Paul Berman on T.R. in Terror and Liberalism
The following excerpts are from Paul Berman's Terror and Liberalism:
[Gilles] Kepel has pointed to Tariq Ramadan, the philosopher, as yet another example of the turn toward democratic moderation - though, in this instance, with Ramadan's Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity open before me, I can judge for myself. Ramadan condemns the violence of the Islamist radicals, but, then again, seems to celebrate violence against Israel as a religious duty, "incumbent," in his word, on devout Muslims. The move toward pluralism and tolerance seems a little halting, here. (emphasis added) (softcover p. 158)
. . .
Islamism promised modernization in a version that was going to be distinctly Muslim and not Western, a Koranic modernization; but Islamism's Koran was not, on its face, especially modern. Anyone who reads [Sayyid] Qutb or, from our own day, Tariq Ramadan will notice that these writers, the grand Islamist theoreticians, the super-radical and the not-so-radical, get very prickly on women's rights - an obvious sore point, with them. (softcover, p. 194)
(I haven't read Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity - yet - but will comment on Western Muslims and the Future of Islam soon)
So who is Paul Berman? Is he one of the pro-Sharon "neo-con Likudniks" that Notre Dhimmi prof Peter Walshe blamed for Tariq's denial of entry into the USA in his Observer article last August? No, actually, Paul Berman is a liberal who writes for The New Republic. He has written for the Village Voice, Mother Jones, and Dissent. He belongs to the World Policy Institute. He isn't part of a pro-Israel cabal that professor Walshe seems to blame for the denial of the visa (cue X-Files music for Prof. Walshe). Mr. Berman is a liberal who sees a problem with "reformers" who make apologies for killers and men unwilling to let women have the right to vote.
New Statesman on Tariq Ramadan
The New Statesman, a magazine founded by socialists and is now associated with the British left, profiled Tariq Ramadan in its June 21, 2004 issue (Vol. 17, Iss. 812, p. 32). The article may be purchased in their online archives (just search using "Tariq Ramadan" in the "search for" box). The substance of the article indicates that Ramadan is not a moderate Muslim, is an apologist for Islamists, and hardly a supporter of a secular, pluralistic society.
[Ramadan] has put political Islam at the very top of the political agenda in France, challenging ministers over the banning of the hijab in French schools and defending the application of sharia law in Muslim areas. (emphasis added)
. . .
Although he studied French literature and philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Geneva, Tariq Ramadan chose 19th-century reformist Islam as the subject of his doctoral thesis. Much to the chagrin of his supervisor-who later described him as a "pseudo-intellectual" and "vain opportunist" - the thesis ended up as a hagiography of his grandfather [Hassan al-Bana]. (emphasis added)
. . .
What is clear from Ramadan's writings is that, for young Muslims, integration into western society as it exists is not an option. He refers to the concept of tawhid, faith in the unity of God, which he sees as a universal value. It is the west that has to be integrated into this totality. In other words, he does not see Islam adapting to local conditions - as is the case with many more progressive Islamic thinkers such as Mohammed Taleb or Malek Chebel - but as an extension of the "house of Islam" into the land of the unbelievers. Muslims in Europe should not consider themselves a minority in alien territory but as leaders in the spiritual redemption of the west. (emphasis added)
. . .
At the [cafe in the Grande Mosquee de Pans], the jury is still out on Tariq Ramadan. "He pretends to be a moderate but anyone who has heard his speeches knows that he is a sympathiser with hardliners," says a well-dressed young woman in a disgusted tone of voice. . . . The consensus at the Grande Mosquee, which has always been at considerable remove from hardliners, is that Ramadan is no Martin Luther, but a propagandist for radical Islam. (emphasis added)
Boston Globe profile
Secular France can't seem to decide if Ramadan is friend or foe. He is, after all, an Islamist, meaning that he believes Islam furnishes a political as well as a spiritual worldview. For majority Muslim societies like those of the Middle East, Ramadan envisions a reformed, moderate, but nonetheless Islam-based political and legal system. In the end, such a system would look a lot like Western secular democracy, he says, though its legitimacy would derive from Islamic sources. (emphasis added)
The article continues:
Take, for instance, the harshest Islamic corporal punishments, such as stoning adulterous wives or cutting off the hands of thieves. Ramadan personally finds such penalties unacceptable and un-Islamic. He believes a moratorium should be called on them while Islamic scholars ask themselves three questions: What is in the texts? How does the contemporary context affect how we read the texts? Is the policy implementable?
Robert Spencer, the webmaster of Dhimmi Watch, asks the following in response to this passage:
I don't know how [Ramadan] can maintain this. Amputation is in the Qur'an: "As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hands: a punishment by way of example, from Allah, for their crime: and Allah is Exalted in power" (Sura 5:38). How can Ramadan convince anyone that this punishment is un-Islamic in the face of this verse? Meanwhile, stoning is based on well-attested statements of Muhammad: "Abu Huraira reported that a person from amongst the Muslims came to Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) while he was in the mosque. He called him saying: Allah's Messenger. I have committed adultery. . . . Thereupon Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: Take him and stone him" (Sahih Muslim, book 17, no. 4196). Will Ramadan dare say that the Prophet was wrong?
The article also points out that Islamism relies on the text of the Koran as a source for how society must be organized:
But what if the best efforts of Muslim scholars still reveal a God who insists on cruel and discriminatory punishments? There can be no recourse to extrinsic principles, such as human rights or equality. The final word lies in the Koran and with those who interpret it.
. . .
Right now in Europe, however, there is a generation of Muslims hanging on Ramadan's every word. Is he making moderates into Islamists, or Islamists into moderates? From a secular point of view, only the second option may be desirable. To Ramadan, however, the two processes are inseparable: They are two halves of a whole.
So are reformists like Ramadan mitigating the worst excesses of a cruel political system, or are they simply sugarcoating it? If the former, moderate Islamism is perhaps the greatest hope for human rights in countries ruled by sharia (Islamic law). If the latter, moderate Islamism, whatever its advocates' intentions, looks more like a potentially deceptive sales pitch. (emphasis added)
Is Islamicizing moderate Muslims is part of the Kroc Institute's agenda?
The French magazine L'Express has reported that French journalist Caroline Fourest has written a book titled Frere Tariq: Discours, stratégie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan. Translated to English, the title is Brother Tariq: Discourse, Strategy and Method of Tariq Ramadan. Using the Google translation tool, the L'Express article states that Ms. Fourest has concluded that "Tariq Ramadan is well (sic) the islamist that some feared." Ms. Fourest relied not only on published interviews with Ramadan, but also on audiotaped speeches and lectures of Ramadan.
In another L'Express article, titled Ramadan est un chef de guerre, Ms. Fourest states (again, Google translation):
Tariq Ramadan is not a bomb planter, but a layer of particularly harmful ideas for public freedoms. [A]fter having listened to his cassettes . . . [o]ne discovers there [that] Ramadan . . . delivers its political objectives: to modify secularity and to make evolve things to "more Islam". Unfortunately, it is a question of diffusing an enlightened and modern Islam not, but, quite to the contrary, a fundamentalist Islam and reactionary, integrist, that Tariq Ramadan wishes to see growing with the detriment of liberal Islam . . . .
From Ms. Fourest's analysis, it appearst that, much like Yasir Arafat, Ramadan uses "double-speak" - telling one thing to his Western audience, and telling another to his Muslim audience. Ms. Fourest also alleges that Ramadan uses the legacy of his grandfather to introduce European Muslims to modern day Islamists:
[Ramadan] radicalizes the Moslems under his influence by initiating them with the thought of Hassan Al-Banna . . . then  puts them in liaison with the current ideologists of the Moslem Brothers: Youssef Al-Qaradhawi, one of the rare Moslem theologists to openly approve the attacks of the kamikazes, or Fayçal Mawlawi, which is not only one Moslem Brother, but also the principal head of a Lebanese terrorist organization.
Ms. Fourest also asserts this regarding the notion that Ramadan is a "moderate":
Why aren't liberal Moslem truths heard, which really wish to modernize Islam? Because Tariq Ramadan speaks in their place . . . [In] the eyes of Ramadan, the Moslems who themselves  want to reform their religion in the direction of the progress and the modernity, or which quite simply wish to evolve to an individual faith, more cultural than political, are false Moslems, shown to have sold their heart in the Occident. . . . For Ramadan, to re-examine a principle of Koran in the name of the humans right, for example to give up the port of the veil, amounts betraying Islam.
Let's hope somebody translates her book for Fr. Monk Malloy.
L’Express further published excerpts from Ramadan’s lectures and seminars recorded on audio tapes, branding them as an outspoken call for Islamizing French society. It also quoted Ramadan as encouraging Muslims to respect European constitutions so long as they were in line with Islam. “It means that Ramadan has no respect for European constitutions,” the magazine said.
article: The Gentle Jihadist
Lee Smith authored The Gentle Jihadist which appeared in The American Prospect. This magazine is hardly a bastion of right-wing reactionaries: it counts Robert Reich and Robert Kuttner among its founders, and its editors likewise represent the American left. Smith identifies Ramadan as a "gentle jihadist" who, although not violent, still sees an Islamicized West, rather than an assimilated Muslim community living in a religiously pluralistic society:
Ramadan believes that the problem with the West is its spiritual malaise. "The Jewish or Christian origins have faded or simply disappeared," he writes. Unlike traditional Christian and Jewish thinkers who merely lament the loss of religious life in a culture of abundance, Ramadan has an answer. The solution, as the Muslim Brothers like to say, is Islam.
To understand fully the scope of Ramadan's conception, it's important to understand that for the Islamists, Islam is not just one of the three monotheistic faiths, nor is it merely the completion of the Abrahamic tradition. As Ramadan writes, it "corrects the messages that came before it." Islam doesn't complement the Torah and New Testament; it supersedes them. Today in the West, the Jews and the Christians have again lost their way . . . That's why he calls the West dar al-dawa, or the place for "inviting people to God." Ramadan quotes a source as saying that in the eyes of the first Muslims, "The Arabian peninsula was dar al-dawa." The West is awaiting the call to Islam, just as the 7th-century Arabs were.
. . .
That Ramadan believes Islam will replace Judaism and Christianity may come as a surprise to those who thought he was just saying Islam is compatible with liberal values (it will certainly surprise the fathers at Notre Dame). Rather, Ramadan is a cold-blooded Islamist who believes that Islam is the cure for the malaise wrought by liberal values. His revision of the jihadist paradigm -- peaceful but total -- is brilliant in its way, and he may well turn out to be a major Islamist intellectual, far surpassing even his grandfather's influence. His cry of death to the West is a quieter and gentler jihad, but it's still jihad. There's no reason for Western liberals to try to understand that point of view.
Whether or not Islam is after all compatible with liberal values is . . . overshadowed by the fact that a lot of Arab and Muslim individuals do subscribe to liberal values, regardless of how the compatibility question is finally to be answered. Many are pressing for them in their home countries, while others have fled to the West to find them here. To the extent that Western liberals see Ramadan as an "authentic" spokesman of Arab and Muslim culture, while dismissing Arab and Muslim liberals as too Westernized, they've forgotten their own universal values.
This is hardly compatible with the traditional e pluribus unum vision of the USA, let alone an affirmation of a multicultural, tolerant society along the lines of the EU.
Why the Tariq Controversy Matters
From Why the Tariq Ramadan Controversy Matters by Sufi convert Stephen Schwartz:
Ramadan should not be admitted to the U.S. He has written extensively on the challenge of assimilating Islam in Europe, but has shown by his public statements there that he is not an Islamic moderate at all, but a man committed to quite radical postures. Even Hicham Chehab, news editor of the Beirut Daily Star, a newspaper obviously dedicated to Arab interests, was forced to admit early this month that "During the controversial visit to Britain last July by Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, himself accused of sanctioning suicide bombers, Ramadan defended Qardawi on the BBC television program Hard Talk."
. . .
Tariq Ramadan carefully employs a vocabulary advocating "reform" of Islam, which is music to the ears of ill-educated Westerners, and leads to such misfortunes as his invitation to Notre Dame. Sadly, however, his concept of "reform" in Islam does not encompass a repudiation of Qaradawi, who also defines himself as a "reformer" of the religion.
Schwartz concludes with a stern warning to find true Muslim moderates:
Lassitude about finding moderate Muslims . . . and the willingness to accede to the lazy approach of accepting "the least radical" as moderates, also contributes to absurd incidents like the Tariq Ramadan fiasco. But the failure of Western politicians and intellectuals to learn enough about Islam to locate and assist the true moderates will come back to haunt America. . . . [A]ccommodation to Islamic radicals who now disguise themselves as moderates will simply reinforce the sense that the populations of the Christian West are stupid, and may be fooled . . . .
As mentioned earlier, Schwartz is a moderate Muslim, the author of The Two Faces of Islam and has also written about the issue of an "Islamic reformation". His warning regarding Tariq Ramadan should not be taken lightly. Schwartz, however, did not mention this item from Hicham Chehab's article from The Daily Star of Lebanon:
After closely examining Ramadan's works and positions, [Professor] Marc Gopin, the director of the Center for World Religions, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University, said that he was "disappointed in Ramadan's approach" to the crises in the Arab and Muslim world. This was not because Ramadan criticized Israel or made Muslim youths feel proud, but because he did not seem to offer the kind of message that would help Arabs and Muslims take a good look at themselves and their religion, and at the same time see the wisdom of other ideas like human rights, democracy, pluralism and the possibility of a society not dominated by any single religion. Furthermore, Gopin added, Ramadan's message did not provide a real approach to fundamental Islam that would make it "more peaceful, nonviolent and pluralistic."
Fouad Ajami on Tariq Ramadan
In September Fouad Ajami, professor at the Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins, discussed the Tariq Ramadan issue in the Wall St. Journal. The article is archived here. Ajami, a Shia Muslim who was born in Lebanon, is a regular contributor to the WSJ and is the author of The Dream Palace of the Arabs.
In the WSJ article Ajami discusses Ramadan's "spin" on his lineage:
The genealogy of Tariq Ramadan was fundamental to his ascendancy to power and prominence: Nasab (acquired merit through one's ancestors) is one of the pillars of Arab-Islamic society. . . . Mr. Ramadan could embrace his grandfather while maintaining, when needed, that the sins of ancestors cannot be visited on descendents. But he would never walk away from his legacy, and pride in his grandfather suffuses his work. In a piece of writing in November 2000, the reverence for Banna was astounding. No, he would not, [Ramadan] said, disown his descent from a man who "resisted British and Zionist colonialisms, who founded 2,000 schools, 500 social centers, and as many developmental cooperatives," and who never ordered or sanctioned terrorist attacks. No serious historian of Egypt in the '40s would let stand this version of history. (emphasis added)
Again, Mr. Ramadan appears to have quite a different perspective on the historical legacy of his grandfather, Hassan al-Banna.
Ajami then addresses the notion that Ramadan is an "assimilationist" moderate:
[Ramadan's] big theme was the fate of Islam in the new lands of the West; not for him the theme of assimilation. His was a different prescription, artfully stated: The Muslims would live the life of the faith within Europe, for Islam, he maintained, had always been a fact of European life. France was zealously republican and lacit, secularism, was its civil religion. Mr. Ramadan preached a different doctrine: The Muslims of France had not been parties to that secularism, and they ought to be free to challenge its basic canons.
Ajami also states that - shades of the Dreyfus affair - Ramadan charged several French intellectuals as being "for Israel" instead of for France, leading Bernard Kouchner, the French founder of Doctors Without Borders, to chasten Ramadan as a "most dangerous man."
Prof. Ajami's conclusion to the article is as follows:
The liberty of an open society can never be a suicide pact, and the freedom of the academy is never absolute. . . . [Ramadan] can and will no doubt continue his work while the Muslims in North America cast about for a measure of peace in this new world. For them, there is the path of assimilation. It was, after all, the legacy of Hassan al-Banna that pushed them to these shores.
One would hope that this would put an end to the fools screaming "censorship" by keeping Ramadan out. It certainly will not.
The Islamic States of America
Since we are on the topic of Hassan al-Banna, the jolly fellow who started the Muslim Brotherhood, let's take a look at Daniel Pipes's article The Islamic States of America. He cites the following from the Chicago Tribune:
But [the Muslim Brotherhood members] also addressed their ultimate goal, one so controversial that it is a key reason they have operated in secrecy: to create Muslim states overseas and, they hope, someday in America as well. . . . Brotherhood members emphasize that they follow the laws of the nations in which they operate. They stress that they do not believe in overthrowing the U.S. government, but rather that they want as many people as possible to convert to Islam so that one day—perhaps generations from now—a majority of Americans will support a society governed by Islamic law. (emphasis added)
So, I suppose the establishment clause of the First Amendment, women's suffrage of the Nineteenth Amendment, the Twenty-first Amendment, and the guarantee of republican government in Article IV mean nothing to these otherwise-surely-fine fellows.
"[T]his doesn't make me reject my grandfather."
But no, this doesn’t make me reject my grandfather. When I think of him, I put things into context and I think he did some very important things. His beliefs and thoughts were the products of a specific environment and he was trying to cope with that. I deal with him the way I deal with any actor in our history. He was not a prophet, he was not infallible.
Again, his grandfather was Hassan al Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist organization that gave us Sayyid Qutb, perhaps the foremost "intellectual" of the Islamist movement. The Muslim Brotherhood was a precursor to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group which assassinated Anwar Sadat for making peace with Israel (the assassins were members of both the Brotherhood and EIJ). EIJ was eventually led and merged into al Qaeda by Ayman al Zawahiri.
We know that, in the West, a person cannot be guilty for the actions of their ancestors. The fact that Tariq Ramadan's grandfather was an Islamist should not be used to condemn the man. However, Mr. Ramadan, when given the chance to clarify his position re: his grandather's political legacy, gives us an equivocating statement in which he states that Hassan al-Banna did "important things" should be enough to cast doubt on any claims that the man is a "moderate."