RECOMMENDED READING: “Samuel Helfont Reviews Tariq Ramadan’s ‘Islam And The Arab Awakening'”


Scholar Samuel Helfont has written a review of Global Muslim Brotherhood leader Tariq Ramadan’s new book “Islam and the Arab Awakening” just published by Oxford University Press. The review begins:

OVER THE PAST decade, Tariq Ramadan has emerged as one of the most influential ‘anti-imperialist’ Islamic intellectuals in the West. At the heart of Ramadan’s critique is the idea that, while Western powers no longer directly govern their former colonies, ‘ideological imperialism’ continues. In this theory, feminism, liberal democracy, and especially secularism are all distinctly Western and often tied to Christianity. Therefore, these concepts are not universally good, and one should not expect other, non-Western societies to aspire to them. Arabs and Muslims, as Ramadan suggests, should instead rely on ‘their own history’ and ‘their values.’ The Arab Spring, however, has put Ramadan in a sticky spot. These protests were led, at least initially, by young liberals and leftists whose ideas Ramadan considers to be at best inauthentic, and at worst remnants of Western imperialism. Those brave young activists were decidedly secular. Some raised the banner of liberalism and even, dare we say it, feminism. What was a good post-colonial theorist to do? Does one stand with the revolution and undermine the view that these ideas are a form of ‘ideological imperialism’? Or does one reject the revolutionaries as pawns in a great Western conspiracy? Neither of these options appealed to Ramadan. The first undermines the analytical framework upon which his entire career rests, and the second puts him on the same side as the dictators he despises.  

Read the rest here.            

Tariq Ramadan is perhaps best described as an independent power center within the global Brotherhood 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.” Ramadan is currently professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Oxford’s Faculty of Theology and senior research fellow at St. Antony’s College (Oxford), Dohisha University (Kyoto, Japan) and at the Lokahi Foundation (London). Previous posts discussed his dismissal from his positions as an adviser on integration for the city of Rotterdam and from a Dutch University over his role as a talk show host on Iranian TV. A ban on Ramadan traveling to the US was lifted in January 2010 and several posts have discussed his recent visits to the US where he appeared at various US Muslim Brotherhood venues including giving the keynote at the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)-Chicago annual banquet in April 2010. Ramadan was also featured as a speaker at the 2012 annual convention of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an important part of the U.S. Muslim Brotherhood.

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