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Shi'a Pundit

Devoted to the viewpoint of Islam of Muhammad SAW and Amir ul-Mumineen, Ali ibn Abi Talib SA, in the Shi'a Fatimi Ismaili Dawoodi Bohra tradition.

August 30, 2004

Tariq Ramadan: Us and Them .

My last post on Tariq Ramadan's denial was one of only a handful in the blogsphere, but I think it's an important barometer of how off-the-rails our policies are at present. I often rail against the "vs." in the phrase "Us vs. Them" when it comes to domestic politics. But the broader (and quintessentially pragmatic) principle, of seeking alliances based on commonalities rather than strife based on (often artifically exaggerated) differences, applies to much more than election-year unity. Here's an interview with Tariq Ramadan where he goes into some detail on how "Us vs. Them" has harmed muslim integration in the West, by creating a false identity wich ultimately does more harm than good (hat tip: CMatt) :

You wrote in "To Be a European Muslim" that Muslims need to get past the us vs. them worldview, the old concept of Dar al-Islam, the Islamic world, opposed to the non-Muslim world (the Dar al-Harb, the House of War), and propose the new concept of a House of Testimony, a Space of Witness, available to Muslims anywhere.

That is exactly what I was saying about the way we are reading the text. Some Muslims are saying, "We are more Muslim when we are against the West or the Western values" -- as if our parameter to assess our behavior is our distance from or opposition to the West. They are promoting this kind of binary vision of the world that comes from a very long time back in the Muslim psyche. We have to get rid of this kind of understanding and evaluate if an act or a situation is Islamic or not, on the scale of the Islamic ethics and values per se, not against any other civilization

Our values are not based on "otherness." Our values are universal. We have to come to the understanding that it's not "us against them," it's us on the scale of our own values. This defines the place I live in. That is to say, my role in this world is to understand that I am a witness to the Islamic message before mankind. We need an intellectual revolution within the Muslim world. We are Muslims according to our spirituality and these universal values, and not against the West, not against the Jews, not against the Christians, not against secular people. The way I'm trying to re-read our texts is based on the awareness that this message is universal: that is why, for instance, the definition of our Muslim identity could by no means be a closed one against the others. This definition will help, God willing, in the way we deal with others.

The concept of Dar al-Islam is a hindrance today within the Muslim world. Even when we speak of Dar al-'ahd the House of Treaty, which stipulates that Muslims living as a minority among unbelievers should live peacefully but without truly joining these societies , it means peaceful coexistence but it also promotes this kind of binary vision, "us and them." It does not allow us to feel that we are part of the Western societies, that we are sharing with others our values and belonging.

This is perfectly in tune with what I've argued earlier - that when muslims argue that something is "good for the Ummah" they are abusing religion in the name of politics. The correct approach is not to validate that mindset (as Laura does in a piece that explicitly "justifies" voting as halal), but rather to denounce it outrght. Tariq Ramadan has the courage to do so, but that courage, and it's essential place in how we as Americans formulate our own response to the Islamofascist meme, goes not only unrewarded but punished. That's tragedy.

UPDATE: Paul Donnelly, writing in the conservative National Review, also lauds Ramadan for his courage. The article dates from 2002, however. Funny that the conservative establishment was in some ways clearer-eyed about Islam just after 9-11 than it is today.

Also, see Scott Martens's blog, A Fistful of Euros, for a detailed post and vigorous discussion in comments.

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About Shi'a Pundit

Shi'a Pundit was launched in 2002 during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. The blog focuses on issues pertaining to Shi'a Islam in the west and in the Islamic world. The author is a member of the Dawoodi Bohra Muslim community. Bohras adhere to the Shi'a Fatimi tradition of Islam, headed by the 52nd Dai al-Mutlaq, Syedna Mohammed Burhanuddin (TUS).

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