Return to Transcripts main page
In the Arena
Gadhafi's Bizarre Appearance; Gadhafi Forces Attack Rebel Positions; U.S. Response to Libya; Brigitte Gabriel on Radical Islam; Brigitte Gabriel's Anti-Islam Message on Radical Muslims; Imam Speaks Out on Muslim Terror; Radicalization of Islam in America; Women in Post Revolution Egypt: Women's March Turns Ugly
Aired March 08, 2011 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ELIOT SPITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, I'm Eliot Spitzer. Welcome to the program.
IN THE ARENA tonight, listen to this plea from a Libyan freedom fighter. It captures the desperate state of the resistance at this moment. And I quote, "maybe tomorrow I'll still be alive. I don't know. Nobody knows. We need support."
But will anybody answer his cry for help? Is the revolution in Libya about to be crushed by Moammar Gadhafi and his forces? More on that in a moment.
But first, regulars E.D. Hill and Will Cain, what are you guys cooking up tonight?
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, Eliot, you know, Representative Peter King has castled a stir this week for an investigation into the potential radicalization of American Muslims.
But I have another question beyond radicalization. And that is, do American Muslims want says to see Sharia law incorporated into our constitutional system?
CAIN: Now you have a couple of interviews tonight. I hope it leads into this conversation.
SPITZER: All right. Interesting stuff.
E.D. HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: And I'm looking at what's happening in the Middle East, you know, because when we look at the Egyptian overthrow, women were a large amount of the faces in the protest movement there. And yet when they had the million-woman march in Egypt today 1,000 women showed up and they were shouted down by men telling them to go home, that's where they belong.
So what kind of change are we really getting with all this change?
SPITZER: Fascinating contrast in Tahrir Square today versus a couple of weeks ago, something worth talking about. And we will. All right, guys, lots to talk about later. But first, back to Libya where these cities, Bin Jawad, Ras Lanuf and Zawiyah are now linked in our minds with reports of the brutal crackdown of Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
In Zawiyah tonight, a British camera shot -- crew shot this deeply disturbing footage. Peaceful anti-Gadhafi demonstrators moving down the street when suddenly gunfire from all directions coming from Gadhafi forces.
Amazing footage that is deeply, deeply troubling.
And also tonight, more bizarre behavior by President Gadhafi. The embattled leader arrived at a hotel in Tripoli where a throng of foreign press was waiting for him to hold a press conference. But what did he do? He just left. No press conference.
Joining us now senior international correspondent Nic Robertson who witnessed this odd spectacle.
Nic, describe what happened in Tripoli today.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was madness as he came into the hotel. He got out of one of several Land Cruisers that pulled up. His security was sort of buffeting the journalists out of the way. They've created a narrow channel for him past more than 100 journalists who were invited there at the hotel to wait for his arrival.
We've been waiting for over eight hours when he finally set foot through the doors there. And it was -- it was just a scene of pandemonium as cameras pushed themselves to get a better angle.
He seemed very small, dazed, confused almost by what was going on around him. Didn't really know which direction to head. Got stopped in one direction, then got moved on by his security.
Around him, journalists were getting knocked left and right. Then he disappeared behind some curtains into the -- and inside the hotel into a couple of meeting rooms, and that was quite literally the last we saw of him because he disappeared over an hour later through a side door, out of the building, into a waiting white BMW, and off down the road back to his palace -- Eliot.
SPITZER: You know, Nic, this would -- this would be a bad comedy if it weren't an individual who was conducting a war against his own citizens at this very moment with thousands of people dead.
Is there any explanation from the people around him, people within his governance structure to say, gee, we're sorry, we know this is a little bit off? What do they say to you after something like this?
ROBERTSON: Well, you know, what was quite telling was what they said before. We spotted from up here about 3:00 local time in the afternoon a couple of trucks pull up in the back, soldiers get out, take up positions of the perimeter around the edge of the hotel.
But we went downstairs to find out the hotel employees were rolling out the carpet. Yet the government officials who deal with the journalists here had no idea what was happening, was scrambling to figure out, realized Gadhafi himself was going to come, even then didn't know what he was doing.
Couldn't advise us all day but kept this notion going that there would be some opportunity, potential opportunity. Journalists came in from other hotels where they're staying in the city. And nobody knocked this idea down, nobody said, look, this has just been an interview with Turkish journalists, no one else is going to get anything else.
So it seems really -- when Gadhafi makes a decision, no one really knows what it is, and if he's going to change his mind. And no one wants to speak for him for fear of what that may mean if they get it wrong. So nobody was going to tell us don't bother waiting, it's not going to happen.
Such is his sort of mercurial nature. Nobody even in his entourage knew what he might decide to do on the spur of the moment -- Eliot.
SPITZER: All right. Thanks, Nic.
And now let's go to our senior international correspondent, Ben Wedeman. He is reporting from the eastern part of Libya tonight.
Ben, what's the latest on the fighting in the country?
BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's fairly precarious at the moment. There's been lots of air raids today in Ras Lanuf. More than we've seen before.
It appears that the opposition that was advancing forward until a few days ago has run into a brick wall in the town of Bin Jawad. There, there appears to be a concentration of Libyan army tanks, surface-to- surface missiles. Lots of soldiers. Plus there is -- there are a lot of aircraft helicopters in the air.
The advance has come to a screeching halt. The rebels are under increasing stress. One of the main water mains in Ras Lanuf was hit as well so that's going to cause further complications.
What we've noticed is there are fewer and fewer volunteers ready to go to the front because they realize that the Libyan army isn't budging in this part of the country.
SPITZER: Ben, you mentioned that there are fewer volunteers going to the front. Do you know -- are the opposition forces adequately equipped in terms of just guns, ammunition, any other provisions that they need just to continue the battle at this point?
WEDEMAN: In terms of provisions, they seem to be in pretty good shape. But what they don't have is the kind of weapons that can stop what the Libyan army has. They have antiquated anti-aircraft guns that aren't very good at firing at aircraft. But they're quite effective when you shoot them horizontally.
They have anti-tank weapons. They do have some basically the Russian equivalent of stinger missiles, but they're missing rather important parts that make them function. So it's really an unequal fight against what is essentially a state military body, the Libyan army, against a random collection of people who have no organization.
SPITZER: Ben, given this -- what you're describing in terms of the military context, is there any additional demand or any additional request being made by the transitional government for recognition or for a no-fly zone? Or any assistance from the West as they see things getting somewhat precarious?
WEDEMAN: Well, they're quite clear when it comes to saying they don't want any foreign military forces on the ground. The one thing everyone seems to agree upon on the opposition side is the dire need for a no-fly zone.
So everyone you speak to is becoming increasingly almost hostile in their desire to see the West, whether it's the United States, Italy, Britain, France, whoever, to come and impose this no-fly zone that's been talked about so much. But the Libyans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the fact it's all talk and no action.
SPITZER: All right, Ben, thank you for that report. And I would say that frustration grows here, as well, as people hear all talk and see no action.
All right, Ben, we will be talking in the days and hours ahead indeed. Thanks so much.
Outgunned, bombarded by tanks, airplanes, helicopters, and sniper fire, the situation is increasingly desperate for resistance fighters in Libya. Casualties are mounting. One thousand, 2,000, we may never know for sure. And the president, together with the international community, boldly and resolutely does, seemingly, very little.
President Obama makes threats to think about considering whether he should plan a response.
Will and E.D. may disagree. We'll have that conversation in a moment. But first here to talk about the situation in Libya and the American response is CNN senior political analyst David Gergen.
David, thanks for joining us.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Hello, Eliot.
SPITZER: So here's my question. You've got this growing chasm between what the president says he wants which is that Gadhafi should be gone and the inaction coming out of the White House.
Is that a problem both substantively and politically for the president?
GERGEN: It's a problem -- yes, both. And I think it comes, Eliot, because he early on said Gadhafi must go. And Hillary Clinton came along and said Gadhafi must go. They're both very tough about it. And clearly they had expected the protesters to throw out Gadhafi and it will all happen. You know, and it's gotten much, much tougher.
But they're on record saying he's got to go, and once you say that as president of the United States, your credibility is on the line. And now we have along with all of the sort of atrocities that are going on, the brutality, the way he's mowing people down, as you say, this puts the president in a very, very tough spot.
There are powerful arguments, as you know, against American intervention. Bob Gates has said, you know, basically, look, we're overextended military already. Bob Gates has been saying in the past, we don't have enough money in the till to pay for all these military actions. We ought to start cutting that back down.
The president himself, you know, CNN has been reporting, you know he's really worried, if you get in, how do you get out. On the other hand he is -- he's part an international coalition that has been standing for democracy, that has said Gadhafi must go, and I think he's being called upon that.
I come down on the other side, saying it's time to act. It's time the U.S. should not do this unilaterally. But at the NATO summit meeting with defense ministers on Thursday, he needs to come out of that meeting, the NATO needs to come out of the meeting with a plan of action that sends a clear message to Gadhafi and the people around him, your days are up, the game is over.
CAIN: David, Will Cain here.
I want to ask a question revolving on that principle you just suggested that we could be waiting on some kind of NATO coalition or U.N. approval, some kind of international coalition to sanction action.
I've been asking this question over and over. Why would we intervene in Libya? And I still haven't received an answer that totally satisfies me. But the most consistent one is because it'd be the right thing to do, because people are dying. For altruistic reasons.
Here's my question. If we're looking to do the right thing, why do we need international approval to do the right thing?
GERGEN: I think it's extraordinarily important especially with the president who is committed to the principles of international cooperation, collaboration, working through the U.N.
I think it's extremely important that this president stick to his principles. I do think he's going to have a hard time getting U.N. approval. China and Russia are likely to say no. But that means he then has to find some other forum. NATO is one of those forums where he could have that approval.
The Arab -- the Gulf States and the Arab world are now calling for it. You could potentially get the Arab League to call for it. You could recognize that the opposition in place and say they're the government they're asking for.
There are all sorts of ways you could do this. The critical thing is, does he want to do it?
HILL: Hi there, David, it's E.D. hill.
HILL: You know, right now when the resistance fighters are saying that they're outgunned and outmanned, if the U.S. or, you know, NATO allies for that matter, were to step in at this point and sort of be the muscle behind them, doesn't that in the end de-legitimatize anything that comes out of this?
GERGEN: I'm not quite sure why that de-legitimizes it --
HILL: Because they are not doing it on their own. You know the rap we get in the Middle East is that we're going in there and we're sort of imposing our desires, our wishes on Middle Eastern countries.
Well, if we're the ones going in there and deciding who wins and who loses, aren't we doing just that?
GERGEN: Well, with all due respect, the -- look, a growing number of Arab nations are asking us to act. You know, France just reported yesterday that the Arab League has now sent word we would like you to come in. The Arab League was not saying that 10 days ago.
The Gulf States, six Gulf States, very important nations to us, have asked now -- that includes Saudi Arabia -- have asked for us to put in a no-fly zone. It's not as if we're coming in, you know, unilaterally and imposing our will.
It's extremely important that this not be just the U.S. It's extremely important that the United States not be left holding the bag when Gadhafi goes.
HILL: I mean are we the only ones who have the air power or the manpower to do it?
GERGEN: We have the military power to do this. We're in an unusual situation where -- you know in Tunisia and Egypt, the people have the power. And in Libya, Gadhafi's got more guns, he's got more planes, and he's got -- he's now asserting it, and the momentum has reversed itself here.
Think if a no-fly zone and the pressure had gone on a week ago, Gadhafi might not be rolling now the way he's rolling. So I think you do have to realize, this is a tough problem. I'm very sympathetic with a president sort of agonizing over this. And there are arguments from very good people like Bob Gates about not getting in.
But it does seem to me that John Kerry who would know a lot about foreign policy as a Democrat has been in that part of the world a lot and I've talked to him about it. And these others, John McCain, and Graham, and others who -- and Lieberman and others are calling for this.
I do think they've got the better argument that the United States at this point can't just sit on the sidelines, especially after the president said he's got to go.
CAIN: David, you asked a question at the end of your answer to E.D. that I think we really need to examine and I don't know answer.
What is Obama's coherent -- is there a coherent foreign policy? If we take a step back, look, in Iran we offered little to nothing to the revolutionaries there. In Egypt we were for Mubarak, we're against him, then we're with him for a little while. It switched all the time. In Libya I don't know what we're for.
Is there a coherent foreign policy message coming out of this administration?
GERGEN: You know we have a country-by-country foreign policy. It's not as clear to me what the strategy is. What's the vision for where we want this all to go, where do we want Iran to be as this process goes on? How does this affect the Middle East peace process with Israel and the Palestinians?
What does this do about oil and what we're trying to do on the oil side? What kind of Middle East do we want to see? I would think central to that would be the stability of Saudi Arabia. And we're not talking a lot about this because our attention has been diverted to Libya.
But you know, we need -- the American presidents that I've known have always looked to have one or two pillars of stability in the Middle East whether it's Egypt or Iran before when the shah was there or Saudi Arabia in recent years. They've been very important to us.
And that's been critical to having a strategy. And it's not -- I do think the president -- I thought we're going to get a speech on Libya the other day. I do think he needs to enunciate a general strategy for where he's trying to go, where the West is trying to go in the Middle East.
SPITZER: All right, David Gergen, thanks always for being with us.
GERGEN: Thank you.
SPITZER: Coming up, a timely warning or religious witch-hunt? Whatever your takeaway, you'll definitely have a strong reaction to our next guest. Back in a minute.
SPITZER: Republican Congressman Peter King's hearings into radical Islam have ignited a firestorm of protest. Critics say it's nothing more than a witch-hunt and an improper effort to target an entire religion of nearly 1.6 billion people. Just as revolutions calling for freedom and democracy are sweeping across the Arab world.
Others say no, Islam is, in fact, a threat.
Joining us is one such voice. Brigitte Gabriel, author of, and I quote, "They Must Be Stopped." She joins us from Washington.
Welcome to the show.
BRIGITTE GABRIEL, AUTHOR, "THEY MUST BE STOPPED": Thank you, Eliot. Glad to be with you.
SPITZER: There was, as I'm sure you know, a front page article about you and your perspective on Islam just today. And I want to quote something you said in this article.
So I apologize for putting on my glasses, but you said, "America has been infiltrated on all levels by radicals who wish to harm America. They have infiltrated us at the CIA, at the FBI, at the Pentagon, at the State Department. They're being radicalized in radical mosques, in our cities and communities within the United States."
Now first, I've just got to ask you, because I read this and it harkened back to the worst form of McCarthyism of the 1950s. Who are these people? Where are the names and what proof do you have that there are people who are radicals trying to undo our society in these institutions of government?
GABRIEL: Well, I was talking about the Muslim Brotherhood project which has been presented as evidence in the Holy Land Foundation trial in 2007 in Texas, which is the largest ever terrorism trial taken by the United States government. And terrorism financing, where 108 guilty verdicts were handed down.
In that trial, a project written by the Muslim Brotherhood, a 100-year plan for radical Islam to infiltrate and dominate the West, was presented. The plan for North America was presented which was written in 1991.
In that plan, they discussed 29 front Islamic organizations for the Muslim Brotherhood set up in the United States, and now operating, infiltrating our government.
This is not an opinion. This is a fact that was presented in --
SPITZER: Brigitte --
GABRIEL: -- in a terrorism case.
SPITZER: Brigitte, again, I want to drill down. I know about that case. I was a prosecutor -- in fact, we were involved in generation of the evidence way back for that case.
You have not given me the name of a single individual -- you list every major aspect of our government. The CIA, the FBI, the State Department. Name one person who you can say is infiltrated in those institutions by radical Islam since you were saying radical Islam is this fundamental threat to our security.
One person at those institutions.
GABRIEL: Well, there are people who are under investigation, and their names will not be released by the FBI just like the people who are wanted during Nidal Hasan. For a year. And they did not release his name. And they did not share intelligence. Because when once someone is being monitored you don't discuss them publicly.
SPITZER: But Brigitte --
GABRIEL: But I can tell you that we have had guests to the White House, like al-Amoudi, for example, who has been a VIP guest for both the Democratic presidents and Republican presidents, who is now serving a 20-year -- 23-year prison sentence.
You take Sami Al-Arian, for example, who also was a guest to the White House, who we found out is the head of the Islamic jihad in the United States.
There are cases and there are convictions where people have been already tried and either exiled like the Sami Al-Arian case, and only you find out about them after their trial has been over.
SPITZER: With all due respect you haven't answered the question. Give me the name of a single person that you can say to the public. You're quoted in the front page of "The New York Times" saying every major law enforcement organization in the United States has been infiltrated by radical Islam.
And now you're saying you can't give us a name because maybe they're under investigation? Give us the name of one person.
GABRIEL: Well, I can give you one name. Hasham Islam who works at the Pentagon who actually ousted Stephen Coughlin, who was the highest authority on Islam at the Pentagon back a couple of years ago.
GABRIEL: Is a front for the Muslim Brotherhood.
There are many people like that operating and working within our government who are now being monitored by the FBI. Their names are not going to be released because they are being monitored.
SPITZER: All right. All right. We got one name in and we will follow up on that. I appreciate that.
Now I want to run a quotation, a piece of tape in which you made some kind of remarkable comments -- I think kind of remarkable comments about Islam and the Arab world. And you said that -- you're contrasting the Arab world basically with everybody else.
Let's run this tape, and then I want you to react to it, if you would.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GABRIEL: The difference between civilization and barbarism is the difference between goodness and evil. And this is what we're witnessing in the Arabic world. They have no soul. They are dead set on killing and destruction.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
SPITZER: So Brigitte, I just want to make sure I'm understanding this. You're saying the entire Arab world is dead set on destruction, has no respect for the rights that I hope you and I believe are central to our democracy here. And you're saying this at the very moment that one of the most remarkable revolutionary moments in history is sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East.
Was that -- is that your view?
GABRIEL: Well, actually, you are looking at an edited tape. This speech was given about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in which I was discussing the Hamas mother who sent her children to die, strapping bombs on their bodies, and saying, I already killed three, I have another seven, I'll be willing to send them out to die, as well.
And I was talking about how Palestinian mothers are encouraging their children to go out and blow themselves up to smithereens just to kill Christians and Jews. And it was in that context that I -- that I contrasted the difference between Israel and the Arabic world, was the difference between democracy and barbarism.
That's how I made these comments, but obviously that clip was edited.
When we are looking at the -- what's happening in the Middle East right now, for example, the revolutions that we are witnessing in Egypt. The people in Egypt are taking to the streets because they are tired of the rule of Mubarak who has been in power for 30 years.
The people do want freedom. But the only people who will fill the hole are going to be the Muslim Brotherhood. We saw how Hamas used democracy to gain power in Gaza. We saw how Hezbollah used democracy to gain power in Lebanon.
What we are seeing right now in Egypt, what might have started as a revolution for peace, is going to be filled by radical Islamic Muslim Brotherhood that we already saw Al-Qaradawi came back to Egypt, gave the Friday prayer to a hero's welcome.
It's like watching again the -- what happened in Iran in 1979 be replayed again in Egypt right --
SPITZER: Brigitte --
GABRIEL: Right before our own eyes.
SPITZER: Brigitte, with all due respect I don't think anybody knows how any of these revolutions will play out. But the consensus is clearly that these are essentially secular, that they are pro- democratic, that they are pro-freedom, and that they are not Islamist revolutions. Of course, history will tell us 10 years from now who is right. With respect to the editing, you gave the speech with respect to events in Gaza, you're your comments did not in fact relate only to Gaza and I'll give you another quotation in a second.
Nobody has been more fervent in condemning terrorism, violence than I especially Hamas, is a terrorist organization to be condemned and dealt with harshly, but that's not what you said.
I want to quote back to you something else you said and I don't have a tape of this. This was an interview you gave and you said, "A practicing Muslim goes to mosque, prays five times a day, doesn't drink, believes God gave him women to be his property, to beat, to stone to death. He believes Christians and Jews are apes and pigs because they are cursed by Allah. He believes it is his duty to declare war on the infidels because they are Allah's enemies. That is a practice in Muslim."
Is that your view of the entirety of the religion? And that's where I'm trying to come to grips with sweep and breadth of your comments, and your lack of differentiation between radicals and extremists who exist in virtually all religions, and the enormous mass of those who believe in Islam.
GABRIEL: Well, also that quote was edited. Those words were not uttered in sequence the way you quoted them. And what I was talking about was about the difference between a devout Muslim who might fall into radicalism and the difference between a regular Muslim who is a moderate who does not subscribe to Sharia law.
Those who are adherent to Sharia law according to the Koran who are devout following the Sharia principle are the ones who believe that their women are their property. This is how Ayman al-Zawahiri believes, this is how Osama bin Laden believes, this is how Anwar al- Awlaki believes. This is how Imam Choudary believes.
This is how every radical who follows the exact commandment of the Koran and Sharia law believes. Those are the radicals and that's what sets them apart from the moderates.
Obviously the moderates who believe in sending their daughters to study, to get an education, to gets a profession, not to cover with a hijab from head to toe, a man who believes his wife is his equal, not his property, is a moderate Muslim who does not subscribe to the ideology of al Qaeda.
Again, it's amazing, Eliot -- you know, I come from the media, you are in the media. We are both journalists, and we both -- I was anchor for "World News," and you're an anchor for CNN.
We both know how easily journalists, or people and comments especially now with the Internet age, can take few words and either paste them together or edit them together to basically express their own point of view.
SPITZER: Brigitte, with -- again, with all due respect, the entirety of your writing, the entirety of your comments and the entirety of your purpose in going out to speak and that has been fairly captured in the comments and the quotations that we have given to the viewers of the show tonight. And as you just said, you think a devout --
GABRIEL: Your opinion.
SPITZER: Somebody who is a devout believer in Islam, actually, you fairly captured their views about Jews and Christians being apes and pigs. You said if they're devout, that's what they believe.
So the question, again, that I have for you is, you -- are you not sweeping with such a broad brush? Are you not failing that most critical, critical error of judgment which is to differentiate between those who are extremists, who have no judgment? And are you not picking the few to generalize about 1.6 billion people? And are you not feeding into the animus that at the end of the day is so destructive?
GABRIEL: Eliot, I come from the Middle East. I was born and raised there. I walk into a grocery store in Arlington, Virginia, and speak in Arabic and hear what they're saying and understand it much differently that you would or anybody else.
And I can tell you how the Middle East and how the Muslim world and the Arabic world operates. So when I speak about certain things regarding the Middle East or their religion itself or how they talk about their religion, I hope that you would give me enough credit to know that what I'm talking about in warning what's coming to the United States will be at least considered as someone who comes from the Middle East and understands the culture and can read the Koran in Arabic, the language in which it was written and recited in Arabic, as much as Osama bin Laden can recite it.
So what I'm telling you that what we in the West consider as a difference between radical Islam and a moderate Islam, when you listen to the (INAUDIBLE), for example, the prime minister of Australia, or when you listen to Imam Choudary telling you there is no radical Islam and moderate Islam, there's only one Islam.
Believe what you're enemy -- at least what the radicals are saying because it is the radicals right now that matter. And it is the radicals who have declared war on the United States.
We must be very wise in understanding what our enemy is saying to us. They are not lying. They don't have a hidden agenda. They're being very clear in their messaging.
We are trying to translate and reflect our western values and standards on their words. And we better be very careful because we are playing with fire and the lives of millions of people if we do not learn how to differentiate between what the radicals and the devout do and say and what the moderates do and say.
ELIOT SPITZER, HOST: All right. I think you meant the prime minister of Turkey, not Australia, if I heard you properly with --
GABRIEL: Sorry. Exactly. SPITZER: Just to prove I was listening carefully to you. I just want you to know that. All right.
GABRIEL: Thank you.
SPITZER: Brigitte Gabriel, I may disagree fundamentally with you but interesting chatting with you, anyway. Thanks for coming.
GABRIEL: Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
SPITZER: My pleasure.
Up next IN THE ARENA, the polar opposite view of Islam from the man who wanted to build that Islamic center near Ground Zero. When we come back.
SPITZER: I'm joined now by Imam Feisal Rauf. Imam Rauf has long been a champion of interfaith dialogue, but he's probably best known for spearheading the effort to build that usually controversial Islamic center just two blocks from Ground Zero. We heard earlier from Brigitte Gabriel, an anti-Islamist activist. The imam did not want to appear with Ms. Gabriel but he couldn't be more opposed to what she has had to say.
Imam Rauf, thank you so much for joining me.
IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF, CO-FOUNDER, "GROUND ZERO" MUSLIM CTR. PROJECT: Thank you, Eliot.
SPITZER: You heard her comments. What is your reaction?
RAUF: If it is true that radical Muslims have infiltrated the government at the level of the Pentagon and the State Department, I think Congressman Peter King should have people from those departments testify to the existence of radical Muslims infiltrating. It's a very serious accusation.
SPITZER: Right. And what do you -- how do you respond to her characterization of Islam as a religion? It strikes me enough. I'm not Islamic clearly, but it strikes me as gross overgeneralization.
RAUF: It is a gross overgeneralization and a gross misrepresentation of the facts. Yes we do have radical Muslims. I'd be the first to admit it. Which is why after 9/11 I worked with the FBI in New York, gave several lectures, six lectures in total to all the agents, invited the FBI to my mosque, worked with them to explore how we could cooperate with the FBI on making sure that radical extremist from our faith committee would be rooted out. Forty percent of the incidents of terrorism from our community were tipped off by people from our own community.
Can we do more? No doubt we can do more. But that is certainly the thing that we would like to cooperate with. And my concern about the Peter King hearing is that the perception that is being given and the -- and not only in our committee here but also overseas where a lot of the radicalism and extremist acts against America comes from will be aggravated by these hearings.
Al Jazeera just gave a headline, kind of headline that, you know, congressman is attacking Islam. That's the kind of message which goes overseas. But the real battlefront, Eliot, is not between America and Islam or between America and Christians, et cetera. The real battlefront is between the moderates of all stripes, all faith traditions, moderate Americans, moderate Muslims have to -- have to gang together against the radicals of all the faith traditions because radicalization is a vicious circle. Somebody says something bad in the Muslim world, someone like this lady says something about Islam or a U.S. colonel says something about an evil religion, it responds with an attack against an embassy. It is responded by -- and the cycle just goes --
SPITZER: How do you break that cycle? Because I agree with you. I think that putting aside her comments which I find deeply troubling and I accept your diagnosis that within all too many faiths there is a radical group, there's an extremist group that we should somehow have to deal with. How do you break the cycle there? Is it not necessary for moderate voices to stand up to be heard?
RAUF: Yes. And we have to help each other. I have been against radicalism, extremism in my committee for a long time. But I'm an imam. I need the arm of the law. I need law enforcement agencies. I need lawyers to -- people like yourself, prosecutors, to work with us, to say how can we -- how can we give the law teeth so these people whom we don't want in our committee can be eliminated?
SPITZER: All right. That case I'm going to ask you a tough question because I agree with everything you've said thus far.
Many people, having said that, are troubled by the fact that there haven't been as many voices of moderate Islam as we would like to hear. Where are those voices standing up against what are the distinct, tiny minority of radical Islam who do commit terrorist acts?
RAUF: We are there. We have not been able to get the media attention. Our challenge has been that the extremists grab media attention, OK. You wouldn't come to cover the FBI -- representative come to my mosque. That's not considered newsworthy. But if something negative happened to a mosque, then that will be considered newsworthy. That has been our biggest challenge.
Right after -- you know, when -- before we went to -- against Afghanistan, a Fatah (ph) was requested by the Muslim chaplain of the American U.S. Armed Forces. It was OK for Muslim-Americans fighting the U.S. Army can wage war again their fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. A Fatah (ph) was issued that said, yes, they can. And I was called by the "New York Times" to comment. Please put on the front page, please put on the front page the nation challenged. It was buried on page eight. We don't get the attention of these moments and we need that to be amplified by the media.
SPITZER: I will agree with you even though I suppose now I'm part of the media. The media always finds that which is most negative, that which is most extreme, because the biggest headlines are generated and the biggest readership, unfortunately.
SPITZER: Having said that, I want you on this program tonight to be the voice of moderation. And, in fact, you have been an emissary of the United States government when President Bush was in office to the Middle East, to say to the rest of the world, look what American Islam is all about. But have you been able to organize as many moderate voices within Islam to stand up collectively, to say to a Brigitte that she is wrong? Brigitte Gabriel that she is wrong? Where are those voices?
RAUF: Well, I have done a number of projects. My limitation is resources and manpower more than anything else. But I have put together resources to define what Islamic statements mean, so that we can define it in a way that will push back against people like, you know, Hamas or people who have created what I call an inquisitional Islam and parts of the Muslim world.
If you see what's happening in the Muslim world today, the big pictorial of what happened in Egypt is that the Muslim holding up the Koran and his fellow Egyptian holding up the Coptic cross, cooperating together against Mubarak. Our engagement with the Arab world today to establish democracy is going to be one of the most powerful tools to attack the Al Qaeda and radical Islam.
SPITZER: I could not agree with you more. The greatest defeat for Al Qaeda is the revolution and the series of revolutions that we're seeing --
SPITZER: -- sweeping North Africa --
RAUF: Which are moderate -- which are moderate and nonviolent, by the way.
SPITZER: So far, let's hope they continue that way other than Libya --
SPITZER: -- where the violence is an atrocity.
SPITZER: Very quickly, how do you then respond to Peter King, Congressman King who would no doubt say, but look, Imam, a significant proportion of those who have committed terrorist acts are, in fact, radical Islamists.
RAUF: I accept that. I accept that. What I'm saying is that, and I go with his intention, but he has not even invited law enforcement agencies to testify on how we have cooperated with the law enforcement agencies. The perception is created is unfortunately a negative one. And what I ask him to do is to say call this adherence against radicalization and how it occurs. We know that maybe the majority of cases will come from our community. But what about radicalization and how radicals have hijacked the discourse, and then we'll be able to make proper headway.
SPITZER: All right. Imam Rauf, thank you so much for coming, and thank you for your good works in this regard.
RAUF: Thank you, Eliot, for having me.
SPITZER: All right.
Coming up, a discussion of all these very fiery issues with E.D. Hill and Will Cain, right after the break.
SPITZER: All right, we are back. That was a fascinating sort of two perspectives on this issue of the radicalization of Islam, from Brigitte Gabriel and the Imam.
All right, guys, who's right? Who persuaded you?
E.D. HILL, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I thought they both sounded about the same. They were both making the argument that there is a segment of the -- you know, Muslim population that is radicalized. And the question is how do you go about finding it, how do you go about protecting Americans?
SPITZER: Well, I guess I would just read because it seemed to me that Brigitte Gabriel was really -- she would occasionally when pushed, tried to say, well, I'm only talking about radical Islam. But then when you look at what she says, and it was not --
HILL: She claimed that this was edited.
SPITZER: No. This was her. She said anybody who's a devout believer in Islam believes those things that she then said. So she is sweeping and painting with a broad brush.
WILL CAIN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, that's right. So your initial question is who is right. The answer has to be I don't know. We have to have a longer conversation because the question that wasn't asked respectfully and needs to be asked is what is a moderate Muslim? What is moderate Islam? That's behind everything.
SPITZER: Didn't you hear that from the imam? The imam who was chosen by the Bush presidency to be a voice of the United States to the Middle East, who has been a voice for not only moderate Islam but for the United States --
CAIN: Eliot, I'm not denying the existence of modern Islam. I'm asking for it to be defined. So look, I teased this in the beginning, I want to know about Sharia. Look, I agree there are not a lot of radical Muslims out there that want to be jihadist. I don't know that the United States is infiltrated with them. I imagine there are some. But what I want to know is what is the percentage of the American population that wants to embrace Sharia? If I look around the world, I see staggering statistics from Egypt, from Pakistan, even from Britain where 40 percent of British Muslims want to embrace Sharia. The question for me is what about American Muslims?
HILL: Well, the radicalization is what Peter King is, I guess, if that's the intent of where he is right now.
SPITZER: Wait a minute --
HILL: Bringing in families who have had children in their families that have been radicalized and finding out how that happens, why, especially why this happened here in America. How can it happen to an American? That's foreign to us.
SPITZER: E.D., does it bother you that Brigitte -- look, I frankly --
HILL: I really like her.
SPITZER: No, no, no. I don't say I don't dislike anybody. Let's be very clear.
HILL: I think if you listen to me --
SPITZER: Wait a minute --
HILL: --- there's not that much difference.
SPITZER: Wait a minute.
HILL: They're against radical Islam. Radical Islam exists. We take a look at it through our very western perspectives, and we look and think, well, that can't possibly be the way some people think. Well, it is.
SPITZER: E.D., there is no question the radicalization of Islam has generated and spawned all sorts of horrific behavior. I have been over many years very, very clear about that. The brush with which she paints, though, when she said -- and I don't have my "New York Times" --
HILL: What she said was edited.
SPITZER: But she said -- no, no --
HILL: She did --
SPITZER: She was quoted on the front page of "The New York Times" directly saying CIA, FBI, State Department, DOD, everybody's infiltrating.
HILL: Right. SPITZER: She is making these enormous claims without any factual support.
HILL: Well, as you know through your investigations, there are a lot of times -- and I've got to say she is a woman who does have a lot of connections. You know that there are a lot of investigation that go on in the --
SPITZER: Wait a minute. She couldn't give us a single --
HILL: She gave you a name.
SPITZER: She couldn't give us a single date of point to substantiate these --
CAIN: Look --
SPITZER: The issue is not is there radical Islam. Of course, there is. The point is do you create this venom and direct it towards an entire religion?
CAIN: And the question, Eliot, as I keep falling back on this definitional aspect -- what is radical Islam? Who is she suggesting? Is she suggesting there are people within the CIA and FBI that want to blow up Americans in the pursuit of their cause?
I would doubt that's what she's saying. What I wonder she's saying and I want to know is, are there radical Muslims, we'll call them radical moderate, that want to impose some aspects of Islamic code in our country that embraces things like this -- stoning for adultery?
HILL: From reading "The New York Times" today, we know that there was a person who worked with the FBI, and was a person who was raised in America, according to the FBI, still declares that he wants to kill Americans. And he's now in the witness protection program. He worked with the FBI. The FBI put him in the witness protection program.
SPITZER: He was not. He was not infiltrating --
HILL: That's what was reported today.
SPITZER: He was not infiltrating the FBI in the state. This was --
HILL: Yes, but he was working with them clearly, they said.
SPITZER: E.D., E.D., her quotation there today was rank McCarthyism. I'm holding a list of 100 names with Senator McCarthy about communists, that was the same thing.
All right. Coming up, we're going to continue this. We have time.
Coming up, friend of the show, Egyptian journalist Ethar El-Katatney, went to Cairo's Million Woman March today. Ran into a lot of unhappy men and not as many women as she was hoping. She'll tell us about that and life in post revolution Egypt when we come back.
SPITZER: It was supposed to be a proud declaration of women's rights. But a protest in Cairo today on International Women's Day turned ugly. Both anti-feminist and threatening. And it shows just how far Egypt's revolution still has to go. Our friend, Ethar El-Katatney was there today and joins us now by Skype.
Ethar, I'm here with Will and E.D. Hill. Will Cain and E.D. Hill. Welcome back to the show.
ETHAR EL-KATATNEY, EGYPTIAN JOURNALIST, TWEETS AS "ETHARKAMAL: Thanks for having me back. Good to be back.
HILL: You know, I was probably like a lot of American women watching these protests, and as a person who has spent a lot of time in the Middle East, I was kind of excited to see all these women out there as the face of the protest. And then you see the changes that are coming around. That's why I was especially disappointed then when the Million Woman March takes place, very few women show up, and the men are shouting them down, telling them to go back home where they belong. I'm wondering, are we getting the type of change that I think here in America we were expecting?
EL-KATATNEY: The thing is, it would be really naive of us to assume that change is going to appear -- change is going to come in a day and night. We were -- we know that it's going to take time, right? But I think perhaps we were a little too optimistic, compared, you know, thinking that the ethos of Tahrir of the mannerisms that we saw in Tahrir where there was no harassment, where, you know, women were even praying right next to men, and there was absolutely no harassment.
Harassment is always been a huge problem in Egypt. A study noted by the Egyptian center for Women's Rights a couple of years ago say that least 80 percent of Egyptian women are harassed. So we were perhaps a little too optimistic. But today was just especially disappointing not just because of the turnout but because of the reaction. The fact that they -- actually men used slogans that people would shout into Haiti, know the people want the downfall of the regime and twist it and say that people want the downfall of women. You know, that your voice is wrong. You should go home. To the fact that it led to mass sexual harassment and groping and actually turned a little violent.
And when I was leaving, I actually left. One soldier started -- they fired gunshots in the air to disperse the men just because it really could have turned, you know -- it wasn't pretty at all. And that was just really disappointing because the men were so -- you know, we live in a patriarchal society. It's expected that, you know, you have privilege as men and it would be hard to give that up. But the fact that you were so negative -- the negativity towards the women. Somebody shouting matches. I was there shooting, and none of this was before. You know, we thought perhaps it would change a little bit. But unfortunately, it just shows you that we still do have a way to go.
SPITZER: Ethar, breaking the two aspects of this, the response of the men with which, Will, as you point out, unfortunately take longer to change. But why were there so few women in Tahrir Square today? I at least expected a big turnout. Even if the response from some men was not going to change overnight, as you point out, why so few women at this moment to celebrate this enormous victory?
EL-KATATNEY: Well, I guess part of it is also because of the fears. You know, Tahrir Square, like recently there's been a law in the past week -- there's so many new developments. So, for example, in Tahrir there wasn't just the women's march. There was actually also a protest.
I was in front of, you know -- there was a protest for against the ousting of the Yemeni president. There was also a march for the martyrs of Alexandria. There's a lot of different side protests in front of the Egyptian and state television building. There was a huge protest today of cops protesting against state coverage of cops in Egypt that had hundreds of people. So there's a lot of uneasiness.
It isn't the state of Egypt in this week, there's a lot of chaos. And driving home, you know, I got a call, don't take the way you usually take because there are people throwing rocks and the military is interfering and there's gunshots. There's a lot of uneasiness, a lot of unsafety, a lot of thugs.
You know, the state security building was just stormed, and then all these documents that were revealed. So there's no police in the country, no state security. A lot of thugs who are capitalizing on the opportunity to loot or to create mayhem and destruction. And that's actually an important point to make. That for today in the protest, it wasn't just -- it wasn't the Egyptian men as a general statement. There were a lot of men there. So, you know, it's also a concern that once they heard there were women, a lot of thugs, a lot of people who came just to harass or to -- so it isn't a generalization on Egypt.
HILL: With the new faces coming in, are we going to see anything vastly different than what we've seen in the past?
EL-KATATNEY: Well, you know, there's a poem by Khalil Gibran, who was a very famous poet, and he says, you know, pity the nation that greets a new ruler with cheers and then -- tells him goodbye with hootings and then greets a new leader with cheers.
And this is the thing, there's just so many changes happening so fast. You know -- who is now our ex-prime minister, when he arrived, there was still a lot of optimism. But you know, the problem with the fact that we accomplished this revolution in such a short period of time is that there's such high expectations. There's such high hopes that, you know, things are going change like that. But suddenly everyone's going to have a job, everyone's going to have money.
So the new cabinet, people are very optimistic about it. And I was in Tahrir on Friday when the new prime minister arrived.
EL-KATATNEY: And he was greeted with, you know, cheers and kisses. HILL: But we'll have to wait --
HILL: Wait and see, yes.
HILL: Ethar El-Katatney, thank you very much for staying up until 4:00 a.m. to talk with us.
EL-KATATNEY: You're welcome. Thank you.
HILL: We'll be right back.
SPITZER: E.D. and Will, thanks for being here tonight. And thank you for joining us IN THE ARENA.
"PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts right now.