The Muslim Brotherhood is at the vanguard of the stealth jihad. Tariq Ramadan is the grandson of its founder, Hasan Al-Banna, and enjoys an international reputation as a Muslim reformer. Some say, however, that he is anything but a reformer, and is merely a skilled practitioner of deception. See Caroline Fourest's book Brother Tariq for the evidence of that.
In any case, Henrik R Clausen, the International Editor of EuropeNews, recently narrowly missed a chance to ask Tariq Ramadan some important questions. Here he provides some background on Ramadan and the Muslim Brotherhood, and some questions for Ramadan and other "reformers":
(This is an edited version of a handout at the conference "Gibt es ein Euro-Islam?" ("Is there an Euro-Islam?") at the Politische Akademie of ÖVP, Vienna, Austria, November 11th 2008. President of Akademikerbund Franz Fiedler held an introduction speech, then gave the floor to the panel.
Panel members: Srivan Ekici, ÖVP, Member of Vienna City Council, Wolfram Eberhardt, author of "Im Auftrag Allahs", Christian Zeitz, board member of the Vienna Akademikerbund and Mouhand Kourchide, University of Vienna)
For the conference we had expected a special guest, the honoured Mr. Tariq Ramadan, son of Saïd Ramadan and grandson of Hassan Al-Banna. Unfortunately, in the last minute he chose not to come, with no reason given. We took the opportunity instead to give the participants a brief written overview of his background and upbringing. This essay is an edited and extended version of the paper.
The subject of the event is discussing the possibility of a particular European kind of Islam, also known as "Euro-Islam". The concept was originally conceived by Bassam Tibi, but is better known for being used by Tariq Ramadan. While there has been much talk about such a democracy-compatible version of Islam, preciously little substance has been presented yet. The panel will take care of this question.
In the absence of Tariq Ramadan in person, I would like to explain some fundamentals about Ikhwan (the Muslim Brotherhood) and how Tariq Ramadan is connected to it. Thus, I'd like to dive a bit into history to provide relevant background and scarcely known details, including that of his father Saïd Ramadan, in whose honour Tariq a few days ago awarded a prize.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as a reaction to the abolition of the Caliphate by Kemal Atatürk in 1924. The goal of the Ikhwan is to restore the Caliphate, by whatever means it deems necessary. Initially that included any form of violence, but the Brotherhood has since renounced the use of violence, and is instead pursuing its goal by other means.
The credo of the Muslim Brotherhood is:
Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. Qur'an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope. (MEForum)
The Brotherhood's stated goal is to instill the Qur'an and Sunnah as the "sole reference point for ... ordering the life of the Muslim family, individual, community ... and state". (IkhwanWeb)
The objective is overtly totalitarian, in that the Islamic scripture is seen as a guide to every aspect of the life of the believers. Other totalitarian ideologies have come and gone, Islam is, by any measure, the most persistent of them all. The Muslim Brotherhood remains intensely loyal to the Islamic message.
Initially, the Ikhwan was a small group, centered around the founder Hassan Al-Banna and his loyal friends, such as Sayyid Qutb, Saïd Ramadan and others. It worked to restore awareness of Islam in Egypt, and as such is a classical Islamic reform movement, similar to the Wahhabi in Arabia.
The breakthrough of this Islamic revivalist movement came with the great Arabic uprising in Palestine from 1936 to 1939. This Intifada-style revolt caused Ikhwan membership, branches and institutions to grow at a rapid rate, turning Ikhwan into a mass movement over a few years.
The revolt was sponsored with German money, materials and weapons, and caused much trouble for the Jews in Palestine, as well as the British rule of the area, which was established as a League of Nations mandate following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. The revolt lasted three years, but eventually, in 1939, it was crushed by superior British military force.
The link and the gratitude to Germany was not forgotten, though, and was soon followed up. For many years it had puzzled me why the German general Rommel would pursue a campaign in North Africa, far from the main battles in Europe. Egypt is the key to this puzzle.
For at the time of the battle at Al-Amain, where Montgomery finally defeated the German force, Cairo was already decorated for the welcome of the German troops. The intention was to give Germany troops and then access to Middle East oil of Arabia, Iraq and Iran, thus giving a great boost to the German war effort. Fortunately, Montgomery prevented that from happening.
After the war the Ikhwan, in consort with the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who was otherwise indicted for war crimes on the German side, continued its efforts. One of the great issues was the Arab response to the founding of Israel. The question was: War or peace? The response from the Mufti and the Ikhwan was 'War', and so it was. This laid the foundation for the Arab refugee problem and the seemingly endless struggle in the area.
In Egypt, the Ikhwan continued under the organisational leadership of Hassan Al-Bannah and the ideological guidance of Sayyid Qutb. Saïd Ramadan was close to Al-Bannah, who in gratitude gave his daughter in marriage to him. Thus, the reason Tariq Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan Al-Bannah is the deep loyalty of his father to the ideology and goals of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Brotherhood kept up its efforts to destabilize the Egypt government, but eventually its leaders were jailed, killed or exiled. Saïd and his family went to Switzerland, where they set up an Islamic center in Geneva, which is also where Tariq Ramadan was born.
Saïd Ramadan had close connections to the House of Said and the variant of Salafist Islam known as 'Wahhabism'. He was a staunch supporter of the ideas that Saudi Arabia should export this strain of Islam worldwide, and took many initiatives in that direction. For the first 11 years, his Islamic center was funded by Saudi money. Saïd was rejected from several conferences during the time for his overt fundamentalism.
It's worth saying a bit about the meaning of 'Salafi' and of reforming Islam. 'Salafi' means 'literal' and constitutes a return to the fundamentals of Islamic scripture, and thus an abolishment of the 'traditionalist' Islam of the Ottoman Empire and the like. Salafism is fundamentalism, in all the variations Salafism comes in. Common to all variations is the understanding that the Islamic scripture is unconditionally divine and not subject to modification, as a whole.
For those wondering if Islam is in need of a Reformation similar to that initiated by Luther in Christianity, there is no need to worry. The Reformation started eight decades ago and its name is 'Muslim Brotherhood'. Just as Luther, the Muslim Brotherhood advocates a return to the fundamentals, as given in the original scripture. It has nothing to do with discarding inhuman elements of the religion.
It has been mentioned often that Tariq is the grandson of Hassan Al-Bannah. Now, we all have grandfathers, which doesn't always signify much, as their ideas and influence is not always strongly present two generations later. What matters is the environment one grows up in, and this is clear: Tariq Ramadan grew up in a Wahhabi-funded Islamic center of deep fundamentalism, led by his father, Saïd Ramadan.
Today, this center is run by Tariq's brother Hani. It used to be that Tariq would say that his brother and him were executing different aspects of the same activity. While Tariq doesn't work openly with his brother at this time, it might still be true. We have no way of knowing for sure. Tariq is not officially representing the Islamic Center of Geneva, but on the other hand never does anything that contradicts the center or cause difficulties for its activities.
One thing important that is by now quite well know is that Tariq Ramadan speaks differently to different audiences. Those who have compared his lectures in French with those in Arabic have found this to be very clear. Yet, he does not contradict himself, but instead relies on subtle rhetorical tools to divert attention from what he states in his lectures in Arabic language, usually available on cassette tapes or CD's. One thing is for sure: He never, ever openly contradicts the ideas of the Ikhwan.
I had the interesting experience of meeting Mr. Ramadan in Denmark last year, talking about the need for a Reformation of Islam. In the questions and answers session, he tended to use much time seemingly getting to the point, but eventually not really doing so.
After the lecture, I presented him with a well-known book, the History of Islam by Al-Tabari, which is part of the Sirat, the original Islamic biography of Muhammad. Ramadan immediately exclaimed: "That is a very problematic book!". Indeed it is, for the Islamic sources known as the Sirat describe the life of Muhammad with great honesty, and many acts of his that are obviously uncivilized.
Interestingly, Tariq Ramadan has published a book justifying these rather violent acts. Nowhere does Ramadan declare any of these acts unconditionally "not holy". That would include starting battles, taking booty, trading slaves and killing prisoners of war.
This is a problem, for Quran 33:21 sets Muhammad and his behaviour as good examples for Muslims, now and forever. If unprovoked violence and plunder are good examples, how are we going to modernize Islam without discarding at least some of the ancient scripture as unholy?
I wanted to ask Mr. Ramadan about this, but was obviously out of luck this time, thus the questions we had in mind will be presented here, to inspire others and in the hope that they will get the opportunity to ask them to Mr. Ramadan at some other opportunity. Since Tariq Ramadan is known for dodging difficult questions, it is good to make them as short and clear as possible.
Given his background, it makes sense to assume that he has a fundamentalist agenda, and phrasing the questions in such a way that he will need to answer them clearly and assertively, in case he wants to avoid having the image of a fundamentalist stick to him.
There are many questions that might be well worth asking, such as:
Do you have any significant ideological disagreements with the Ikhwan, the Muslim Brotherhood?
Are you in agreement with the anti-Jewish verses from the Quran? (Jews as apes, pigs and swine).
Can Rationality be permitted to change Islam?
Would you ever contradict anything in the Quran?
Which is more important: Protecting human rights or protecting religion from criticism?
Do you still consider Iran a good example of "promoting women" in Islam?
Courtesy of Daniel Pipes:
After Magdi Allam's high-profile conversion to Christianity, do you still maintain that he was all along a Christian?
Courtesy of Helle Brix:
Given that you have written an enthusiastically endorsing foreword to a fatwa collection from the European Council for Fatwa, can we assume that you endorse capital punishment for apostacy as brought forward in that book?
Courtesy of Nicholas Sarkozy:
Do you find it immoral to stone adulterers? If so, how do you feel about Muhammad having stoned adulteres?
(Note: He has been asked this in public before. His reply was to propose a 'moratorium' on stoning.)
We notice that you have proposed a 'moratorium' on stoning adulterers. Under exactly which circumstances should such a moratorium be lifted, and the practice of stoning adulterers resumed?
Is there any part of Muhammads' life, as described in the Sirat, that are no longer considered exemplary for Muslims today? If so, please provide examples.
I notice that you have praised Hassan Al-Banna as a great reformer of Islam. Do you consider yourself more or less of a reformer than him? If more, please provide examples of your reform initiatives.
If, in any way, your mission differs from that of your father Saïd Ramadan, please explain how.
Since you recently gave a prize in the name of you father Saïd, one must assume that you are working in his spirit. Do you have any major disagreements from his understanding of Islam?
Do your aims differ from those of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Do you disagree with Hassan Al-Bannah's statement that armed struggle is the highest form of Jihad?
Would you protect the right of others to describe Muhammad as a criminal?
For what reason did you mis-translate the "50 demands from the Brotherhood"?
Would you oppose an Islamic dictatorship?
Would you like to see nation-states abolished in favor of an all-Islamic world government?
Are you in any way deviating from the 7-point program of Hassan al-Banna? If so, please specify.
Do you find any faults in the teachings of Sayyid Qutb? If so, please provide some examples.
Is assimilation of Muslims in the West, as expressed by the Turkish PM Erdogan, a 'crime against humanity'?
Is the goal of your work different from that of your brother Hani, the current leader of the Islamic Center in Geneva? If so, please elaborate.
Did you regret having organized events with the Algerian radicals FIS and GIA?
Do you consider yourself the heir to the mission conducted by Hasssan al-Banna?
How many times is the holy city of Jerusalem mentioned in the Quran?
Is there any part of the Quran or the Sirat you would be willing to declare unholy?
Is Islam primarily a political system?
What do you mean by the expression "Muslims without Islam"?
Do you consider yourself a salafist, i.e. a proponent of a return to literal Islam? If not, please specify the most important differences.
Is the goal of your mission to modernize Islam, or to make Muslims return to 'true' Islam?
Can a Muslim woman be permitted to marry a non-Muslim man and permit him to keep his religion?
Are you unconditionally opposed to men beating their wives?
Are you in disagreement with Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the director of the European Center of Fatwa, on any significant issues?
Which is more important: Human reason or the words of the Quran?
Do you still consider Iran a good example of "promoting women in Islam"?
What is your opinion on equal rights and opportunities for women?
Do you agree with the Quranic sentiment [...] that women are mentally deficient.
Does you vision of feminism differ in any major way from that of Hassan al-Banna?
What kinds of work do you consider unfit for women? Driving trucks?
Is your view of womens' role in society different from that of the Front National?
You stated: "Iranian society today is, compared to other Muslim societies, the most advanced as concernes the promotion of women." Most westeners would consider Turkey, Albania, Algeria, Tunesia etc. to provide better circumstances for women. Would you please elaborate on why you consider Iran to be more advanced than these?
Do women have equal right to get a divorce?
Is the devil, as you suggested, tangible? Have you touched him?
Does faith (in Islam) guarantee a peaceful family life? The extraordinary frequency of Muslim women at crisis centers would seem to contradict that idea rather dramatically.
Will you elaborate on your statement that men has the right to forbid their wives to visit certain women?
Are you against abortion?
Can homosexuality be tolerated?
Does homosexuality as such turn a Muslim into an aspostate?
Do you stand by your assertion (Réunion, 1999) that sex outside marriage is a 'monstreous transgression'?
Can a wife be permitted to refuse sex with her husband?
Is it the obligation of women to make sure that their husbands do not fall for temptation?
Noting that you find mixed swimming halls 'Unislamic', would you kindly explain the spiritual benefits of separating men from women in their daily lives?
Which is more important: religious or national identity?
What aspects of life are more important than religion?
Is there anything in your country you would object to becoming Islamic?
You state in your recording "Vivre en Occident" ["Living in the West"]: "Whatever in the culture in which we live is not in contradition with Islam, we accept." Does that mean that nothing contradicting Islam can ever be accepted?
Which is the higher allegience: Your religion or your nation?
Will you respect the law if it contradicts your religion?
Do you consider the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam better than the Universal Human Rights as defined by the United Nations? In either case, please elaborate.
You called citizenship "A geographical accident". Please elaborate what that implies.
Would you defend the right to publish a book or a film critical of Islam?
What exactly do you mean by the expression "dehumanizing concerts"?
What is, in your opinion, the problem with listening to music at night?
What other sources than Islam can be permissible sources of inspiration in arts and music?
Are children to be taught that they have freedom to change their religion?
Is is useful to adopt scientific method to doubts concerning Islamc teachings and the Quran?
Is the scientific theory of evolution ('Darwinism') compatible with Islam?
Why do you refer to Iran, one of the most radical Islamic states, as a model for education?
Credit for background information and inspiration for questions to Caroline Fourest, whose book Brother Tariq should be required reading for anyone intending to work with Tariq Ramadan.
Credit to David Horowitz' Freedom Center for providing historical background in the booklet "The Nazi Roots of Palestinian Nationalism". Can be downloaded at the Terrorism Awareness Project.
See also the report here by ESW.