British people must reach out to the Muslims’ – Academic Tariq Ramadan
One hero of young Muslims is Tariq Ramadan, the controversial Islamic thinker banned by America and briefly by France. Prof Ramadan is Scotland Yard’s favourite Muslim and has been invited to address a conference of young supporters in London on Sunday. Despite US suspicions of terror links, the Home Office believes he is a voice of moderation. The Swiss-born academic, who is of Egyptian descent, urges hardline Muslims to modernise and embrace the modern world.
But in an astonishing interview with The Sun’s Political Editor Trevor Kavanagh he accused Tony Blair and George Bush of fanning the flames by invading Iraq and failing to give Palestinians a homeland. And he insisted it was the job of the British public to “reach out” to Islamic communities if they are to avoid further catastrophes.
Prof Ramadan condemned the fanatics who turned four young Muslims into weapons of self destruction in London with suicide bombs on three Tube trains and a No30 bus. He told The Sun: “To kill innocent people by suicide bombing is to be condemned. We have to understand what is going on in Palestine and Iraq. In the context of injustice and people being killed, we can explain. To explain is not to justify. There is no justification. But if you want to solve the problem it is wrong to say, ‘We condemn’ and that’s it. That means we keep silent on the oppression people are facing. Our silence is promoting their violence. Resistance can be legitimate. There is nothing in Islam that says the ends justify the means.”
Trevor Kavanagh asked if he agreed with the view that, while not all Muslims are terrorists, almost all terrorists ARE Muslims.
Speaking at a hotel in Crete where he is attending a conference Prof Ramadan replied: “I agree with that sentiment.”
So what turned four apparently ordinary young men into killers?
“There is no simple answer. What happened in Iraq and what is happening in Palestine had an effect. The position of the British Government in promoting the war and helping the United States had a very bad impact, not just on the Muslims but millions of British people were against the war.”
What on earth has that got to do with four British-born lads?
“International issues are felt by the community as a direct attack. Under certain pressures, people can be pushed so hard that they are driven to the last resort.”
But this wasn’t a spontaneous act, like charging a machine-gun in the heat of battle. It was calculated and cold-blooded. Why has there been no expression of outrage by Muslims against the extremists who brainwashed gullible young men?
“It’s very difficult for me just to say, look, these people were Muslims, they were trained as Muslims and this is coming from Islam. You can hope to see Muslim outrage – what I prefer is Muslims tackling the issue, condemning what should be condemned. It is not time to react emotionally.”
Isn’t Tony Blair right when he says it is up to Muslims themselves to combat the rise of fundamentalism because nobody else can?
“He spoke about shared responsibility. I believe the Muslims have a great deal of responsibility and they have to face up to extremism. But the surrounding society and Government must also face up to its responsibilities. Muslim communities have been here for a long time but they have been invisible. Very recently, in Britain, in Australia, in America, in Europe, this presence has become more visible.”
Isn’t it a big ask for the British public to reach out when so many Muslims have made it clear they don’t want to integrate?
“Yes, we Muslims have a responsibility. But British society is no longer the same. You have new British citizens coming from different cultures and religions. You need to make more effort.
“We need to promote more knowledge. You need to reach out. Social integration must happen. Even though we have a minority of three or five or ten who are killing themselves, the great majority is showing that when you are socially integrated you are part of society. I would say this is a very critical moment. Don’t react emotionally, react with critical minds and try to understand. Muslims have to reach out. But so do the British people. Tony Blair also has to listen to the people when millions are saying No to this war.”
Prof Ramadan was critical of British Muslim leaders and called for an end to beatings, arranged marriages and honour killings.
He said: “I am calling for Islamic feminism. Domestic violence is not Islamic. Female circumcision is not Islamic. Polygamy is not a man’s right. Arranged marriages are not acceptable. We have to stop it in the name of Islam. We are calling for an end to corporal punishment, to stoning and the death penalty. These punishments are implemented against the poor and against women. It is not acceptable. It is anti-Islamic. But change has to come from inside, not from Westerners outside saying ‘We know what is right’.
“I am very critical of the Muslims. I tell them to get out of their intellectual ghetto and become committed in every field of society. The solution to poor local schools is not Muslim schools. That means isolating yourself. They are responsible for this distrust, for this bad perception of a closed community that does not integrate.”