A Tale of Two Ramadans

, Bethany Stotts, Leave a comment

This month academics Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib, previously banned from the country, returned to visit U.S. soil after the U.S. government waived the original justifications for their exclusion. They had been cast by ivory tower academics, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), among others, as victims of “ideological exclusion” under the Bush Administration.

“…I know why I was banned from this country. [It] has nothing to do with my ‘terrorist views’ or my view about violence,” argued Ramadan at an April 8 Cooper Union College forum on “Secularism, Islam and Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West.” (The ACLU and AAUP cosponsored the event along with the PEN American Center and Slate.) Ramadan continued,

“I was invited by the State Department five months before being banned from this country [in 2004] and I said it, I have, I am condemning violent extremists and I have nothing to do with this, but [I’m] not going to keep quiet when I think that the American policy is wrong, when going to Iraq was wrong and was illegal…”

Oxford University Professor Ramadan is the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna. “According to al-Banna, ‘It is the nature of Islam to dominate, not to be dominated, to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet,’” states Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT) 2008 report “Report on the Roots of Violent Islamist Extremism and Efforts to Counter It: The Muslim Brotherhood.” Ramadan’s father, Said Ramadan, was also active in the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and was out of the country when “…the Egyptian government under Nasser suppressed the Brotherhood and threw its leaders and a great many other people in jail…” and eventually went to Geneva, “where he founded his Islamic Center and settled his family,” wrote Paul Berman, author of the forthcoming The Flight of the Intellectuals, in his 2007 article “Who’s Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?” for The New Republic.

“At the University of Geneva, Ramadan wrote his thesis on his grandfather’s ideas—and his committee judged the work to be a partisan apologia, unworthy of commendation,” Berman wrote. “Ramadan protested,” Berman continues. “A Swiss Socialist rose to his defense, and a second committee was convened, a rare occurrence. Even then, the thesis was accepted without honors.”

As previously reported, Ramadan’s visa was originally revoked in 2004, and then he was denied reentrance because of donations he gave to two Palestinian-aiding charities operating through France and his home country of Switzerland: the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (CBSP) and the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP). The U.S. Treasury said the CBSP and ASP were funneling money to Hamas, which “grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood,” according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

According to the 2008 IPT report, “Whatever moderating stance the platform takes, in August 2004, the Brotherhood issued a public appeal of support for those fighting coalition forces in Iraq,47 and the following month, spiritual guide Yusuf al-Qaradawi issued a fatwa deeming it a religious duty for Muslims to fight America in Iraq”

The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) special dispatch cited, issued September 3, 2004, states that “During the fighting in Najaf, the Muslim Brotherhood movement issued a public appeal for support of the forces fighting the coalition in Iraq” (formatting in original).

“The appeal to support the fighting against U.S. forces was signed by 93 Muslim clerics from countries throughout the world, and was published by the London pro-Saddam daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi on August 23, 2004,” it later adds (formatting in original).

Prof. Ramadan, who was on his way to start teaching at the University of Notre Dame, had his visa revoked that same August, according to United Press International on August 24, 2004. A spokesman for the University said that the position which was offered to Prof. Ramadan has since been filled and that they would not offer him another faculty position.

“The spiritual father of revolutionary Islam, according to Ramadan and others, was another Egyptian Muslim Brother, Sayyid Qutb, who advocated a holy war against the idolatrous West,” wrote Ian Burma in his New York Times article “Tariq Ramadan Has an Identity Issue.” “Ramadan pointed out that ‘Qutb actually joined the Muslim Brotherhood after my grandfather was killed. They didn’t even know each other.’”

Burma continues, “This may or may not be an accurate representation of Hassan al-Banna, but it tells us a lot about the way Ramadan presents himself.”

According to the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), Hassan Al-banna writes in “the pamphlet Jihad” that

“Jihad is an obligation from Allah on every Muslim and cannot be ignored nor evaded. Allah has ascribed great importance to jihad and has made the reward of the martyrs and the fighters in His way a splendid one. Only those who have acted similarly and who have modeled themselves upon the martyrs in their performance of jihad can join them in this reward.”

The next two lines state, “Furthermore, Allah has specifically honoured the Mujahideen with certain exceptional qualities, both spiritual and practical, to benefit them in this world and the next. Their pure blood is a symbol of victory in this world and the mark of success and felicity in the world to come,” according to a translation of the same pamphlet provided on the by Young Muslims Canada (YMC) website (emphases added).

“And so, yes—a third time, yes—Qutb and Tariq Ramadan’s grandfather never met, if only because of al-Banna’s assassination,” asserted Berman in 2007. “But Ramadan’s father, Said Ramadan, the editor of Al-Muslimun, not only knew Qutb; he was, at the crucial moment, Qutb’s most important supporter in the world of the Egyptian intellectuals.”

The American-born Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who has been connected to both the Fort Hood Massacre and the failed Christmas Day bombing, said in a recent audio tape that

“…I for one, was born in the U.S. I lived in the U.S. for twenty-one years. America was my home. I was a preacher of Islam involved in nonviolent Islamic activism. However, with the American invasion of Iraq and continued U.S. aggression against Muslims I could not reconcile between living in the U.S. and being a Muslim and I eventually came the conclusion that Jihad against America is binding upon myself just as it is binding on every other able Muslim…”

In an April 9 interview with Democracy Now!, the hosts played a tape of this section of al-Awlaki’s tape and asked Prof. Ramadan his opinion on the U.S. government’s decision to place the cleric on the CIA’s assassination list, as well as what his opinion of al-Awlaki’s message. In response, Prof. Ramadan first characterized the U.S. government’s actions as “unacceptable” and a betrayal of American values. “It’s unacceptable to listen to democracy and a government saying, ‘oh, then kill him,’” he said. “He’s an American citizen and we can kill him because of what he is saying. I think no, we cannot.”

Speaking of al-Awlaki, he said that his second point was “…we have something here which is quite interesting. He was in the states and in the beginning he had the very open, you know, this speech and understanding that we have to be American and then after all this, there is something which is missing here, and the missing link is this one: there is a lack of sense of belonging” (emphasis added).

But, he argues, this “us versus them” mentality is because of American policies. “If we are not able in this country to be American citizen[s], Muslim and non-Muslims, and to be critical and not to see our loyalty being questioned because we are critical, how could we get this sense of belonging?” he asked. He continues,

“So, if, for example, me, I’m banned from this country. I’ve been banned from this country because I speak my mind, I’m—I get the message. In fact, I’m not one of you. You are putting me out… So this is exactly what is happening with people like this. We push, we push, we push. We kill in Iraq. We kill in Afghanistan and when we need the critical discussion here by saying, no, we don’t agree, it should be open and we should not be suspected…” (emphasis added).

Prof. Ramadan also criticized Berman’s book The Flight of the Intellectuals, which appears to focus heavily on Ramadan. “I can respond by telling you something which is I was expecting from Paul Berman something which was at the level of his, you know, reputation,” he said on Democracy Now! “In fact, this book is a translation of what was written in French for the last twenty years. He’s not a writer, he’s a translator in this book.”

Ramadan disputed Berman’s 2007 assertion that he had argued for an Islamic biology saying that he “never used this and I’m completely against that…”

Other appearances that Prof. Ramadan has already or will make this April include an annual banquet for the Chicago branch of CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and appearances at Georgetown University, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy 11th Annual Conference (cosponsored by George Mason University), and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (via video link).

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.