticking to hatred and the perceived hatred of the West by Muslims, how would you define anti-Semitism and are Islamist organisations like Hamas anti-Semitic?

AC: I certainly do not think either Hamas or Hizbullah is anti-semitic. I know the language of the Charter of Hamas, which was written in 1988 in somewhat mysterious circumstances, contains language that appears to be hostile towards the Jewish people as opposed to the occupation or to Zionism. The movement moved away from its Charter very quickly and dropped the language and even a few months after it was written, making it clear that its quarrel was not with the Jewish people. On the contrary, they drew on the history and the sense of the involvement of the Jewish people in the region over the centuries. They made it clear that their opposition was only to the occupation of their land and what they described as the growth of Zionism. I have to say that in all the meetings I have had with Hamas and Hizbullah over many years, I have never heard them say anything that I would consider anti-Semitic. They are strongly opposed to many of the policies of Israel but that is not the same as anti-Semitism.

AF: Can you offer us a short definition of anti-Semitism?

AC: I don’t know what the dictionary says, but it seems to me really summed in a hatred for Jewishness or Jewish people per se, rather than the policies and directions of the state of Israel.

AF: Does politicisation of Muslims necessarily lead to Muslim extremism and radicalisation?

AC: I don’t believe that it is true. There is a real significant separation between the vast majority of Muslims who are politicised and are in a sense activist, particularly young Muslims. There is a small gap between those who believe that therefore the only way to tackle those is that you can’t make any change and therefore you must burn everything down, that you have to bring to an end the entire colonialism. These people are revolutionaries and they often remind us that “we told you so, look what happened to Hamas. Here is a reformist group that won through a legitimate democratic process and look at what the West do to it by blocking funds. This is just like Algeria”. Muslims that move to that position are however a minority. So I don’t think activism and extremism are synonymous. It is a separate mental approach that takes them to the next step, where they feel there is no alternative but to burn everything.

AF: Ninety percent of the respondents in the survey I cited earlier viewed US and UK foreign policy in the Muslim world as the most important international issue/problem that concerns them here in Britain. Is this a misplaced concern and are UK Muslim organisations wrong to highlight international issues like Palestine and Iraq?

AC: It’s not surprising, it is to be expected. A denial of this fact only serves to further politicise and give impetus to some Muslims — as discussed earlier — to jump the barrier and become revolutionaries. They don’t see any alternative options to change British foreign policy abroad. The problem is that we can’t even get people to listen; that is the danger whereby young people get pushed to those extreme positions.

AF: What do you say to the argument that British Muslims who focus too much on international issues are somehow confused and should focus on domestic issues?

AC: Well, what issue is top of the agenda is in reality the issue or problem that affects them most directly. You can’t artificially alter this. Others may disagree, saying that British Muslims should be focused on issues to do with schools, but this is the reality in politics, this is the reality in people’s emotions. If they feel the local issue should be tackled first, and the foreign policy second, then that’s the reality. You can not engineer those; it sounds like the usual government line when everything’s going badly the government says ‘no, what the people really want us to do is to get down to the real issues like education, the health service etc” which implies we don’t want to discuss the sensitive issues like foreign policy and its impact here. This approach never works and it is not going to work with the Muslim community. This will only serve to alienate them further.

AF: Through Conflicts Forum, you advocate Western powers to talk to Islamists who are able to influence events. Are you also advocating talks with the more radical and militant/fringe elements like Al-Qaeda, Al-Muhajiroun etc?

AC: What we always try to portray and project — and it is to a certain extent subjective — is that the criteria of who you talk to is those groups or individuals who have legitimacy, credibility and influence within their own people. And history shows ultimately you end up talking to those people. Whether you wish it or not, you see this with ANC’s Nelson Mandela who Margaret Thatcher described as the ‘arched terrorist of his age’. We saw this with the nationalists in Northern Ireland with Sinn Fein. I don’t think that means you have to talk to every group that uses violence. Many of the groups we see in Iraq today for example do not have legitimacy and credibility but are outright criminals blackmailing the local community. You talk to those groups and forces that have real credibility and reflect the community; ultimately you have to talk them as there is no alternative.

AF: You are on record of saying that “we immobilise ourselves by turning away from the homegrown political forces [i.e. Islamists] that have the power to resolve these crises”. Can you elaborate on this? Can you cite examples of how these forces have resolved issues?

AC: I was involved in the Palestinian context, in several efforts to bring about de-escalation of violence with the support of groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad in order to try and test whether there was any prospect for political progress. Let’s not go into the complex reasons of why those processes are failing but I believe there are prospects for the possibility of success. One has to only look at the Muslim world, particularly the Middle East, we have growing crises all over and no one seems to know what to do about Iraq. We have problems in Iran, problems in Syria, Lebanon is on the brink of severe internal tension. We have Palestine and growing problems in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. We talk to fewer and fewer of those countries. How is Europe going to manage all these growing crises? What are we going to do if we simply confine ourselves to talking to Mr Karzai and Muhammad Abbas to resolve those? We do have to talk to people more widely. But it does not always work, that’s the reality. But what is important also is to prepare for such talks, obviously talking is better than fighting but we must also ensure that the environment, the psychology and objectives of talking to such groups is well thought out in order to achieve tangible results. Without preparation, we sometimes merely confirm each side’s prejudices to the other and make matters worse. We should be careful not to get carried away forever dialoguing for dialogue’s sake. Rather we have to create the right psychological framework for dialogue to succeed — dialogue is complicated.

Mark Perry: Setting the right conditions for dialogue is crucial. We at Conflicts Forum are not just talking for talking’s sake but we are urging people to talk to each other and trying to create the right political condition in which dialogue of substance can take place. That can be very difficult.

AC: One cannot pretend to be King Canute, ordering the tide from coming in. Only when the tide begins to change, can you begin to work with the tide. That’s why you have to accept the fact that political process does not necessarily require the end of violence. On the contrary, most political processes have continued whilst violence continued. The prerequisite to have an end to violence, which is the inherent Western conflict resolution, in our view is complete nonsense. What one aims to do through dialogue is to circumscribe violence but not necessarily to end it.

AF: How has the response been of the Islamists? Have they been receptive and willing to dialogue?

AC: Islam has an extraordinary willingness to talk and a belief in dialogue, which encompasses virtually all Islamists. Most Islamist groups, if you approach them and they feel you are not coming to lecture them and that you are really interested to listen to them, will genuinely talk to you. I have always found this to be the case.

AF: Many people clearly object to your open-arm approach to dialogue with militant Islamists. You are perhaps giving too much attention to these groups.

AC: Too much attention as opposed to what?

AF: You are giving them legitimacy by talking to them. Shouldn’t governments take the principled stand of not negotiating with those who use violence for political aspirations?

AC: It does not give them legitimacy. On the contrary, it does not give them any legitimacy! Do you think they get legitimacy sitting down talking to us? Do you think their standing would increase in the Middle East if they sat down with Condoleezza Rice? It’ll just be the opposite. We don’t give them legitimacy. These groups have their own legitimacy that comes from their own supporters and from their community. There is nothing I can do to give them legitimacy or take that away from them. We talk to them because you cannot avoid talking to these groups. You cannot have a solution to any political issue amongst the Palestinians that does not include Hamas. So it is absolute nonsense to say that we are somehow giving them legitimacy by talking to them. It is close-minded to actually try and avoid them. Furthermore, by taking this position you promote violence. When you isolate and demonise groups that have support on the ground, what you get is that members and especially the youth of these groups use this isolation and demonisation to reinforce their perception of a West which only understands the language of military strength.

AF: In an interview with Barak Ravid in Maariv (4/3/2006), you were quoted as saying “Like many other people in the world that recognised the Zionist Narrative, they want to establish a parallel understanding regarding their narrative” i.e. Palestinians. Can you explain what this narrative is?

AC: The Palestinians believe that it is important to be recognised, just as the West recognises the experience of injustice faced by the Jewish people as a result of events that took place in Europe. The Palestinians have a sense of their injustice in what happened in 1948 by the destruction of Palestinian villages and towns and the death of many Palestinians in the conflict of that period that resulted in many Palestinians being removed into exile and into refugee camps. In that period, there were cases for example when Palestinians were loaded in cattle trucks, not by Israelis I hasten to add actually, but by Arab governments. They were simply sent up the railway line and off-loaded in places and ultimately one particular journey ended in Aleppo, where the Palestinians were put into what were then the temporary nissen-huts erected by the British army in the Second World War. And those Palestinians remained in those temporary barracks abandoned by the British army to this day. That I believe is the sense of injustice and narrative that is not accepted by the world sufficiently.

AF: How would you rate the current Arab governments’ response to the plight of the Palestinians today?

AC: Palestinians believe the Arab governments have never done enough. That is I think the Palestinian perception. But now we are in a new era where certain Arab governments, I think, are more frightened to see an emergent Hamas than they are concerned to do what is right by the Palestinian people.

AF: You have obviously come face-to-face with many important political and religious figures over the years? Of the Islamist figures of repute, were you able to dissect in their persona and ideas signs of hope for dialogue between civilisations and culture or were they all full of rage towards others?

AC: The Islamic leaders that I have met are extremely open, even ones that have got very good cause to be resentful or indeed hostile to the West. I think of figures like Grand Ayatollah Fadlallah, who as you know was the recipient of a bomb attack when he was in Beirut, which in fact did not kill him but killed many innocent Lebanese. Also, his house had just been destroyed again during the recent conflict. He has however always argued consistently for an open Muslim, Islamist society, one which is open to dialogue. He has advocated time and time again the need for there to be mutual listening between the West and Muslims but also between Muslims and Christians, and even between Jews and Muslims. He has said this frequently and what I find particularly distressing is that no one in the West seems to hear when respected leaders like Ayatollah Fadlallah call for talk, dialogue and listening. He is a man who does have legitimacy, unlike some that the West point to as the legitimate figures for Muslim representatives. Here is a man who has real following and real legitimacy but unfortunately very few in the West hear this. And if they do, there’s never an answer.

AF. Oswald Spengler, Toynbee, et al theorise “the present as a period of decline that will end relatively soon in the collapse or paralysis of Western civilisation, in accordance with the pattern followed by all other high civilisations so far…” Do you believe that the “rise and fall of civilisations” implies that religions, too, are doomed to wane?

I think if you need to make a distinction: religions either wax or wane, they grow or they decline. I am not sure this is the same as them waning, because quite often once they appear to have gone into decline, they are revived or redefined or reinvented in some form. We have seen that taking place in Islam. I would not rule this out from happening in the West with Christianity, although I don’t see that as being very likely. I noticed that there was recently a debate going on in the Vatican about the question of whether the Catholic Church needed to disassociate itself from the state, where it is infinitely bound up now such that it is very closely aligned with the formal institutions and structures of the state. And the question was, was it possible in a secular Western age to reinvent yourself if you are tied into the state and into the institutional structures of the state? The answer was that they probably needed to withdraw entirely if they wished to provide a function of a revivalist movement, in order to bring values back to Western society; to give Western society ethical underpinnings just as Islam has provided in Muslim societies. That also indicates the sense of anxiety that runs through the Western world when faced by movements that are succeeding in actually putting an ethical underpinning to society.

AF: Please elaborate further on the reaction to Islamic resurgence in the West and Oswald Spengler’s theory of a declining West.

AC: There is a tendency to try and present, if you like, the Western struggle in terms of a clash of values. I don’t think that this is about a clash of values. I believe that much of politicised Islam is about widespread discontent at the world political order. In a sense there seems to be within the Islamic revivalism an element of the civil rights movement. You hear it in the language, in the language which keeps on coming up: ‘respect’, ‘dignity’, ‘justice’ — the same language you hear in the American civil rights movement. You hear the same thing in the streets of Leicester or in Birmingham: “I like a little respect.” “I would like to be valued”. “I don’t to be subjected to every stop and search, to be discriminated against, to be called a terrorist, to be spat at in the street”. What we are facing in the West, which we find disconcerting, is a challenge, a deeper challenge which I call a ‘Westphalian order’. There is a deeper challenge to the sense that secular society came about when our caliphate ended and the Treaty of Westphalia broke us up into secular governments that laid the ground work for the so called enlightenment and progress through reason, science and technology. This is being challenged and people are coming out and saying “in fact, no, we don’t believe that this is a successful world order in the global sense now. And we believe there needs to be change in the global order”. This is essentially a challenge to the Enlightenment.

In other words, this is an intellectual challenge to the basis of the last two hundred years of Western thinking, of Eurocentrism; of our view of modernity and our view of that we have a cultural copyright on the implementation of values of such things as justice and freedom. And others are saying, “Well no, actually your definition of freedom may be fine for you but maybe we have a different perspective. Even if we share the same interpretation of freedom, maybe the implementation of it needs to be different. Maybe our view of justice is not quite the same as yours.” So what we are facing, I believe, is not civilisational conflict but actually an intellectual challenge to the foundations of European thought over the last 300 years. And the West is reacting to this like some teenager who’s asked difficult and awkward questions about his belief system and instead of answering them or trying to cope with them intellectually he reacts negatively with force. To a certain extent, that is exactly what we are seeing today in terms of a military action to something that does poke at the very heart of our assumptions that only secular societies can be reasonable; that only secular society can have good governance; that only secular societies can be truly free. Then there are people saying “Well, there are other systems and we’re not really sure that you really are free. You may not feel it but actually you are as caught up and as tied-down to materialism and consumerism and other desires. You are enslaved to some of those aspects, in a way perhaps you cannot actually perceive it.” These are intellectual challenges and debates; we need not wage wars over these.