Thursday, May 31, 2007

Who's Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?

Paul Berman examines the thinking of the "Salafist reformer" Tariq Ramadan, and through his account, describes the attempts of the European Left and Islam to get to grips with each other. Berman's account winds up being an history of both. The unstated question behind his inquiry is whether modern European thinking and Islam, more widely considered, can live with each other. Berman asserts that at the minimum, there will be difficulties; difficulties made all the harder by an inability to acknowledge that real contradictions exist or wishing them away in a synthesis European intellectuals hope will unfold in the next decades. But the difficulties will not be wished away, and Berman relates a television exchange between Nicolas Sarkozy and a first-rate Muslim intellectual, Tariq Ramadan, on the licitness of stoning adulterous women to illustrate how great they are. Here is the exchange:

Sarkozy: A moratorium.... Mr. Ramadan, are you serious?

Ramadan: Wait, let me finish.

Sarkozy: A moratorium, that is to say, we should, for a while, hold back from stoning women?

Ramadan: No, no, wait.... What does a moratorium mean? A moratorium would mean that we absolutely end the application of all of those penalties, in order to have a true debate. And my position is that if we arrive at a consensus among Muslims, it will necessarily end. But you cannot, you know, when you are in a community.... Today on television, I can please the French people who are watching by saying, "Me, my own position." But my own position doesn't count. What matters is to bring about an evolution in Muslim mentalities, Mr. Sarkozy. It's necessary that you understand....

Sarkozy: But, Mr. Ramadan....

Ramadan: Let me finish.

Sarkozy: Just one point. I understand you, but Muslims are human beings who live in 2003 in France, since we are speaking about the French community, and you have just said something particularly incredible, which is that the stoning of women, yes, the stoning is a bit shocking, but we should simply declare a moratorium, and then we are going to think about it in order to decide if it is good.... But that's monstrous--to stone a woman because she is an adulterer! It's necessary to condemn it!

Ramadan: Mr. Sarkozy, listen well to what I am saying. What I say, my own position, is that the law is not applicable--that's clear. But today, I speak to Muslims around the world and I take part, even in the United States, in the Muslim world.... You should have a pedagogical posture that makes people discuss things. You can decide all by yourself to be a progressive in the communities. That's too easy. Today my position is, that is to say, "We should stop."

Sarkozy: Mr. Ramadan, if it is regressive not to want to stone women, I avow that I am a regressive.

Berman remarks: "Some six million French people watched that exchange. A huge number of Muslim immigrants must have been among them--the very people who might have benefited from hearing someone speak with absolute clarity about violence against women. Ramadan couldn't do it. Here was his Qutbian moment, the moment of frisson. The seventh century had suddenly appeared, poking out from beneath the modern rhetoric of feminism and rights. A moment of barbarism. A thrill. The whole panorama of Muslim women suddenly deployed across the television screens of France--the panorama of violence that is condoned, sanctified, and even mandated by the highest authorities. And here was Sarkozy, recoiling in horror: the bourgeoisie, shocked at last."

Reading the exchange between Sarkozy and Ramadan evoked in me a reaction rather different from that of Berman's. It recalled nothing so much as those impassioned debates over the South's Peculiar Institution by the politicians who battled heart and soul for the Compromise; the men who saw the Tragedy coming with one eye and sought with the other a way out. 'Give it time', those men argued, 'and slavery will wither away of its own accord. It will pass out of fashion if only we don't ask for its abolition. Because if we do it will force the issue in a way we shall regret.' In Ramadan's case a different word is used but the logical construction is the same. To address the question of stoning, Ramadan argues, give the Ummah a moratorium and the problem will disappear. But please Allah, Ramadan continues, do not ask us to renounce it now; for that is to ask too much. One cannot help but feel sympathy for Ramadan. He understands but perhaps understands all too well, and hesitates upon the brink in an era where the discovery of Arabian oil may have reprised the role of the cotton gin in extending the life of slavery in the South. But two things were asked in that one exchange between Sarkozy and Ramadan. One of the West and the other of Islam. And the issue that is never answered, neither today nor then, is of whom the concession is too much to ask.


Blogger whiskey_199 said...

That exchange illustrates one point:

Sakorzy has decided to fight.

And France, on the balance, for now, has decided to fight with him.

Can you be both French and Muslim? The answer must be no. You can be one but not the other.

Hence Sarkozy's otherwise puzzling re-statement of the commitment to the ideals of the French Revolution and the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man.

Can you be a Dane and a Muslim? Very likely, no. Can you be a British subject and a Muslim? As much as the Tories and Labor might want to think so, very likely the answer Brits themselves will come up with is no.

Can you be an American and a Muslim? Very likely the American public has concluded, after years of CAIR grievance theater and 9/11 conspiracy theories, obfuscation, etc. that the answer is no.

Everyone knew it would come to this.

5/31/2007 07:02:00 PM  
Blogger Dymphna said...

Right after the US refused Taqiyya Ramadan's visa to the US, where he planned to teach at dhimmified Notre Dame, suddenly Mr. Ramadan became a "moderate" on the then-current spate of stonings in Iran. He said a hudna ought to be declared re physical punishment in Islam...

...a hudna is a strategical cease fire, sort of. That's the most he could propose then, and it looks like he hasn't progressed much.

A wicked man, just like his grandfather. Guile, that's his big card.


After the US said no, the London School of Economics arranged a teaching position for him. A good fit.

5/31/2007 07:24:00 PM  
Blogger TM Lutas said...

Islam will either be obliterated like thuggee, reform internally into something that we can live with, or be absorbed as the christian monophysites were into islam itself. It is that last option that I find the least examined and the most interesting.

5/31/2007 08:00:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Ramadan is clearly afraid to speak plainly and I do not know, given the excerpt of the conversation if he thinks the sharia punishment for adultery is acceptable or not. He hints he finds it unacceptable but tries to hedge. Where do his true feelings lay? In the hints or the hedges?

Ramadan is no Islamic apparition of Martin Luther. In the eyes of those who support both sides he is a coward and worst being deceitful.

We will see how far Sarkozy is willing to go. I have littel doubt he would be personally kick taxi drivers refusing to transport those carrying French vintages but what about things that happen outside of France?

Like slavery, I am afraid we are trying our best to hold the tiger by they ears, so far we have a fast hold but it is quite clear our grip is loosening, what will do when the tiger shakes free?

5/31/2007 08:08:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

The radicals who have somehow forced lapsed or unobservant Muslims to recognize their texts or at least their interpretation of the texts, have by presenting this unyielding image of Islam to the West, now set up the crash. If they will not yield it is the West which must swerve. But if the West will not swerve ... Considering how grave the consequences would be, it is not unreasonable to cast around for an exit to the dilemma.

If we accept the historical analogy with the Civil War then we can imagine the alarm with which Lincoln's House Divided speech was received. He presented a terrible choice. Any sane man would want the Cup to pass away.

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

"A house divided against itself cannot stand."

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved -- I do not expect the house to fall -- but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.

Either the opponents of slavery, will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become alike lawful in all the States, old as well as new -- North as well as South.

5/31/2007 08:38:00 PM  
Blogger Beverly said...

I would point out, in addition, something that you all haven't mentioned. Ramadan is saying that he isn't an individual in the sense that we in the West, conditioned by Judaism, then Christianity, and especially the Protestant Reformation with its emphasis on the sacred responsibilities of the individual conscience, see ourselves as individuals and that quality as primary.

He says, in effect, that a Muslim must be part of the Ummah before all else; that he can't speak for them as the Ummah: also, that only the whole can decide such a matter. I don't think he's being evasive, at least not in this particular exchange. This is part of the profound theological and philosophical difference between us. Even the secularists and atheists in the West have the idea of the sanctity of the individual conscience deeply ingrained--it's part of the air we breathe.

I agree with Wretchard that our worlds will collide.

5/31/2007 10:33:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Beverly, if what you say is correct, then Muslims can only have one Master, the Ummah, and can not be expected to be citizens of the West.

You won't, I would suggest, find too many takers for that kind of citizenship. You can have only one loyalty, the Nation, in the West.

5/31/2007 11:49:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

Maybe we can thread our way out this. There's some truth in the observation that we live in 21st century, not the 19th or the 8th. Something may yet be possible. But.

Whether the solution is a clash or an accomodation, in common they will require sacrifice and resolve to achieve. But can we muster the self sacrifice needed to accomodate Islam or to fight it?

Professor Bainbridge looks at whether a lawyer who traveled back to the US carrying a virulent strain of tuberculosis despite being forbidden to do so, is liable for any injury he may have caused. Some have called him the case of a man who couldn't be bothered, and he is incredulous to find himself, an educated man, under detention.

What worries me is that the Left, both in Europe and America, has become the party which above all guarantees that the music must always play. You shall receive a guaranteed job, healthcare, housing. You shall not risk your life in war. You shall not be inconvenienced. Sacrifice is so yesterday. Do we have a problem in Iraq? Well retreat. Another problem in Iran? Back down. A spot of difficulty in Afghanistan? Withdraw. Just start up the music again and keep it playing.

Can such a political culture face the fact that their sexual preferences can no longer be openly indulged? That all their guarantees will be swept away? Can such a culture make the sacrifices needed to compromise with Islam?

It will have difficulty. Can men who are willing to endanger the health of others simply to make their travel plans more convenient be asked for restraint if a nuke goes off in New York City? Think of it. Manhattan gone. No more dinner reservations at the favorite restaurant. No $400 haircuts at that great salon. No place to land the private jet. Why this is monstrous. Do something about it. I don't care what, just do something about it.

Who can you see giving up their perks to accomodate Islam? NOW? The gays, lesbians and transgendered? The teacher's union?

But if we are to thread or fight our way through -- either way -- it will require blood, sweat and tears. Do we want to be humane and truly human beings. Well, it is going to cost us. And the honest politician should explain that up front.

6/01/2007 12:32:00 AM  
Blogger al fin said...

Muslims have their Ummah. Leftists have their collective. The modern left is willing to pretend that the collective can live with the Ummah, but the Ummah will never make the same concession.

Wretchard exposes the deep contradictions with which modern leftists gladly live--in order to achieve the defeat of their enemy du jour.

Once Bush is gone, the birds will sing again, the sky will once again be blue, and the rivers will run clear and clean to a perfect ocean.

6/01/2007 04:27:00 AM  
Blogger Abu Yussif said...

What if there were a moratorium and Muslims engaged in a discussion about stoning and arrive at a consensus that stoning is absolutely permitted, nay, required? In these ultra-extreme Islamic days, where it is ruled that it is ok to kill fellow Muslim civilians as long as you mean to kill infidels, who would doubt the result of a moratorium as what Ramadaan suggests? Then it is "case closed" for stoning women and if you disagree, you are a heretic deserving islamic justice.

Ramadaan gives too much credit to the minds of raging jihadists and no one should expect them to give a rational thought to anything without the issue literally exploding in your face.

6/01/2007 05:14:00 AM  
Blogger wretchard said...

It turns out that the lawyer who took the seven flights with extreme TB was a USNA graduate. How many people do you think are going to have the endurance and patience for resolving this problem in a civilized and humane way?

Maybe large sections of the public simply want instant gratification and actually believe it is possible. Not much has changed. Still the same old story.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

6/01/2007 05:24:00 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

The irony of all this is that by forcing Moslems to hew the Sharia and Koranic line that most of them would probably just as soon ignore (the way most Christians are probably not interested in strict application of Biblical codes), the Islamic radicals are being successful in their goal of forcing an ultimate conflict with the West. What they have forgotten is that ultimately, the West has the ability to wipe Islam from the face of the earth. And, that if pushed sufficiently, the West will probably do so with the ruthless efficiency and absolute mercilessness that has characterized Western warfare for centuries.

6/01/2007 07:31:00 AM  
Blogger Rob said...

Apparently this lion of the bar with super-TB went to the Boat School but did not graduate. I'm sure it's churlish to ask (but I will anyway) if he left the academy in good standing or for a violation of the Academy's honor concept? (Note that the Naval Academy no longer has an honor code, just a concept and no longer has the single sanction of dismissal for a violation)

6/01/2007 07:39:00 AM  
Blogger Larry said...

Ramadan strikes me as believing that he is more liberal than the average Muslim about women's rights, et. al., but that he fears losing his credibility/influence with that average Muslim if he expresses his beliefs openly.

That doesn't mean that his views are fully Europeanized or that he correctly reads the views of that average Muslim.

If the Civil War analogy is correct, is he wrong to try to prevent such a conflict? We may remember that 620,000 or more lives were taken from among the 31 million Americans. A corresponding 2% of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims would be...30 million. Anyone willing to say such a cost would be an acceptable price to liberate the hundreds of millions of oppressed Muslim women?

All that said, I remain a big fan of both Sarkozy and Ali.

6/01/2007 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

But Wretchard, it's not up to the elites. Not up to the lawyers, politicians, actors, media personalities, etc.

"Some damn fool thing in the Balkans?"


A school is slaughtered, by Muslim jihadis, and in response ... something terrible happens. In Western Europe, in America, it won't matter.

Lost in all of this is the elites use of Muslims to make war on the average person. Of course THEY won't be inconvenienced, just the lumpen proletariat who they despise anyway, and would rather see die.

Der Spiegel points out what happens in East Germany: the women move away, seeking higher-status Wessies, and the men ... become neo-nazis. Because like Jihad in the Muslim world it offers them the only thing useful left when deprived of the ability to have a mate, wife, family.

Elites delude themselves that their control is absolute, that the levers which are considerable always work, in every instance. But all it would take is one spark in the right place and the seething masses on both sides will begin to war regardless of what Sakorzy or Tariq Ramadan want.

6/01/2007 04:59:00 PM  
Blogger hoserjoe said...

Rob said: "...the way most Christians are probably not interested in strict application of Biblical codes..."

Please let's not confuse Christianity with Islam! Christians try to apply only ONE code: "Love God with all your might and love your neighbor as yourself." It's one code only. You either try to apply it or you don't.

6/02/2007 02:49:00 PM  
Blogger peaceantranquility said...

All of you interested in what Paul Berman said about Tariq Ramadan must read this reaction:

Its not simply about bashing either Berman or Ramadan, but about finding where moderate Islam is at~ It has both to do with the extremists (or posing moderates) who take-up all the air-time and the the non-Muslim's perspective, Quote:

"Muslims see him as he is, while Westerners see him through the lens of their untutored hopes of who he might be— or, more importantly, what he might stand for. Westerners take Ramadan for both a traditionalist and a modernist Muslim, but in fact he’s a radical reformer."

please check out the link to get the whole story

6/07/2007 12:25:00 PM  
Blogger peaceantranquility said...

ok, I'm having hard time geting the full link into this window. So if you check out you should be able to find it on the homepage (Who's afraid of Paul Berman).
Here is the link broken up, so you'll have to put them together manually- sorry. dont leave any spaces after the /

6/07/2007 12:27:00 PM  

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