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|Born||August 26, 1962 (1962-08-26) |
|Occupation||Academic and Theologian|
Tariq Said Ramadan (born 26 August 1962, Geneva, Switzerland) is a Swiss-born Arab Muslim academic whose views on Islam reflect a reformist perspective. He advocates the study and interpretation of Islamic texts, and emphasizes the heterogeneous nature of Western Muslims. He believes that Muslims in Europe have established a new "European Islam" and emphasizes the necessity for their contribution to European society.
The British Prospect and the American Foreign Policy magazines placed him eighth in a list of the world’s top 100 contemporary intellectuals in 2008. Tariq Ramadan taught theology at the University of Oxford. In August 2009 the City of Rotterdam and Erasmus University dismissed Ramadan from his positions as "integration adviser" and professor, stating that the program he chairs on Iran's Press TV, Islam & Life, was "irreconcilable" with his duties in Rotterdam.
Ramadan is the son of Said Ramadan and the grandson of Hassan al Banna, one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and Gamal al-Banna, the liberal Muslim reformer is his great-uncle. His father was a prominent figure in the Muslim Brotherhood and was exiled from Egypt to Switzerland, where Tariq was born, by Gamal Abdul Nasser. Tariq Ramadan graduated a year early and studied philosophy, literature and social sciences at the University of Geneva. He studied philosophy and French literature at the Masters level, and Arabic and Islamic studies for his PhD. He wrote his dissertation on Friedrich Nietzsche. He also studied Arabic and Islam at Al Azhar Islamic university in Cairo, Egypt.
He currently teaches at the College de Saussure, a high school in Geneva, Switzerland, and held a lectureship in Religion and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg from 1996 to 2003. In October 2005 he began teaching at St Antony's College at the University of Oxford on a Visiting Fellowship. Since 2005 he has been a senior research fellow at the Lokahi Foundation.
In September 2005 he was invited to join a task force by the Government of the United Kingdom. In 2007 Tariq Ramadan successfully applied for the professorship in Islamic studies at the University of Leiden, but then declined to take up the position, citing professional reasons. He has also been guest professor of Identity and Citizenship at Erasmus University Rotterdam. More recently, Tariq Ramadan has been hosting debates on the Islam & Life programme on Press TV. The Erasmus University and city council of Rotterdam because of his appearance on Press TV fired him from his University position and barred him from any advisory role in a move which Tariq Ramadan described as Islamophobic and politically charged.
On June 6, 2007, a judge of the criminal court for Seine-Saint-Denis in Bobigny, France, fined Ramadan €2500 after he assaulted two French border police officers at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport in March that year.
Tariq Ramadan established the Movement of Swiss Muslims. He has taken part in interfaith seminars and has sat on a commission of “Islam and Secularism.” He is widely interviewed and has produced about 100 tapes which sell tens of thousands of copies each year. He is an advisor to the EU on religious issues.
Ramadan is married and has 4 children.
U.S. visa revocation
In February 2004, he accepted the tenured position of Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, U.S.. He was granted a nonimmigrant visa on May 5, however, on July 28, his H-1B visa was revoked by the State Department. In August 2004, a spokesman for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement cited the "ideological exclusion provision" of the USA PATRIOT Act as the grounds for Ramadan's visa revocation. In October, the University of Notre Dame filed a H-1B petition on Ramadan's behalf. After hearing no response from the government by December, Ramadan resigned his position from the university.
In September 2005, Ramadan filed an application for a B Visa to allow him to participate at speaking arrangements with various organizations and universities. The government did not issue a decision on Ramadan's visa application, so the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on January 25, 2006 against the United States government on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center – three groups who had planned on meeting with Ramadan in the US – for revoking Ramadan's visa under the "ideological exclusion provision". The ACLU and NYCLU argued that the that the ideological exclusion provision was in violation of Ramadan's First Amendment and Fifth Amendment rights and additionally, that the government's actions violated the Administrative Procedures Act. After two months had passed without a decision being made, the plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction. Pursuant to the injunction, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York ordered the government on June 23, 2006 to issue its decision on Ramadan's pending B Visa application within 90 days.
On September 19, 2006, the government formally denied Ramadan's visa application. A State Department statement said: "A U.S. consular officer has denied Dr. Tariq Ramadan's visa application. The consular officer concluded that Dr. Ramadan was inadmissible based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization." Between December 1998 and July 2002, Ramadan had given donations totalling $940 to two charity organizations, the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens and the Association de Secours Palestinien. The United States Treasury designated both the CBSP and ASP terrorist fundraising organizations for their alleged links to Hamas on August 22, 2003. The U.S. Embassy told Ramadan that he "reasonably should have known" that the charities provided money to Hamas. In an article in The Washington Post, Ramadan asked: "How should I reasonably have known of their activities before the U.S. government itself knew?"
On February 2, 2007, the ACLU and NYCLU amended their complaint, arguing that the government's explanation for denying Ramadan's visa application was not "facially legitimate and bona fide" and that the ideological exclusion provision of the PATRIOT Act was in violation of the First and Fifth Amendments. They also argued that Ramadan's denial violated the First Amendment rights of those who wanted to hear him speak. In his decision on December 20, 2007, District Judge Paul A. Crotty ruled that the government's justification for denying Ramadan's visa was "facially legitimate and bona fide" and noted that the Court "has no authority to override the Government's consular decision".
In January 2008, the ACLU appealed Crotty's ruling. Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project and lead attorney in the case, stated, "The government's shifting positions only underscore why meaningful judicial review – the kind of oversight that the district court failed to provide – is so important. In Professor Ramadan’s case and many others, the government is using immigration laws to stigmatize and exclude its critics and to censor and control the ideas that Americans can hear. Censorship of this kind is completely inconsistent with the most basic principles of an open society." Ramadan himself remarked:
"The U.S. government's actions in my case seem, at least to me, to have been arbitrary and myopic. But I am encouraged by the unwavering support I have received from ordinary Americans, civic groups and particularly from scholars, academic organizations, and the ACLU. I am heartened by the emerging debate in the U.S. about what has been happening to our countries and ideals in the past six years. And I am hopeful that eventually I will be allowed to enter the country so that I may contribute to the debate and be enriched by dialogue."
On July 17, 2009, the US federal appeals court reversed the ruling of the lower district court. The three-judge panel on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit – comprised of Judges Jon O. Newman, Wilfred Feinberg and Reena Raggi – ruled that the Court had "jurisdiction to consider the claim, despite the doctrine of consular nonreviewability". They stated that government was required by law to "confront Ramadan with the allegation against him and afford him the subsequent opportunity to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he did not know, and reasonably should not have known, that the recipient of his contributions was a terrorist organization." Under the limited review permitted by the 1972 Supreme Court ruling in Kleindienst v. Mandel, the panel concluded that the "record does not establish that the consular officer who denied the visa confronted Ramadan with the allegation that he had knowingly rendered material support to a terrorist organization, thereby precluding an adequate opportunity for Ramadan to attempt to satisfy the provision that exempts a visa applicant from exclusion under the 'material support' subsection if he 'can demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that [he] did not know, and should not reasonably have known, that the organization was a terrorist organization.'" Additionally, the panel agreed with the plaintiffs' contention that their First Amendment rights had been violated. The panel remanded the case to a lower court to determine if the consular officer had confronted Ramadan with the "allegation that he knew that ASP provided funds to Hamas and then providing him with a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate, by clear and convincing evidence, that he did not know, and should not have reasonably known, of that fact."
Following the ruling, Ramadan stated, "I am very gratified with the court's decision. I am eager to engage once again with Americans in the kinds of face-to-face discussions that are central to academic exchange and crucial to bridging cultural divides." Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, issued a statement saying, "Given today's decision, we hope that the Obama administration will immediately end Professor Ramadan's exclusion. We also encourage the new administration to reconsider the exclusion of other foreign scholars, writers and artists who were barred from the country by the Bush administration on ideological grounds."
Ramadan works primarily on Islamic theology and the position of Muslims in Europe. In general he believes in the need to continue to reinterpret the Qur'an in order to correctly understand Islamic philosophy. He also emphasizes the difference between religion and culture, which he believes are too often confused, arguing that citizenship and religion are separate concepts which should not be mixed. He claims that there is no conflict between being both a Muslim and a European; a Muslim must accept the laws of his country, except in rare circumstances. At the same time, he also strongly believes all Muslims should give higher authority to the Qur'an then to the secular law.
He believes that European Muslims must create a "European Islam" just as there is a separate "Asian Islam" and an "African Islam", which take into account cultural differences. By this he means that European Muslims must re-examine the fundamental texts of Islam (primarily the Qu'ran) and interpret them in light of their own cultural background, influenced by European society.
He rejects a binary division of the world into dar al-Islam (the abode of Islam) and dar al-harb (the abode of war), on the grounds that such a division is not mentioned in the Qur'an. He has been also known to cite favourably the Dar al-Da'wa (Abode of Proselytizing). However, Ramadan has articulated both the "ideological geography" of the West and the duty of da'wa in an original fashion and one that is starkly more pro-integration than the more conservative "loyal resident alienage" articulated by such jurists as al-Qaradawi. For Ramadan, the West is neither the Abode of War nor the Abode of da'wa but "dar al-shahada," the "Abode of Testimony" [to the Islamic Message]. He argues that Muslims are "witnesses before mankind"; they must continue to review the fundamental principles of Islam and take responsibility for their faith.
Importantly, for him the "Islamic message" to which Muslims are expected to bear witness is not primarily the particularist, socially conservative code of traditionalist jurists, but a commitment to universalism and the welfare of non-Muslims; it is also an injunction not merely to make demands on un-Islamic societies but to express solidarity with them:
"... the European environment is a space of responsibility for Muslims. This is exactly the meaning of the notion of "space of testimony" [dar al-shahada] that we propose here, a notion that totally reverses perspectives: whereas Muslims have, for years, been wondering whether and how they would be accepted, the in-depth study and evaluation of the Western environment entrusts them, in light of their Islamic frame of reference, with a most important mission. . . . Muslims now attain, in the space of testimony, the meaning of an essential duty and of an exacting responsibility: to contribute, wherever they are, to promoting good and equity within and through human brotherhood. Muslims' outlook must now change from the reality of "protection" alone to that of an authentic "contribution."
He emphasizes a Muslim's responsibility to his community, whether it be Islamic or not. He criticizes the 'us vs. them' mentality that some Muslims advocate against the West. He also advocates having Muslim scholars in the West who are versed in Western mores, and not relying on religious studies that come only from the Islamic world. He wants more Islamic philosophy written in European languages. He thinks that European Muslims' reliance on an "external" Islam, leaves them feeling inadequate and impure, which is one of the main causes of alienation from European culture.
He believes that most Muslims in Europe are quietly and successfully integrating into society. The main problems for the community come from those who are ignorant of Western society.
He also worries about Western perceptions of Islam. He says the Muslim community has been bad at representing itself, and that this has allowed westerners to confuse Islam with cultural traits, as well as political problems. For example, he believes that many notionally Islamic countries have governments which betray the principles of Islam.
He believes that the Muslim leadership in Europe is partially responsible for the sometimes shaky relations between Muslims and the rest of society. He believes that they have been overly defensive, and have not properly explained the philosophy of Islam, nor have they engaged sufficiently with non-Muslim society.
He stresses that a Muslim's freedom of religion is very extensive in Europe, and that permission for "un-Islamic" activities, such as drinking, or pre-marital sex, does not compel Muslims to do anything. Only a few situations warrant the invocation of the "clause of conscience" which allows a Muslim to make it clear that certain actions or behaviours are in contradiction of their faith. These are, participating in a war whose sole desire is for power or control; fighting or killing a fellow Muslim, unless their attitude is unjust or wrong; participating in an unlawful transaction (such as purchasing insurance, burial, incorrect slaughter). He stresses that in such cases the situation should be carefully analysed, and the degree of compulsion considered. Only non-violence and negotiation are acceptable in these cases.
Ramadan has voiced his opposition to all forms of capital punishment but believes the Muslim world should remove such laws from within, without any Western pressure, as such would only further alienate Muslims, and instead bolster the position of those who support hudud punishments. He has said "Muslim populations are convincing themselves of the Islamic character of these practices through a rejection of the west, on the basis of a simplistic reasoning that stipulates that 'the less western, the more Islamic'."
Politically, Ramadan was opposed to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
He was opposed to the French law on secularity and conspicuous religious symbols in schools.
Ramadan wrote that the Muslim response to Pope Benedict XVI's speech on Islam was disproportionate, and was encouraged by reactionary Islamic regimes in order to distract their populations, and that it did not improve the position of Islam in the world.
 Sarkozy debate
In a French television debate in 2003 with Nicolas Sarkozy, Sarkozy accused Ramadan of defending the stoning of adulterers, a punishment stipulated in the section of the Islamic penal code known as hudud. Ramadan replied that Sarkozy was wrong. He said that he opposed stoning and that he favored “a moratorium” on such practices but refused to condemn the law outright because it involved religious texts, which have to be properly understood and contextualised. A moratorium, Ramadan argued, could open the way for further debate. Tariq Ramadan has engaged in further debates on the issue, notably at the Cambridge Union with Sir Bernard Crick and Rupert Myers (writer) in 2008.
Oumma.com article controversy
Ramadan wrote an article entitled, Les (nouveaux) intellectuels communautaires, which French newspapers Le Monde and Le Figaro refused to publish. Oumma.com did eventually publish it. In the article he criticizes a number of French Jewish intellectuals and figures such as Alexandre Adler, Alain Finkielkraut, Bernard-Henri Lévy, André Glucksmann and Bernard Kouchner, for allegedly abandoning universal human rights, and giving special status to the defence of Israel. He also criticized Paul Wolfowitz whom he called a notable Zionist. Ramadan was accused, in return, of anti-semitism and having used inflammatory language..
 Critical reception
Some academics have greeted his works with enthusiasm, detecting liberalising and rationalising tendencies. Paul Donnelly at Salon.com asked rhetorically: "Tariq Ramadan: The Muslim Martin Luther?".
Others however have charged Ramadan with saying different things to different audiences; one thing to radical Muslims or young Muslims, and another to the western media or academia.
Caroline Fourest analysed Tariq Ramadan's 15 books, 1,500 pages of interviews, and approximately 100 recordings, and concludes "Ramadan is a war leader," and the "political heir of his grandfather," Hassan al-Banna, stating that his discourse is, "often just a repetition of the discourse that Banna had at the beginning of the 20th century in Egypt," and that he, "presents [al-Banna] as a model to be followed." She argues that "Tariq Ramadan is slippery. He says one thing to his faithful Muslim followers and something else entirely to his Western audience. His choice of words, the formulations he uses – even his tone of voice – vary, chameleon-like, according to his audience.",
Olivier Guitta, writing in The Weekly Standard, welcomed the US decision to refuse Ramadan a Visa, because Ramadan "calls Arabs ‘my brothers and sisters’ while addressing all others as ‘madam,’ ‘sir,’ or without any honorific". He further claimed that the former head of the French antiracism organization SOS Racisme, "Malek Boutih (an Arab Muslim), told Ramadan after talking with him at length: ‘Mr. Ramadan, you are a fascist.’" In an interview with Europe 1 Boutih likened him to "a small Le Pen"; in another interview he accused him of having crossed the line of racism and anti-Semitism, thus not genuinely belonging to the alter-globalization movement. Bertrand Delanoë, Socialist mayor of Paris, declared Ramadan unfit to participate at the European Social Forum, as not even "a slight suspicion of anti-Semitism" would be tolerable. Talking to Paris weekly Marianne, Fadela Amara, president of Ni Putes Ni Soumises (Neither Whores Nor Submissive, a French feminist movement), Aurélie Filippetti, municipal counsellor for the The Greens in Paris, Patrick Klugman, leading member of the Conseil Représentatif des Institutions juives de France and Dominique Sopo, head of SOS-Racisme accuse Ramadan of having misused the alter-globalization movement's ingenuousness to advance his "radicalism and anti-Semitism." Egyptian intellectual Tarek Heggy has also charged Ramadan with saying different things to different audiences.
Christopher Caldwell describes Ramadan as being "the very embodiment of double language," which Caldwell defines as, "not saying two different things to two different audiences," but, rather, as "preaching a consistent message that will be understood in different ways by two different audiences." According to Caldwell, "When Ramadan speaks of 'resistance," and calls on Muslims everywhere to wage it.." "Europeans... have chosen to believe that... he really means 'reform.' He does not. He means jihad." 
Ramadan vehemently denies contacts with terrorists or other Islamic fundamentalists and the charges of anti-Semitism and double talk, attributing the charges to misinterpretation and an unfamiliarity with his writings. He stated: "I have often been accused of this 'double discourse', and to those who say it, I say - bring the evidence. I am quite clear in what I say. The problem is that many people don't want to hear it, particularly in the media. Most of the stories about me are completely untrue: journalists simply repeat black propaganda from the internet without any corroboration, and it just confirms what they want to believe. Words are used out of context. There is double-talk, yes, but there is also double-hearing. That is what I want to challenge." In answer to criticism of his response to September 11th, Ramadan replied that two days after the attacks he had published an open letter, exhorting Muslims to condemn the attacks and the attackers, and not to "hide behind conspiracy theories.", and that less than two weeks after the attacks he had stated that “The probability [of bin Laden's guilt] is large, but some questions remain unanswered … But whoever they are, bin Laden or others, it is necessary to find them and that they be judged,” and that the interview had been conducted before any evidence was publicly available.