Tariq Ramadan | Interview outtakes
When Tariq Ramadan recently spoke with me from London in advance of his appearance at the Harold Washington Library on September 12, I asked the Oxford professor of Islamic studies about some of the criticisms he’s faced. Here’s an excerpt from that part of our conversation that doesn’t appear in the recently published interview with Ramadan.
One of your more ardent critics, the French feminist Caroline Fourest, uses the term “Trojan horse” to describe your rhetoric. She says you’re sneaking Islamism into the West; she wrote, “Like his father, Tariq has understood that the future of Islamism is to be played out in the West.” She really doesn’t like you.
No, she doesn’t. But you have to read the book written by Pascal Boniface, who is calling her a serial liar. In the book she wrote about me there are 214 factual mistakes. I don’t have time to waste with people who are not intellectually honest. She is not a feminist only. She is a propagandist. And the only thing that she doesn’t like is the way that I’m supportive of the Palestinians, and I’m not going to give up on that.
The last question I have about the criticisms of you—
But I want you also in your article not only to mention this, because Noam Chomsky was supporting me, but you have also people like Charles Taylor, the Canadian philosopher, responding to Caroline Fourest and telling her Tariq Ramadan has no double-talk and he has not ambiguous talk. He is clear between two ambiguous universes, the West and the Muslim-majority countries.… Caroline Fourest was in Paris; she said, “Tariq Ramadan calls for the destruction of Israel.” And my publisher was in the room. He stood up and said, “Tariq Ramadan never said that.” And she responded, “He never said it, but he thinks about it!” How can you deal with someone like that?
One major criticism of you revolves around your grandfather, Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, and his legacy and his alleged anti-Semitism. George Packer wrote for The New Yorker a couple of years ago that “Ramadan is building a worthy bridge on a rotten foundation.” Do you feel such critics demand that you pay for the sins of your father, or grandfather in this case?
Yes, very much the case. Many times I have been criticized because I am the grandson, and because I’m the grandson I have to think with my blood. I’m not thinking with my blood. I’m thinking, still I hope, with my mind. And what I have been doing with my grandfather is to put things into context. I have been told, “You are from the Muslim Brotherhood and you are supporting the Muslim Brotherhood,” and now people cannot say this because they see how much I am critical of the Muslim Brotherhood strategy over the last few years. So once again: “Oh, yes, he might be critical now, but he’s the grandson of—” And so what? So what?
What specifically have you been critical of regarding the Muslim Brotherhood?
All their strategy, the way they deal with the state, that they deal with women, the way they deal with the economy. And even with my grandfather, I put him into his historical context: There are things that I like that he was against, the British colonization, and things that I don’t agree with because this was something which was said in the ’40s and maybe was the wrong strategy even within the organization itself.