This article belongs to With a Grain of Piquant Salt column.
Tariq Ramadan is a well known person in European circles. He is somebody, who is controversial to say the least.
On one hand, he hobnobs with the great and good in the government circles, talking about how to get the European Muslim minority integrated, while on the other hand, he is busy dialoguing with the great and good of the global Muslim theological and religious leaders about how to modernise and reform Islam. He is also persona non grata in many countries such as USA, where he has been accused to support terrorism.
This is all very confusing and rather sad, as his interesting ideas are now buried under a mass of inconsistencies, irrelevance and incoherence. He compounded the error by his recent essay on the British Government's attempts to manage the murderous ideology of British Muslims who bite the hand which was outstretched to them. Very disappointing and not something that one would have expected to hear from a learned chap like him. I have explored Tariq Ramadan's work before and found him very inconsistent and contradictory, not to mention confused or confusing (http://piquancy.blogspot.com/2006/06/poor-tariq-ramadan.html).
By itself, that is not a problem at all. But the concerns compound when somebody like him becomes part of the solution trying to address the issues relating to British Muslims and the propensity of a minority to harbour rather violent thoughts and an even tinier minority to actually go about blowing up British citizens and waging war in Kashmir, Chechnya, Yemen, Palestine, etc. You see, British Prime Minister Tony Blair invited Tariq Ramadan to give him and the British Government guidance on this knotty issue of fundamental Islamist ideology. And as we will see, if this is the chap that we are relying on to tell those Jihadis that what they are doing is wrong, then we are in an even greater trouble than before. We need people to be very clear in their thinking and not muddled. Why do I think that his thinking is muddled? Let's see!
Tariq Ramadan wrote the essay in the Guardian here: (http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2094484,00.html). My major issues with him are the following.
1. Integration within a liberal democratic state such as the UK does mean that you try to follow the democratic framework. You are at liberty to vote for somebody else if the incumbent doesn't follow the policies that you propose. You are at liberty not to vote at all, but you are definitely not at liberty to blow up other citizens if you dislike the government's policies. That's basic integration and fellowship with your society and its citizens, Mr. Ramadan, and for you not to understand this basic principle is curious.
2. The fact that Muslims as a whole need to join in proving to this tiny violent minority within them that terrorism is bad is not correct. The fact that a quarter of the British Muslim populace thinks so is more accurate (as shown in a recent survey). That is not a far right wing proposition, but it is for ALL citizens to worry about. You see, when bombs go off, they don't just target the far right but also portly jedi's like me. When a quarter of a very large minority professes these sentiments, there WILL be sweeping statements. You cannot be point/individual specific when dealing with hundreds of thousands of people. This is a broad issue, Mr. Ramadan, not just of a few hotheads and murderers.
3. While complaining about the British government doing broad generalisations, Mr. Ramadan kicks off his very own broad generalisation. "Young citizens from cultural and religious "minorities" run up against the wall of institutionalised racism." And because of this statement, he says that the fault lies with British Society. What rot! Mr. Ramadan, there are many other minorities like Hindu's, Gujarati's, Nigerians, Sikhs, Chinese, Tamils, Sri Lankans, Fijians, Jews, Poles, etc., all who have happily managed to integrate. Your broad generalisations betray a worrying lack of analysis and a very narrow minded victim-hood perspective.
4. Equal Opportunity is NOT a myth as you put across, Mr. Ramadan. If that was indeed the case, you will not find British Indians and British Chinese getting better academic results and being economically better than British ‘Whites'. You really need to understand the minority structure within the UK before commenting on minority socio-demographics.
5. This brings me to the next point, namely the fact that the British Government denies a link between the British Foreign Policy and domestic terrorism. Of course they will deny a link. On the other hand, yes, there is a link between British Foreign Policy and British Muslim Terrorism. This is what the British Muslim Terrorists are claiming. And so are you. But nobody else does. You see, the mistake you make is to follow it up by saying that if the British Government changes its foreign policy, miraculously all British Muslim terrorists and wannabe terrorist will be nice henceforward. Unfortunately, the evidence is different. There have been so many cases of British Muslims going about blowing themselves up or generally being bad eggs in Yemen, Kashmir, Egypt, USA, Israel etc. Situations which occurred before 9/11, situations before the invasion of Iraq.
6. Furthermore, the core issue which you didn't consider is that nobody in Government or in a liberal democracy can ever imagine or agree to the fact that domestic government run foreign policy can ever be linked to domestic or international terrorism. If that is indeed the case, then we will have Tamils and Sri Lankans blowing each other or others up, because the UK is supporting the Sri Lankan government. Or the Falung Gong members here start blowing up a bus or two, because UK supports the Chinese government or has said nothing about its various oppressions.
Just what makes you think that blowing up your own neighbours is going to be justifiable by pointing to the foreign policy? Incidentally, Mr. Ramadan, you also asked why the mainstream British Muslim organisations have not been involved in this debate. Have you considered that perhaps most of the mainstream British Muslim organisations are making the same mistakes as pointed out above to you? This is perhaps the reason why they are not being part of the discourse and are increasingly being condemned to irrelevance? Why irrelevance? It is thanks to statements like the above. Statements like these take you out of step with British mainstream opinion.
More importantly, you also become irrelevant to the actual jihadis as you are seen to be pandering to government institutions and infidels. More importantly, the jihadis see the world in black and white, forgetting the sheer diversity of opinion within British Muslim society (see here for an example quoted by a British Muslim, http://zann.wordpress.com/2007/03/04/colonizing-islam-the-black-white-divide/) A fine example of trying to run with the hare and hunt with the hounds! More importantly, if you look around, Mr. Ramadan, you will see that British academics, architects, journalists and lawyers are all rooting for the Palestinians, sometimes very stupidly against the very impartiality laws of their profession. (http://www.adl.org/boycott/boycott_ads.asp) So for you to claim that British Muslims are blowing up British civilians because British society and governments are not protesting enough to Israel is spectacularly ignorant.
You might have heard of a gentleman called as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, besides many things he said about the United Kingdom, he also said something to the effect that the Indians were lucky to have been ruled by the British, without their liberal strain of thought, India would have never become independent. I will let you guess whose opinion has more weight when I hear that British society is illiberal and has to change. All this to be taken with a grain of piquant salt!