3 thoughts on “Tariq Ramadan: His Views on Jews, Judaism and Anti-Semitism – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم
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  1. In following the debate surrounding Tariq Ramadam, we would like to make two points:

    The first was well expressed by Tariq himself in his reply to Bernard Henri Levy of November 5. There is an enormous intellectual dishonesty in the reponses by Levy, Glucksman, and others to his sharp criticisms of their position on Israel. Theirs are ad hominem attacks rather than a reply to his accusation. To accuse someone of communitarianism for wanting to protect the perceived interest of one’s own group at the expense of justice, requires a thoughtful reply regarding the dichotomy between communitarianism and universalism. Is protecting the interests of one’s community always a contradiction to justice? Do these intellectuals feel that they have done that or do they feel they have been misinterpreted or misrepresented? While there is a tradition of accusing Jews of only protecting their group interests, this was not what Tariq Ramadam actually said. He said that in the current situation, certain Jewish intellectuals betrayed a narrow focus on group interest by not protesting the policies and mentality of the curent Israeli government. Surely the rules of intellectual engagement, not to say just ordinary conversation, require facing an objection squarely by analysing the terms involved. If there is an error in the analysis, the rules of intellectual engagement require that they be pointed out. If there is justice in the objection, the rules require that one acknowledge it. A polemical tone against one’s intellectual opponent does not make their statements untrue or irrational. But ad hominem attacks and distortions of texts automatically do both. They break the frail human bonds that allow us to find a common meeting place in the midst of conflict. We agree with tariq Ramadam that those rules of dicourses were broken.

    Secondly, as pertains to the substance of the controversy, we would like to say that sharp criticism of the State of Israel cannot, in and itself constitute anti-Semitism. All peoples criticize state policies at one point or another. Are all thoses activities illegitimate? We ourselves have criticisms of the State of Israel and feel such criticism needs to be made in public. It needs to be made public not because we feel ourselves on some abstract universalist plane, but because of our concern and loyalty to the Jewish people. If every time one voices such criticism the charge of anti-Semitism is hurled, then there is no room for discussion even among Jews. The phenomenon of anti-Semitism is real and needs to be opposed, but it cannot include everything that is ever said against Jewish collective behavior, at any given moment. Accusations need to be sorted out from each other. Otherwise, words fail to mean what they should mean and Jews arrogate to themselves a privilege which is illegitimate. They would be the only people who can never be criticized even by their own, let alone by others. There surely exists a better way to defend genuine Jewish interest than resorting to such a privilege.

    –by Anette Aronowits & Rabbi Samuel Miller [I have edited this text because it appears to have been translated–rather shakily–from French to English–RS]

  2. The idea that people should be able to speak their minds about Israel without being labelled an anti-Semite is one of the historical moment’s more absurd shibboleths. Everyone criticizes Israel freely all the time. What’s the problem? Is it that there’s a universal censor somewhere who won’t let people critcize Israel, or is that people want to be able to vent whatever vile, uninformed nonsense about Jews they like and have others agree with them? The raft of editorials in the world press freely criticizing Israel argues it’s the latter.

    What’s disturbing about the Ramadan affair is in his argument that support of Israel’s policies, and the US’, is de facto an emotional position. Is it so obvious to Ramadan and his defenders that Palestinians inhabit the moral position in this case and anyone who disagrees is either immoral or irrational? That is, one cannot possibly justify Sharon’s government or the Bush White House on rational grounds but has to resort to an extra-rational position to do so. In the case of the French intellectuals Ramadan named, they could only support Israel and/or the US because they’re Jews. I don’t know if that qualifies as anti-Semitism, but it’s an intellectually pathetic argument.

    Is this such an awful time in world history that we’ll embrace any Muslim “thinker” who thinks anti-Semitism is bad? Since when do you get credit for not hating Jews? Ramadan is not telling the truth about Islam, the Quran, etc. giving no license to anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is not merely an evil European idea that wound its way to the Arab world; it’s in the Quran. Does this mean Islam is anti-Semitic in its very nature? No, of course not: like a lot of ideologies, on any number of subjects, Islam has a mixed record. A serious intellectual would not sweep that record under the rug, but would at least admit what everyone who’s read the Quran and in early Islamic history already knows to be the case. Then he might address that problem and direct it to his fellow Muslims: “We have a problem with our book, it’s anti-Semitic in parts. We don’t reject Islam or our book, but we reject this idea.” That’s when I’ll give Ramadan credit, when he stops wasting his time and the patience of Europeans and Americans Islam by explaining how Islam is a religion of peace and starts to change the historically ingrained ideas of Muslims.

    That Ramadan defends his grandfather’s harrassment of Jews in Egypt on political grounds is scary: the Jews his grandfather chased and killed were Egyptians who had spent their lives, as their ancestors before them had, in Egypt. What did the conflict in Mandatory Palestine have to do with it, except give men like al-Banna reason to persecute Egyptian Jews? Eventually Ramadan’s going to have to reconcile the inconsistency: either his grandfather was dead wrong, or the European Muslims now persecuting Jews have political grounds to do so because of what’s happening in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Let’s hope he comes down for the former.

  3. I don’t quite understand your apparent level of animus toward Ramadan. I don’t expect that Muslim intellectuals must adhere to all of my values or viewpoints in order to find them worthy of engaging in discussion.

    I’m no expert about the Koran, but I understand that portions of the Koran acknowledge Judaism as a respected forerunner to Islam. Ramadan says as much. I’m sure there may be anti-Semitic statements or unpalatable portions in the book. But that’s true of many of the world’s great religious tomes. Many of them contradict themselves internally on important issues. I agree with your expressed desire that Ramadan would acknowledge the faulty passages and move on from there. But one thing you do not acknowledge is that as the word of God, a religous Muslim believes that every word of the book is truth. So it is difficult (if you are a believer) to flat out reject a portion of the book which contains wrong or bad ideas. It is the same for religious Jews regarding our Tanach. I’m not religious & so feel no such compunction about rejecting what I don’t believe in in these books. But I think this is harder for someone who is Orthodox.

    I think you either misread or are being uncharitable regarding Ramadan’s views of his grandfather. He didn’t defend or justify his actions. He merely said that his actions need to be viewed in the context of his time. I think that’s as close as we’re going to get to hearing him say he rejects his grandfather’s positions. I think that this rejection is implicit in his statement. I understand that you’d like to hear him say this explicitly. I’d like to hear it said explicitly as well.

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