Friday, June 15, 2007

Paul Berman on Tariq Ramadan: Part 9

A Voice of Moderation?
(Image from BBC News)

Let's return from our detour to the main road, Paul Berman's investigation of Tariq Ramadan, where we'll discover that Yusuf al-Qaradawi has hitched a ride.

Berman begins a new section -- numbered 7 -- of his long essay by praising Ramadan's apparently sincere disavowal of violence:
It is true and it is wonderful that Ramadan has, on quite a few occasions, condemned any sort of terrorist violence. Better still, these condemnations seem consistent with Ramadan's larger program for the Muslim community in Europe, which ought to require many things, but nothing even remotely resembling a violent campaign. Anyway, the entire shape of Ramadan's career so far -- the energy he has expended on projecting his own ideas and personality onto the public stage in Western Europe and beyond, instead of conserving his time and strength for strictly Muslim audiences -- would make no sense at all, if the ultimate purpose was to mold his followers into some sort of force, capable of opening a violent breach in society. ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," page 41)
If Ramadan is an Islamist intellectual, then he is not of the sort that we find in Abu Musab al-Suri or Abu Bakr Naji, both of whom are theoreticians of terror.

But given Ramadan's genealogy, both familial and intellectual, perhaps we'd do well to inquire a bit more closely into what Ramadan thinks about violence in the cause of Islam. Here, again, Berman leads the way:
Still, sometimes it is useful to inquire a little more closely into what anyone means by violence or terrorism. Bomb attacks on random crowds in the mass-transit systems of Madrid or London obviously count as terrorist acts. But what about bomb attacks on random bus-riders in Israel? ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," page 42)
Berman notes that in the introduction to Islam, the West, and the Challenges of Modernity, Tariq Ramadan writes of his father Said Ramadan's rejection of violence, a principle consistent with Hassan al-Banna's rejection of violence. However, as Tariq Ramadan himself writes:
The only exception was Palestine. On this, the message of al-Banna was clear. Armed resistance was incumbent so that the plans of the terrorists of Irgun and of all Zionist colonizers would be faced up to. He had learnt from Hassan al-Banna, as he said it one day: "to put one's forehead on the ground." The real meaning of prayer being giving strength, in humility, to the meaning of an entire life. ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," page 42)
On this point, Berman draws an apt observation:
So there is an exception. It is violence against Zionists -- against the plans of all Zionists and not just the Zionist extreme right wing, the Irgun (who were in fact terrorists, just as al-Banna says). But the peculiar note in that passage emanates from a single word, "incumbent" -- a word suggesting that anti-Zionist violence is obligatory. A duty, not just a tactic. Moreover, a duty linked with prayer, forehead on the ground. A duty that gives meaning to an entire life. A religious duty. ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," pages 42-43)
As Berman explains, this sort of "ideological dogma that has led so many Palestinians to look on violence as a principle" (page 43) has prevented them from seeing violence as a mere tactic and thereby rendered them incapable of compromise.

On this point, our hitchhiking passenger Yusuf al-Qaradawi has an opinion. Berman explains:
There is something else in that word "incumbent," together with the forehead bowed in prayer. Tactics speak to a given circumstance, but religious duties address the universe. The notion of a religiously mandated violence, an obligatory violence, therefore opens a door, and it is hard to see what could prevent ever wilder yet equally pious obligations from ultimately pushing their way through the open space. Qutb's contribution to the notion of religious violence consisted largely of determining that Muslim "hypocrites," quite as much as Zionists or any other outright enemy of Islam, merited a violent resistance. This notion opened the door to mass killings of Muslims, in the name of Islam. And there is the example of Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, by all accounts one of the great scholars of Sunni Islam, a man with a long and illustrious history in the Muslim Brotherhood who went on, after his emigration to Europe, to help found the European Council for Fatwa and Research -- all this, even apart from his other career, thanks to Al-Jazeera television, as the world's most visible expert on Islamic jurisprudence. It was Sheik al-Qaradawi who directed the funeral prayer at Said Ramadan's funeral in Cairo in 1995 -- as Tariq Ramadan proudly reports in The Roots of the Muslim Revival.

And yet Qaradawi is also the person who, in 2003, issued the most famous of the fatwas authorizing suicide terrorism by Palestinians. He issued the gruesome fatwa permitting women to commit suicide terrorism while, at the same time, giving women terrorists a dispensation from the normal obligation to conceal their hair under a hijab -- a bizarre touch on Qaradawi's part, underlining the ritualistic nature of these acts, and yet entirely in keeping with the sort of erudite matter that Qaradawi normally concerns himself with: say, whether women must keep to themselves when they are menstruating (a point that he rejects, on authority) or whether they may have intercourse with their husbands during that time (they may not, though other kinds of physical pleasure are permitted).

Among the religious authorities who stand behind the vogue for ritualized suicide terrorism in the Arab and Muslim world in the last few years, Qaradawi, drawing on his jurisprudential learning, does appear to be in the first rank -- which is not an argument for downplaying the historic role of Hassan al-Banna long ago. On the contrary, the elderly Qaradawi himself has invoked, in one of his sermons, the memory of al-Banna orating on the agreeable nature of death in the cause of God. As for Tariq Ramadan, he reveres Qaradawi above all other present-day Islamic scholars, and in one book after another he has left no room for doubt about his fealty. If anyone in the world offers a model of modern enlightened Islam, Ramadan plainly judges Qaradawi to be that person. Ramadan has contributed prefaces to two collections of Qaradawi's fatwas in their French editions, not to mention other books written by people with one or another sort of connection to the terrorist vogue -- these editions published by the Tawhid house in Lyon, which is Ramadan's publisher as well. ("The Islamist, the Journalist, and the Defense of Liberalism," pages 43-44)
This is the same Qaradawi who "favours female genital mutilation, wife-beating, the execution of homosexuals in Islamic states, the destruction of the Jewish people, the use of suicide bombs against innocent civilians and the blaming of rape victims who do not dress with sufficient modesty," as Peter Tatchell has noted in "An embrace that shames London" (New Statesman, January 24, 2005). But perhaps he has expressed these views in a soft-spoken, moderate, nonviolent manner.

One might also wish to ask Tariq Ramadan -- along with the far weightier Qaradawi -- why Israel constitutes an exception. Let me hazard a guess. The exception derives from the fact that Israel occupies Muslim land, territory that once was part of the domain of Islam, ruled by shariah, solidly Islamic.

But that is also true of Spain, as the Spanish have of late been reminded by Islamist manifestos that no longer mention the Spanish troops in Iraq, for these have been withdrawn, but which recall the lost glory of Islamic Spain and vow to fight the Spanish 'colonizers' by all means necessary, including terror.

Exceptions have such a dreadful way of becoming the norm.

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At 8:52 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Have these post been warnings? I guess the real question I should ask, are the US and Europe governments doing the analysis you are doing?

As I see it, I think it would be great if someone from government would speak about Islam with knowledge and challenge Islamic rhetoric. What we get in the US is cliches generated by think tanks for that 15 second sound bite.

Between fear mongering and "give peace a chance" we are going to have look realistically what it would take to fight terrorist and take a moral stand. Those decisions are going to be as hard as it was to use the second A-bomb. There is also a need to stop using every opportunity to prove our way of life and government will solve other's problem.

I don't think many understand Israel's motives, I am not saying I do, but I have changed my mind over the years. I once though that Israel was over reacting way too much. I didn't notice the influence of such Islamic leaders you speak of.

At 8:59 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

I really didn't have more to say, but accidentally publish with out reading it.
I think that my comment has to do with your post as I understand it.
I like reading your blog, although I am not inclined toward research.

At 9:10 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, I think that we need to figure out which Muslim leaders are worth speaking to and for what reasons.

Europeans should be speaking to moderate leaders from among the European Muslims. Or if they're going to speak to any immoderate leaders, they ought not to label them moderate.

Have my posts been warnings? I guess that they can sound like that, but primarily, I'm simply working my way through this stuff because I want to understand it.

As for the government and its analytical work on these topics, I don't know much about that, of course, but I've gotten some of my insights from the Combating Terrorism Center (West Point), which I've linked to in my blogroll:

That's where I downloaded some pdf texts concerning Abu Musab al-Suri and Abu Bakr Naji.

But the US government is a big, big place and plenty of room for contradictory policies.

The solution is for more citizens to become well-informed -- not fearful or filled with conspiracy theories but informed.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Curious to know who your readership is, Jeffery. I'm guessing that like many other blogs, you get a number of hits from people who read but rarely if ever comment.

At 9:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't think that I have a large readership. I get a lot of hits, and the number is gradually rising, but most seem to come from Google searches and post zero seconds time on my blog.

I get a few people from the military and the government, plus a goodly number from universities. There are some who read me for a long time and only post sometime to argue about a point of disagreement. I always thank them for their visit, and they then inform me that they've been reading my blog for a long time.

If people are like me, then they might read my blog for a few weeks or even months and then just stop. I understand that. I get tired of some blogs. As to why, that hard to say.

Some great blogs, I avoid because I simply don't have time to read them. I have to draw lines, or I'd never get anything else done.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good one, Tariq is bad news. These people who beat their wives are barbaric savages with a most inferior culture...

absurd thought -
God of the Universe says
don't beat your wives too hard

just enough so they behave
but first kick them out of bed

At 2:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

USpace, thanks for visiting. I see that you're reworking the Qur'an into English free verse.

Or something like that.

Jeffery Hodges

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