Gjesteskribent

Paul Berman er ute med sin bok om Tariq Ramadan og «klerkenes» forræderi: Flight of the Intellectuals, der han tar for seg det underlige fenomen at islamisten Ramadan nyter beundring forsvar fra liberale intellektuelle, mens den intellektuelle stemmen som kritiserer den nye obskurantismen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, må leve med livvakter og blir fordømt.

About these criticisms of Ms. Hirsi Ali, Mr. Berman is incredulous. «A more classic example of a persecuted dissident intellectual does not exist,» he notes about her. And yet, he writes, she is treated differently from Salman Rushdie, another writer who was subjected to death threats. «How times have changed!» he declaims. «The Rushdies of today find themselves under criticism, contrasted unfavorably in the very best of magazines with Tariq Ramadan,» who had ties to an organization that was known to be anti-Rushdie. «Here is a reactionary turn in the intellectual world — led by people who, until just yesterday, I myself had always regarded as the best of the best.»

He is withering about why this might be. Quoting another writer, he calls this «the racism of the anti-racists.» As self-hating Westerners, he suggests, Mr. Buruma and Mr. Garton Ash can be seen «groveling to Ramadan, who berates the West» while attacking the Somali dissident who embraces its values.

Dette er fra Dwight Garners anmeldelse i NYTimes: In Pursuit of Prey, Carrying Philosophy , som er ambivalent og gir ros motstrebende.

At Paul Berman så kraftig forsvarer Ayaan Hirsi Ali er en interessant konstellasjon: Hvilke krefter kan motsette seg islamismens fremmarsj? Jo, amerikanske jødiske intellektuelle og muslimske intellektuelle som har «brutt ut» og tatt et oppgjør med sin bakgrunn.

Det er en potent allianse. Boken til Berman burde vært stoff i norsk presse, hvis de ville fulgt med i debatten. At de ikke har den sier noe om hvilke side de står på.

Fra første kapittel i boken:

Philosopher and the Press

Paul Berman

Tariq Ramadan is a charismatic and energetic Islamic philosopher in Europe who, during the last fifteen years or so, has become popular and influential among various circles of European Muslims— originally in Geneva, where his father founded the Islamic Center in 1961 and where Ramadan grew up; then in Lyon, the French city closest to Switzerland, where Ramadan attracted a following of young people from North African backgrounds; then among French Muslims beyond Lyon; at the Islamic Foundation in Leicester, in England, where he spent a year on a fellowship; among still more scattered Muslim audiences in Western Europe, who listened to his audio recordings and packed his lecture halls, typically with the men and the women sitting demurely in their separate sections; among Muslims in Francophone regions of Africa—and outward to the wider world.

Ramadan possesses a special genius for shaping cultural questions according to his own lights and presenting those questions to the general public. He has demonstrated this ability from the start. As early as 1993, at the age of thirty-two, he campaigned in Geneva to cancel an impending production of Voltaire’s play Fanaticism, or Mahomet the Prophet. The production was canceled, and a star was born—though Ramadan has argued that he had nothing to do with canceling the play, and to affirm otherwise is a «pure lie.» Not every battle has gone his way. He taught at the college of Saussure. His colleagues there were disturbed by his arguments in favor of Islamic biology over Darwin. This time, too, Ramadan shaped the debate to his own specification. He insisted that he had never wanted to suppress the existing biology curriculum—merely to complement it with an additional point of view. A helpful creationist proposal. But the Darwinians, unlike the Voltaireans, were in no rush to yield.
That was in 1995, and by then Ramadan had already established himself in Lyon, at the union of Young Muslims and the Tawhid bookstore and publishing house. These were slightly raffish immigrant endeavors, somewhat outside the old and official mainline Muslim organizations in France. Even so, the mainline organizations welcomed the arrival of a brilliant young philosopher. He built alliances. He attended conferences. His op-eds ran in the newspapers. He engaged in debates. Eventually his face appeared on French television and on the covers of glossy magazines, which introduced him to the gen- eral public in France, a huge success. And yet—this is the oddity about Tariq Ramadan—as his triumphs became ever greater and his thinking more widely known, no consensus whatsoever emerged regarding the nature of his philosophy or its meaning for France or Europe or the world.

Some mainstream journalists in France were drawn to him from the start. The Islam-and-secularism correspondent at Le Monde, full of admiration, plugged him regularly and sometimes adopted his arguments. At Le Monde Diplomatique, Ramadan became a cause, not just a story. The editor lionized him. Politis magazine promoted him. On the activist far left, some of the anti-globalist radicals and the die-hard enemies of McDonald’s saw in Ramadan, because of his denunciations of American imperialism and Zionism and his plebian agitations, a tribune of progressive Islam, even if his religious severities grated on left-wing sensibilities. The Trotskyists of the Revolutionary Communist League forged something of an alliance with him. A number of Christian activists regarded him with particular fondness: a worthy partner for interreligious dialogue. A dike against the flood tides of secular materialism. An inspiration for their own revived spirituality. A religiously motivated social conscience similar to their own, laboring on behalf of the poor and the oppressed. Ramadan might even have seemed, in some people’s eyes, stylishly trendy at one moment or another—a champion of Islam who, because Islam has been so badly demonized, held out a last dim hope for shocking the bourgeoisie. Then again, some of the French experts on Islam likewise found something commendable in him: a thoughtful effort to modernize Islam for a liberal age. The distinguished scholar Olivier Roy, who had no interest in shocking anyone, looked on Ramadan in an admiring light.

Still, in France other people recoiled, and did so without much hesitation, and recoiled at the people who had failed to recoil. The critics insisted that Ramadan’s friends and admirers in the press were deluding themselves, and that alliances with him were bound to backfire, and that, beneath the urbane surface, he represented the worst in Islam, and not the best. Some of the critics were Christian conservatives and political right-wingers and nativists, whose hostility might have been predicted. Then again, the most prominent of Ramadan’s left-wing Christian allies turned against him, and did so in a fury, as if betrayed. Some mainline Muslim leaders in France grew reserved. Even the French anti-globalists proved to be of two minds about him. A good many militants of the anti-globalist cause watched with dismay as Ramadan’s pious followers filled the seats at anti-globalist meetings, and veiled women thronged the podium. Muslim liberals reviled him. His loudest enemies in France turned out to be left-wing feminists, who took one look and shuddered in alarm. Feminists from Muslim backgrounds denounced him in Libération, the left-wing newspaper. The Socialist Party politicians in France, who had every reason to seek out Arab and Muslim voters, showed not the slightest interest in him.

Dark rumors spread. The Spanish police inquired into his Lyon networks. In 1995 the French minister of the interior denied him permission to re-enter France—which sparked a mobilization of petition- signers until the ministry, confessing error, rescinded the order. His detractors in the press—initially at Lyon Mag, the city magazine in Lyon—speculated grimly about his personal connections. He responded with a double lawsuit, against Lyon Mag and against one of his critics, who was Antoine Sfeir, a Lebanese historian. The verdict ended up split: against the magazine but in favor of Sfeir. The magazine kept on hammering nonetheless. So did Sfeir.

Books about Ramadan tumbled into the book- stores at a remarkable pace. Caroline Fourest’s Frére Tariq appeared in France in 2004 (and in English translation, as Brother Tariq, in 2008) and has proved to be the most influential: an angry book, alarmed, energetic in tabulating the naïve tropes and clichés of the French press, indignant at the journalists who keep falling for the same old manipulations, indignant at the progressives who view Ramadan as a progressive. But Fourest’s book was only the first, followed by at least six more books in France in the last several years—among them Paul Landau’s Le Sabre et le Coran, or The Saber and the Koran (no less hostile and accusatory than Caroline Fourest’s); Aziz Zemouri’s Faut-il faire taire Tariq Ramadan?, or Should Tariq Ramadan Be Silenced? (which affords Ramadan a fair-minded chance to have his own say, at length); and Ian Hamel’s La vérité sur Tariq Ramadan, or The Truth About Tariq Ramadan (mildly sympathetic to Ramadan, sometimes skeptical, indignant at the hostility expressed by Caroline Fourest and Paul Landau). And the books, too, having contributed to the controversy, contributed to his popularity.

Ramadan seems to have known instinctively how to respond to accusations and innuendos, and his rejoinders succeeded in turning each new setback into an advance. He suggested a bigotry against Islam on his critics’ part, amounting to a kind of racism, which any decent person ought to condemn. He argued that criticisms of him represented a holdover from the colonialist mentality of the past. He was dignified, self-controlled, unflappable; and also a man with a polemical knife. He accused Caroline Fourest of being a militant for Zionism, and a liar. He was angry. Sometimes his anger proved effective in the conscience-stricken atmosphere of modern post-imperial France. Some people, listening to his responses, grew pensive. His supporters waved their fists. And his critics became still more fretful—not just about Ramadan, but about the people who, in applauding or merely in growing pensive, seemed to have accepted his categories of analysis, as if in a stupor.

Boken ble anmeldt av Berlingskes USA-korr, Poul Høj, onsdag 5. mai:

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