Deborah Sontag has followed up on the New York Times recent coverage of Tariq Ramadan’s exclusion from the U.S. on unsubstantiated grounds that he may have ties to Islamic terrorists. In today’s edition, she wrote Mystery of the Islamic Scholar Who Was Barred by the U.S.. Since the government announced its visa revocation over a month ago, it has never provided any proof of Ramadan’s ‘dangerous’ activities and never even explained its decision. Ramadan and Notre Dame, where he was to teach, have learned that “the government received some information that caused it to “prudentially revoke” the visa pending an investigation, which has yet to occur.” What the hell is that supposed to mean? “We thought it prudent to revoke the visa because of some unspecified information from some unspecified source? Just great!
Tairq Ramadan, Muslim scholar denied U.S. visa (credit: Graham Morrison/NYT)
Gee, isn’t it neat how we Americans are able to denounce nations like Russia or Saudi Arabia or China for not honoring the “rule of law.” But what about the rule of law here in our own country? Isn’t a professor who wishes to teach here about religion, freedom and civil liberties, but is barred from the country, entitled to at least some minimal explanation of what he’s done wrong? The Bush Administration doesn’t seem to think so.
What specifically does Ramadan teach that is so dangerous?
Mr. Ramadan tries to define a blended identity for Muslims in the West, arguing that one can be both fully Muslim and fully Western. His message to European Muslims is: reject your feelings of victimization, take part more fully in your countries of residence and demand your rights.
Scott Appleby, director of the Kroc Center, where Ramadan was to have teached explains why the scholar’s perspective is so compelling:
“He has developed his own philosophy, his own synthesis of the West and Islam,” Dr. Appleby continued, “drawing from Nietzsche on the one hand and Islamic philosophers on the other. He has critiques of capitalism and globalization, integrated into Islamic ideas. At the same time, he is challenging Islam to become more universalist, to embrace democracy, to help shape democracy. “
Sontag further quotes his negative view of an Islam that separates itself from the surrounding culture:
Some Western Muslims identify themselves as a people apart, he writes in his latest book, stewing in an “unhealthy victim mentality” and an “us against them” mind-set. Instead, they should liberate themselves by developing a “rich, positive and participatory presence in the West,” which would include sending their children to public schools, getting involved in community politics and taking part in interfaith dialogues.
So what precisely do other scholars and government/intelligence officials see as so dangerous about the man’s ideas? Well, Ramadan opposes the French ban on Muslim women wearing head covering. When “Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French interior minister, challenged Mr. Ramadan to prove he was a moderate by telling Muslim women to “take off their veils.” Mr. Ramadan refused.” Mind you, he doesn’t advocate the idea that Muslim women MUST wear a covering. He merely believes that they should be allowed to do so if they wish. That sounds mighty radical to me. But the idea that this man should have to prove his “moderate” Muslim beliefs by bowing to the will of the J. Edgar Hoover of France is repugnant. Ramadan has nothing to prove to Nicolas Sarkozy about being a good Muslim. And I think it’s shameful that the government’s enforcer should try to put Ramadan in that position. Sontag also writes:
Sarkozy also challenged him to call for the abolition of the stoning of adulterous women, which is mandated by a strict reading of Islamic law. Mr. Ramadan called instead for a moratorium on stoning.
Let me make clear that I believe that this Muslim belief is repugnant. I, along with Sarkozy, wish that Ramadan would’ve made a less equivocal statement on the subject. But you have to keep in mind that there are repugnant views to be found in many, if not most of the world’s religions (including my own, Judaism). But I’m not sure that the best way of persuading one’s co-religionists of the error of their ways is by bowing to the demands of the country’s interior minister. As Ramadan himself says: “I won’t change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister.”
The only faintly positive news in the article was that he recently heard from his immigrations attorney that the U.S. government will schedule an appointment for him to reapply for a new visa. “A fair and thorough review was promised.” Let’s hope so. You’ll have to permit me some skepticism about this promise.
I have written previous posts on this subject which further explore Ramadan’s views and the unfounded contentions of his detractors: