Tariq Ramadan deltok nylig på et møte i New York, hans første besøk i USA siden innreiseforbudet ble opphevet i januar. Blant paneldeltakerne var journalisten George Packer. Han stilte med forventninger, men fant at Ramadan ikke innfridde. Han vek unna de vanskelige spørsmålene.
I sin åpningskommentar sa Ramadan det samme som han har sagt i Oslo ved flere anledinger: om flere identiteter, om hvordan islam er blitt en europeisk religion, at muslimer må delta i det sivile samfunn osv. Men dette hørtes mer ut som en tale til annen- eller tredjegenerasjons muslimer i Lille. Packer syntes det ble mange fraser og floskler.
Ramadan seemed wrong-footed in those opening remarks. He didn’t have a sense of where he was, of his American audience. It was as if he were speaking to disaffected young second-generation immigrants in a working-class mosque in Lille or Leicester, which is how he spends much of his time. Multiple identities, the value of diversity—not exactly news in this city, in this country. Many of his sentences amounted to buzz words strung together, without reaching a point. It seemed a missed opportunity: his first address in America since becoming an international figure, and he hadn’t prepared, hadn’t thought it through.
Da turen kom til Packer stilte han Ramadan to spørsmål.
I asked Ramadan two questions. The first was historical: drawing from a chapter in Paul Berman’s forthcoming book «The Flight of the Intellectuals», I described the relationship between Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, and Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and a Nazi ally who made a series of genocidal broadcasts on an Arabic radio program transmitted from wartime Berlin, urging Arabs to rise up and kill Jews. I cited quotations from al-Banna expressing pro-Nazi and anti-Semitic views; I quoted Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a follower of al-Banna who is a hugely popular TV preacher on Al Jazeera, expressing similar views. And I asked Ramadan why he had never acknowledged, let alone condemned, these things.
My second question was philosophical: I wanted to know if Ramadan believed that rights are inherent in human beings or must be granted by the authority of religious texts—and, if the latter, what happens when, for example, freedom of speech collides with the injunction against blasphemy?
Packer hadde innledningsvis bemerket at de andre innlederne hadde konstatert at det ikke var noen motsetning mellom liberale verdier og islam, ei heller var kvinners stilling noe problem. Men hvorfor nevnte ingen situasjonen i muslimske land, mediene bringer daglig storier som forteller noe helt annet.
Denne refleksjonen sier noe om stemningen på møtet, også den velkjent fra debatter på Litteraturhuset.
Ramadan lar seg ikke «fange». Han viker unna ubehagelige spørsmål. Slik også denne gang. Det får ikke hjelpe om han synker i aktelse hos en New York-intellektuell. Viktigere ting står på spill.
We didn’t have time to air fully the second question. But on the first, Ramadan and I went back and forth a number of times. And he couldn’t give me a direct answer. He hedged, he spoke about context, he suggested that the quotes were mistranslated, that they didn’t actually exist. But he refused to acknowledge that his grandfather and the Muslim Brotherhood in its origins were characterized by anti-Semitic or totalitarian views. It seemed clear that there was a limit to what he would allow himself to say or think, and that I had found it.