«A thesis submitted to the University of Birmingham for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY Department of Theology and Religion School of Philosophy, ...»
Additionally, the scholar has been accused of secretly forging ties with terrorist groups and allying his thinking to their radical ideologies. Claims abound about the scholar’s encounters with several high-profile terrorists and his contributions to the funding of Hamas through a Palestinian charity and other extremist groups through the Al-Taqwa Bank (which the United States had believed at one point to be a major sponsor of Osama bin Laden and his associates). Such allegations have come with upsetting consequences for the scholar and his family. From late 1995 to early 1996, Ramadan was banned from entering France in the midst of terrorist attacks in Paris that were carried out by an Algerian-Islamist movement, with which the scholar allegedly had connections. On July 28, 2004, nine days before he and his family were to leave for the United States for his then-impending tenured position at the University of Notre Dame, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revoked his work visa that had been granted to him earlier that year on the grounds of national security and public safety.
This revocation was claimed to be in conformity with a legal doctrine that allows denial of entry to foreigners who have used their status to support terrorism. Ramadan has dismissed such claims as unfounded and pointed mainly to his having been refused entry by several Muslim countries (e.g., Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Tunisia) as counter-evidence, though the main reason he was banned is believed to be his criticism of what he saw as a lack of democracy in many parts of the Muslim world.
Additionally, in 2009, Ramadan was dismissed from his teaching post at the Erasmus
television could be construed as advocating the regime.
Notwithstanding all the controversies, Ramadan sees himself as belonging to the reformist camp, claiming to be sensitive to the historical and geographical evolution of human cultural contexts and to strive to put Islam in the right perspective while remaining faithful to its principles (Ramadan, 2009). In accordance with his professed objective to build bridges between the West and the Muslim world and explain the true merit of Islam (and other religions), he has extensively written and given talks on various themes that have characterized the discourse on Islam and modernity as well as critical problems of human rights, political governance, interreligious hospitality, and global peace. In trying to make Islam better understood, the scholar has been overtly critical about problems within the Muslim psyche that he believes underline the
stagnation of Muslim thought in the modern time, the most fundamental of which are:
First, the fallacy of mistaking some cultural norms (ones that have prevailed throughout the long history of various Muslim cultures and civilizations, but which can be proven to contradict the principles of Islam as understood by the general Muslim populace) for fundamental Islamic tenets, and second, the fallacy of misunderstanding the teaching of Islam by framing its interpretations within a particular period in Muslim history, leading to restrictive outcomes that betray the higher objectives of Sharia.
3.2.3 Ramadan and “European-Islam” It must be noted that, given his numerous media appearances and his fluency in (and use of) multiple languages (e.g., Arabic, French, and English), the scale of Ramadan’s contributions to contemporary Muslim issues beyond paper-based systems
original thoughts have been presented principally in his few writings that center particularly on Islam and Muslims in Europe and the general West. His engagement with this sub-field of contemporary Islam began in the late 80s, but his popularity as a thinker only took off within the following decade, beginning in France after the release of his book, Les Musulmans Dans la Laïcité (Muslims in Secular Society). What ultimately brought his thinking to international attention were his other two books published a few years later, To be a European Muslim and Western Muslims and the Future of Islam.
In these few publications, Ramadan’s complex and extensive arguments all appear to stem from the same core idea that it is possible to be both European and Muslim without a disabling sense of inner conflict in the combination. The scholar has consistently placed more emphasis on the Muslim state of mind than on anything else;
he argues that, while the European Muslim psyche has been plagued by a “victim mentality” that brews feelings of isolation and alienation and creates barriers for active cooperation between the state and its Muslim communities in working for the betterment of the latters integration, social welfare, and overall quality of life as rightful citizens, the Muslim world on the other side has been held down by restrictive interpretations of the Islamic Revelation that do not serve justice to its original message.
The appeal of Ramadan’s theology among European Muslims can be put down to his positive reading of Muslims making a home and being at home in Europe as rightful citizens. In the midst of a profound identity crisis following rapid globalization and consecutive Muslim controversies around the globe, the scholar’s largely pacifist ideas may have come at the right time to stand as a beacon of hope for those who seek
Being a European Muslim (and one who may or may not have immersed in an ocean of soul searching himself), Ramadan might just be perceived as a qualified authority to speak empathetically of the unique experiences of European Muslims as opposed to imported scholars from the Muslim world.
Despite the controversies and criticisms surrounding Ramadan’s thinking and approach, the scholar has had a successful career and has attracted a large following in Europe. Primarily serving as Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Institute at St Antony’s College of the University of Oxford, he is also President of the Euro-Muslim Network (EMN) - a European think-tank in Brussels, Belgium and a member of the IUMS founded by al-Qaradawi. Beyond Europe, Ramadan is Visiting Professor at the Faculty of Islamic Studies in Doha, Qatar and the Malaysian University of Perlis, Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan, and Director of the Research Centre of Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) in Doha, Qatar.
DA’WA (PROSELYTIZATION) AND SHAHĀDA (TESTIMONY)
4.1 Introduction While it probably comes as no surprise that both al-Qaradawi and Ramadan converge in the recognition that European Muslims must uphold Islam as a guiding force in life, the scholars differ in their thinking on how the Muslims should develop and express their “inner selves” (beliefs and values) and “outer selves” (behavior and relationships) in the pluralistic European context in accordance with the fundamental teachings of Islam; al-Qaradawi formulates his understanding through the concept of da’wa (proselytization) (al-Qaradawi, 1992; 1995; 2012; OnIslam, 2009), while Ramadan does so through the concept of shahāda (testimony) (Ramadan, 1999; 2004).
Although these two concepts may have overlapping characteristics that reflect the general idea of Islamic preaching, their essential functions have largely been reshaped by the scholars and presented in ways that resonate with their individual approaches to the idea of European Islam. Accordingly, al-Qaradawi and Ramadan diverge in their motivations for using these two concepts in discrepant ways, and in their perceptions of the structural elements underlying the concept of European-Muslim identity. The issue of most salience here is the positioning of European Muslims as “agents of Islamic proselytization” by al-Qaradawi and as “bearers of the Islamic testimony” by Ramadan, which will be discussed in this chapter.
In a general context, al-Qaradawi describes the purpose of da’wa as calling mankind ‘to righteousness, to command the common good and forbid that which is evil and undesirable’, and ‘… to join together in mutual teaching of truth and of patience’ (al-Qaradawi, 1995, p.90-91). This is premised on his belief that ‘Islam teaches a person not only to be pious and righteous but also to endeavour to reform others’ (al-Qaradawi, 1995, p.90). When contextualized in Europe, da’wa takes on the more specialized meaning of “political proselytization”, which seeks the Islamization of the non-Muslim majority part of the world as its ultimate goal, and which is intended for bending the political ideologies of the West in the direction of Islam’s and the Muslim umma’s interests (al-Qaradawi, 1992; 2012; OnIslam, 2007). The key to realizing this ambition, according to the scholar, is to develop and maintain a politically influential Islamic presence within the wider society that can serve as a bridge between the Muslim world and the West, which subsequently allows the Muslims to communicate directly with the non-Muslims to promote a positive image of Islam (al-Qaradawi, 1992; 2012; OnIslam, 2007). Thus, al-Qaradawi places responsibility on Muslims in the West to capitalize on their residency and entrusts them with the mission of proselytizing, which he believes is incumbent upon every committed Muslim, whether scholar or layperson (al-Qaradawi, 2012; OnIslam, 2007). Following the scholar’s personal definition of da’wa, the fundamental importance of the concept is, then, accentuated by its dual purpose: First, he portrays it as an indispensable foundation of the Muslim identity, and second, he views it as a means for expanding the Islamic message and guiding the non-Muslim others into the Islamic way of life and thought, with the presence of Muslims in the West being a vehicle of convenience for this mission of Islamization. In this sense,
Muslim da’wa and extra-Muslim da’wa - each with their own unique set of constructs.
4.2.1 Intra-Muslim da’wa Al-Qaradawi intends for the intra-Muslim dimension of da’wa to be an avenue for inculcating in the hearts and minds of Muslims in Europe an awareness of their religious obligations at both the individual and community levels, and for protecting them from assimilation. This appears to be predicated firmly on his conviction that the Muslims are in need of constant reminder to preserve their religion and retain its ethical principles in the face of the ‘vortex of materialist and utilitarian trends’ seen as endemic to the cultural fabric of the West as a whole (al-Qaradawi, 2012, para. 15). Although the scholar believes that the region has positive characteristics that do not clash with the principles of Islam, such as its technological advancements and the resulting wealth of opportunities, his perception of it is largely negative, as evidenced by his elucidation of five of its most unfavorable characteristics (as he sees them): First, ‘the flawed knowledge of the divinity: Western perception underlying Western civilization does not have a neat, clear-cut vision of God living up to His true dimensions. It is rather a hazy and blurred vision’; second, ‘the materialistic propensity which believes in the primacy of matter as a basis for understanding the universe, knowledge and behaviors, denying at the same time the metaphysical and spiritual dimension’; third, ‘the secular tendency, which is the upshot and the corollary of the two preceding characteristics. It is a tendency which separates religion from social life’; fourth, ‘conflict: It is a civilization pervaded by conflict, a civilization which does not believe in peace, quietude or love. It is marked by conflict between man and himself, between man and his fellows and
deeply ingrained in the mind of all Westerners. They consider themselves to be superior to others and believe that Western civilization is synonymous to Human Civilization.
They recognize no other civilization’ (in Wani, 2014, p. 50-51).
Consistent with this negative perception, the scholar warns Muslims in the West not to ‘… melt into that larger community in the very way salt melts into water’, metaphorically expressing his concern about the risk of their becoming culturally indistinguishable from the wider society (al-Qaradawi, 2012, para. 13). He urges that, when Muslim parents find it ‘extremely difficult to bring up their children Islamically, they should go back to their countries of origin, as staying in the West in this case will cause an irreparable harm to the whole family’ (OnIslam, 2007, para. 4). Al-Qaradawi’s seeming equation of being “Western” in behavior with being “less Muslim” here is linked to his belief in the comprehensiveness of Islam (shumūliyyat al-islām); similar to most classical and contemporary Muslim scholars, he adheres to the mutuallydependent nature of belief and practice in Islam, and is accordingly resistant to the idea that a Muslim can identify with Islam without being a practicing believer. He writes that ‘there is indeed no iman [faith] without Islam, and no Islam without iman’ (alQaradawi, 1995, p.63), defining imān as that which ‘pertains to the heart’ and Islam as that which ‘pertains to bodily action and outward behaviour’ (al-Qaradawi, 1995, p.63).
Furthermore, he states that Islam ‘… consists of beliefs which can enrich the mind, of ibadat [worship rituals] which purify the heart, of morals which purify the soul, of legislations which establish justice, and of manners which beautify life’ (al-Qaradawi, 1995, p.100). It is particularly this Islamic quality of “comprehensiveness” that cements
religion and politics) are incompatible (OnIslam, 2011).