Middle East studies in the News
Tariq Ramadan: A Viper in Our Midst (Thanks to Hillary Clinton)
Islamic scholar and stealth jihadist Tariq Ramadan is on the move again, having been welcomed to our shores as an apostle of moderation and a harbinger of reconciliation between Islam and the West. Ramadan had been banned from the U.S. under the provisions of the Patriot Act for having contributed to the Holy Land Foundation, an Islamic charity with ties to Hamas which is listed on the U.S. State Department calendar of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. Under an exemption issued by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ramadan is now free to bring his message to the American people from within their own public institutions, addressing Cooper Union and CAIR-Chicago.
Later this month, Ramadan will be revisiting Canada, mounting his carefully calculated charm offensive in Montreal and Ottawa, explaining how Islam can be seamlessly integrated into Western culture. Ramadan is especiallyfond of Ottawa, Canada's capital, a city with six official mosques, another 22 university and student mosques, and yet another four mosque-building projects currently on the books. What's not to like? But this is only a sign of what's to come. Under cover of Ramadan's glabrous rhetoric, the Muslim Brotherhood's campaign to subvert the Westfrom within takes another giant step forward. And we are going along with it.
We have simply not understood — or stubbornly refuse to understand — that Islam is our "world-historical" antagonist. But it is also more than that. The welcome we extend to those who would subdue us is also an indication of what is wrong with us. How else to explain the warm reception we give to a crypto-Islamist like Tariq Ramadan, who passes himself off as a Muslim reformer but strongly implies in Western Muslims and the Future of Islam that Islam will envelop and, so to speak, outperform Judaism and Christianity? How else to explain how the author of an arguably anti-Semitic tract entitled Critique des (nouveaux) intellectuels communautaires can be celebrated by Time magazine as an intellectual innovator and invited by Notre Dame University to assume the Henry R. Luce chair in its International Peace Studies program? Ramadan has recently been appointed to the Sultan of Oman chair of Islamology at the University of Leiden, which does not appear to have objected to Ramadan's presenting himself on the bookflap of his Radical Reform as "teaching in the Faculty of Theology at Oxford University" — there is no such position in Islamic Studies in the Oxford Faculty of Divinity and Ramadan has no formal appointment there.
Ramadan believes that Islam can infiltrate and conquer the West by initially peaceful means, continuing immigration, and the "duty for Muslims … to take Islam from the periphery of European culture to the centre," to cite from an interview in the New Statesman. The warrant here is clearly Koran 9:33 in which Allah sends forth his apostle "to make the true faith supreme over all religions" — a mandate which may be dissembled but cannot go unheeded. Ramadan coquettishly advances toward his goal of disarming resistance via the rhetoric of ethical harmony and doctrinal alignment between the various faith communities. He even goes so far as to refer to Islamic philosophers like Avicenna, Averroes, and Ibn Khaldun as "European Muslim thinkers … who … confidently [accepted] their European identity" — a proposition as staggering as it is absurd. A cursory perusal of Robert Spencer's The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam, a kind of Islam for Dhimmis, would quickly torpedo Ramadan's strange notion of cultural, religious, and jurisprudential consonance. (In her last book, The Force of Reason, Oriana Fallaci also calls attention to the new and concomitant Islamic "design based on gradual penetration rather than brutal and sudden aggression.")
It is in this light that we should place Ramadan's agitating in Western Muslims and The Future of Islam for unimpeded immigration: "Policies proposed to combat immigration are dreadful and assume that the 'clandestine immigrant' is a liar, a thief, even a bandit." But why stop there? Such policies might also correctly assume that the "clandestine immigrant" is a misfit, a parasite, even a terrorist, as several Western nations are now beginning to learn. It is perhaps not without significance that Ramadan's father Said, notwithstanding having received political asylum in Geneva, used the pages of his journal El Mouslimoun to promote ideological warfare against the West. In this regard, the son, playing the role of the "good cop," is far more sophisticated than the father in the prosecution of their common goal, and Western academics have fallen for this tactical combover. It would be more appropriate to ask why Hassan al-Turabi, the Sudanese host of Osama bin Laden, proclaimed Tariq Ramadan "the future of Islam" and why, for that matter, Ramadan continues to sit on the board of the Saudi-funded Geneva Islamic Center, which is directed by his brother Hari and which, according to reports, has come under suspicion by the Swiss Secret Service for connections to terrorist organizations and banks.
But there are moments when the mask drops. Ramadan wants Muslims who live in the West, as he writes in Western Muslims, to "become assured as people who know what they hold (a universal message)" and to bring into Western education "the overall philosophy of the Islamic message," blithely claiming that "there is in fact no confusion between the restraining authority of the religious and the civic independence of the individual, between the realm of dogma and that of reason." Islam, he continues, "is a Western religion in the full sense of the word" and that what should "be called into question" is not Islam in itself or the violence it is said to engender but "the immigration policies of Western countries and their social and urban policies," which give "rise to vexatious, discriminatory, and unjust administrative measures."
One may wonder whether Ramadan is living in the same world as the rest of us or is just being shrewdly disingenuous. The answer should be evident. His next move is an attempt to refute the well-known argument that the two realms of Church and State coalesce in Islam into a single entity. His contention that there is a "distinction" between the two spheres which "has not had to go as far as separation, even divorce, as in the Christian era" is simply not supported by the evidence pouring in from the international political arena or by the frequent legal suits against free expression mounted by Islamic organizations in our own societies. That a "distinction" between Church and State is as effective as a "separation" or a "divorce" — only subtler — or that it even exists, is a sophistry of the first order.
The argument for separation is developed by the honest and reputable Muslim thinker Amin Maalouf in his In the Name of Identity: "It is not enough to separate Church and State: what has to do with religion must be kept apart from what has to do with identity." But ultimately, as Patrick Sookdheo maintains in Understanding Islamic Terrorism, no matter what concessions we are disposed to make toward Islam and its apologists, "there will still remain reasons for Muslims to wage war, unless Islam itself can change." Philosopher Roger Scruton agrees. "It is not possible," he writes in The West and the Rest, "for a Muslim to believe that the conception of the good that is so clearly specified in all the intricate laws and maxims of the Koran is to be excluded from the social contract. On the contrary, in Muslim eyes this conception, and this alone, gives legitimacy to the political order."
Curiously, Ramadan implicitly concurs. For when he goes on to develop his thesis on "the level of political involvement," we find that Muslims are expected to take "their Islamic frame of reference as the starting point" before "deciding on … strategies that make it possible to be faithful to both the essential principles and ethics." The "distinction" he has posited is not so subtle after all. And this is only the tip of the sand dune. Ramadan claims to be no Salafist or literalist (from Arabic salaf or "ancestor"), but his cassettes, made to appeal to Muslim youth, and some of his radio interviews suggest otherwise. These cassettes may be procured on the internet or in specialized bookstores, and his more direct, unguarded utterances have been carefully referenced by Caroline Fourest in her must-read Brother Tariq: The Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan.
As Paul Berman says in an important New Republic essay, "Who's Afraid of Tariq Ramadan," "Ramadan invokes civil libertarian arguments in order to defend the autonomy of his reconstructed Muslim community." And indeed, "the anti-globalist rhetoric of his left-wing allies" has proven brilliantly effective as well. Thomas Haidon, a member of the Qur'anist reform movement, goes even further, describing Ramadan as a "false moderate"; false moderates, he continues, are "no better than al-Qaeda terrorists" and perhaps "far more dangerous." Ramadan, however, is only following the counsels of his mentor, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, spiritual head of the Muslim Brotherhood (founded by Ramadan's maternal grandfather Hassan al-Banna), who maintains that the Islamic reconquest of Europe will be achieved by "preaching and ideology." Qaradawi and Ramadan appear to be well on the way toward realizing their program, not only in Europe but here in North America.
The argument that Ramadan and his acolytes are developing about the compatibility of Islam and the West seems on the surface plausible enough, especially considering Ramadan's dulcet presentation of multiple factoids and the plangent tones he so persuasively commands. It strikes the unprepared observer as a rational analysis of a complex subject. But it is a false analysis, sort of like putting Descartes before the hearse, as shari'a, the Koran, and the hadith move covertly from the margins to the center behind an apparatus of ostensibly sober and judicious reasoning.
Tariq Ramadan is not only the future of Islam. If we are not minded to resist his tunneling rhetoric and the ideological sabotage he both furthers and represents by educating ourselves and taking a principled stand, he may also be the future of Western civilization.
David Solway is a Canadian poet and essayist. He is the author of The Big Lie: On Terror, Antisemitism, and Identity, and is currently working on a sequel, Living in the Valley of Shmoon. His new book on Jewish and Israeli themes, Hear, O Israel!, has just been released by Mantua Books.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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