Friday, December 10, 2004

Tariq Ramadan's Critics (Part 3)

Caroline Fourest's case against Tariq Ramadan is that what he says he does not mean; that the moderation and persuasiveness of his words is what makes him all the more dangerous.  'His great strength is that he is not a caricature of a fundamentalist (intégriste), immediately detectable.' 'He weakens secular resistance to fundamentalism by forming alliances with secular anti-racist associations. He has accomplished a sort of tour de force: to make Islamism seductive in the eyes of certain militants of the anti-globalization Left.' 'Tariq Ramadan claims that he is not a Muslim Brother.' Well, he would do, wouldn't he, 'since it's a fraternity which is 3/4 secret, where it's permitted to deny any organic (? organisational ) links to avoid being detected' ? The criticism proceeds along these lines : his brother (undoubtdedly more fundamentalist than he is), his friend or his grandfather say or do something extreme; Ramadan is then attacked for 'failing to condemn' it.

Tariq Ramadan, of course, has replied to this. What struck me first is how similar this defence of himself is to Melanie Phillips' critique of Adam Curtis. On the one hand (Fourest/Curtis), you have a mélange of innuendo and guilt by association. On the other hand : 'lies contend with truncated quotations; reasoning made-up wholesale is only equalled by approximation and errors of dates, names, places and people. Shameful... and Éditions Grasset who dare to  publish such an "inquiry' ( ideological novelinquiry ?) dishonour themselves...' (Ramadan); 'It is hard to exaggerate the mendacity and malevolence of its argument. ... This is simply deranged conspiracy theory. ... It was, after all, transmitted by the BBC, our supposed guardians of journalistic standards. There are senior editors in the BBC who took the decision to transmit this garbage because they presumably thought it had a serious contribution to make ... Someone should be talking very seriously about this to the BBC chairman.... Such a travesty of journalism, public service broadcasting and truth must not go unchallenged.'  (Phillips)

On the details, Ramadan makes a telling point here:
I say, for example, to muslims that it would be legitimate to fight if we were prevented from practising the  pillars of islam. Caroline Fourest cuts short my argument and insists that I encourage muslims to fight against our Constitutions when they do not respect islam. She omits to quote what follows, where I affirm that all the European Constitutions do respect the  pillars of islam.
There is one key point where it is worth quoting Caroline Fourest (in L'Express (2)  ) at length:
En octobre 2001, un mois après les attentats du 11 septembre, le journal [Lyon Mag] brise un tabou et pose la question que tout le monde cherche à esquiver: «Faut-il avoir peur des réseaux islamistes à Lyon?» Le résultat de l'enquête est redoutable pour Ramadan, qui apparaît dans toute son ambiguïté. C'est le premier article réellement susceptible de le dévoiler. C'est aussi la première fois que le prédicateur décide d'attaquer devant un tribunal. Mais Lyon Mag ne se laisse pas intimider. En janvier 2002, la rédaction choisit d'étayer son propos en interviewant Antoine Sfeir, qui confirme leur intuition. Sfeir parle d'un «orateur habile» et d'un «fondamentaliste charmeur», «spécialiste du double langage». (...) Ramadan peut difficilement accuser Antoine Sfeir d'être raciste sans se ridiculiser. (...) Il entame donc un second procès. Les deux affaires, celle contre Lyon Mag et celle contre Sfeir, sont jointes. (...) Le journal Lyon Mag est condamné pour ne pas avoir usé de suffisamment de précautions, ce qui est un classique, mais Sfeir est reconnu comme ayant tenu des propos conformes à une certaine vérité. Le verdict est très dur pour Ramadan. Dans son jugement du 22 mai 2003, la cour d'appel de Lyon estime que les discours de prédicateurs comme Tariq Ramadan «peuvent exercer une influence sur les jeunes islamistes et constituer un facteur incitatif pouvant les conduire à rejoindre les partisans d'actions violentes».
Those who have the French can read it in full : I'm not going to translate it all. The main point is given in English here :
the French Middle East specialist Antoine Sfeir has publicly linked the influence exerted by Ramadan's lectures in the banlieues of Lyon to the extraordinary flow of young Muslim men from the Lyon region to Afghanistan to join the forces of al-Qaeda. Incidentally, Mr. Ramadan sued Antoine Sfeir on account of the latter's public statements to this effect in the magazine Lyon Mag - and he lost. The Court of Appeals of Lyon found in its decision of May 22, 2003, and as cited by Caroline Fourest, that preachers like Tariq Ramadan "may have an influence on the young Islamists and constitute a factor of incitation that could lead them to join the partisans of violent measures." [ my italics ]
There is however a riposte here and this is worth translating in full :
Now, the judgement did not say that at all, but simply "that all that emerges from the words of  Antoine  Sfeir is that the speeches of the plaintiff [Tariq Ramadan] may have an influence on the young Islamists..." By cutting the first part of the sentence, she attributes to the court what is merely a quotation of Sfeir.

On the other hand, at the bottom, the judgement of 22 May 2003 says in its text this : "Whereas giving to understand that, by his speeches Tariq Ramdan can bear a responsability, perhaps moral, for causing to be born in certain minds a terrorist vocation or for comforting others in their resolution to follow such a line of conduct, corresponds to the natural and admissible expression in a democracy, of a critique of the public positions taken by the plaintiff on some subjets and facts of society."
Thus the court says simply that Sfeir's words are within the framework of legitimate criticism, but does not in any way endorse these words.
Finally, is this the best that Daniel Pipes can come up with? One is tempted to say that it is not the case on  Ramadan that is closed, but Pipes' mind.
I don't believe that an eight year old child is a soldier. These acts are condemnable; therefore one has to condemn them in themselves. But I say to the international community that they are contextually explicable, and not justifiable. What does this mean? It means that the international community today has placed the Palestinians in a situation where they are delivered political oppression, which explains (not justifying it) that at a certain point people say: we don't have arms, we don't have anything, and so we cannot do anything other than this. It is contextually explicable but morally condemnable.

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