Friday, February 17, 2006

Brother Tariq… A Man of Many Faces

By Adel Guindy *

Tariq Ramadan, the same man who was denied residence status in France and had his US visa revoked, has suddenly become the subject of singular British reverence. Becoming a visiting lecturer at Oxford University’s St. Anthony college was surprising enough, but not as surprising as when, at the end of August 2005, the British Interior Minister invited him to join a task force of thirteen Muslim figures (religious leaders, politicians and academics). The objective of that task force is to identify possible means to dissuade young British Muslims from turning to extremism. Amazingly, one discovers that (according to ‘The Guardian’ in its edition of August 31), Tariq Ramadan has for some time been giving lectures to senior British police officers.

Hardly a few days after the Minister’s decision, Ramadan commented to the French magazine ‘Le Point’ about the British government’s decision to deny Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi entry to the U.K. to deliver a series of lectures in London: “If (al-Qaradawi) is denied entry, many of us (members of the task force) would be questioning the merit of pursuing a dialogue with the British government” (!!)

Prior to that, the Catholic University of Notre-Dame in the United States had invited Ramadan to join the faculty as a guest lecturer for the fall semester of 2004. However, the American administration, after some hesitation, revoked his visa in July of the same year ─ the reason stated being “endorsement of terrorist activities.”

In November 2003, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French Interior Minister, engaged Ramadan in a widely-watched live televised debate. When he was asked to comment on an article written by his brother (Hany Ramadan) that justifies stoning women as a punishment for adultery, Ramadan was only content to say that he “would ‘personally’ like to call for a temporary moratorium on the punishment.” Naturally, this comment was reason for the French minister to vehemently remind him that we live in the 21st century.

Who exactly is this controversial man, a Swiss high school teacher of Egyptian origin, who happens to be one of the most popular Islamic predicators in Europe? Is he a reformer or a fundamentalist? Does he foster open dialogue and the integration of Muslim minorities into the Western societies, or further confrontation and alienation? Does he stand with, or against, terrorism?

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