Tariq Ramadan asked to meet us at a Café in Genfer Airport; he arrived fourty minutes late, the same as last time. The talk that progressed was not exactly a model for a successful inter-cultural dialogue. Rather, it was a failure. We failed completely and the meeting ended with Ramadan getting up and stalking off, deeply offended, after fifteen minutes. Most of our question remained unasked.
Born: you’ve been quoted as saying that the West is decadent.
TR: No, I never said that. Never. Read my books, e.g. “Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity”. I say exactly the opposite. Recently I was with a Sheikh, an Islamic Scholar, in an Egyptian Mosque. He said to the Believers present that Westerners behave like dogs. After the lecture, I opined that such talk is intolerable, because I live in Switzerland and there they don’t act like dogs. That is a false perception about the West. Also, philosophically speaking, I am against talk of decadence. You’re a citizen of the West, yet you also criticise the excesses, the rootlessness of the West. I am like you.
Born: Mister Ramadan, what is it you don’t like about the West?
TR: The excesses.
Born: Which excesses?
TR: To take an example, this is my current perception, the obsession with consumerism. The truth is that we lose our ethics when we go too far down that road. The obsession with our rights is somewhat… I maintain that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights must be respected. But at the same time I say: My fellow citizens you must be careful, you mustn’t forget about duties and responsibilities when you claim your rights – the responsibility to the other citizens, to the World, even to the animals. This ethical point of view is very important for me. I say: In the West we are facing challenges and different forms of excess and we must use our reason in many different ways. I do this. The French publicist Alain Grèche once said: “I am more critical of the West than Tariq Ramadan, yet noone asks me to state my allegiance.” So this is really the core of your question: To prove that I am a citizen of the West, I must be blind and silent.
Born: No, no… (is interrupted)
TR: I am critical, yes, but I have never said the West is lost.
Born: Will it fill you with satisfaction when the West is Islamist a hundred years from now?
TR: Never. I have never dreamed of an Islamist Europe.
Born: Why not? Every religion wants to… (is interrupted)
TR: No. When God wills it, we will become a united community. Christians, Jews – even Atheists and Agnostics.
(Note: this sounds like dictatorship to me: all people are not born to be identic, BUT equal, that is: we are different people but just the same in fromt of the law)
Born: You don’t want Islam to be the dominant religion of the World?
TR: (quietly) I don’t want that, no. Do you know what I tell the Moslems? It is better to be the minority than the majority. Because each is tempted to lie in wait, waiting to oppress the other. My struggle is not about power, it is about values. Don’t say that I am doing Double Talk, that I am talking with a forked tongue. Read my books.
Sorg: How are you an Islamist? You talk about universal human rights. That is a Western concept, an idea from the European Enlightenment.
TR: (Quietly, sharply) Totally untrue. Who told you this?
Sorg: So all the books say. Enlightenment is a European post-religious project.
TR: Untrue. Al-Farabi talked of universal rights. Do you know of Al-Farabi?
TR: 14th century. You are displaying your ignorance. This is Double Talk (Editor: Al-Farabi was born in the 9th century)
Sorg: In many Moslem countries you would be killed if you talked of universal rights.
TR: I have not been killed in Moslem countries. Who told you this?
Sorg: So it says every day in the newspapers. In Saudi Arabia you can be executed for the mere possesion of a bible.
TR: I am as critical of Moslem countries as you have ever been. Where were you and your newspaper when the king of Saudi Arabia came to Switzerland? Nowhere. Do you know why? Money.
TR: Because he was bearing money – 46 Million Swiss Francs.
Born: Did you protest?
TR: I wrote an article. About how you don’t respect the values.
Sorg: Which values?
TR: The universal values of the Human Rights. Which are not your property. You have never studied Islamic Philosophy. What do you know of Al-Farabi, what do you know of Averroes? And you want to tell me that….
Sorg: I know of Averroes that he too would be killed in Islamic Countries. (Editor:Averroes, Moslem Philosopher, 12th century, died in exile, his writings were burned by the Islamic Nomenklatura of that time.)
TR: What is the meaning of this discussion? What is the point? I am not talking of the world of today. I am talking about universal values.
Sorg: It began in Europe with Descartes (is interrupted)
TR: You know nothing of Chinese Philosophy, nothing of Islamic Philsophy. This ignorance is making you arrogant.
Sorg: But we’re talking of current politics…
TR: (Loudly, offended) You are arrogant. You’re not talking about current politics. You’re talking about universal values.
Born: Let us talk about Freedom, about the Western values… (tries to pour oil on the troubled waters)
Sorg: (Spiteful) …Islam is in opposition to Humanism…
TR: (Forceful) Stop, stop, stop this discussion…
TR: … And understand Islam.. What is it? How many Moslems do you know?`What have you read about Islam? You’re an arrogant Man. A Moslem such as Al-Farabi is more tolerant than you are.
Sorg: How many centuries did he live?
TR: Why does that matter? I am more tolerant than you right now. I don’t say that Christianity is like this or like that…
Sorg: I wasn’t talking about Christianity. I was talking about the Enlightenment, which was European, critical of religions…
TR: (Sharply) So there is no Islamist Enlightenment, then? Name three Moslem philosophers, please…
Sorg: The three most well-known are… (is interrupted)
TR: (Sharper still)… please, name for me, apart from Averroes…
Borg: I want to ask you something…
TR: … name three for me. You’re an arrogant Man.
Sorg: Thank you. That is the fifth time you tell me that.
Born: No, please excuse…
TR: (Stands) I will do nothing, I won’t talk to this commoner. That’s final. This discussion is finished.
Born: No, no, no…
Sorg: (Loudly) You’re running. Is this your idea of dialogue? I said Islam and Humanism are opposites. Prove otherwise.
TR: (directed at Born, still standing, deeply offended) You brought this commoner here… You don’t listen to my answers… (Looking rattled, Ramadan puts Sorg’s calling card in Born’s breast pocket, very deeply offended and leaves the room grumbling.)…arrogant…unpolite…(loses himself in the crowd without looking back.)
Sorg: (Broken, addressed to himself) He is certainly not used to that.
Has he answered the question: Islam is opposite to Enlightment? NO. So what is the answer we have to listen to? But how this man has become a “truthful” expert on European Islam? He is even Blair’s “expert, on Islam, for God’s sake… But he is not different in this aspect to, for example, Abu Hamza, who “does not eat the prison’s food because it is not up to the usual standard” and does not like to dress as all the others inmates or non-Muslims to touch his food. But afterwards, Demark is a racist country.
Well, if you read a post from Alexandra at All Things Beautiful about Oriana Fallaci, you’ll know. Read it, it’s truly good, here’s an excerpt:
In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote in 2004–and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe–called “The Force of Reason”. Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the “sons of Allah.” So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years’ imprisonment for her beliefs–which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.
(…)In Italy, the complaint came from Adel Smith, president of the Muslim Union of Italy, who was never charged with defaming Christianity after he referred to a crucifix as a “miniature cadaver” during his 2003 efforts to have depictions of Christ on the Cross removed from Italian schools (my own note: well, Islam is so bad treated in Europe, isn’t it?). He has amassed a reputation as something of a crank after demanding that Christians deny aspects of their faith that offended his Islamic sensibilities: he has called for the destruction of Giovanni da Modena’s fresco The Last Judgment in the 14th-century cathedral of San Petronio in Bologna, Italy, because that priceless expression of Medieval Christianity depicts the Muslim Prophet Muhammad in hell. And in the mother of all frivolous lawsuits, Smith in February 2004 brought suit against Pope John Paul II and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, for offending Islam by expressing in various writings their opinion, utterly unremarkable from two Christian leaders, that Christianity is unique and superior to other religions, including Islam.
His new suit against Fallaci set down for June 2006 in Bergamo, which Fallaci refuses to attend, is hardly less frivolous, but Smith was able to find a judge willing to play along. Judge Armando Grasso of the Italian city of Bergamo ruled in a preliminary hearing that Fallaci’s latest book, La Forza della Ragione (The Force of Reason), contained eighteen statements “unequivocally offensive to Islam and Muslims,” and that therefore she must be tried.
It is useful to go through Fallaci’s eighteen outrages, (as Robert Spencer did) as specified in Smith’s complaint, in order to see just how devious and devoid of substance Smith’s suit is. The trial will need to employ a battery of historians: several of Fallaci’s offending eighteen statements are simply assertions of historical fact.
As Italian Justice Minister Roberto Castelli said in disagreement to Judge Grasso “In Europe,” he declared, “we are seeing the birth of a movement that is looking to silence those who don’t follow a single mindset, within which it is forbidden to speak ill of Islam….In Fallaci’s book there is very strong criticism but not defamation.”