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An Interview with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar on Stories and Cultural Differences (Part Three)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2019/07/08


Faisal Saeed Al Mutar is the founder of Ideas Beyond Borders and Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0, Global Secular Humanist Movement, and a columnist for Free Inquiry. He discusses: stories, religions, cultural differences, and science.

Keywords: Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0, Faisal Saeed Al Mutar, Global Secular Humanist Movement, Ideas Beyond Borders.

An Interview with Faisal Saeed Al Mutar on Stories and Cultural Differences: Founder, Ideas Beyond Borders & Founder, Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0 (Part Three)[1],[2]

*Please see the footnotes, bibliography, and citation style listing after the interview.*

1. Scott Douglas Jacobsen: Also, Mohammed’s story in another respect, in a minor way. It is teaching Canadians that they also have secret service.

Faisal Saeed Al Mutar: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: It is important to know about CSIS. I did an interview with her. I quoted this part of the interview as the title. It is a beautiful quote. Most Canadians do not know about it. It is important to know in a similar way.

For instance, by analogy, when people used to talk about these pseudoscientific categories of race, in terms of Caucosoid, Mongoloid, and Negroid, they were shown relatively clearly as pseudoscience in a similar way as Phrenology in psychology.

It is the ‘science’ of bumps on the head corresponding to traits of an individual such as intelligence or various personality aspects. In evolutionary theory, if you look at geographies over time, what they talk about more is, traits in a species that differ geographically along a gradient.

Those are called clines. I think in a similar way. It is looking at the stories common to us all. It is just the different ratios you’re going to get in different parts of the world. So, it is not going to happen as much in Canada. But it is going to happen in Canada.

Al Mutar: It already happened in Canada few times. There are definitely chances that it is going to happen more. Despite the signs of the world getting better, less poverty, less hunger, and so on, I do not see signs of extremism declining.

I would argue political extremism and polarization is on the rise.

Jacobsen: I agree.

Al Mutar: In Europe, you can see parties. Marine le Pen is in the parliament. You can see Jeremy Corbyn with the Far Left in the Labour Party openly saying crazy things. That can be perceived as antisemitic by many people.

While Canada remains a beacon of hope in some regards, the UK was a beacon of hope for many years. But it is not working well for them right now. There’s nothing in Canada that makes it immune to being a crazy place.

I have been to Canada many times. Yes, because of their geography and America being on South of them, it is different than America having South America on the South of them. It makes them an obscure place. They Canada enter Canada without a visa.

It puts them in a position that attracts fewer individuals from other parts of the world. They are lucky in that regard. But I do not if there is anything in Canada that makes them immune from really going through the deep end in terms of extremism.

Canadian is not that different from American DNA.

Jacobsen: You could have someone moving from Nova Scotia to Iqaluit. They are cranky because they are cold.

Al Mutar: [Laughing].

Jacobsen: “There’s not even a Tim Horton’s, eh? I don’t even know” [Laughing].

Al Mutar: Especially in big cities like Montreal or Toronto, or Vancouver, they look as American as they can get.

Jacobsen: Yes, different labels of companies and corporations.

Al Mutar: Yes, very similar, almost the same thing, it is almost the same diversity. I would say Vancouver is more Asian than the rest.

Jacobsen: The closer you get to Richmond for sure.

Al Mutar: That has always been my hypothesis, in a way, for extremism or resentment. Canada compared to America has a better welfare system. With the recent migration, Justin Trudeau accepted many Syrian refugees.

Jacobsen: That started with Brian Mulroney at quarter of a million per year.

Al Mutar: Many of the Syrian refugees, not negatively but, coming from the different country will not see the welfare system as a welfare system but as a way of life. As a result, it is possible that many will use the welfare system.

Because many are refugees and need time to move up in the economic ladder. As a result, the people who pay taxes in Canada will be angry. I can see that happening a lot in Scandinavia. Every time I go there and call a friend from Sweden or Denmark, social welfare is above what I would consider normal.

There is a lot of resentment from many Danish citizens, Norwegian citizens who say, “I work my ass off all the time. I pay 50% income tax,” which is crazy already and in America 30% considered insane.

“Then I am guaranteed this social contract. I will get education for my son. My neighbours’ sons will get an education. We have a social contract in which we help each other out. They are homogeneous. They know each other. They help each other. They form the social contract.”

Then there are people coming from different culture who do not even know the social contract. Because of the cultural difference, they will say, “I can live and not work for $5,000 per month. Cool!”

Especially in this age of polarization, they do not see themselves as part of the social contract. They see themselves Syrians who think, “Why the fuck should I pay for other people at 50% of my income? Why am I doing this? I do not know anybody. Most of my friends are Syrians. Why am I paying into this system?”

I am afraid Canada will have the same problem. That many Canadians will think, “I am working my ass off all the time. I am barely able to buy a house, maybe not even an apartment or condo. Then there are people who come from overseas and who do not pay taxes and then live on welfare.”

That is the right-wing rhetoric. There are many refugees who do not live on welfare. I am an Iraqi refugee myself. I do not live on welfare. I have a salary. I pay taxes as well. But that is the stereotype of living on welfare. They (the right-wing) can find examples that they can utilize. I am afraid that rhetoric will gain steam in Canada.

Where if you give Canada 10 or 20 years, you might have a Far Right party.

Jacobsen: It is usually 10 years after the US. There was a split with the People’s Party of Canada founded by Maxime Bernier splitting off the Conservative Party of Canada of Andrew Scheer.

Al Mutar: Yes, also, centre-left will be considered right-wingers by the far-left and centre -right will be considered cucks by the far-right [Laughing].

Jacobsen: It will be more egregious in America. We know the ‘news networks’ that will use that as political ammo for a right-wing narrative. In Canada, we have some similar ones. But they are too obviously bombastic and not big enough.

As well, Fox News tried to get a branch over here. It didn’t turn out well [Laughing]. It didn’t start. That kind of sentiment, at least among the portion of North American and Western European examples.

But it can be stoked by fanning those flames in, back to the example, Canada. I see some of it being used. For instance, there was a young Canadian woman. She was murdered by a refugee. So, that was used as a news story to demonize Syrian refugees as group.

One person does it. Therefore, the group is bad, which is the basis of xenophobia.

Al Mutar: Yes, I am afraid some of these groups will do it. Then we will face some bad consequences.

Jacobsen: Back to clines, gradients, as the analogy of phenomena, there are human universals. There are different ratios of people’s experiences. You lived in a liberal household. Yasmine Mohammed lived in a more fundamentalist household, especially with her mom. Honey I Married a Jihadi, basically [Laughing].

Al Mutar: [Laughing] yes.

Jacobsen: The experience of people. To bridge the gap with telling the stories across the language, culture, and religion divide, a good way to do this. It is looking at your own experience in 2010 of fear simply through going onto a religion forum or fora.

It is similar to the founder of the Council of Ex-Muslims of France, Waleed Al-Husseini, when he was in Palestine territories. He was in a coffee shop because he didn’t want to be home writing these blogs.

He got fond out and placed into a military tribunal and tortured for several months. I think the more common example, in either case of Canada or Palestine or others throughout the MENA region, is the social bullying, being afraid.

Al Mutar: Yes.

Jacobsen: People who are openly secular in Canada. If they work in a student union, in a campus, in a profession, if they are in a church community but lost their faith, they will undergo social bullying in the family, the community, at work, and in the school.

Those stories bridge the gap. A similar phenomena of bullying – public humiliation and so on – to prevent them from being open about their own beliefs. With the barrier, in the extreme cases, with death threats and actions following them, which make the threats legitimate, for the most part, there is the big hunk of sameness.

Al Mutar: One of the reasons why I prior to starting IBB that I started the Global Secular Humanist Movement was to make the people share stories of how much suffering they’re facing or persecution from different parts of the world and make them connected to each other.

People really realizing how they can inspire each other. The ways people can inspire each other. I get emails many times, mostly from individual from the Middle East but also from the West. They say, “Faisal, I saw what you have been through. You have courage to go through what you went through. You are inspiring me to do this for other people and pay it forward. Also, I am not afraid now.”

I always get questions from ex-Muslims in the region, who I always happy mentor. I have 5 activists who I always mentor on how to be safe. I always get the question, “So, my cousin saw me drinking beer. Should I apologize to him and say I will never do it again? Or should I own it?”

I try to listen to them and see their situation, ask them not to do something crazy, and figure out a way to survive until their cousin becomes more secular. I am constantly reminded that there are many people who are facing persecution because of their beliefs.

These people always are looking for stories to be inspired by. There were times when they were constantly thinking and reached a point of depression & defeatism. They need each other. We always need to pull them out and prove them again, and get them optimistic about life.

A life without goals and optimism is not a life worth living to me. It is torture.

Jacobsen: Shakespeare had the phrase, “Oh Friar, damned souls use the word banishment to describe hell.” No community is hugely painful for people.

Al Mutar: Of course, it is. We are social animals. We get our energy from other people. There are people who live on farms. But they get contact with other people, not as much as us in the cities. But they still have human interaction.

They cannot live by themselves because we need each other for survival and mental-social reasons.

2. Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Faisal.

Al Mutar: Wonderful, thank you, Scott!

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Founder, Ideas Beyond Borders & Founder, Bayt Al-Hikma 2.0; Founder, Global Secular Humanist Movement.

[2] Individual Publication Date: July 8, 2019:; Full Issue Publication Date: September 1, 2019:


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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