Thursday, October 07, 2004

Tariq Ramadan

NYT - Mystery of the Islamic Scholar

'Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss theologian of Egyptian descent who is probably Europe's best-known Muslim intellectual, received an urgent message from the American consul in Switzerland: Washington had just revoked the visa granted him after a security review last spring.
Mr. Ramadan himself set off a storm in France last fall when he wrote an online essay criticizing several French Jewish intellectuals for being "biased toward the concerns of their community" by defending Israel - in its construction of a barrier in the West Bank, for instance - and supporting, to varying degrees, the Iraq war.

These positions, he wrote, betrayed the intellectuals' commitment to universal values. If Muslim intellectuals, he wrote, were expected to denounce anti-Semitism and terrorism committed in the name of Islam - which he does repeatedly, he said in an interview - why didn't Jewish intellectuals bear a similar responsibility to condemn "the repressive policies of the state of Israel" and to oppose discrimination against Muslims in Europe, he asked.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a prominent European intellectual, promptly labeled Mr. Ramadan a champion of double talk and said he had written an "anti-Semitic text." The label of anti-Semite stuck to him even though, Mr. Ramadan said, he has been decrying anti-Semitism in the Muslim world for years.'

Another quotation :

'Recently, he appeared on a televised French debate during which he was badgered about his support for what other guests kept calling "the veil." How could he favor forcing women to cover themselves? they asked.

In a calm voice, Mr. Ramadan responded that he would neither force a woman to wear a head scarf nor force her to remove one. It was a human rights issue, he said, and yet once the ban became law and the choice for French Muslim girls was between going to school and wearing their head scarves, his advice was to attend school.

Last fall, also on television, Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French interior minister, challenged Mr. Ramadan to prove he was a moderate by telling Muslim women to "take off their veils." Mr. Ramadan refused.

Mr. Sarkozy also challenged him to call for the abolition of the stoning of adulterous women, which is mandated by a strict reading of Islamic law. Mr. Ramadan called instead for a moratorium on stoning.

"That way, you start a dialogue," he said. "I won't change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister."

But Mr. Ramadan was attacked fiercely for refusing to take an absolutist stance.' (My emphasis)

Blogging is suspended. I'm going to Poland (Częstochowa, Oświęcim and Kraków)   . Hope to resume on or after 16 Oct. The last few posts have been a bit incomplete. Will try to finish them then.


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