Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tariq Ramadan Interview After 9/11: My Brief Remark and Anecdote

Tariq Ramadan
(Image from Islam Online [9/5/03])

A recent comment by Michael B. on a previous post caught my attention and directed me to Transatlantic Intelligencer, a site maintained by John Rosenthal, whose observations on Tariq Ramadan gave me still more reason to be suspicious of Ramadan's putative moderation.

Rosenthal also links to an interview ("Attentats aux USA: Ben Laden, coupable idéal?"), conducted by Nicolas Geinoz for the 9/22/2001 edition of the Swiss newspaper La Gruyère (which I used to read back in my Fribourg days), in which Tariq Ramadan acknowledges that Bin Laden probably was responsible for the 9/11 attacks but allows for some doubt.

Geinoz presses Ramadan on this point (in French, but see also my English translation):
Pourtant, ce ne serait pas la première fois que des extrémistes musulmans commettent un attentat...

Nevertheless, this would not be the first time that Moslem extremists have made an attack...
To which Ramadan quickly responds:
Bien sûr que non, mais en l'occurrence il faut aussi se demander «à qui profite le crime». Aucune cause arabe ou islamique ne tirera profit de ces événements, au contraire: les peuples et tous les musulmans vont en pâtir. Quant à ceux que l’on a identifiés comme les auteurs, ils buvaient, sortaient en boîte et ne pratiquaient pas. Curieux extrémistes religieux. Je m’interroge: Ben Laden n'est peut-être qu'un épouvantail utile comme l'est Saddam Hussein. La représentation diabolique que l'on en fait sert peut-être d'autres desseins géostratégiques, économiques ou politiques. Il ne faut rien simplifier.

Of course not, but in fact, it is also necessary to ask, "Who profits from this crime." No Arab or Islamic cause will benefit from these events. On the contrary: the people and all the Muslims will suffer from it. As for those identified as the ones who carried out this attack, they drank, went to nightclubs, and were not observant Muslims. Curious religious extremists. I ask myself: Is Bin Laden not perhaps a useful bugbear, like Saddam Hussein? Indeed, demonizing him is perhaps useful for other geostrategic, economic, or political motives. One should not oversimplify anything.
In these remarks, as Rosenthal points out, "Ramadan went so far as to insinuate that the United States government itself -- or perhaps Israel? -- could have been the guilty party."

Although I find absurd the notion that the United States or Israel might have planned and carried out 9/11, this view seems rather widespread outside of the United States. In fact, only two weeks ago, one of my students wanted to write his semester essay on the events of 9/11 and argue for the thesis that the U.S. government had carried out the attack. I told him bluntly, "If you write that, you'll fail because the thesis is utterly wrong."

I then relented a bit, telling him, "Look, if you want to write on that and argue that the U.S. attacked itself, then go ahead, but you'll have to write a very, very persuasive essay with lots of logical argumentation and plenty of supporting facts because I am convinced that this view is totally wrong."

He decided to write that the U.S. had used propaganda about 9/11 after the attack in order to pursue its geopolitical aims.

I told him that this would be a more advisable approach.


At 8:10 AM, Blogger Saur♥Kraut said...

Excellent points. Isn't it odd how the rest of the world views us? But we also need to remember that the majority of the rest of the world is third-world status, liberal, and/or poorly educated. There are exceptions of course! And I need to add (before anyone jumps down my throat) that statistics show that liberals average a higher education than conservatives in our country. But... all that being said, we are a pragmatic nation as a whole. By-and-large we aren't superstitious and we don't believe in conspiracy theories when the practical truth makes more sense.

At 9:11 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

And in the US, most liberals don't buy the conspiracy theory nonsense. Even Chomsky doesn't believe that stuff.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:46 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

This conspiracy theory lives on the net and is attributed to the liberals.

At 3:18 AM, Blogger Conservative in Virginia said...

This reminds me of something. Back in the late 70s (maybe early 80s), supporters of Lyndon LaRouche handed me a leaflet warning that Jimmy Carter planned to solve high unemployment in the US by having half the US bomb the other half. With half the population, the problem would be solved. In order to prevent it, we needed to vote for/support their guy. I thought it was hilarious, and pitiful, that these people believed such nonsense.

Now there are all sorts of odd conspiracies and even some "mainstream" people believe them.

At 4:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, some people on the right also believe this conspiracy theory, an instance of radical right meeting radical left, but my impression is that most Americans, of whatever political persuasion, don't think that the U.S. government planned and carried out 9/11.

But my impression could be wrong ... especially since I'm living outside of the States.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

CIV, I didn't know that LaRouche theory, but it sounds typical of him and his 'ideas' that he would run on such a political platform.

LaRouche, by the way, is a fitting example of radical right meeting radical left, for he went from being a Trotskyite to being a ... well to being whatever he is now, which looks sort of like something far right.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:17 AM, Blogger Michael B said...

What I find most intriguing, and most challenging, concerning Rosenthal's reveal of Tariq Ramadan is the subtlety with which Tariq Ramadan interweaves standard motifs which educated and policy types in the West place a positive value upon (skepticism, doubt, respect for the other, etc.) together with forms of rhetoric, argument and persuasion in general which preclude any decisive or too critical judgement vis-a-vis contemporary Islam or even salafists/jihadists.

This is intriguing, even from the standpoint of abstract analysis, since if one imputes a too decided opinion to his various critical views, Ramadan will always have an avenue of retreat very much in the manner of a sophist. On the other hand if one, perhaps being too careful, too cautious in order not to offend or impute a too definitive statement to Ramadan, then at that point the risk is

Ramadan, in that manner, keeps his critics, his reviewers, on a tightrope. I.e. he permits himself a position which allows for a certain stability, a comfort, a repose; by contrast his critical interlocutors are required to remain on the tightrope, ever doubting, ever questioning themselves.

I'm not at all sure that overstates the case.

At 8:22 AM, Blogger Michael B said...

Oops, apologies, correction to final sentence in second graf above follows:

On the other hand if one, perhaps being too careful, too cautious in order not to offend or impute a too definitive statement to Ramadan, then at that point the risk is a critical judgement is never reached, is forever foreclosed.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Michael B., I had previously noticed this tendency by Ramadan when I was commenting on his remarks concerning stoning, i.e., he was for a 'moratorium' rather than for banning this form of capital punishment.

His is a profoundly ambiguous position to take, for one knows not which way Ramadan truly leans -- against stoning or for stoning?

I found myself asking, "Who's he trying to placate?"

Is he trying to nudge Islam in the direction of reform while ensuring that he doesn't lose his connection to the Ummah?

Or is he trying to ease Islam's entry into Europe with the ultimate aim of Islamizing Europe as the Muslim percentage of the population grows?

Or does he even know what he wants?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:15 AM, Blogger Michael B said...

Yes, it's "interesting".

The most a sincerely self-critical and thoughtful critic will ever be able to say vis-a-vis the tactics Ramadan employs is that we can come to a tentative conclusion about his interests. I.e. I'm in agreement with what Rosenthal is suggesting, Ramadan employs sophistries far too often, for too commonly, to imagine he is doing so simply to take into account warranted indeterminacies, conundrums, aporetic qualities, etc. Instead it's a tack he employs to effect a dissimulating sophistry, i.e. it's a power-play he employs rather than a thoroughgoing rationalism which admits of counter-critiques to be sincerely and transparently responded to.

Still, and this too is an aspect of the box he paints his interlocutors in, at the best one has to admit such a conclusion can only be tentative, and therein held in suspension, at least so from the standpoint of abstract analysis per se.

Is it possible I'm seeing too much in this recurring tactic of his? Is it possible I'm on the verge of some type or degree of paranoid view vis-a-vis Ramadan? Conceivably and in theory, yes. But the pattern is too common, too consistently applied by Ramadan, and it's always deployed in a single direction, it's always deployed in a manner which defends or at least finesses Muslim and Islamicist interests. I'll stick with my tentative and guarded conclusion until shown otherwise. And all this doesn't broach other topics, such as Ramadan's appeal within some Islamicist circles, some of his associations, including his Muslim Brotherhood genealogy, also the views of people like Pipes and Faoud Ajami, other aspects still.

As indicated, it's intriguing and challenging and "interesting". But the pattern exists and it's all too consistently applied in a single direction, even allowing for the fact he is an advocate. (But an advocate for what, precisely?)

A very happy Korean Turkey Day to you and yours!

At 11:03 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Michael B., you're probably right about Ramadan. I'll stay alert.

Meanwhile, a reciprocated Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Jeffery Hodges

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