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The Silent Revolution

A few days ago while reading up on Iran, I stumbled across a profile of Tariq Ramadan by Deborah Orr in Britain’s Independent. Apparently he is a paradoxical, controversial and even threatening figure for many in Europe, although (or because!) he has dedicated his entire intellectual career to building bridges between Islam and the pluralistic West. Here are a few quotes to get you started, but if you have time, why not go read the whole thing?

    For his efforts in splicing western and Islamic values, he’s been…condemned by many Europeans as a secret exponent of the Islamification of Europe. His most trenchant critics, though, come from Muslim countries, which is a difficulty that seems to convince Ramadan he’s on the right track. He and “some of the petro-monarchies,” for example, appear to despise each other more than anything else on the planet. Conversely, his most ardent fans are among the young and educated European Muslims….
    It’s often inferred that Ramadan puts on whatever face he feels is suitable for the company he’s keeping. But it’s hard to fake a sense of humor, and Ramadan’s is appealing. Life, for him, appears to be a fascinating, deep, dangerous, challenging, frustrating, yet somehow entirely reconcilable, irony. No wonder people don’t trust him.
    “For me, Islamic feminism is to struggle for the rights of women in the name of Islam against two kinds of discrimination: cultural discrimination, and the literalist approach to the text.” These twin distortions, he says, bear the main responsibility for the tainting of the Muslim message, and his biography of Muhammad is very much a clarion call for Muslims to look again at the context in which Muhammad’s life was lived, and the compromises he made with the culture within which he operated, in order to understand how his decisions and instructions would be played out today.
    “When you are born and raised in the West and you understand the history, the mentality, the collective psychology, you can integrate so many things that are better than their equivalents in the culture of origin. Every single human being is selective, or should be selective, with his or her culture. Take democracy. For years there was talk among Muslims about how we shouldn’t promote democracy. But [now] there’s a silent revolution.”
    Ramadan…is unhappy with much of what he perceives as typically Western culture. In Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, he talks of the tendency in developed societies “to dive into the most intense feelings and emotions, which even if they are not real or deep, give us the sense that we exist.” [This leads to self-destructive behavior.] His own belief is that the daily practice of Islam protects against such “demeaning”‘ trends, and thereby makes the West a less dangerous place for Muslims to be than for materialists.
    With neo-liberal economics, above all else, he sees no possible accommodation. Western Muslims, he says, should not “work for a multinational that plunders the planet…or banks that fuel a murderous economic order.” He insists that “economic resistance” is a western Muslim’s duty, and he fervently believes that the introduction of Islamic moral values would mitigate many of the excesses of the global economy. It is here that Ramadan’s socialistic vision of Islam forms a clear alliance with the far left.
    What is Tariq Ramadan like then? He’s like a man who is doing his best to build bridges between sets of values that seem at times, even by his own optimistic credo, to be irreconcilable. He’s like a person who is trying his best to find a way forward during a fearful and difficult time. […] “The rule of law, equal citizenship, universal suffrage, the accountability of elected leaders before the people who elected them, and the separation of church and state.” These, he says, are the most precious assets of Western democracy. “Do we have, as Muslims, a problem with these five principles? No.”


Comment from Dave
Time: March 19, 2007, 04:00

Tariq has often been touted as the Islamic Luther. However a reading of his English written books indicate that he is more like his grandfathers co mentor Sayyid Qutb but a little more suave. I have begun a study to compare the two and hope to have something available at the end of the year. I have a blog on Sayyid Qutb and Islamists in general that explores Islamists mind set. You may be interested in visiting and contributing to this blog that explores the totality of Qutb and Islam in the form of considered essays.

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