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.

CNA / Maria Fernández Noguera / Ignacio Portela Giráldez

February 28, 2011 11:23 PM

Barcelona (ACN). – Famous for his controversial vision of both Western and Muslim worlds, Islamic intellectual and University of Oxford’s 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 “had nothing to do with the Iranian one”. 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. “In Tahrir Square, [in Egypt’s capital city] there were Christians, Copts, Muslims and Non-believers” Ramadan told CNA.

The Muslim Brotherhood and Egypt’s 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, ‘Freedom and Justice’, 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’s analysis of the situation, this Islamic party could obtain, at the most, 30% of the parliament’s 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 “should stop demonising” the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan has always defended that this Islam-based political movement should be a “partner” in Egypt’s democratic process. According to him, the young members of the Muslim Brotherhood are closer to Turkey’s moderate regime than to Iran’s. In fact, there are members very close to Turkey’s 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’s agenda regarding the Middle East. While Europe and USA mistrust certain Islamic groups, Ramadan criticises what he considers Europe’s double standards in, for example, Saudi Arabia’s case. The Saudi Islamic Government is not called into question despite its autocratic rule, as it was done with Tunisia and Egypt’s cases. “Why are we not worried about Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Government? The secret is money and oil”. In fact, geo-strategic interests are behind Western government’s behaviour in the zone according to Ramadan. An example of this was seeing Europe and USA waiting several days to call for Mubarak’s 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’s thesis aroused criticism from France’s 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’s entry into Saudi Arabia and Egypt is forbidden, and his USA visa was denied for many years. He defends himself by saying “For Muslims I am too European, for Europeans I am too Muslim”. Ramadan, who considers himself as “European”, has recently published a book “My vision of western Islam”. Always controversial, Ramadan is the Muslim Brotherhood founder’s grandson.

His grandfather, Hassam al-Banna established the Muslim Brotherhood movement in the 1920’s. 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 “by British colonialists”. Thirteen years later, Tariq Saif Ramadan was born in Geneva, in Switzerland. His colleagues consider him the “Islamic Martin Luther”, for his speeches about reforming the Muslim religion.

Hope in Egypt’s democratic future

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

Do you want invisible Muslims?”

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. “What do you want? Invisible Muslims?” 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’ groups use people’s fear in order to adopt racist stances, which are “booming in Catalonia”.

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

Lleida’s 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 “simplistic populist postures, based in fear”. “If racism is increasing in Barcelona, is caused by the populists wanting to make the different look dangerous”.