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Tariq Ramadan: “Europe does not care about democracy in the Arab countries but rather its geo-strategic interests”

The Islamic intellectual, Tariq Ramadan was interviewed by CNA. “We are afraid of the arrival of immigrants, but the best thing to do is develop the countries of origin”. The grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder criticised Europe’s lack of commitment with the democratization of the Muslim world as revolts go on and racism grows in countries like Switzerland and Spain.

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28 February 2011 11:23 PM

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ACN / Maria Fernández Noguera / Ignacio Portela Giráldez

Barcelona (ACN). \u2013 Famous for his controversial vision of both Western and Muslim worlds, Islamic intellectual and University of Oxford\u2019s Researcher Tariq Saif Ramadan (Geneva, 1962) explained in an interview with the CNA his outlook on the current revolutions in Muslim countries. He also commented on how racism is a growing problem in Europe as construction of minarets are being banned in countries like Switzerland and obstacles to build mosques are being enforced in Catalonia.


Tariq Ramadam emphasised that the Egyptian revolution against common belief \u201Chad nothing to do with the Iranian one\u201D. Whereas the Islamic revolution in the Persian country brought Ayatollahs to power in 1979, as Ayatollah Khomeini was the first instigator of the uprising, in Egypt the Islamic opposition joined the protest after the people had risen against Hosni Mubarak. \u201CIn Tahrir Square, [in Egypt\u2019s capital city] there were Christians, Copts, Muslims and Non-believers\u201D Ramadan told CNA.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt\u2019s future

The Egyptian revolution has made the Muslim Brotherhood legal again after more than 50 years banned and working in secrecy. Now, the organisation is planning to establish a new political party, \u2018Freedom and Justice\u2019, in order to stand for the upcoming elections in Egypt. Moreover, a member of the party stated last week that their electoral program proposes Islamic law as the one and only source of civil law (for the time being, it is only the main source, not the exclusive one). Anyhow, according to Ramadan\u2019s analysis of the situation, this Islamic party could obtain, at the most, 30% of the parliament\u2019s seats.

Meanwhile, in Europe and the US, many voices have raised their suspicion that the election of such Islamic party could lead Egypt to a political situation similar to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Ramadan, a professor at the University of Oxford, claimed that Europe \u201Cshould stop demonising\u201D the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan has always defended that this Islam-based political movement should be a \u201Cpartner\u201D in Egypt\u2019s democratic process. According to him, the young members of the Muslim Brotherhood are closer to Turkey\u2019s moderate regime than to Iran\u2019s. In fact, there are members very close to Turkey\u2019s PM cabinet, Islamic moderate Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Ramadan criticises the West double standards.

Academic Tariq Saif Ramadan, born and raised in Europe, is known for being a reforming voice of the Islam, but also a critical voice against the West\u2019s agenda regarding the Middle East. While Europe and USA mistrust certain Islamic groups, Ramadan criticises what he considers Europe\u2019s double standards in, for example, Saudi Arabia\u2019s case. The Saudi Islamic Government is not called into question despite its autocratic rule, as it was done with Tunisia and Egypt\u2019s cases. \u201CWhy are we not worried about Saudi Arabia\u2019s Islamic Government? The secret is money and oil\u201D. In fact, geo-strategic interests are behind Western government\u2019s behaviour in the zone according to Ramadan. An example of this was seeing Europe and USA waiting several days to call for Mubarak\u2019s resignation as their interests have more to do with security, stability and geo-strategic purposes rather than justice or democratic ones, claimed Ramadan.

Ramadan and his links with the Muslim Brotherhood

Tariq Ramadan\u2019s thesis aroused criticism from France\u2019s PM Nicholas Sarkozy and many academics and journalists (including Catalan ones) for its ambiguity and his change of address when speaking to a Western or Muslim public, specially in relation to human rights and terrorism. Ramadan\u2019s entry into Saudi Arabia and Egypt is forbidden, and his USA visa was denied for many years. He defends himself by saying \u201CFor Muslims I am too European, for Europeans I am too Muslim\u201D. Ramadan, who considers himself as \u201CEuropean\u201D, has recently published a book \u201CMy vision of western Islam\u201D. Always controversial, Ramadan is the Muslim Brotherhood founder\u2019s grandson.

His grandfather, Hassam al-Banna established the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the 1920\u2019s. They defended an Islamic regime in opposition to British colonialist ruling, for instance by pushing for Islamic law. They also opposed the creation of an Israeli State. In 1948, the Egyptian government considered the Muslim Brotherhood an illegal party and they were later accused of the assassination of PM Mahmoud al-Nuqrashi. A year later, Hassam al-Banna was shot and killed. According to Ramadan, it was done \u201Cby British colonialists\u201D. Thirteen years later, Tariq Saif Ramadan was born in Geneva, in Switzerland. His colleagues consider him the \u201CIslamic Martin Luther\u201D, for his speeches about reforming the Muslim religion.

Hope in Egypt\u2019s democratic future

Ramadan feels optimistic about Egypt\u2019s future. He has \u201Chope that the democratic process will be completed respecting the people\u2019s will\u201D. Nonetheless, in order to get a satisfactory transition it is mandatory to \u201Ckeep an eye on economical and social factors, bring corruption down and spur social policies\u201D. In this sense, Europe\u2019s contribution may be decisive in the development of the living standards of the Arab world. As he told CNA, \u201CWe are afraid of the arrival of immigrants, but the best thing to do is develop the countries of origin\u201D.

\u201CDo you want invisible Muslims?\u201D

This fear, he claims, is more evident if we consider initiatives like those of Switzerland banning the construction of minarets or the delays and excuses in Barcelona to build new mosques. \u201CWhat do you want? Invisible Muslims?\u201D said Ramadan, criticising the attitude of people backing such proposals up. In Switzerland the initiative to ban minarets got an approval by 67% in a referendum. The Oxford researcher also lamented that many populists\u2019 groups use people\u2019s fear in order to adopt racist stances, which are \u201Cbooming in Catalonia\u201D.

\u201CDo you want invisible Muslims? Do you want me to change the colour of my skin? The way I dress?\u201D asks Ramadan aloud. \u201CThe way they face tolerance is by saying that they do not want to see us?\u201D he added in reference to the prohibition of building minarets in mosques in his native Switzerland in 2009. \u201CThere are only four minarets in Switzerland. All banned\u201D

Lleida\u2019s City Council (West of Catalonia) is putting obstacles on the construction of a mosque and has banned the use of full-face veils inside municipal buildings. Tariq Ramadan sees no problem in building mosques as they trigger dialogue between cultures, the best remedy against \u201Csimplistic populist postures, based in fear\u201D. \u201CIf racism is increasing in Barcelona, is caused by the populists wanting to make the different look dangerous\u201D.

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  • The academic Tariq Ramadan (by M. Fernández)

  • The academic Tariq Ramadan with his book (by M. Fernández)

  • The academic Tariq Ramadan (by M. Fernández)
  • The academic Tariq Ramadan with his book (by M. Fernández)
CNA interviewed Tariq Ramadan