Brother Tariq

Tariq Ramadan says a lot of words in this piece but they don’t add up to much. He has a point about the denial of his visa, but he also says some dubious things and some unmeaning things.

There are some subjects, so it seems, about which an American citizen or permanent resident must now maintain silence. A “moderate” Muslim, in particular, should never discuss the Middle East, the suffering of the Palestinians, or the arrogance of longstanding Israeli policy. To force people to accept such limitations is not only counterproductive, but, more important, it impoverishes the open debate American society so desperately needs. In an atmosphere of perpetual fear, tongues remain tied, while those who do encourage a thoroughgoing debate are simply expelled.

Well, no. We’re not forced to accept such limitations, to put it mildly. ‘Moderate’ Muslims here are not forbidden to discuss those things, and I strongly doubt that Ramadan’s having discussed those things is the only reason his visa was denied (which is not to say that it was denied for good or sufficient reasons). Open debate is not impossible here. It is impoverished in some ways, but more by the narrowness and laziness of the major media and by market pressures than by the difficulty of open discussion of the Middle East. Tongues are not tied, and as for people who encourage thoroughgoing debate being expelled – that’s just absurd.

We must recognize that American society, like all Western societies, has changed. The diversity of its population has produced a diversity of political views with which we must come to terms, particularly with regard to the Middle East and to our relations with the countries that have an Islamic majority. Millions of Western citizens of the Muslim faith have brought a new outlook toward the world and toward Western policy.

Must we? Why must we? And in what sense? What does he mean we must ‘come to terms’ with a diversity of political views particularly with regard to our relations with the countries that have an Islamic majority? He must mean something, but he’s noticeably unspecific about it, as he is throughout the piece. If ‘come to terms with’ means something like obey or incorporate into law, I don’t necessarily want to do that. There is, for instance, a diversity of views out there about whether women should be treated equally in various contexts, or not. I don’t want a diversity of, say, laws on the subject; I want one law, that says yes women should be treated equally. The hell with diversity. I want uniformity. I want an egalitarian secular monoculture, I don’t want any fun colourful pockets of religious inequality for women and other girlish weaklings. It’s noticeable that among all the words, Ramadan never mentions women and equality or rights in the same breath – he barely mentions them at all.

For Muslims, the Prophet’s life demonstrates first and foremost the importance of love; how crucial it is that Muslims do not reduce their fellow Muslim citizens to the narrow definition of “problems” or “threats.”

Really? Really? Does that apply to women? Is it true that ‘Muslims’ (implying, I think, all Muslims) think it’s crucial not to reduce women to ‘problems’ or ‘threats’? Not to mention the unpleasant ‘their fellow Muslim citizens’ exclusivity, as if it’s fine to reduce everyone else to problems or threats.

The importance of love – for the ingroup, and perhaps only the male and straight among them. How impressive.

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