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Spørsmålet om hvem Tariq Ramadan er, den fremste representant for et moderat euro-islam, eller en ulv i fåreklær, har betydning langt utover ham selv.

Ramadan er en av Europas fremste muslimske representanter. Hans fremtid har derfor stor symbolsk betydning. At han er nektet arbeids- og oppholdsstillatelse i USA av sikkerhetsgrunner har vakt oppsikt.

Denne uken fikk Ramadan beskjed fra State Department i Washington om at han kan søke visum på nytt. Det hadde de neppe gjort hvis de ikke regnet med at det vil gå i orden denne gang.

Ramadan skulle begynne på Notre Dame-universitetet i Michigan i høst, og flyttelasest var sendt, da han fikk beskjed om at Dept. for Homeland Security hadde nektet ham visum. Avslaget har vakt stor oppsikt i USA. Akademiske foreninger og kjente personer har gått i bresjen for ham.

Men Ramadan er også angrepet og kritisert for ikke å være den tolerante læreren han gir seg ut for, men en som, når det kommer til stykket, ikke står så langt fra bestefaren, Hassan al-Banna, grunnlegger av Det islamske brorskap.

Al-Banna, Maududi og Sayyid Qutb er anene til dagens politiske islam, både den rene politiske, og den ekstreme Al Qaida-varianten. (Qutbs hovedverk «Milepæler» kommer i parentes bemerket på norsk!)

Hans akademiske credentials ser ut til å være i orden. Ramadan har skrevet et 30-tall bøker.

Forsvarne sier det er en stor bommert å utestenge en mann som kan bidra til å bygge bro mellom Vesten og islam.

Sitting in stockinged feet before the computer in his otherwise empty home office, nibbling on Swiss chocolate, Mr. Ramadan said news of the last-minute visa revocation upset and confounded him. He has traveled to America without problems more than 30 times in the last five years, he said.

These travels included a visit last fall to the State Department, where he delivered a lecture on European Muslims to diplomats and officials from the F.B.I. and C.I.A., he said. Mr. Ramadan has lectured Scotland Yard officers on European Muslim communities, too.

Mr. Ramadan said he had received offers for a tenured faculty position not only from Notre Dame but also from an Ivy League university and, at a time when American students were hungering for greater understanding of Islam, he was courted by other top-tier schools, too.

«A scholar like him, who’s thoroughly Islamic but has his feet firmly planted in the modern world, is – I won’t say a pearl beyond price, but certainly a pearl,» said Thomas W. Simons Jr., a former ambassador to Pakistan and author of «Islam in a Globalizing World» (Stanford University Press, 2003).

Kritikerne spør om han virkelig er det han gir seg ut for. NYTimes Deborah Sontag har møtt Ramadan i Geneve. Hun bekrefter at Ramadan var den uoffisielle talsmannen for de som kjempet mot hijabforbudet i franske skoler. Ramadan mener dette er et spørsmål om menneskerettigheter.

In the last year, Mr. Ramadan became the de facto representative of the French Muslim community in confronting the government’s ban on Islamic head scarves in the schools.

Recently, he appeared on a televised French debate during which he was badgered about his support for what other guests kept calling «the veil.» How could he favor forcing women to cover themselves? they asked.

In a calm voice, Mr. Ramadan responded that he would neither force a woman to wear a head scarf nor force her to remove one. It was a human rights issue, he said, and yet once the ban became law and the choice for French Muslim girls was between going to school and wearing their head scarves, his advice was to attend school.

Enda mer betenkelig er hans syn på Koranens påbud om steining av utro kvinner.

Last fall, also on television, Nicolas Sarkozy, then the French interior minister, challenged Mr. Ramadan to prove he was a moderate by telling Muslim women to «take off their veils.» Mr. Ramadan refused.

Mr. Sarkozy also challenged him to call for the abolition of the stoning of adulterous women, which is mandated by a strict reading of Islamic law. Mr. Ramadan called instead for a moratorium on stoning.

«That way, you start a dialogue,» he said. «I won’t change any thinking in the Muslim world if I issue a blanket condemnation of stoning to please the French interior minister.»

But Mr. Ramadan was attacked fiercely for refusing to take an absolutist stance. He was also, to his regret, lumped together with his older brother Hani, whom he calls a «literalist» Muslim. Hani Ramadan lost his job in Swiss education after publishing an essay justifying the stoning of adulterous women.

Det er beklagelig at norske aviser ikke følger en viktig sak som denne, som pågår både i Europa og USA.

Ramadan har også havnet i en tredje kontrovers. Han skrev en artikkel som anklaget jødiske franske intellektuelle for å favorisere sine egne, les Israel og jøder.

Mr. Ramadan himself set off a storm in France last fall when he wrote an online essay criticizing several French Jewish intellectuals for being «biased toward the concerns of their community» by defending Israel – in its construction of a barrier in the West Bank, for instance – and supporting, to varying degrees, the Iraq war.

These positions, he wrote, betrayed the intellectuals’ commitment to universal values. If Muslim intellectuals, he wrote, were expected to denounce anti-Semitism and terrorism committed in the name of Islam – which he does repeatedly, he said in an interview – why didn’t Jewish intellectuals bear a similar responsibility to condemn «the repressive policies of the state of Israel» and to oppose discrimination against Muslims in Europe, he asked.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, a prominent European intellectual, promptly labeled Mr. Ramadan a champion of double talk and said he had written an «anti-Semitic text.» The label of anti-Semite stuck to him even though, Mr. Ramadan said, he has been decrying anti-Semitism in the Muslim world for years.

Denne saken inneholder dermed alle de elementer som gjelder debatten islam, terrorisme, og Midtøsten-konfliten. Den gjelder mulighetene for en dialog mellom muslimer og vestlige inntellektuelle.

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