A Dis-integrating Society: David Goodhart vs Tariq Ramadan

{On June 4, 2007, Tariq Ramadan wrote an editorial for the Guardian entitled, “Blair can no longer deny a link exists between terrorism and foreign policy.” He argued the debate around the [unwillingness of Muslims to integrate obscures attention from the need for British society to come to terms with its “self-professed values.” The next week, Prospect {editor David Goodhart published his reply, “An Open Letter to Tariq Ramadan” in} Prospect.} Tariq Ramadan’s Letter to the Guardian David Goodhart’s Open Letter to Tariq Ramadan {Below is an article about this debate published on Tabsir.net.} My colleague and friend Dr. Philip G. Ziegler directed my attention to a recent debate which has started between Tariq Ramadan and the Editor of Prospect, David Goodhart. The diatribe started when The Guardian published a letter by Prof. Ramadan. It is important to say that Prof. Ramadan has been at the centre of a controversial debate himself. Some consider him a progressive and moderate Muslim scholar, while others suggest that he is a cunning, insidious, and double-tongued extremist. Much of this allegation and subsequent debate took off when Prof. Ramadan accepted in February 2004 the tenured position of Luce Professor of Religion at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA. After first granting permission, the US State Department later revoked his visa in late July 2004, forcing him to resign his position…

Muslim diversities: communities and contexts

“Muslim diversities: communities and contexts” seeks to bring together a collection of academic works that extends and informs knowledge and understanding about the diversity of communities and groups that constitute the contemporary Islamic and Muslim social, political, economic and theological landscapes in the UK, Europe and beyond.

To do this, chapters are required that focus upon a specific community (understood in terms of a community, organisation or group) that is then considered within a very specific contemporary context. It is vitally important that a specific context is therefore identified and established from the outset, as it is this that will provide the necessary framework from within which the necessary critical engagement of that community will be undertaken.

In being interdisciplinary and innovative in your approach, you may wish to consider some of the following communities (a list that is indicative rather than exhaustive):

  • Long established ethnic communities, e.g Turkish, Pakistanis
  •   Newly established communities, e.g. Eastern Europeans, Somalis
  •   Theological groups and movements, e.g. Shi’a (broad), Tablighi Jamaat (more specific)
  •   Political or politicised groups, e.g. Hizb ut-Tahrir, Stop the War (Muslim contingent)
  •   New and emergent communities, e.g. the Muslim Boys, converts/reverts
  •   Splinter and/or non-mainstream communities, e.g. Nation of Islam, Ismailies
  • In approaching these communities, you might wish to consider some of the following themes as a means of contextualisation:

  •   Political issues, e.g. integration, assimilation, belonging
  •   The media, e.g. how the community use the media, how the media represent the respective community
  •   Security, terrorism and associated legislation, e.g. responses both to and by Muslims organisations following major events such as 9/11, 7/7 and so on
  •   Theological differences, e.g. from orthodox forms of Islam, how these impact upon intra-community relationships and understandings
  •   Inter-faith perspectives and relationships
  •   Cultural aspects, e.g. music, art, literature, film
  •   The influence and effect of geography, e.g. from the simplest understanding of a given geographical location through to the perspective of minority status and all that this entails
  • Both established academics as well as postgraduates from across a variety of disciplines are encouraged in the first instance to submit an abstract of no more than 500 words that clearly sets out both the community concerned and the context within which the proposed chapter will undertake its exploration. Accompanying your abstract should be a short biography, full contact details and any academic affiliation. Submissions from suitably qualified practitioners outside the traditional academic environment will also be considered where appropriate.

    The deadline for submission of abstracts is 31 May 2007. For those whose abstracts are successful, you will be required to submit a first draft of your chapter by 1 September 2007.

    To submit abstracts or to request further information, please contact Chris Allen at: info@chris-allen.co.uk / christopherallen@blueyonder.co.uk

    Islam, Ethnicity and the Banlieues

    The most astonishing thing about the recent riots was the surprise of the media, in France as elsewhere, at this outbreak of violence. For indeed, violence in the suburbs is nothing new. In the 1980s, the suburbs of Paris and Lyon were similarly set aflame. And in November of 2004, the violence of the suburbs broke out in the very heart of Paris when two rival gangs clashed on the Champs Elysées. Nor is the isolation of French youth a new phenomenon. Since the 1981 “rodeo riots” in the Lyon suburb Les Minguettes, social and economic conditions in the suburbs have only deteriorated, despite the often generous funding of urban development projects. It is not sufficient, however, to attribute these outbreaks of violence solely to factors of social and economic marginality. This marginality is exacerbated by a general context of urban degradation: a degradation, furthermore, which affects a very specific sector of the population. That is, the crisis of the banlieues primarily concerns first- and second-generation immigrants from the former colonies of the Maghreb. This population has frequently been treated as a separate case, not only in terms of the history and conditions of immigration, but also in terms of the politics of integration. This constant exclusion results in the fact that the issues of poverty, ethnicity, and Islam tend to be conflated, both in current political discourse and in political practice. The recent violence is but the direct consequence of the constant amalgamation of these three separate issues.

    Talk Show Host Graham Fired By Wmal Over Islam Remarks

    By Paul Farhi Washington Post Staff Writer Washington radio station WMAL-AM fired talk show host Michael Graham yesterday after he refused to soften his description of Islam as “a terrorist organization” on the air last month. Graham had been suspended without pay from his daily three-hour show since making his comments July 25. The station had conditioned his return to the midmorning shift on reading a station-approved statement in which Graham would have said that his anti-Muslim statements were “too broad” and that he sometimes uses “hyperbole” in the course of his program. WMAL also asked Graham to speak to the station’s advertisers and its employees about the controversy. But Graham refused both conditions, prompting the station to drop him. According to WMAL, Graham said “Islam is a terrorist organization” 23 times on his July 25 program. On the same show, he also said repeatedly that “moderate Muslims are those who only want to kill Jews” and that “the problem is not extremism. The problem is Islam.” The comments drew complaints and prompted an organized letter-writing campaign against WMAL and its advertisers by a Muslim group, the Council on American-Islam Relations (CAIR) of Washington. The protests led several advertisers to ask WMAL to stop airing their ads during Graham’s weekday show, although the station says it didn’t lose any advertisers amid the controversy. In a statement yesterday, Graham blamed CAIR for his firing and defended his comments: “As a fan of talk radio, I find it absolutely outrageous that pressure from a special interest group like CAIR can result in the abandonment of free speech and open discourse on a talk radio show.” Graham, in an interview last night, said he and the station had reached an agreement on terms of his return last week, but the station called back to withdraw. “It was a done deal,” he said. “They revoked it because, after further consideration, it didn’t contain an apology. And I will not apologize for something that is true.” Chris Berry, WMAL’s president and general manager, disputed Graham’s characterization, saying in an interview that “no one involved in this decision ever had any contact with anyone from CAIR.” Instead, he said, Graham was terminated because he violated station policy and disregarded “management direction” to redress it. Officials at WMAL, which is owned by the Walt Disney Co., had initially declined to take disciplinary action against Graham, defending his comments as part of the overheated rhetoric of talk radio. But that stance began to change as complaints about Graham’s remarks mounted. Graham, 43, is one of several conservative talk hosts featured on the station. WMAL (630 AM) also carries Rush Limbaugh’s and Sean Hannity’s nationally syndicated radio shows. Graham’s WMAL show is not syndicated. The station had hoped to work out an agreement that would return Graham to the air, Berry said, but it was evident by early yesterday that Graham would not agree to the station’s terms. He added in a statement: “Some of Michael’s statements about Islam went over the line — and this isn’t the first time that he has been reprimanded for insensitive language and comments. In this case, as previously, Michael’s on-air statements do not reflect the attitudes or opinions of station management. I asked Michael for an on-air acknowledgment that some of his remarks were overly broad, and inexplicably he refused.” In 1999, Graham was fired from a Charlotte station for saying that the killing of athletes was a “minor benefit” of the Columbine shootings. He apologized the next day. CAIR applauded WMAL’s decision. The organization had asked the station for a retraction or an apology, but “we didn’t get specific on what [Graham] should say,” said Rabiah Ahmed, a spokeswoman. “We were looking for an acknowledgment that his statements were anti-Muslim and hateful, and harmful to our community and our country’s image.” Berry said no permanent replacement for Graham has been chosen because the station until yesterday thought Graham would be returning to work. He said WMAL will try several hosts in Graham’s slot over the next few weeks. Graham has clashed with CAIR in the past. Last year, the group said comments he made on WMAL implicitly advocated violence against Muslims, and it cited him in a campaign called “Hate Hurts America.”

    British Asians In Identity Crisis, Post 9/11

    By AMIT ROY London: A growing number of young people of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin have been so traumatised by the aftermath of 9/11 that they now prefer to identify themselves as “British Muslims” rather than as “British Asian”, a provocative BBC radio documentary claimed on Tuesday night. The programme on BBC Radio 4, Don’t Call Me Asian, was presented by journalist Sarfraz Manzoor, who began by admitting: “A few years ago I, too, would have described myself as a British Asian. But these days I am just as likely to say that I am a British Muslim.” He explained: “I remember that the reason I used Asian was because it offered less ammunition to racists than saying or admitting I was Pakistani.” In his quest to prove that others have also rejected the term “British Asian” and now want to be defined exclusively by their religion, Manzoor interviewed a number of young people. One man of Pakistani origin insisted: “I think the word Asian is dead. Recent events globally and for me personally have made me re-examine what my identity is and hence I call myself British Muslim. Previously I would call myself Asian or Pakistani.” When Manzoor interviewed young Hindus who apparently no longer want to be called British Asian, an Indian girl commented: “Initially, if I had to fill out a form I would say British Asian. Events like September 11 have shaken us all up and we don’t wish to be under that banner of Asian any more.” A young Bangladeshi woman at university revealed that she self-consciously tried out a hijab at home and then started wearing it outside. “I became more conscious of who I was and what I did and how that affected every area of my life,” she said. Aftab Hussain, who works for a theatre company, found himself quizzed by his non-Muslim friends, “Why does Islam say this or that?” He eventually found himself “having to go away and learn about my religion. It has made young people more proactive about being Muslim”. Mohammed Mamdani, the founder of Muslim Youth Helpline, told Manzoor: “Many young Muslims are in a very fearful state where they don’t know how they fit into a society which constantly refers to their religion in terms of terrorism or radicalisation. This is also propagating the marginalisation and alienation of young Muslims”. According to Tariq Madood, professor of sociology at Bristol University, media portrayal of young Muslims hasn’t helped. “If there are disturbances at Bradford and the BBC is describing them as ‘Asian youths’, Hindus and Sikhs will get up and say, ‘Well, actually, what is the point of calling them Asian youths when they are Pakistani Muslims?’ ” Madood went on: “People want to be more assertive of the identities that they themselves choose to prioritise and this is partly because they want to promote their own good image and partly to disassociate themselves from what they see as the bad images with which they are being confused.” Manzoor interviewed young people attending the annual conference of the National Hindu Federation in London, where a young woman told him that she was travelling on the underground when “I was asked by a young white male whether I was Muslim and whether my people were responsible for September 11. And I said, I am not Muslim and my people weren’t responsible for September 11. So going on from there I do want my own identity now”. But a more representative sample of young Asians, taken, say, at a music concert, would probably find only one out of 100 keen to be defined purely in religious terms. At Oldham College in a city rocked by riots over three years ago, a youth of Pakistani origin argued: “We are Asian and that’s what we are. I call myself British Asian.” Manzoor interviewed the academic Lord Bhikhu Parekh, who disapproved of the tendency for people to define themselves only as Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs. “The tendency of a community to define itself entirely in religious terms and to collapse its complete complex identity – political, cultural and others – into a single, one-dimensional religious identity is a very worrying phenomenon,” he said. “No individual is simply a Muslim. He is also a Pakistani or an Indian, he is also a male, he is also a professor, and then for him to say, ‘All those things don’t matter at all, the only thing that matters about me is that I am a Muslim,’ is in itself worrying. That leads to a great impoverishment of an individual’s capacity to understand himself or herself.” “If somebody were to say to me he defines himself as a Muslim and therefore he sees me as a Hindu, I would feel he was not only impoverishing himself but he was doing a lot of harm by abridging my identity. It then becomes difficult to operate in a relatively secular society,” Parekh added.

    Where Islam Is Popery And Muslims, The Enemy Within: The BNP Manipulates Dormant Folk Memories Of British Identity

    By Jeremy Seabrook The British National party is expected to make gains in the council elections in the former mill towns of Lancashire and West Yorkshire and in Black Country sites of industrial dereliction. But its “success” should be judged less in terms of seats won than in its disturbing ability to connect with an older story of the meaning of Britishness. For the BNP, Islam is the new Popery. The superstition and malevolence once projected on to Catholicism appear to be made manifest once more in the fanaticism and extremism which new holy warriors believe they have located in Islam. Folk memory is a powerful generator of fables for those who know how to manipulate them. The tale the BNP tells today, in the rundown streets of the fearful old and the disinherited young, is about the spread of an alien creed, aided by the fifth column of an enemy within, and of hordes of migrant strangers at our border. The detail – “islands of Islam in our communities”, “a race relations industry kowtowing to the apologists for terror”, even “the imminent extinction of the white man” – however ghoulish, is less significant than the narrative of the nation in danger; for this resonates strongly with earlier versions of these islands in jeopardy.