Tariq Ramadan misrepresents his views on terrorism in Guardian op-ed

Tariq Ramadan is a renowned Muslim intellectual born in Geneva, and currently serves as Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al Banna, one of the founders of the Muslim Brotherhood
He’s also a frequent contributor to the Guardian.
On Jan. 9th, Ramadan published a Guardian op-ed titled ‘The Paris attackers hijacked Islam but there is no war between Islam and the west‘, which opens with the following declaration:

The attack on Charlie Hebdo compels us to be clear and to be consistent. We have to condemn what happened in Paris absolutely. I said the same after 7/7 and after 9/11

Later in his Guardian op-ed, Ramadan speaks more broadly about terrorism.

We condemn the violent extremism that is targeting westerners.

However, the evidence suggests that Ramadan is mischaracterizing his views.

Though he indeed styles himself as a Muslim reformer and moderate, many have noted his support for the Muslim Brotherhood as well as radical, pro-terror Islamists like Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi.  Qaradawi issued the infamous fatwa authorizing suicide terrorism by Palestinians, and the “fatwa permitting women to commit suicide terrorism”.
Paul Berman, one of America’s most prolific writers on the issue of terror and Islamist movements, noted the following:

Ramadan reveres [the Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide], Sheikh al Qaradawi above all other present-day Islamic scholars, and in one book after another he has left no room for doubt about his fealty. If anyone in the world offers a model of modern enlightened Islam, Ramadan plainly judges Qaradawi to be that person.”

In 2006 MEMRI published a special report which specifically addressed Ramadan’s claims that he condemns terror. 

“When Tariq Ramadan is asked whether he is willing to condemn terrorism, he answers, like the other Islamists, ‘Of course we condemn terrorism… but we support the resistance [muqawama].’ On October 3, 2001, Le Monde published an article by Tariq [Ramadan] which begins by condemning the September 11 [2001] operations, but very quickly begins to cast doubts as to the role of bin Laden and Al-Qaeda [in the attacks]. Ramadan says: ‘We must ask the real question: Who stands to benefit from these operations? It is inconceivable that any “Arab or Islamic” cause would benefit from it.’ The article goes on to focus on the idea that the U.S. government was undoubtedly the beneficiary, since [the attacks] provided it with ‘a pretext to revoke public freedoms in the U.S. and to wage a Crusader war against the Islamic world.’ Ramadan then calls upon Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide ‘to fight together’ (but does not specify against whom).”
In a September 2004 interview with an Italian magazine [Panorama], [Ramadan] says about the killing of an eight-year-old Israeli boy by Palestinians: “This deed in and of itself is worthy of condemnation, but it is understandable under present circumstances… It is forbidden to attack civilians, but the U.S. government policy leaves the Palestinians no other choice.
With regard to the Islamist regime in Algeria, Ramadan “identifies a number of mistakes in the actions of the [Islamic] Salvation Front, such as its call for women to remain at home and not work. He hastens to condemn the ‘terrifying repression’ of this Islamist group, but says not a word about [the massacres] it carried out.”
According to a report by Spanish judge Balthazar Garzon about the local terrorist cells and their involvement in the events of 9/11, Spanish police stressed that Ahmad Ibrahim, a high-ranking Al-Qaeda member apprehended in Spain, had regular and close contacts with Tariq Ramadan. Similarly, when Ayman Al-Zawahiri visited Geneva in August 1991, Ramadan coordinated a conference in his honor, attended by Sheikh Omar Abd Al-Rahman (the “Blind Sheikh” who was convicted of planning the 1993 World Trade Center bombing).
Tariq Ramadan has emphasized that his grandfather Hassan Al-Bana did indeed call for jihad, but explains that this jihad is limited to “legitimate defense” or “struggle against oppression.” In his book Trends in Modern Islamic Thought, Tariq Ramadan writes: “The Brotherhood use violence only as a last resort, when they are convinced that violence will help in [observing] their faith and realizing their unity.” In other words, explains Guindy, “the Muslim Brotherhood may not be calling for armed revolution, but they will be forced to resort to it if others do not heed their demands.”

As Alan Johnson observed in an essay dissecting Ramadan’s rhetorical duplicity:

Orwell’s 1946 essay Politics and the English Language famously observed that most political language  “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”.  

This, Johnson concludes, “is a good description of Tariq Ramadan”.

(For more background on Ramadan, see ‘Who’s afraid of Tariq Ramadan?‘, published in 2007 by Paul Berman in The New Republic.)

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