, Volume 48, Issue 1, pp 58-69
Date: 24 Nov 2010

Tariq Ramadan and the Quest for a Moderate Islam

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Abstract

Tariq Ramadan calls himself a bridge builder between Muslims and European culture, but contradictions in his theology prevent him from fulfilling this role. He is an Islamic intellectual who espouses democracy and pluralism, yet he believes that shari‘a law is universal. He exhorts his European followers to refrain from anti-Semitic violence, yet he cites as an authority Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is an apologist for Palestinian suicide bombers. He calls for Muslims to be full participants in Western civic societies, yet he calls on Muslims to “resist” the neo-liberal economic order that forms the basis of Western society. Ramadan has made alliances with left wing politicians and academics in France, Britain, the Netherlands, and the United States, but he has a pattern of disappointing and frustrating his leftist allies. In the wake of terrorist attacks in Britain and the Netherlands, the British and Dutch governments called upon Ramadan to support peaceable brands of Islam in these traumatized countries. These efforts failed because Ramadan’s most important constituency has always been “the Muslim street,” and this makes it difficult for him to embrace liberal principles.