In a recent article featured in The New York Review of Books, Malise Ruthven postulates on the phenomenon of Islam in Europe. He interrogates the question by examining Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West, in tandem with Tariq Ramadan’s What I Believe. Essentially, Ruthven sees both authors, while articulate, essentially digging the respective posts of their respective fences further into the ground. Caldwell, in Ruthven’s opinion, does not provide substantiated evidence to support the claims of his argument which endeavors to pit a large “believing” population of Muslims against a skeptical, atheistic Europe. Caldwell’s evidence looks impressive as he calls upon a number of wide ranging sources such as government statistical reports and social/census data. Ruthven questions the validity of these findings by presenting some facts of his own, namely that in 2001, a French survey found that approximately 60% of French Muslim men did not practice, while French Muslim women came in at around 70%. Though non-practicing, according to the findings, these Muslims still observed what they felt were “cultural attachments” such as avoiding pork or alcohol, or fasting during the month of Ramadan.
When turning her attention to Ramadan, Ruthven’s findings were no less scathing. She accuses Ramadan of being a moral elitist, whose academic work is more like a Friday sermon in sheep’s clothing. He also finds that Ramadan’s willingness to engage in difficult debate, where he might have to face some heavy-handed criticism coming from Europe’s intelligencia, too shallow for his taste. In the introduction to What I Believe, Ramadan writes, “I will not waste my time here trying to defend myself.” For Ruthven, this is self-indictment on Ramadan’s part, a form of “doublespeak”, as he puts it, which only provides more ammunition to some of Ramadan’s staunchest critics, not the least of them is Caroline Fourest. Fourest, whose dealings with Ramadan can seem to almost border on the obsessive, continues to find plenty of fodder to infer a type of “double-talk”. Fourest examines the tone and topic of Ramadan’s public works and those that speak to a young Muslim audience. The topics range from his familial ties and history [his grandfather, Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood] to his academic work, which at times seems conflicted between accepting or rejecting Darwinism as well as the philosophies of the likes of Kant and Pascal.
I bring these issues to light, not because I concur with Ruthven’s or Fourest’s viewpoints, but rather because they do highlight a key issue: ethics. There is a need for greater adherence to ethics and integrity on the part of Muslim leaders and intellectuals; an ethics that avoids the “doublespeak” and disparate opinions that morphs from arena to arena, depending on who is being “served”. There are plenty of examples of political doublespeak on the part of prominent Muslim leaders, whose condemnations, before 9/11, included claims like, “the US being the Dajjal”, just to name one. There is also the moral doublespeak on the part of Muslims in America, where the fiasco of MANA releasing a letter in condemning domestic violence, only to have the author of the letter, guilty of the same charge.
This is not a clarion call to not speak out to injustices when we see them. Like Moses [peace be upon him], we are commanded to speak that World of Truth to tyranny. And in reference to Tariq Ramadan, my advice would be: Stick to your guns. If you reject Darwinism [as this writer does], then state that plainly. And while I would not suggest bogging oneself down in trivial debates, there are times when one must engage critical thought, even if much what is being said has little to no validation. I am becoming more keenly aware of how hard and how difficult a challenge it is to be a Muslim who is on the minbar, in the classroom, or in the public eye, and maintain that level of ethical and moral fortitude. There are times, quite frankly, when the weight of being a public spokesperson or leader is daunting. Even the Prophet [s] faced this enormous task of delivering this message. God articulates this dilemma the Revelation itself: “Had We not made you firm, you would have inclined towards them a little” [Q: 17: 74]. This verse is not so much about Muslim/non-Muslim relations as it is about the weighty task of the Prophet had in delivering the Message and his [s] desire to succeed in that task. Likewise, we must be cognizant of audience bias and know that there are “Noble Guardians, recording, who know what we do” [Q: 82: 10-12]. With this approach in mind, we can hope to be better for Muslims in the short- [Dunya] and long-term [Akhirah], God willing.
Read in contrast of the article, Does Europe Have A Muslim Probelm, at the Immanent Frame.