Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Tariq Ramadan and the false godesses of muslim moderation
But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
(Federalist Papers #51)
Mary Madigan posed some interesting questions a couple of days ago, and then followed up with some answers, assessing whom the US Government considers an ally and who it considers an enemy in the war on terror. In my opinion, her answers betray a profound and dangerous naievete.
This naievete is most evident in her unthinking acceptance of the government's arguments regarding Tariq Ramadan. She notes that he was recently denied a visa to enter the US (for an invited profesorship at the University of Notre Dame), for allegedly providing "material support" to a "terrorist organization".
In actual fact, Tariq Ramadan has never provided material support to a terrorist organization. Rather, he himself voluntarily disclosed to the US government that he had donated a small sum of money to Palestinian relief charities. Of these donations, Ramadan says,
...the State Department cites my having donated about 600 Euros to two humanitarian organizations (in fact a French organisation and its Swiss chapter) serving the Palestinian people. I should note that this was not something that the State Department’s investigation revealed. To the contrary, as the State Department acknowledges, it was I myself who brought these donations to the State Department’s attention. The U.S. government apparently believes that the organizations to which I gave small amounts of money have in turn given money to Hamas. But the organizations to which I donated are not deemed suspect in Europe, where I live. I donated to these organizations for the same reason that countless Europeans - and Americans, for that matter - donate to Palestinian causes: not to provide funding for terrorism, but because I wanted to provide humanitarian aid to people who are desperately in need of it.
Now you may be of the opinion that all Palestinians are terrorists, and that all organizations that seek to provide them relief from their miserable existence are really fronts for active terror orgs. I will mince no words - such a view makes you a jafi, and a traitor (in effect, if not in intent) in the war on terror. A more reasonable and non-traitorous interpretation is that some such organizations are indeed terror fronts, and that some people's donations have indeed ended up in the pockets of Hamas. I don't think that is in dispute. But Mary assumes foreknowledge and intent to actively finance terrorists on Tariq Ramadan's part. On what basis? Ramadan is a role model for his lengthy life's work in articulating the neccessity of muslim assimilation into European society - a body of work that Mary has assuredly not read. I urge people of less prejudiced inclination to read Tariq Ramadan's own words on the issue and judge for yourself.
Based on her willful acceptance of this slander against Tariq Ramadan, Mary goes on to conclude,
Some self-proclaimed pious, moderate Muslims still consider Ramadan to be a role model despite his involvement with terrorism, instantly negating their claims of being pious or moderate.
Then for the record, I am not moderate, nor do I wish to be considered as such. (With respect to being pious, I invite Mary to reflect on her own piety before judging mine.)
Instead of an actual moderate like Tariq Ramadan, whose life's work in fostering a Western muslim identity directly supports our long-term goal in the war on terror of transformative change in muslim societies, Mary instead cites Wafa Sultan and Ayaan Hirsi Ali as archetypical muslim moderates. In other words, Mary prefers a definition of "moderate" that is extreme rather than mainstream - a truly Orwellian feat.
The recent National Intelligence Estimate concluded that "the Muslim mainstream emerges as the most powerful weapon in the war on terror" and this is a theme that Dean has attempted in his own way to force conservatives to understand. Muslims like Irshad Manji, Wafa Sultan, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are not the muslim mainstream - they in fact are opportunists who profit by positioning themselves outside the mainstream. 'Aqoul recently had a three-part series on these three women entitled "Anger as Analysis" (I, II, III) that is a must-read, for anyone sincerely interested in why muslims such as myself instantly dismiss the credibility of anyone purporting to use these them as role models for "moderate" muslim behavior.
In essence, this is the basic conundrum at the heart of the Bush Administrations' approach to the war on terror. As Mary notes, the official US government position on Tariq Ramadan is to exclude him, and the official position on Hirsi Ali and Wafa Sultan is to embrace them. Why? Ramadan argues,
I am excluded not because the government truly believes me to be a national security threat but because of my criticisms of American foreign policies in the Middle East; because of my opposition to the invasion of Iraq; and because of my criticism of some of the Bush administration’s policies with respect to civil liberties.
In other words, the official government position is to reject the genuine ideological ally - the one who can appeal to the muslim mainstream. And embrace those who utterly reject and who are rejected by the mainstream, lauded by the very enthusiastically pro-war conservatives like Malkin and Robert Spencer as genuine moderates. The rationale by which an ally or an enemy is defined, then, is not whether they would provide support in our long-term goal of promoting Enlightenment values in the muslim world (values which Ramadan has internalized and forms the basis of his critique against the Administration). It is simply whether they provide "muslim cover" to the war in Iraq.
In this sense, the war on Iraq has been an abject failure, because it has become the sine qua non of the war on terror. All other avenues by which we might pursue our objectives are rendered secondary to it. Even on the most important front of all - the front of the mainstream muslim mind, we are essentially cutting and running, so that political support for the ground war in Iraq can be maintained.
Aside. As it is Ramadan, I have very little time for much other than a drive-by, so my post here will have to stand on its own merits without my active defense against the inevitable chorus of dissent in the comments. If that is insufficient, so be it.
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Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.