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March 04, 2004

The gentle jihadist (II)....

A few weeks ago I posted The gentle jihadist & other tales. Below is an article from The Economist on Tariq Ramadan, the "gentle jihadist," mentioned earlier. As long as he sounds like a Muslim form of a Christian Democrat, I'm not too alarmed, an Islamic raiment on a basically Western body of thinking. Rather, I am skeptical of too much concession to the principle that the law of man must be made to appear to accord with the law of god(s). What I fear is Islam in Western dress...,

The provoker
Mar 4th 2004 | GENEVA
From The Economist print edition


Tariq Ramadan both inspires and infuriates

HE WROTE his doctoral thesis on Nietzsche, and in early life he was a good footballer. He enjoys adulation among young French Muslims, whether students or slum-dwellers. But many of his fellow francophone philosophers regard him as too outrageous to speak to.

Charming, provocative and litigious, Tariq Ramadan is unique among Europe's Muslim activists. Compared with many rivals, the Swiss theologian's reading of Islam is more devout, and also more insistent on the need for Muslims to integrate in the West. A grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood's founder, he combines orthodoxy with enthusiasm for such causes as the green movement and opposition to global capitalism.

In recent months, he has been at the centre of two controversies. One followed an internet article in which he scolded six fellow intellectuals, five of them Jewish, for promoting ethnically-based values over universal ones. He chided them for condoning Israeli policy and the war on Iraq—and also for blaming anti-Jewish violence on Muslims. In the code of the Paris intelligentsia, this was a deadly punch: one victim, Bernard-Henri Lévy, called the cyber-attack a “nauseating” case of anti-Semitism. Mr Ramadan is equally indignant in self-defence. He has spent years warning francophone Muslims against anti-Jewish prejudice, he insists.

Another storm followed his call, in a debate with France's interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, for a “moratorium” on the stoning of adulterers. As Mr Sarkozy argued, this suggested that stoning could resume after a decent interval. Mr Ramadan insists that he wants a total, open-ended cessation of traditional punishments, corporal or capital—but the case for this should be made in Islam's terms. “These penalties are in the texts, and if you tell people to remove them, they won't listen. But ask them whether such penalties, as now enforced, promote equality and freedom, Islam's ideals, and they agree we must develop our understanding of the texts.”

His latest book* offers a similar mix of orthodox and radical ideas, mingling social activism, religious tolerance and feminism with close adherence to Muslim tradition. What will Anglo-Saxons make of that? He may soon spend over half his time in America, where Notre Dame University in Indiana has offered him a job. His reception there promises to be a lively one.

Posted by razib at 07:18 PM