Tariq Ramadan

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Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss citizen and academic, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford, who is an advocate of Islamic reform. In Time Magazine's article naming him one of the 100 top innovators for the 21st century, his goal was quoted as separating "...Islamic principles from their cultures of origin and anchor them in the cultural reality of Western Europe."[1] He is president of the think tank European Muslim Network.

Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, of whom he said,
Thoughts are not genetically inherited traits. I admire my grandfather for his anti-colonial fight against the British. He was very involved in education for girls and women. His five daughters -- my aunts and my mother -- all attended university. And the organization he founded was very progressive for its time. However, I am highly critical of the Brotherhood, with its affected, conspiratorial behavior, its hierarchical structures and its oversimplified slogans.[2]

Denial of U.S. visa

The George W. Bush Administration revoked his visa, when he was invited to a tenured position as the Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Their rationale was that he contributed funds to a Swiss-based charity, the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP), between 1998 and 2002. The U.S. did not designate ASP a supporting organization of the terrorist group Hamas until 2003. Daniel Pipes wrote in support of the revocation. [3]

On the French crisis of 2005

Of the Muslims that have difficulty integrating, while he criticized then French Minister of the Interior Nicholas Sarkozy for "...giving the police free rein in a climate characterized by lack of respect. He is fixated on the 2007 presidential election instead of developing a workable political structure for 2020," Ramadan also spoke of the problematic immigrants as

...traditionalists, adherents to a literal exegesis of the Koran. I have spent the last 15 years campaigning for a genuinely European Islam, one that requires evolution with respect to time and the environment, as well as a separation of dogmatism and rationality. Islam cannot place itself outside of history...

We need an Islamic feminism. Traditional Islam views the women merely as mother, wife, daughter or sister. She has obligations and rights in this capacity. But we must come to a point at which we treat the women as an independent individual with a right to self-determination, as someone who can run her own life without coercion... she is permitted to decide whether to wear the head scarf. [2]

Appeal of the U.S. exclusion

In 2006, the American Association of University Professors, American Academy of Religion, New York PEN and the American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. government over its blocking visas for academics under "ideological exclusion" provisions of the U.S. PATRIOT Act. [4]

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton personally authorized his entry to the U.S. "The decision brings to an end a dark period in American politics that saw security considerations invoked to block critical debate through a policy of exclusion and baseless allegation," Ramadan responded. [5]

Press TV

He hosts a weekly news program on Iranian state-controlled Press TV.[6] In August 2009, he was dismissed from the faculty of Erasmus University and from a job as advisor for integration for the city of Rotterdam, both in the Netherlands. They issued a joint statement stating that Ramadan's hosting a weekly talk show "Islam and Life" on the Iranian government-funded TV channel, Press TV is "irreconcilable" with the two jobs. [7]

Approach to reform

He argues that it is not incompatible to consider the Qur'an the revealed word of God, yet contextualize the reading. " What must be assessed and questioned is often the outlook, psychological set-up and frame of reference of interpreting scholars, and the debate over the status of the text falls far short of resolving the issue of historical and contextualised interpretation." The Sunnah and Hadiths are exactly that: contextualization; he observes it would be impossible to know how to conduct Salāt or obligatory prayer without the hadiths.[8]

According to a review, in Foreign Affairs, of his 2007 book, In the Footsteps of the Prophet, Ramadan is politician as well as academic. The book does three things:[9]

  • Replies to the humanist newspaper editors -- and those "ex-Muslims" whom Timothy Garton Ash has called "fundamentalists of the enlightenment" -- who malign Islam through unfair caricature
  • Directs a "theological housecleaning aimed at literalists from Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab to Ayman al-Zawahiri (al Qaeda's chief theologian)
  • Offers a "cautious demonstration to Muslims and non-Muslims alike that Islam is open to interpretation and can be tailored to specific circumstances.

Education

  • MA in Philosophy and French literature, University of Geneva.
  • PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of Geneva.
  • Individual training in classic Islamic scholarship, Al-Azhar University

References