Return to Transcripts main page


White House Race Outsiders Dominate; A Closer Look at "The Study Quran"; Imagine a World. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired November 11, 2015 - 14:00:00   ET




CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: after the fourth Republican presidential debate, outsiders are still in the lead, still




DONALD TRUMP, ENTREPRENEUR: Let's build an unbelievable company worth billions and billions of dollars. I don't have to hear from this --

believe me.


AMANPOUR: Dissecting this phenomenon from over here with Trump's biographer and a winning British campaign strategist.

Also ahead, Islamophobia on the campaign trail.

Will a new study Quran a decade in the making change the conversation?

A scholar and an American imam join us with answers.


AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.

Four down and two more Republican debates to go before the first actual votes are cast in the race for the American president. And the whole world

seems to be watching the most unusual U.S. election in recent memory, with equal parts amusement and befuddlement.


AMANPOUR (voice-over): As the outsiders continue to rise above the insiders, who, in turn, are trying to break away from the Inside Washington


SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: Washington is fundamentally corrupt.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: Washington is out of touch.

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA: I was in Washington, Iowa, about three months ago, talking about how bad Washington, D.C., is.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Now, in the 2012 election, the outsider and pizza magnate, Herman Cain, was the Republican front-runner for a while.

So how will 2016 really shake down?



AMANPOUR: Joining us to dissect and perhaps to gaze into their crystal balls, keen America watcher and campaign strategist, Alastair Campbell, who

helped Tony Blair win three elections here in the U.K., and the journalist and writer who knows Donald Trump the best, his biographer, Michael

D'Antonio, joins us from New York.

Welcome to both of you.

First, let me start with you, Alastair, because we're watching from the outside. I want to quote an article you wrote, where your headline is,

"Americans, Your Presidential Election Is Nuts."

"As a Brit, I came, I saw and I am befuddled."


ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, FORMER SPOKESMAN FOR BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: Partly -- I was there at the time of one of the previous Republican debates

and I actually bumped into Dr. Carson in a greenroom where he was promoting his campaign and I was promoting a book about winning that I'd just


And we ended up talking about what it took to win a campaign. And it was at a time when he was coming out with this stuff about guns and the

Holocaust and it was just, to somebody like me, from Europe, it was like, how can you even say things like this?

And likewise, I see some of the stuff that Donald Trump comes out with and then -- or I look at the debate last night and, you know, this isn't --

you're talking here about electing one of the most important jobs in the world when it comes not just to domestic policy for America but for foreign

policy around the world.

And you just got a sense of kind of really simplistic and not very thought through positions. And I find it, to be absolutely frank, I find it quite

alarming to watch some of this stuff.

AMANPOUR: Let's get to the policy and the substance in a moment because it was meant to be about the economy and foreign policy last night.

But first to you, Michael D'Antonio, you've spent many, many hours with Donald Trump. You've written his biography. There's a certain amount of

pushback from him. But you also today wrote an op-ed, a column for CNN, in which you said the moderators, the journalists have to get to the truth and

the bottom line of all the candidates.

What do you mean by that?

MICHAEL DANTONIO, TRUMP BIOGRAPHER: Well, there are two things I can say. First is Donald Trump is kind of a novelty candidate and he's been a

novelty persona for 40 years. His relationship with the truth has always been very loose. He doesn't have any concern for deep analysis or

consideration of issues.

What he wants to do is press hot-button words. So he'll say words like "rapists and murderers" in reference to Mexican immigrants and the whole

idea is just to inflame and incite. It's not to inform.

AMANPOUR: And yet, for both of you, it's working. He and Ben Carson, who we should say also has questions about his biographical narrative, this

does not seem to be hurting them in the polls or after their debates, even after they're asked these questions publicly.

How do you make -- what do you make of that, Michael?

D'ANTONIO: Well, the amazing thing is that the journalists and the debate questioners --


D'ANTONIO: -- don't really delve into the backgrounds of these men.

Donald Trump is a fellow who has actually posed as fake persons in the past to give information to the press. He was once calling himself John Barron

(ph). He next called himself John Miller.

All of this is rather ridiculous. But the minute the press asks a question about the past, the candidates turn it into a debate about how unfair the

news media might be.

AMANPOUR: Well, let me put that to you, Alastair, because it obviously is entertaining. All the networks which have broadcasted and hosted the

Republican debates so far have seen massive ratings bonanza. I mean, massive, off the scales really.

How is that viewed from here, certainly in terms of, let's say a British election debate, particularly at a time where there's this massive refugee

crisis, where there's an ongoing war in Syria, where there are major challenges from President Putin of Russia and, indeed, challenges from

China? And yet they don't seem -- they seem to be skimming over that.

CAMPBELL: When you're a politician in a campaign as long and as tough as the American presidential campaign, you have to have your strategy worked

out. You have to have your answers worked out on these big policy issues that you can express very concisely and very quickly.

And watching them, you just get a sense sometimes that they're slightly making it up as they go along. So I think actually the people find it

quite alarming that they're even doing so well.

Now, interestingly, I'd complete by forgotten about the pizza guy that you mentioned, totally completely forgotten about his existence. And so -- and

I sort of feel, but maybe this is wishful thinking, I kind of feel that we're in the phase -- because so much of American media now, I think, is

almost like it wants to fuse politics and media and make it a kind of a form of entertainment. And they'll be loving the fact the ratings are


I just hope and I do believe that the American people do understand that they're electing one of the most serious positions on the planet. And

you've got to have serious people for that.

And I -- even this fact that, you know, Trump and Carson and Fiorina have got this ability to, say we're not politicians; therefore, we're entitled

to say we hate Washington. And I just think the whole Washington thing has become a cliche.

You do have to have politicians. They have to be democratically elected. They have to meet somewhere. That happens to be in Washington.

AMANPOUR: That's the view, obviously, from the other end of the special relationship.

But let me ask you then, Michael D'Antonio, to respond to that.

How do you think this head of the pack that we're seeing now will shake down when it gets to the primaries and beyond that, the caucuses and all

the rest of it?

And also let's not forget that on the democratic side, the ultimate insider, Hillary Clinton, is actually ahead of obviously a much narrower

and smaller pack but nonetheless, her challenger, Bernie Sanders, would be more of an outlier in policy terms.

D'ANTONIO: Well, I actually think that, moving forward, Donald Trump will do quite well in Iowa. And I expect him to win in New Hampshire. He's

very popular there and he spent a lot of time there.

One of the mistakes that people make is calling him an outsider. He actually dabbled in presidential politics in the '80s, again in the '90s.

He ran for president in the year 2000. So he's not an outsider. He's not unknown. He's just very inflammatory.

So it's almost like people being drawn to the site of a burning building. You see this inferno and you want to know what's going on. The trouble is

that in a country this large where it's so hard to get attention, it works. And I would not be surprised to see him carry this through to the summer.

AMANPOUR: Well, you mean, even to the convention, like being the actual candidate?

D'ANTONIO: Well, if he's not the candidate, he will have delegates and he'll have some sway. And it's actually handing things to the Democrats,

because I think that people do recognize that Hillary will be the adult.

And if there's a debate stage with those two candidates, I think Donald Trump would look pretty bad and Ben Carson would look pretty bad and the

rest of them don't promise much more.

AMANPOUR: We have some video that we're playing right now of the candidates dancing, sort of shuffling on various talk shows and trying to,

you know, shimmy their way into the hearts and minds of the American people.

The question really is, obviously, they're trying to be likable but what about media, social media, the way that really candidates now and campaigns

can generate their own connection with people through social media and don't really need a debate moderator or these debates?

Is that a valid proposition?

Alastair, how do you see that?

CAMPBELL: No, I don't see the -- social media is important but it's part of media. Certainly in our election, the last election here in the U.K.,

if it had been decided on social media Labour won by a landslide. But when it came to votes --


CAMPBELL: -- I'd say the biggest driver of debates was television. I think Barack Obama used social media apparently. But the most important

thing is actually to have the strategy in place. And the strategy is what then gives you the ability to communicate through all these different

platforms. But television, I think, remains the most important.

AMANPOUR: Barack Obama also danced a whole lot better than any of these other candidates, the people you're watching.

But quickly, let me ask you because you mentioned the Labour Party race, Alastair. You got a leader, who most of, I guess, what you would call the

adults in your party, did not want but the, you know, the rank and file did and they elected him.

So it is not impossible for, again, someone, let's say, not an outsider but maybe an anti-establishmentarian to get the highest prize.

CAMPBELL: Absolutely. Look, if you -- I actually was interviewed with Jeremy Corbyn in a radio studio the day after the election. And if I'd

have said then or he'd have said, Jeremy Corbyn will be the next leader of the Labour Party, we'd both been taken away and locked up.

But it happened. So we're definitely in one of those phases, I think, whether it's here or with you, in America, we're definitely in one of the

phases where kind of anything can happen. But I do think one of the -- I think one of the downsides of the American campaign is that it's so long.

But one of the upsides is that that means the candidates really do get put through the wringer. It's true that they don't really get tested in these

debates but I think over time they really, really do get tested.

And I agree, that I think Trump will fade. I could be wrong. But I think he'll fade. I think the public will actually think, you know, we've had

our fun, now let's move on to something more serious.

I don't find Dr. Carson credible as a presidential candidate. And so I think actually one of the politicians will emerge and, where you're

absolutely right is that Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton really does have a sense of her own strategy.

AMANPOUR: All right. Michael D'Antonio, Alastair Campbell, thank you both very much indeed for joining us.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.


AMANPOUR: And the campaign seems to be an equal opportunity insult fest, from alienating Hispanic voters to clashing over Muslims rather than

courting their vote. With Islamophobia on the rise among ordinary Americans, a change agent enters the fray. The new Study Quran, 10 years

in the making and the first work of its kind since 9/11. I speak to the authors next.




AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.

We're going to dig now into the lingering 9/11 hangover, which is spilling over into the U.S. presidential race, highlighting the deep and often

justified fear of radical and violent Islam, which some say has morphed into mainstream Islamophobia directed at Muslims in general. Take a look.


DR. BEN CARSON, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not

agree with that.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Controversial, but Carson raised $1 million in the 24 hours after making those comments. And Islam was front and center,

again, at a national conference on religion in Iowa last week.

MIKE HUCKABEE, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR: We need to identify the enemy as radical Islam. We cannot pretend that it is not a radical form of Islam.

It is.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): When Democratic --


AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- candidate Bernie Sanders hosted a town hall recently, a Muslim-American student took to the stage to vent.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hearing the rhetoric that's going on in the media makes me sick because, I, as an individual, am constantly trying to raise

awareness and make sure that everyone's treated equally in this country.

So, president -- to the next President of the United States, what do you think about that?


AMANPOUR (voice-over): The number of Muslims in America has doubled over the last seven years and Gallup polls in recent years have found that

they're amongst the most integrated religious groups in America.

But nearly half say they've experienced discrimination.


AMANPOUR: So how to resolve this?

Now for years millions of Christians in America have had study Bibles to lean on for inspiration and for learning. And now a radical attempt to

make Islam more accessible. The same publishers have come out with "The Study Quran," aimed at Muslims, Christians and all religions in the United

States and all around the world.

Born, of course, from the ashes of 9/11, it's taken 10 years to produce. The co-editor and Islamic studies professor, Caner Dagli, joins me from


And Imam Suhaib Webb, a Muslim American scholar, joins us from Los Angeles.

Thank you both for being here to discuss this really important ongoing issue.

Can I start by asking you first why, for instance, Professor Dagli, do you think that this will make a difference?

What about "The Study Quran" is going to be new and different?

CANER DAGLI, CO-EDITOR, "THE STUDY QURAN": Well, I think part of what the book will accomplish is that -- if you think about it, you're right, the

Quran has, in a sense, become a public document. Everybody, non-Muslims, Muslims, they quote it at each other on television, on social media, in

articles and there's not really a good resource for people to go to, to find out if the interpretation that someone is offering is true, if it's

the only interpretation, if it's the best interpretation.

And because there's such a low level of religious literacy, not only amongst non-Muslims but also amongst Muslims about their own religion, it's

very easy to capitalize on the general ignorance of people, quote a verse out of context without understanding the ethical reasoning behind it,

without understanding the spiritual reasoning behind it, and present it in a biased way.

AMANPOUR: Isn't that just the point?

And I was going to ask Imam Webb, that is the point, right, because the Quran, as we've seen since 9/11, as people have been so directed to the

Islamic faith, has been used to justify or to apologize for whatever and wherever anything happens.

You know, do you think this is going to penetrate what is already a very thick layer of misinformation around the Quran?

SUHAIB WEBB, MUSLIM AMERICAN SCHOLAR: Indeed, I think if there's a willingness to penetrate that. This text is remarkable in that it does

allow for really a dual process of education.

Within the Muslim community, we've seen strains of hyperliteralism and this really is going to make Muslims aware of the fact that even their holy book

has a large number of scholars, who looked at it from many different angles, interpreted it.

On the other end, you have the Islamophobia industry, who is also purporting to say Muslims are hyperliteral, where now a text is coming out

that shows the holy text itself has a large number of opinions, variant ideas around just one single word or one single sentence.

So if people are willing to look beyond some of the emotional rhetoric, they're going to see a very powerful interpretive tool in this beautiful


AMANPOUR: Does "The Study Quran" address the whole sort of cultural notion of what's offensive, what's not?

Because what we saw, for instance, after the "Charlie Hebdo" murder, massacre of 12 journalists, was certain elements, even in mainstream Islam,

say, well, you know what, they had it coming to them. They deserved it because of the insults that they were doing.

Forget that this was satire and cartoonists.

Do you think some in the mainstream Islamic community are hewing too far to the extreme, taking their sort of baseline from the extreme?

WEBB: Well, yes, I think the biggest problem is literacy. It's interesting, you'll find that the Far Right is saying that the problem is

Islam and, of course, Muslims in the Center Left are saying the problem is that there needs to be a rebirth of -- a renaissance, if you will, in the

Muslim world, rooted in literacy.

Most definitely I know that the scholarly conferences I belong to have denounced anyone justifying these horrible murders but, again, people can

take a heavy metal song and say that --


WEBB: -- it encourages them to do satanic acts. People can take a hip-hop song and say that it encourages them to do something even though it

doesn't. So I don't think we can say this Quran is going to save everyone from false interpretation. That's an impossible feat.

But I think it will contribute, number one -- the body politic of the Muslim community largely stands against extremism. So for them, this Quran

is not going to be a book about countering violent extremism. It's not a policy book. It's going to be a book that helps them in their daily

liturgy and their relationship with God on a daily level, just like my grandmother read the Bible in Oklahoma every morning.

AMANPOUR: You mentioned your grandmother reading the Bible. You are evidently a convert.

And let me ask you, then, about education and leadership around this religion. Look, 39 percent of the American people, according to a Gallup

poll, believe that a Muslim should not be president.

At the same time, the FBI, looking at terrorism committed on American soil over a 20-year period, found that 94 percent of the terror attacks were

committed by non-Muslims.

So what would both of you say to, let's say, presidential candidates who use Islam as a sort of, you know, a rallying point around fear during the

presidential campaign?

First, you, Imam, and then you, Mr. Dagli.

WEBB: I would -- I would encourage them to read the life of Thomas Jefferson, who actually procured a copy of the Quran and read the Quran and

wrote that the ideal form of tolerance, in his mind at that time in America, would be for a Muslim to be president. He actually imagined that.

So I would counter that argument, that their dedication to patriotism seems to be somehow historically skewed and that, by reading other traditions and

actually taking the time to learn other traditions, we can appreciate those traditions.

AMANPOUR: And for you, Mr. Dagli, what do you think is the most important message that this study Quran is meant to send?

DAGLI: I think it's -- the most that it can do, that -- what we want it to accomplish was to bring out the rich and -- historically rich and

intellectually and spiritually rich tradition of Islam that would enrich people's lives, give Muslims a sense of knowing where they came from and

what their religion really teaches, giving the general public a way to refer and to understand what this text, which is constantly quoted and

misrepresented, actually means.

And by the way, also to give scholars and to give students a good book on Islam and the Quran to study. But our main goal is to increase

understanding and to increase literacy in this book, which is the holy text for 1.5 billion people around the world.

AMANPOUR: Caner Dagli and Imam Webb, thank you so much indeed for joining us.

And there's always room for more knowledge and understanding as one Republican presidential hopeful offers a drink to an underage Muslim girl.

And that got us to imagining a world of drinking diplomacy. A clink of glasses and a clash of cultures, next.





AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, a quick nightcap or not? Imagine a world gone stark raven sober. It is ooh, la, la, in Paris, as the French cancel

a state dinner for the visiting Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, after his office asked the Elysee Palace for no wine on the table in accordance

with his Islamic faith.

But President Francois Hollande said no and, as one newspaper puts it, no wining, no dining. So now it will just be a nonalcoholic working meeting

with no meals and no toasts.

Beer is the bugaboo in China these days, where there's a run on the British ale Green King, ever since the Chinese President Xi Jinping hoisted a pint

with the British Prime Minister David Cameron during his recent state visit here.

Meantime, a storm in a beer can is brewing across the pond as well, as Republican presidential candidate, Marco Rubio, named his dream drinking

partner and scored a double whammy by saying that it would be the Nobel peace laureate, Mala Yousafzai, who just happens to be Muslim and only 18

years old, which, in the USA, would still make her underage. By the way, she's also an activist for education. Just saying.

That's it for our program tonight. Remember, you can always see all our interviews online at and follow me on Facebook and Twitter.

Thanks for watching. And we leave you here in London with commemorations on Veterans' Day around the world.