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Tariq Ramadan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Some Further Notes

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Well, just a couple of things.

First, here’s a link, up today on Arts and Letters Daily, to a review of the book  I was talking about yesterday


A few caveats:

First, the author here quotes in defense of Ramadan–or maybe I should say as a counter to critics of Ramadan–people (like Olivier Roy) who are known to be apologists for Islamism.  Some of those same people (again, includin Olivier Roy) are known to respond to criticisms of Islam with  highly biased, vitriolic and often slanderous attacks on the critics.

This article presents a number of those people without making note of who they are or what their work has been, as if they were simply objective “experts” in Islam or Islamic relations with the West. 

Second, this article mischaracterizes Berman’s discussion of Tariq Ramadan’s relationship with his father and grandfather–also Muslim intellectuals–as an attempt at “guilt by association.”

But Berman’s point is not that Ramadam is the son of his father and the grandson of his grandfather, but that he praises the work of both, and that work was…um.  Well, the grandfather is one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood, now called Hamas, not only a known terrorist organization but one that champions strict Islamic law, especially in matters pertaining to women.

I doubt if this author would have dismissed such praise if the father and grandfather had belonged to the Waffen SS, and it was that work that Ramadan was praising.

The issue isn’t Ramadan’s blood relations with these people, but his public evaluation of their ideas.  A Western writer who chose to praise the work of Nathan Forrest would be condemned out of hand, even if his critics couldn’t provide “hard proof that he UNIFORMLY adheres to their theses…”

The emphasis above is mine, but you see what the problem is.  Berman claims that one of the problems is that Ramadan is held to a unique standard that would not be applied to other intellectuals writing on other topics–and this article then applies to Ramadan a unique standard that it would not apply to other intellectuals on other topics.

In fact, the apology for Ramadan’s adulatory stance towards al-Banna (the grandfather) goes on for paragraphs–poor Ramadan, he’s probably embarrassed by his grandfather, really, so it isn’t surprising if he sort of elides a lot of this and concentrates on the few small areas where al-Banna said things that sound good to Western ears. 

Like I said, can you imagine this sort of defense of an intellectual who was behaving in a similar fashion to a grandfather who was Nazi? 

Hell, al-Banna was in fact the next best thing to a  Nazi, since Muslim intellectuals in Egypt and the Middle East were largely pro-Nazi in WWII, and the nascent organization of what became the Muslim Brotherhood most certainly was.  That’s not surprising, since al-Banna was a virulent anti-Semite, and anti-Semite is the only word.  He believed Jews should be wiped off the face of the earth, and said so–decades before a state of Israel existed to use as a reason why.

About halfway down the article, the author hits a snag he can’t get past quite so easily–Ramadan’s praise for al-Qaradawi, a present-day regular on al Jazeera says Hitler did Allah’s work and calls for the extermination of the Jews, in total.

Then he compares Ramadan’s praise with that of the praise of literary critics for people like Ezra Pound and Louis Frederic Celine, who supported (or maybe supported) fascism in the war.

But the content of  Pound’s work, and Celine’s, is not itself fascist. If I didn’t know that Pound had supported Musolini while he was living in Italy at the end of the war–and, as I said, it’s actually a little iffy that he did–I couldn’t figure it out from the poems.  There are no calls for the extermination of the Jews in Pound’s literary work, and none in any of the novels of Celine I read.  (I haven’t read them all, so there may be other things going on.)

A literary critic who champions the work of Ezra Pound can do so with a clear conscience.  There’s a not a word in the poerty that promotes fascism, anti-Semitism, or any of the rest of it.

With al-Qaradawi, however, the work IS the call to “finish” the Jewish genocide, along with Holocaust denial and a whole raft of other things we wouldn’t usually put up with.

I remember ondering what kind of response this book was going to get.  It was originally a long article in The New Republic–something Romano, the critic here, doesn’t mention—but it was originally scheduled for publication almost a year and a half ago, then disappeared from sight, and has only now been released.

This article is from The Chronicle of Higher Education, and what it mostly does is prove Berman’s point.

Tariq Ramadan is a very useful figure on the intellectual left these days–a Muslim supposed to be “moderate” who can be “appreciated” and praised without getting anybody in the kind of trouble they might get into if they supported the real critics of Islamism.

Ack.  I’ve got Vladimir Nabakov on Russian literature, and the Kreutzer Sonato, one of the few pieces for the piano I actually like listening to.

Written by janeh

May 25th, 2010 at 6:09 am

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Tariq Ramadan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Some Further Notes'

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  1. Wonders will never cease. For once I’m ahead of Jane in my reading.

    I finished reading Berman’s book a couple of weeks ago, also somewhat bemused that the title did not really reflect the contents. I was heartened that at last someone from the liberal side of politics seemed to be prepared to speak out against Islamism.

    It’s quite amazing how even moderate leftists seem to fall over each other to criticise Ayaan Hirsi Ali. A recently retired Australian High Court judge wrote a review of her book “Infidel” not long after it was published and his otherwise favourable comments were negated by his conclusion that she was too strident in her criticism of militant Islamists. Not one word from him to support his judgement. He simply wanted to express his solidarity with the (allegedly) peace-loving and moderate majority – as all right-thinking liberals ought to do, doncha know.

    So, I was quite pleased to return home this evening to find Ayaan’s “Nomad” waiting for me on the front door-step. I am one of her greatest fans.


    26 May 10 at 5:56 am

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