[Mb-civic] NYTimes.com Article: Too Scary for the Classroom?

michael at intrafi.com michael at intrafi.com
Wed Sep 1 10:03:56 PDT 2004

The article below from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by michael at intrafi.com.

/--------- E-mail Sponsored by Fox Searchlight ------------\


 From David O. Russell, writer and director of THREE KINGS
 and FLIRTING WITH DISASTER comes an existential comedy
 starring Dustin Hoffman, Isabelle Hupert, Jude Law, Jason
 Schwartzman, Lily Tomlin, Mark Wahlberg and Naomi Watts.
 Watch the trailer now at:



Too Scary for the Classroom?

September 1, 2004


Geneva — Right now, I am supposed to be in South
Bend, Ind., beginning my term as a professor of Islamic
studies at the University of Notre Dame. After all, my
petition for a work/residence visa in the United States was
granted in May, after meticulous clearance procedures. But
nine days before I was to move, I received an urgent
message from the American Embassy: my visa had been
revoked. If I wished to reapply, I was told, I was welcome
to do so; but no reasons for the revocation were given.
Classes have now begun at Notre Dame, while my wife and
children and I wait here in a barren apartment. 

The State Department's reasoning remains a mystery. For
some time I have been considered a controversial figure in
France; but this was well known by the American government
when I received the visa in the spring. I have been accused
of engaging in "double talk" - that is, of delivering a
gentle message in French and English, and a radical,
violent one in Arabic. 

My detractors have tried to demonstrate that I have links
with extremists, that I am an anti-Semite and that I
despise women. Repeatedly I have denied these assertions,
and asked my critics to show evidence from my writings and
public comments. Their failure to do so has had little
effect: I am repeatedly confronted with magazine articles
and Web postings repeating these accusations as facts and
fabricating new ones. 

And now the web of lies has spread across the Atlantic
Ocean. The most damaging accusations were in an article in
Vanity Fair claiming that I had written the preface to a
volume of essays that endorsed the stoning of women caught
in adultery. Actually, the book condemned the practice as

I admit that my intellectual project is inherently
controversial. My goal is to foster communities within the
Islamic world that are seeking a path between their often
bitter experience with some American and European policies
on the one hand, and the unacceptable violence of Islamic
extremists on the other. I understand, share and publicly
discuss many of the Muslim criticisms of "Western"
governments, including the deleterious worldwide effects of
unregulated American consumerism. 

I find current American policies toward the Middle East
misguided and counterproductive, a position I believe I
share with millions of Americans and Europeans. Yet I have
also criticized many so-called Islamic governments,
including that of Saudi Arabia, for their human rights
violations and offenses against human dignity, personal
freedom and pluralism. 

My more specific stances have also raised hackles in
France. For example, I strongly oppose France's new law
banning female students from wearing head scarves, although
on general human rights grounds rather than because I am a
Muslim. (I condemn the kidnapping of two French journalists
in Iraq and think the French government should not submit
to the blackmail of the kidnappers, who say they will kill
the captives unless the ban is overturned.) 

I was also accused of anti-Semitism after I criticized some
leading French intellectuals - including Bernard-Henri Lévy
and Alain Finkielkraut - for abandoning France's noble
traditions of universalism and personal freedom because of
their anxiety over Muslim immigration and their support for

The fact is, in the more than 20 books, 700 articles and
170 audio tapes I have produced, one will find no double
talk, but a consistent set of themes, and an insistence
that my fellow Muslims unequivocally condemn radical views
and acts of extremism. 

Just days after 9/11, I gave an interview calling on
Muslims to condemn the attacks and to acknowledge that the
terrorists betrayed the Islamic message. I have denounced
anti-Semitism, criticizing Muslims who do not differentiate
between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a political
issue and the unacceptable rejection of individual Jews
because of their religion and heritage. I have called for a
spiritual reformation that will lead to an Islamic
feminism. I reject every kind of mistreatment of women,
including domestic violence, forced marriage and female

My opponents also accuse me of being the grandson of Hassan
al-Banna, the founder of the radical Muslim Brotherhood
movement in Egypt. I plead guilty to this charge. My
response is: am I to be judged by the words and deeds of an

Those critics obsessed with my genealogy ought to examine
my intellectual pedigree, which includes advanced study of
Descartes, Kant and Nietzsche, among others. They should
examine the time I have spent working in poverty-stricken
areas with the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa and the Brazilian
human-rights leader Dom Helder Camara, as well as with
countless other Christians and Jews, agnostics and

For 20 years, I have dedicated myself to studying Islamic
scripture, Western and Eastern philosophies and societies,
and built an identity that is truly Western and truly
Muslim. I make no apologies for taking a critical look at
both Islam and the West; in doing so I am being true to my
faith and to the ethics of my Swiss citizenship. I believe
Muslims can remain faithful to their religion and be able,
from within pluralistic and democratic societies, to oppose
all injustices. 

I also feel it is vital that Muslims stop blaming others
and indulging in victimization. We are responsible for
reforming our societies. On the other hand, blindly
supporting American or European policies should not be the
only acceptable political stance for Muslims who seek to be
considered progressive and moderate. 

In the Arab and Islamic world, one hears a great deal of
legitimate criticism of American foreign policy. This is
not to be confused with a rejection of American values.
Rather, the misgivings are rooted in five specific
grievances: the feeling that the United States role in the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unbalanced; the
longstanding American support of authoritarian regimes in
Islamic states and indifference to genuine democratic
movements (particularly those that have a religious bent);
the belief that Washington's policies are driven by
short-term economic and geostrategic interests; the
willingness of some prominent Americans to tolerate
Islam-bashing at home; and the use of military force as the
primary means of establishing democracy. 

Instead of war, the Arab and Muslim worlds seek evidence of
a lasting and substantive commitment by the United States
to policies that would advance public education, equitable
trade and mutually profitable economic and cultural
partnerships. For this to occur, America first has to trust
Muslims, genuinely listen to their hopes and grievances,
and allow them to develop their own models of pluralism and

Simply sponsoring a few Arabic TV and radio channels will
not lead to real changes in Muslims' perceptions. Instead,
America's only chance of making peace with the Islamic
world depends on consistency between words and actions, and
the development of cross-cultural trust over time. 

I believe Western Muslims can make a critical difference in
the Muslim majority world. To do this, we must become full,
independent Western citizens, working with others to
address social, economic and political problems. However,
we can succeed only if Westerners do not cast doubt on our
loyalty every time we criticize Western governments. Not
only do our independent voices enrich Western societies,
they are the only way for Western Muslims to be credible in
Arab and Islamic countries so that we can help bring about
freedom and democracy. That is the message I advocate. I do
not understand how it can be judged as a threat to America.

Tariq Ramadan is the author, most recently, of "Western
Muslims and the Future of Islam." 



Get Home Delivery of The New York Times Newspaper. Imagine
reading The New York Times any time & anywhere you like!
Leisurely catch up on events & expand your horizons. Enjoy
now for 50% off Home Delivery! Click here:


For information on advertising in e-mail newsletters 
or other creative advertising opportunities with The 
New York Times on the Web, please contact
onlinesales at nytimes.com or visit our online media 
kit at http://www.nytimes.com/adinfo

For general information about NYTimes.com, write to 
help at nytimes.com.  

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

More information about the Mb-civic mailing list