Middle East studies in the News
Tariq Ramadan, Islam and FGM [on Tariq Ramadan]
by Sarah AB
Tariq Ramadan's response to Imam Shaker Elsayed's controversial pronouncements on FGM, circulated via a ten minute Facebook video, has already attracted considerable criticism. Here are just a few further thoughts on the issue.
The opening of the video is a little elliptical. I've put the relevant sections in bold:
I don't think this article, which offers a useful transcript of the video, is quite correct in saying Ramadan thinks FGM 'is therefore worthy of being "promoted"'. The build up of clauses makes the first sentence difficult to parse, but it might be clarified by inserting a dash between 'it's wrong' and 'that we should not promote this'. In other words he does condemn the practice.The fact that the next sentence begins 'Having said that' implies a contrast, and backs up this interpretation.
However that doesn't let Ramadan off the hook.
It's quite unusual for someone on Ramadan's place on the Islam spectrum to assert that FGM has some connection to Islam. This view is more normally aired by Haitham al Haddad types on the one hand, and those hostile to Islam on the other. Even the comparatively Islamosceptic may be happy enough to agree that FGM is a cultural problem, not an Islamic one. If Ramadan were unequivocally and without caveats condemning FGM then there would be no problem in him facing up to the fact some Islamic teachings/traditions condone the practice. However, as with stoning, he seems to feel that the issue needs to be dealt with by Muslims alone – 'it's part of the internal discussion that we need to have', he opines blandly, as though he was talking about the most recondite theological point, not this vile practice.
Ramadan seems more exercised by the merest hint that Muslims might be deferring to non-Muslim concerns than by FGM itself.
He continues in the same vein, shooting the messenger rather than tackling the abuse. It's interesting that Ramadan, so often presented as a voice of moderation, should demonstrate such disdain for any kind of weakening of the collective front of the Ummah. This, for him, is the real problem. Given that a great many Muslims really do think FGM unislamic, and want to combat it, it seems strange to hamper efforts to amplify this position – even though it seems likely both to help potential victims and promote a better understanding between communities.
There seems to be little space in Ramadan's world for non-Muslims to be concerned about FGM but not be motivated by bigotry. It's more important to guard against even a suspicion of bigotry, to protect other Muslims from criticism even if they hold despicable beliefs, than it is to oppose the mutilation of girls. Moreover this continuing emphasis on internal discussion cannot easily be squared with an absolute certainty as to the eventual, the correct, outcome of the debate.
In emphasising the divide between Muslims and non-Muslims, flattening the sharp differences between Muslims, Ramadan ironically aligns himself with anti-Muslim bigots. Other people prefer to draw the line between secularists (both Muslim and non-Muslim) and the rest.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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