Saturday, March 01, 2008

COMMENT: Rebecca Weisser on Tariq Ramadan ...

I am sitting in Brisbane at the home of an old buddy and trying to focus on writing a paper I have to deliver at a conference at Griffith University. I expected the conference to be a fairly low-key affair – a bunch of university academics and writers talking about the future of a set of religious traditions whose adherents make up less than 2% of the broader Australian community.

Among the academics invited is a Swiss-born author who has studied philosophy and speaks fluent French. This chap has urged Muslim governments across the world to abandon any steps toward implementing hudood, the maximum capital punishments that apply to a handful of criminal offences under classical sharia. In fact, he has called for a complete moratorium of such punishments in Muslim communities across the world.

You’d think this is exactly the kind of Muslim intellectual we need more of. But Rebecca Weisser’s profile of Dr Ramadan presents him as being, at best, extremely controversial.

Rebecca Weisser has just been appointed interim Opinion Editor of The Australian. Her predecessor, Tom Switzer, had some interesting views on Islam, some of which I have discussed here.

Weisser complains of Ramadan’s apparently “contradictory” views on Israel. She writes ...

On his website, in English, he says he supports Israel's right to exist. At the same time, he says he favours a single Israel and Palestine. Presumably he does not support, in the long term, a two-state solution.
Yes, and? In what sense are his views on Israel relevant to his book or to the conference he is attending? I haven’t read his entire book, but I understand it explores how certain themes arising from the life of the Prophet Muhammad could be understand and applied today. As for the conference, I understand it is more about Australia than any other country.

I understand Ramadan has expressed the view that Muslim-majority states should and must recognise Israel’s right to exist. He has also condemned Iranian president Ahmedinejad’s calls to wipe Israel off the map. But that doesn’t seem enough for Weisser.

And why should Weisser have an issue with Ramadan allegedly not supporting a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians? Is she aware of the number of Israelis (or even Australian Jewish organisational leaders) who are opposed to the establishment of any Palestinian state? Is she aware of the work of far-Right American polemicists like Daniel Pipes (who has visited Australia on numerous occasions as a guest of major Jewish organisations) who also oppose the two-state solution?

Then Weisser complains that Ramadan was the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, the founder of al-Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (literally “the Muslim Brotherhood”). Those who have studied the Ikhwan carefully know it has gone through a number of stages in its development and that has it has split into various factions.

Among its most extreme factions is one which calls for the establishment of an Islamic state using violent means. I guess this faction would be the Muslim equivalent of the followers of Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of an extreme Zionist faction with close links to Italian fascist leaders during the Second World War.

Jabotinsky’s movement, of course, has been through developments of its own. On the one hand, its early years were characterised by terrorist attacks on British and Arab targets. Deir Yassin and the King David Hotel come to mind. Yet the movement also produced an Israeli Prime Minister that made peace with Egypt.

If we keep harping on about people’s past, it’s because we are too afraid of the present and certainly aren’t interested in making peace in the future.

In Ramadan’s case, the past being harped on about is beyond his control. Yes, he was Hasan al-Banna’s grandson. What can he do about it? Jump into a time machine and insist his mother married someone else?

Weisser should judge Ramadan on his own merits. She might start by reading his books or listening to some of the lectures he gave when he was last in Sydney.

© Irfan Yusuf 2008

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Anonymous said...

Dear Irfan

Below are some responses to your critique of Ms Weissner’s article.

Irfan :

And why should Weissner have an issue with Ramadan allegedly not supporting a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians? I


Ms Weissner does not have a problem with his support of a binational state. What she does have a problem with is that Mr Ramadam is advocating different scenarios for different audiences which casts doubts on his sincerity.

In Ramadan’s case, the past being harped on about is beyond his control. Yes, he was Hasan al-Banna’s grandson. What can he do about it? Jump into a time machine and insist his mother married someone else?
Ms Weissner is not concerned that Mr Ramadan is the grandson of al-Banna. It is his use of this relationship that she finds problematic. While perhaps out of filial duty he cannot be expected to offer harsh criticism of his grandfather, he doesn’t need to present him in such a positive light when an examination of his beliefs and actions show that he was hardly an admirable character.

Irfan Yusuf said...

Anon, what do you know about Hasan al-Banna's character? What biographical material have you read? Which authors have you relied upon? Which phase of his life and which part of his teachings do you object to?

Do you know what al-Banna taught about seerah? About fiqh? Tafsir? Aqida? Do you know whether his views on these issues remained consistent throughout his life?

Why do you choose to remain anonymous? Why not come out of the closet? Everyone knows who I am. Why are you so afraid? And please don't give me some nonsense about how you think some deranged kid with severe psychiatric issues will do to you what another deranged kid in the Netherlands did to the Holocaust-denier and chronic anti-Semite Theo van Gogh ...

Balqis said...

These days am browsing news and blogs cause I like to follow his conferences and lectures.
I found tons of articles before his coming [I didn't know the Australian, now I do, you never end to learn in life], presenting him in a negative way, and very few reports about what he actually said in the events where he partecipated .
Is a strange world