Controversy seems to follow Tariq Ramadan wherever he goes. In Rotterdam, where the Swiss philosopher and theologist has been asked to contribute to the multicultural dialogue, the gay community is up in arms over Ramadan’s statements about homosexuality and the role of women in society.
A split tongue, is how French journalist Caroline Fourest described Tariq Ramadan in her 2006 book Frère Tariq (brother Tariq). Fourest argues that Ramadan has a moderate discourse for Western consumption, and a radical one buried inside Arabic-spoken tapes that are widely distributed in immigrant communities throughout Europe. Ramadan’s defence of a “European Islam” (an Islam that adapts to the rules of European society) has made him enemies within orthodox Islam as well as in the West, where some have argued that Ramadan wants Europe to adapt to Islam rather than the other way around. It is the latter that has been dubbed Ramadan’s “double discourse”.
Whenever Ramadan (48) moves to a new country – and he has moved a lot: from Switzerland to France to the US to Britain to the Netherlands – quotes from his tapes surface and are argued as proof of his “Jeckyl and Hyde” identity. The latest accusation comes from Gay Krant, a newspaper for the gay community in the Netherlands.
Ramadan was recently hired by the city of Rotterdam to “help lift the multicultural dialogue to a higher level”. He is also a guest lecturer at Rotterdam’s Erasmus university.
President Obama has been criticized for his approach to the Muslim world prior to his visit to Turkey, by those who see Obama’s promise to open a dialogue with the Muslim world as endemic of being soft on terrorism. Yet, others wonder why the president would waste time on words and glowing speeches, when imported policy is imminently needed. Others point to Obama’s virtual silence on Israel’s war on Gaza.
The criticisms are based around one major concern – actions speak louder than words. While scholars and intellectuals alike agree that Barack Obama has worked to set a new tone in US-Muslim relationships and a significant shift has been made since end of the Bush era, Munir Jiwa of the Graduate Theological Union in Berkely writes that Muslims are asking to be more active and participatory in public discourse, and the misunderstandings that have amounted over the past eight years must finally be addressed and talked about instead of ignored, and active mutual understanding over just talking about finding common ground will ultimately lead to resolution.
UK’s largest Muslim Umbrella body has welcomed Sadiq Khan MP’s “incisive and thoughtful analysis” of the Muslim community in his Fabian Society pamphlet Fairness not Favours: How to reconnect with British Muslims. Mr Khan proposed a number of recommendations for The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) in the pamphlet published on Wednesday. “Some may be challenging, and will require debate – and the Muslim Council of Britain seeks a dispassionate discourse devoid of the usual rhetoric that comes with discussion about Muslims. MCB supports Mr Khan’s proposal that government should deal with Muslims on the basis of ‘engagement’ rather than ‘endorsement’, on a fair and equal footing,” it said in response. Khurshid Drabu, Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee of the MCB, said: “This is an insightful and candid contribution to a challenging and much misunderstood agenda. Sadiq Khan’s experience, intellect and standing can be trusted to voice the legitimate expectations of the political establishment from Muslims as citizens and of Muslims for fair and equal treatment. “His analysis of relevant issues is courageous and his recommendations require positive action from all sides. The MCB welcomes this excellent intervention. We are very pleased to note that Sadiq Khan asks for introduction of positive duty in the legislative framework for elimination of discrimination on grounds of religion in the areas of the provision of goods, facilities and services. The MCB has for many years been campaigning for this pressing need. Muslims do not seek favours. We seek fairness.”
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Europe’s right-wing populists want to build a united front to battle what they call the continent’s creeping Islamization at a conference set to take place in Cologne this weekend. Powerless to stop the event, local officials are anticipating the arrival of thousands of counterprotesters. Cologne’s Heumarkt, a cobblestone square in the city’s Old Town, is best known as the place where thousands and thousands of costumed revellers converge each Nov. 11 at 11 a.m. to ring in the new season of the most famous festival along the Rhine River, Carnival. This Saturday, though, Heumarkt will become the focal point for an altogether different and decidedly less cheerful event. Instead of the sound of relentlessly upbeat Carnival songs, the square will be filled with radical right-wing slogans and anti-Muslim baiting. Pro Cologne (Pro Köln), a group that has risen to political prominence in this city of 1 million with its vociferous campaign to stop the construction of a major mosque — and even landed seats on the City Council along the way — is to hold a conference aimed at halting what it describes as the creeping “Islamization” of Europe. It would be hard to find another German city where the debate over integration and the role of Islam has been as concrete and vocal as it has been here. And nowhere else has it been easier to observe the collateral damage that can occur when politicians attempt to address the fears many locals have about purported Islamization. Lenz Jacobsen reports.
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Muslim hate fanatics plan to take over Britain by having more babies and forcing a population explosion, it has been revealed. The swollen Muslim population would be enough to conquer Britain from inside, they claim. Fanatics told a meeting of young Muslims on the anniversary of the 9/11 atrocity, that it would then be easy to impose Sharia law on the population, the Sun newspaper reported. Speaking at a meeting in London, Anjem Choudary, right-hand man of exiled preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed, said: “It may be by pure conversion that Britain will become an Islamic state. We may never need to conquer it from the outside.” He added: “We do not integrate into Christianity. We will ensure that one day you will integrate into the Sharia Islamic law.” His comments were made as voice of hate Bakri warned that the next 9/11 would take place in the UK. Speaking via video link the exiled cleric said Osama bin Laden had taught the Americans a ‘lesson’ seven years ago, but the ‘crusaders’ had not learned.
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The government reiterated on Wednesday, August 27, opposition to a campaign by the far-right Swiss People’s Party (SVP) for a referendum on banning minarets in the central European country, branding it unconstitutional and discriminatory. “The popular initiative against the construction of minarets has been submitted in accordance with the applicable regulations but infringes guaranteed international human rights and contradicts the core values of the Swiss Federal Constitution,” it said in a statement cited by Reuters. The SVP, who is spearheading the campaign, has amassed 113,540 signatures, enough to force a nationwide vote on the minarets ban. Under Swiss rules, the electorate can request a popular vote if it manages to collect 100,000 signatures within 18 months from eligible voters for the initiative. The minaret proposal has to be discussed by parliament before being put to a popular vote and the process could take several years.
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The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance released a new report on February 12th, 2008 saying that Islamophobia is gaining ground in the Netherlands, with Muslims and minorities facing increasing discrimination and violence. The report also decries the tone of debate about ethnic minorities in Dutch politics and media. Positive findings concede that progress has been made in a number of the fields highlighted in its previous report from 2000, citing that the Netherlands has become party to several international instruments working to combat racism and racial discrimination. The establishment of a network of local anti-discrimination bureaus is underway in the country, and efforts have been made to record and counter discrimination in the criminal justice system. Criticisms, however, include that recommendations in previous reports have only been partially implemented. Recommendations in the current report suggest that authorities take further action in a number of areas, particularly concerning public debate on integration and polarization in the country, taking steps to counter xenophobic discourse in politics, consistent opposition to all manifestations of Islamophobia, and the reviewing of policies in light of the prohibition of direct and indirect racial discrimination.
Identity politics in the widest sense is now quite the norm, and it comes to us in many guises, in the actual conduct of politics as well as in political theories and analyses, from the right, the left, the liberal centre. Culturalism, or the view that culture is the primary and determining instance of social existence, is a by-product of this identitarianism, and wherever politics and religion come to inflame each other, religion itself becomes synonymous with culture, and culture with religion, so that, for example, a constitutive difference between Islam and Christianity, as regards the scope for egalitarian politics in their respective zones, can be posited from the left, while the most hard-nosed geopolitical prescriptions can come to us from the right, in the guise of a discourse on religion, culture and civilization.
While adolescents in Catalonia are raising questions about their identity, and children of immigrants are wondering about what it means to belong to two or more cultures, the proposition of integrative schools is making its way into community discourse. Psychologist Said El Kadaoui Mossaoui is asking for structural changes, especially in schools, to become a reality that actually (represents) Catalans living in Catalonia. Among the suggestions of his proposals include introducing Arab literature and authors in classes, to better understand the complexities of people. The secretariat for Immigration raised the need for educators to work self-esteem, cultural and religious empathy, and mutual understanding in the curriculum for adolescents.
Mohamed Chaib Akhdim, the deputy of the PSC in the Parliament of Catalonia, pleaded today for a change in immigration policies and indicated that it is not normal that at this point three or four million immigrants do not have right to the vote. Muslims have much to contribute to discourse on how we live our lives and function as a society, he added, noting that Spain is home to more than a million immigrants of Muslim origin.