Friday, August 20, 2010

Paul Berman on Tariq Ramadan's "Islamic Expert"

Yusuf al-Qaradawi
(Image from Qaradawi Website)

During my trip to the Ozarks, I made time to read Paul Berman's recent book, The Flight of the Intellectuals, which I found very informative on a number of issues related to Islamism, such as the Nazi influence on Islamist antisemitic paranoia.

Also useful was Berman's discussion of Tariq Ramadan, a 'modern' European Muslim who got a lot of attention from a debate with Nicolas Sarkozy in 2003, when he declined to outright oppose stoning women for adultery but instead called for a moratorium on the practice so that it could be 'discussed'.

Discussed in what context? In "fatwa committees," apparently (Berman, Flight, page 222).

Who would be on these committees? Well, both secular and religious scholars, replies Ramadan.

Who would the Islamic scholars be? Prominent among them would be Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a well-known 'moderate' Islamist. He would be consulted as an expert, e.g., on women's rights. Berman offers the ironic suggestion that Qaradawi's qualification for this position stems from his role as "the scholar who issued the fatwa permitting Palestinian women to dispense with hijabs while committing [acts of] suicide [terrorism] -- an advance, presumably, for 'Islamic feminism'" (Berman, Flight, page 238). Qaradawi is also to be consulted on ethics and economics.

Whatever Qaradawi's expertise on the economy might be, he is hardly the man to contribute anything to ethical reflection, but Ramadan remains blind to this:
Tariq Ramadan remains a man who cannot see that a monstrous figure like Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a monstrous figure. "Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one," said the mufti of martyrdom operations in January 2009. (Berman, Flight, 239)
Lest there be any confusion, the mufti (i.e., Qaradawi) was calling on Allah to ensure that the martydom operations (i.e., suicide bombings) succeed in killing every last one of their Israeli targets.

Aside from the dubious suggestion that Qaradawi be called on to contribute to ethical discussions, why should anyone ever want to enhance Qaradawi's standing as a spokeman for Islam? Shouldn't we be turning to more liberal Muslim scholars?

If we can find any with heft in the Muslim community . . .

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