Friday, March 16, 2007

The Extremely Moderate Tariq Ramadan?

The Arresting Tariq Ramadan
(Image from

According to the Terror Finance Blog -- a website that I've never previously heard of -- the "'Moderate' Muslim Tariq Ramadan was detained, charged and ordered to trial in France after insulting a police officer" (March 13, 2007):
Tariq Ramadan, the so-called "moderate" Islamic "intellectual", was briefly detained and charged for "insulting a public agent" on Sunday at Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle International Airport, while in transit to London.

From informed police sources, we have learned that when Ramadan tried to enter a prohibited area, a young policewoman stopped him. He began shouting at her and was then taken into police custody; the officer filed a complaint against him.

While in custody, he admitted the offense and was ordered to appear before a criminal court of Bobigny on April 6. Tariq Ramadan faces up to 6 months of imprisonment and 7,500 Euros of penalty.
This report wasn't very clear to me, and I have to admit that my own streak of Ozark rebelliousness makes me sympathetic to anyone charged with the overly vague 'crime' of "insulting a public agent" -- if that's really what Tariq Ramadan has been charged with.

I therefore conducted a Google websearch seeking more information about Ramadan's alleged actions and found a French report, "Tarik Ramadan brièvement interpellé à l'aéroport de Roissy," by Jean Chichizola for the March 13, 2007 edition of Le
Il aurait insulté à deux reprises une fonctionnaire de police.

Tarik Ramadan se souviendra de son dernier passage en France. Citoyen suisse, cet intellectuel musulman, critiqué notamment en France pour ses déclarations sur la lapidation, se trouvait dimanche soir à Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle, en transit pour Londres. De source policière, Tarik Ramadan aurait emprunté un itinéraire non autorisé avant qu'une fonctionnaire de police le lui fasse remarquer. Il aurait alors insulté à deux reprises la jeune femme, qui a porté plainte. Tarik Ramadan a été interpellé et placé en garde à vue par la police aux frontières. Il est poursuivi pour « outrage ». Relâché, Tarik Ramadan aurait reconnu les faits et a été convoqué le 6 avril par le parquet de Bobigny après reconnaissance préalable de culpabilité.
Lacking time and linguistic expertise for attempting a translation effort from the Gallic -- especially concerning the official Frence charge of "outrage" -- I turned to blogger buddy Kevin Kim (who suffers from near-native proficiency in French), and asked his assistance, a request fulfilled with alacrity. To wit:
"He [i.e., Tarik Ramadan] allegedly insulted a policewoman twice."

Tarik Ramadan will remember his most recent trip to France. A Swiss citizen, this Muslim intellectual who has been criticized, especially in France, for his pronouncements about stoning, found himself Sunday evening at Roissy/Charles de Gaulle Airport, in transit for London. According to a police source, Tarik Ramadan had been trying to move through an unauthorized area when a female police officer brought this to his attention. He twice insulted the young woman, who filed a complaint. Tarik Ramadan was arrested and placed under guard; he was charged with "offensive misconduct." When released, Tarik Ramadan acknowledged the facts and was summoned to appear on April 6 at the criminal court in Bobigny after prior admission of guilt.
Hmmm ... so, "outrage" -- which the Terror Finance Blog reported as "insulting a public agent" -- means "offensive misconduct." Kevin, however, added a disclaimer to his translation:
My translation of "outrage" as "offensive misconduct" is an attempt to sound like I know legal and police terms. Here as well, there is probably an exact English equivalent to the term, but I don't know it offhand. In French, "outrage" can refer to an outrage, an insult, or in the legal sense, some sort of behavioral infraction that carries an insulting import. The English-language article forwarded to me translates "outrage" as "insulting a public agent," which is something of a stretch if the charge is just "outrage." Or maybe the French paper isn't quoting the entire charge...? I don't know.
Kevin's uncertainty here leaves me still unsure of the precise charge against Ramadan. It sounds relatively minor, though it doesn't add to the luster of Ramadan's reputation. I can't imagine that he will end up in prison for six months, but he might have to pay a fine. At any rate, he has acknowledged culpability for whatever it was that he has been charged with having done.

The French article refers to criticisms of Ramadan's declarations concerning "lapidation," which Kevin has rendered as "stoning" -- though I've been told that moderate Muslims prefer to call it lapidation in English as well (for the euphemism, I suppose) -- but the article doesn't say why Ramadan has been criticized. For the curious, I refer you to a previous blog entry of mine, "Ian Buruma on Tariq Ramadan," which comments on Ian Buruma's New York Times report ("Tariq Ramadan Has an Identity Issue," February 4, 2007) on the controversy:
[O]n French television in 2003 with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister (now running for president as the candidate of the conservative Union for a Popular Movement party), . . . accused Ramadan of defending the stoning of adulterers, a punishment stipulated in the section of the Islamic penal code known as huddud. Ramadan replied that he favored "a moratorium" on such practices but refused to condemn the law outright. Many people, including Sarkozy, were outraged.
Despite the French interior member's feelings of "outrage," Ramadan escaped being detained and charged with "insulting a public agent" on that occasion. Interestingly, whereas Sarkozy and other non-Muslims criticized Ramadan's refusal to condemn stoning, many Muslims criticized him for advocating a "moratorium," as noted in an alt.muslim article, "Anwar Ibrahim Is Proof That Tariq Ramadan Has A Point" (April 1, 2005), by Irfan Yusuf, an Australian lawyer:
Recently Dr. Ramadan has made the headlines with his claim that there should be a moratorium on corporal punishment, stoning and the death penalty (collectively known as hudud) in the Islamic world. His comments have been condemned by Muslim writers and scholars, including those claiming to follow the legacy of Dr. Ramadan's grandfather.
That grandfather would be Hasan al-Bana, one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pro-Shariah Islamist organization in Egypt. Anyway, Irfan Yusuf -- another possibly moderate Muslim like Ramadan -- gives his own opinion on huddud punishments:
Before pro-Ikhwan writers attack Dr. Ramadan over his [moratorium] proposal, they should provide one example of a Muslim country where the rule of law is supreme, where judges are qualified to understand and justly enforce hudud and where police and other law enforcement agencies are relatively corruption-free. Sharia may be (and I believe is) a divinely-inspired legal system. But in the hands of the wrong people, it's (sic) criminal punishments can become part of the devil's handiwork.

The late Syed Maududi, a chief proponent of the introduction of sharia into Pakistani law, was also strongly opposed to the introduction of hudud until the moral, social and educational conditions were right. No point chopping hands for theft when the entire economy is based on a reverse Robin Hood system -- stealing from the poor majority to give to the rich minority.

And what a nightmare it would be if the proponents of sharia turn out to be the ones behind the creation of a system in which sharia lost all credibility in the eyes of the people it was meant to guide and save. Imagine an international Muslim community fillied with millions of Amina Lawals.

Caliph Umar had the right idea. He suspended the punishment for theft during times of severe poverty arising from a famine. When people are forced to steal just to survive, amputating their limbs hardly seems just.
If you've read my blog entry on Buruma's interview with Ramadan, you'll already have seen the following remarks by Ramadan:
"Personally," he said, "I'm against capital punishment, not only in Muslim countries, but also in the U.S. But when you want to be heard in Muslim countries, when you are addressing religious issues, you can't just say it has to stop. I think it has to stop. But you have to discuss it within the religious context. There are texts involved. I am not just talking to Muslims in Europe, but addressing the implementation of huddud everywhere, in Indonesia, Pakistan and the Middle East. And I'm speaking from the inside to Muslims.
About these words, I asked:
What does he mean by "personally" being against capital punishment? Does he mean that in his subjective feelings, he is horrified by capital punishment, but that in a proper Islamic society, capital punishment, e.g., by stoning, would nonetheless have to be objectively instituted because the authoritative texts teach this?
I strongly suspect that Ramadan's views are similar to the 'moderate' position advocated by Irfan Yusuf, namely, that huddud punishments should be suspended until "the moral, social and educational conditions" of an Islamic society are right.

I could support such a position if the requirements for the necessary "moral, social and educational conditions" were raised so high that they could never be met, but I can imagine a lot of pious Muslims asking what could possibly have been on Allah's mind in revealing laws demanding such punishments as amputation for theft if the conditions necessary for applying the punitive measures could never be met.

Incidentally, Tariq Ramadan is not the only moderate Muslim in his illustrious family. According to a Memri report by A. Dankowitz and Y. Feldner, "Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana: Social and Religious Moderation vs. Political Extremism," the Muslim thinker Gamal al-Bana -- brother to the late Hasan al-Bana (grandfather of Ramadan and founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, as noted above) -- advocates a reinterpretation of Islam for our modern era:
Sheikh Gamal Al-Bana seeks to adapt the Islamic lifestyle to the modern era. He says that the practice of ijtihad -- the use of independent judgment in matters of religious law -- should be brought back. Freedom of thought is inherent in Islam, he says, and therefore a Muslim must interpret the Koran and the hadith (traditions of the Prophet Muhammad) personally and intellectually, without reliance on ancient or modern Koran commentators and clerics. In accordance with this approach, he believes, for example, that Islam does not contradict democracy; the Islamic punishment of death for Muslims who leave the fold of Islam [murtadd] should not be implemented; and customs such as the veil, female circumcision, and the male monopoly on leading prayers have no basis whatsoever in Islam. Sheikh Al-Bana also maintains that additions can be made to shari'a law, and that elements can also be removed from it, based on the principle of justice, which is the guiding principle in the Koran.
On the other hand, Memri goes on to report that this moderate also believes some rather disturbing things:
To mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11, Sheikh Al-Bana published an article praising the attacks, which he called "extremely courageous." The article, which enraged Muslim liberals, stated that such attacks, and such acts of "martyrdom" as Palestinian suicide bombings, will in the future be the lot of the U.S. and Europe, and will be carried out by residents of Europe and the U.S., as long as "barbaric capitalism and the enslavement of the peoples" continues. In the article, Sheikh Al-Bana presented the attacks as "dreadful and splendid" and "a new way of settling old accounts."
Let us call such 'moderate' Muslims as Gamal Al-Bana "extremely moderate" and hope that Tariq Ramadan does not hold to his Great-Uncle Al-Bana's sort of moderation. Instead, Ramadan should stuggle inwardly in the greater jihad of restraining his immoderate impulses toward "insulting ... public agent[s]."

I promise to do the same.



At 1:04 PM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

Many thanks for the shout-out and the high praise, though I fear I'm no longer near-native in my proficiency. Twelve or so years ago, perhaps.

Great post, by the way; educational as always.

Ah, before I forget: my take on "outrage" is that it's probably a minor charge. I don't know the French penal system, but I doubt Ramadan will see any jail time. I'm betting on a fine.


At 2:27 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, you deserve high praise for your French skills.

As for my post, it turned out longer than I had planned, and it was just as educational for me as I scanned the web to fill in missing details.

Thanks again.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:19 PM, Blogger Hathor said...

Seems to me that this is a variation of DWB.

At 3:59 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

It might be, but if he was trying to take a short cut through a restricted area, then ... maybe not.

Still, a lot of questions remain in my mind. Why did he insult the policewoman? Did her 'attitude' set him off? Or is he a male chauvinist who can't endure a woman with authority over him? Or does he consider her a dhimmi who shouldn't be ordering a Muslim, especially a Muslim man? Or was he is a rush to catch his plane, harried by stress, and simply overreacting to a delay?

We'll just have to wait for more information.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:28 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Michael B., you're right, and that's part of what makes Tariq Ramadan so hard for me to pin down.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 2:06 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

In the U.S., CAIR's Hooper wants to play the same role, but he lacks Ramadan's charisma, charm, intelligence, and education.

Jeffery Hodges

. . .

At 10:02 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anti-Qutb Dave, thanks for the alert. I don't know enough about Islam to contribute much, but I'll be happy to take a look at your blog.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:59 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Did you see this update? Its a link from Terror Finance Blog to a Swiss news article.
Since I can't read French, does it clarify what happened?

At 5:34 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, thanks for the alert. Your link didn't work, but I was able to find the article anyway, and it does clarify some things.

Ramadan's 'insults' were certainly not courteous, but I feel a bit of sympathy for him in this case.

Perhaps I'll blog on it tomorrow.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:09 PM, Blogger Irf said...

Wow. Insignificant me? Compared to Tariq Ramadan? I'm flattered.

Though I must say I still cannot understand why anyone here is so stunned by Dr Ramadan. Let's face it. The guy grew up in Switzerland. That means his views are very ... er ... Swiss.

Now believe it or not, there are Swiss Muslims. Just as there are Australian Muslims. Hence, my own views would perhaps be regarded as very Australian.

I'm sure historians would (or should) understand that civilisations affect and are affected by each other. Further, people's views on religion, politics, law etc are influenced by the environment they grow up in.

But I guess if you start with the presumption that Muslims are necessarily hostile to all things European, you probably find people like Ramadan hard to understand.

For those suffering from such intellectual conditions, my only advice is a phrase I borrow from pharmaceutical advertisements: "If pain persists, see your doctor."


PS: For the record, I was not justifying the implementation of hudud laws in Western (or indeed most nominally Muslim) countries. Rather, my article was arguing why the implementation of hudud without proper social conditions will result in gross violations of human rights. Given that such social conditions are almost impossible to achieve in the present day, effectively I am arguing against the frequent Islamist fixation for implementing hudud. I hope that isn't too difficult or sophisticated for some here to understand.

At 7:47 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Mr. Irfan Yusuf, thanks for visiting.

I have no trouble understanding that moderate Muslims, such as you, must tread a fine line between acknowledging Shariah as divinely sanctioned by Allah and arguing that Shariah should not be applied to society today because applying it cannot be accomplished without offending human rights.

Indeed, I recognize the difficulty and empathize with your dilemma.

The problem for many of us non-Muslims is that we find a lot of double-talk among spokespersons for Islam. Because of this, I find myself ever more driven to apply a hermeneutic of suspicion to statements that sound moderate. I realize that this makes me come across as a fellow who's hard to please. I'm sorry about that, for I'm actually an easygoing bloke.

Again, thanks for visiting. I am flattered that anyone of prominence would bother to drop in.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:28 PM, Blogger Irf said...

I find the term 'moderate Muslim' patronising and insulting. It presumes that Muslims are, by definition, extreme. As if it was Muslims who killed 6 million jews in WWII. As if it was Muslims who dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As if it was Muslims who voted for Christian fundamentalist George W Bush the second time round.

I think many Jewish observers of European and American Christian fundamentalism are right i.e. that Christian anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry is merely another manifestation of a deep-seated hatred toward Jews.

In other words, the reasons being used to hate and malign Muslims are the same as those used to malign Jews for 2,000 years up until Christians woke up and realised the Holocaust wasn't such a good idea.

The Christian fundamentalist fixation with sharia is based on a fundamental inability of Christians to accept that there are religions with sacred laws.

Protestant Christianity has no sacred law. This explains why it is a theological mess.

Some Christians say Islam needs a reformation. If by that you mean we turn into 21st century Protestantism, I say thanks but no thanks.

I think it is disgraceful that more Christians do not condemn the violations committed each day by Christians in Iraq and other parts of the world. I also find it extremely troubling that many Christians only condemn nominally Christian Western victims of terrorism.

Bin Ladin and persons of similar ilk have been killing Muslims well before 9/11. But allegedly moderate Christians never bothered to condemn terrorism then Instead, they were sponsoring and bankrolling this pseudo-jihad in the name of fighting communism.

Will the truly moderate Christians please step forward? Your silence is deafening!

At 7:44 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Well, your vehemence is certainly an unexpected reaction to my moderate reply.

I don't don't agree with you that the expression "moderate Muslim" is insulting. It simply describes a category, as does "radical Muslim."

That said, I'm sorry to have offended you so deeply that you felt that you had to respond with such anger.

Other than these words to you, I suppose that I don't have much to say that you'd find agreeable, so perhaps we'd best leave our conversation at that.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:21 AM, Blogger Irf said...

Vehemence? I prefer to call it a frank expression of views. Still, I guess the written word is tone-deaf.

So if I sounded vehement, I apologise.

To speak about a radical or moderate Muslim is as meaningless as speaking about a radical or moderate Christian. It also doesn't account for the enormous variety of understandings of Islamic texts.

Anyway, I hope this clarifies things. Alternatively, we can always agree to disagree.

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

Thanks for the comment and explanation.

On the use of "moderate," I suppose that we will have to agree to disagree.

On other issues, we might find a lot of agreement.

Jeffery Hodges

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