A German news portal describing itself as fostering “dialog with the Islamic World” has reported that Tariq Ramadan, one of the leaders of the global Muslim Brotherhood and the grandson of Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna, attended a conference where he briefly engaged with Jürgen Habermas, one of the most famous German left-wing philosophers. According to the report:
23 June 2008 saw a memorable meeting of minds. Tariq Ramadan, one of the most controversial proponents of the European Muslims, shook hands with Jürgen Habermas, the German philosopher and sociologist in the tradition of critical theory. The two men did not, however, proceed to engage in argument or dialogue – there was no room for that on the agenda of the star-studded conference “Muslims and Jews in Christian Europe”. Ramadan held a twenty-minute speech and Habermas asked him a couple of questions afterwards. As Habermas pointed out, their roles were not exactly balanced. Nevertheless, the result was a very impressive event. Tariq Ramadan opened his talk by quoting surveys showing that 80 percent of European immigrants from Islamic countries are not practicing Muslims. Most religious issues, so often presented as integration problems, are thus irrelevant for them. Yet they are still eyed with mistrust and exposed to a climate of suspicion.
When asked about the recent controversy over Shairiah courts in the U.K., Ramadan was also reported to have made some caustic comments about the rulings of Muslim Shairah scholars:
“The archbishop didn’t call for a parallel jurisdiction. He isn’t in favour of the idea that British Muslims should be judged according to Muslim law and the others according to the common law. Instead it’s a question of whether specific courts should be set up for specific groups within the common law. This is already in place in Britain for certain issues. For example for Jewish communities. All the archbishop wrote was that that should also be possible for Muslims. I think he’s right about that. It is legal, that’s my answer. But I think it’s superfluous. We don’t need our own courts. Aside from that, I can imagine I wouldn’t generally agree with the legal judgements passed by such Muslim scholars.”
Ramadan was also asked about by Dutch writer Ian Buruma about why he had come out in favour of a moratorium on stonings in Muslim countries rather than condemning them outright and was reported to have become “clearly agitated, raising his voice”:
“I am against stonings. And I’m also against the death penalty and torture and corporal punishment. I’ve said that clearly on many occasions. But no state in the world is going to abolish them just because I, or we, call for them to do so. So I at least called for a moratorium so that no one else comes to any harm. The Mufti of Egypt announced that that was a sensible idea, and other important Islamic figures have joined him. I consider stoning, the death penalty and corporal punishment un-Islamic. There are a number of prominent Muslims who see that the same way. If you look at the debate on the death penalty in the USA, you’ll notice that moratoria have always played an important role there.”
Ramadan himself is an extremely important figure within the Global Muslim Brotherhood network, perhaps best described as an independent power base with sufficient stature as the son of Said Ramadan, and the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood to challenge positions taken by important Brotherhood leaders. His statements and writings have been extensively analyzed and he has been accused by critics of promoting anti-Semitism and fundamentalism, albeit by subtle means. On the other hand, his supporters promote him as as example of an Islamic reformer who is in the forefront of developing a “Euro Islam.”