A Swiss scholar who has been accused in France of sowing anti-Semitism and is considered by some analysts to be an apologist for radical Islam will be coming to America this fall to teach at University of Notre Dame in Indiana.
Tariq Ramadan has accepted a post as the Henry Luce Professor at Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Center for International Peace Studies.
Mr. Ramadan in October published an article on an Islamic Web site, Oumma.com, singling out some of France's Jewish intellectuals for supporting the war in Iraq and thus,he said, placing the allegiances of their religion ahead of their obligation as scholars.
In it he wrote that the analysis of French Jewish intellectuals was "increasingly oriented toward a community-based concern that tends to relativize the defense of universal principles like equality and justice."
That essay earned him the swift rebuke of his targets including Bernard-Henri Levy, author of "Who Killed Daniel Pearl," and Bernard Kouchner, the former chief U.N. administrator for Kosovo, both of whom said the manner of his attack was racist and recommended his censure.
Mr. Ramadan has also been praised in some circles in the West as a moderating voice in Islam. Time magazine, founded by Luce, called him one of their "innovators of the year" in 2000.
In his last book, Mr. Ramadan said that the traditional distinction that un-Islamic lands should be taken by force was outmoded. And despite his recent critique of Jewish intellectuals, he has also preached against anti-Semitism in some of his speeches in Europe. "We find him invaluable because he takes the risk of talking to both worlds," the director of the Kroc Center, Scott Appleby, told The New York Sun yesterday. "If we are going to avoid a violent conflict with radical Muslims, we will do so by taking the risk of understanding their point of view, their criticisms of the West, and also having the authority to talk with them."
Mr. Ramadan's credentials with the more radical strains of Islam have often led his critics to regard him as their apologist. "Basically he is a Muslim brotherhood preacher," Michel Gurfinkiel, the editor of Valeurs Actuelles, a French newsweekly, told the Sun yesterday."He is using two parallel rhetorics. One is for the global European opinion and looking very European — and then there is his proper radical Muslim teachings."
The grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna, Mr. Ramadan has been accused in the French press of maintaining ties to Al Qaeda, a charge he has denied. On November 14, 2003, the French newspaper Le Parisien published an article quoting a former French intelligence officer and investigator for the families of the victims of the September 11 World Trade Center bombing, Jean Charles-Brisard, that Mr. Ramadan was suspected by European intelligence agencies of meeting Al Qaeda deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri in 1991.
Mr. Appleby said the French and Swiss governments have exonerated Mr. Ramadan of these charges, and he added that the vetting process at Notre Dame for the position was a vigorous one. Mr. Ramadan has also denied these charges in the French press.
But others in the American academy disagree. The director of the Middle East Forum, Daniel Pipes, who gave Mr. Ramadan's book "To be a European Muslim" a favorable review, said yesterday,"Once again we see that the leftward leaning academy and in particular the Kroc Institute has a soft spot for militant Islamic figures. Given what we are now learning about him, it would appear like others, he is playing a double game of hiding an Islamist agenda."
The president of the Washington based Ethics and Public Policy Center, Hillel Fradkin, said, "He has an undeserved reputation for being a moderate. It is clear from his recent remarks in France he is not looking for domestic comity, but domestic quarrels."
Mr. Appleby said in response, "We are not surprised that he is accused of double talk because what he is trying to do is to bring two ways of knowing and two ways of talking into conversation with one another."