(credit: Janusz Kapusta/NYT)
I’ve been waiting to hear from Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim scholar denied entry by our Department of Homeland Security and State Department, in response to those who accuse him of supporting Islamic terrorism. Credit goes to the New York Times for being the media outlet that gave him a podium to answer his critics with Too Scary for the Classroom?
I’ve already posted here rock solid rebuttals to all of the specific charges levelled by one of Ramadan’s chief critics, Daniel Pipes, who appears to have played a major role in the campaign to revoke Ramadan’s visa. Ramadan’s defense here will hammer even more nails in the coffin of this smear effort.
Here are a few of the salient passages which should seal Ramadan’s position as an effective representative of moderate (yet not obsequious Islam):
In the Arab and Islamic world, one hears a great deal of legitimate criticism of American foreign policy. This is not to be confused with a rejection of American values. Rather, the misgivings are rooted in five specific grievances: the feeling that the United States role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unbalanced; the longstanding American support of authoritarian regimes in Islamic states and indifference to genuine democratic movements (particularly those that have a religious bent); the belief that Washington’s policies are driven by short-term economic and geostrategic interests; the willingness of some prominent Americans to tolerate Islam-bashing at home; and the use of military force as the primary means of establishing democracy.
Instead of war, the Arab and Muslim worlds seek evidence of a lasting and substantive commitment by the United States to policies that would advance public education, equitable trade and mutually profitable economic and cultural partnerships. For this to occur, America first has to trust Muslims, genuinely listen to their hopes and grievances, and allow them to develop their own models of pluralism and democracy.
America’s only chance of making peace with the Islamic world depends on consistency between words and actions, and the development of cross-cultural trust over time.
I believe Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the Muslim majority world. To do this, we must become full, independent Western citizens, working with others to address social, economic and political problems. However, we can succeed only if Westerners do not cast doubt on our loyalty every time we criticize Western governments. Not only do our independent voices enrich Western societies, they are the only way for Western Muslims to be credible in Arab and Islamic countries so that we can help bring about freedom and democracy. That is the message I advocate. I do not understand how it can be judged as a threat to America.
Instead of viewing Ramadan as a threat, our government should be listening to him, encouraging him to speak out here in the U.S., learning from him about what might be the most effective ways to reach out to Arabs througout the world and persuade them we are not their enemies. Finally, and most importantly, President Bush and his foreign policy apparatus should review carefully the five grievances Ramadan lists above in order to address them and reform U.S. policy in the Middle East. For, as Ramadan says, the only real way to move hearts and minds in the Arab world will be through action and deeds rather than through words and noble sentiments.
UPDATE: I’m pleased to report that there has been a surge of support from U.S. academic organizations and even a smattering of support from Jewish groups in the Midwest for Ramadan.
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