Monday, July 25, 2005

The Middle Path: between 'us' and the 'terrorists'

'Tariq Ramadan is one of the brightest hopes for achieving the reconciliation between Muslims and the rest of society', the Independent says today. Ramadan: 'Now it's time to speak out - both against those who are doing these things in the name of our religion and against those who say that being a loyal British citizen means blindly accepting all the decisions of the British Government. Ours must be a constructive and critically participative loyalty.' Ramadan must be doing something right: he is currently under fire from neo-conservatives in the US (which recently denied him a work permit to take up an academic post in that country), right-wing voices in the UK such as the Sun, and conservative fellow-Muslims who accuse him of 'selling out'. Ramadan's response to most of this is a resolute insistence on separating religion from culture: 'The more literal will say I am Westernising. But I am not losing the universal principles. I'm just not confusing them with the culture of the countries that Muslims have traditionally come from.'

For a sense of how loathsome and irresponsible the Sun campaign against Ramadan has been, see Oscar Reyes' piece in the July '05 issue of Red Pepper, in which he says: 'For such commentators, what is threatening about Ramadan is precisely the fact that he doesn’t fit the 'extremist' caricature. His very presence is an affront to the belief that a clash of civilisations is just around the corner, because his work expresses the strong commonalities between European and Islamic principles, and invites European Muslims to embrace their connections with the society in which they live without giving up on their faith identity.'

Also worth reading is Ramadan's response in August '04, to news of having his US visa revoked. I especially like the bit where - responding to the oft-repeated epithet that he is the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood - he says: 'Those focused on my genealogy ought to examine my intellectual pedigree, which, along with my grandfather and father, includes Descartes, Kant, and Nietzsche.' Very few of us are from one place only. Even if we have never moved. Surely that is what makes contrapuntal readings possible.

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