News+and+politics religion philosophy the cynic librarian: Islamic Moderate: Tariq Ramadan

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Islamic Moderate: Tariq Ramadan

Some neoconservatives and chicken hawks contiinue to hold the Israeli hard line on detente with moderate Islamic thinkers. They accuse Ramadan as being a wolf in sheep's clothing. Although Ramadan has been accepted as a participant on a British-govt. sponsored board, others continue to attack his policies and proposals. As the following article points out, Ramadan's proposals are quite moderate and provide a viable framework within which Moslems and westerners can find workable solutions.

One critic of Ramadan is Daniel Pipes, whose damning attack on Ramadan drew wide coverage in the blogosphere. Pipes' argument boils down to trying to piant Ramadan as a sheep in wolf's clothing. Ramdan, for his part, responded in detail to Pipes' attack. For a detailed deconstruction of Pipes' attack on ramadan, consider the "A Fistful of Euros" blog. Here we find that Pipes' argument is based on very very shaky readings of French sources, as well as anachronistic fallacies.

You should bear in mind that Tony Blair has asked ramadan to serve on a high-profile committee to study Islamic issues in Britian and Europe. I imagine that before Ramadan was aksed to do this, he was adequately "vetted" by either MI-6 (Britian's intelleigence service) or some political operatives in Blair's government. I do not think that Blair is so ignorant nor stupid to include a flaming extremist on a govt-sponsored committee.

My guess is that Blair--after having the guy vetted--wanted to include someone on this committee who some "street crds" with the Moslem committee. Street creds in this context means that he has shown himself unwilling to swallow whole the cant that is the usual part line emanating from the mouthes and brains of neo-cons, religious right fanatics, and the Israeli lobby.

For some, of course, simply voicing any opposition to Israel--however muted--is immediately suspect. Imagine their growing concern with a highly educated, very charismatic, well-spoken moderate Muslim who presents a face of Islam that contradicts their propaganda image of all Moslems as slavering, bomb-throwing fanatics with blood dripping from their hands.

Other links on Ramadan:

Not a fanatic after all?
Islamic militant or revolutionary?
My fellow Muslims, we must fight anti-Semitism

Tariq Ramadan: Dream of a patchwork philosopher
Acclaimed thinker moves to Oxford this week to write a book reconciling Islam and Europe. By Polly Curtis
Polly Curtis
Tuesday October 4, 2005

The well-oiled machine of the Labour conference came to a brief standstill last week. As a Guardian-sponsored debate on Islam in Britain neared its end, a Swiss philosopher was speaking in a steady tone, describing his vision of how a patchwork of communities, defined by faith and origin, could become a truly British society. A member of the hotel's staff arrived to turf everyone out. Instead, he stopped and listened.

Tariq Ramadan has that effect on people. He has a global following, particularly among young European Muslims. CDs of his lectures sell like pop music. He's one of the world's 100 greatest thinkers, according to Time magazine and last week's Prospect poll; some see him as a Martin Luther King figure. This week, he takes up a position as visiting professor at St Antony's College, Oxford. But he's also been accused of anti-semitism, having links to terrorists and preaching different messages according to his audience.

After the debate, with the muffled sounds of conference parties in the background, Ramadan describes the 20 years he has spent on his project to promote the idea of a compatible European-Muslim identity. As a teenager, he underwent religious training in Egypt. Back in Switzerland, he studied European philosophy, gaining two PhDs, one on Islam, the other on Nietzsche. He picked apart the Islamic scriptures and considered the laws of liberal democracies, and concluded that both were flexible enough to coexist.

But to realise this, everyone, Muslim and non-Muslim, had to be able to accept that their values might be different from those of people around them, but that they were still part of one society. He calls it "psychological integration".

It's a seductive idea of tolerance and understanding. But when Muslims are being accused of terrorism and extremism, what is easier: to retreat into the safety of their own community, or work their way into the wider society? It's a difficult psychological leap, Ramadan agrees. "We need an intellectual revolution. First it's about education. It's about self-confidence. Don't look at yourself as part of a marginalised minority. At the moment, there is a 'protect yourself' mentality among Muslims. But the best way to be respected is to give something to your society. To give value and presence."

.. . . . . . .

Ramadan's grandfather was Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, a political movement opposed to British imperial rule in Egypt. It believed in bringing traditional Islam into a modern context, the same idea that reverberates noisily through Ramadan's work. His political heritage carries weight with Muslim audiences around the world.

"I'm not representative of young Muslims from disadvantaged backgrounds, because I experienced a political exile, and not an economic exile," he says.

. . . . . .

But the world struggles with his ideas. "My response is too beautiful to be true," he says with frankness. "All the ideas that people have of Islam are of it being a threat. I'm challenging that and people can't believe that that is possible."

If there was any doubt left about his standing, it was eroded last month when the prime minister appointed him to a taskforce to tackle Islamist extremism in Britain. But he is critical of the government for failing to address the issue of the Iraq war in the wake of July 7.

"Of course there is a relationship between what is happening internationally and here. In one of the videotapes, [a bomber] said: 'You are killing our brothers in Baghdad, we are going to kill you here.' He is wrong. What he said is unacceptable. But he is building a political link. So give political answers. It's not right to say this is a Muslim problem. It's a political problem."

Curriculum vitae

Name: Tariq Ramadan
Age: 43
Jobs: Professor of Islamic studies and philosophy, Freiburg University, Switzerland; professor of religious conflict at University of Notre Dame, Indiana (resigned after visa was revoked); senior research fellow at Lokahi foundation, London; visiting professor at St Antony's, Oxford
Likes: spirituality, children, pistachio ice-cream
Dislikes: hypocrisy, disrespect, arrogance
Married: for almost 20 years to a teacher. They have four children

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