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2010-04-09

Once-Banned Muslim Scholar Tariq Ramadan on His First Visit to US in Six Years, President Obama and Why Muslims Should Make Their Voices Heard

Guests

Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University, president of the Brussels-based think tank European Muslim Network, and the author of a number of influential books on Islam and Europe.

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We speak with leading Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, who was banned from entering the United States for six years. In 2004, Ramadan had accepted a job to become a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame, but nine days before he was set to arrive, the Bush administration revoked his visa, invoking a provision of the PATRIOT Act. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lifted the travel ban earlier this year. This week, he arrived in New York for the first time since 2004. Tariq Ramadan joins us in our studio to talk about the ban, his thoughts on President Obama, the importance for Muslims to make their voices heard, and much more. [includes rush transcript]

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Today, a Democracy Now! special with a leading Muslim scholar who was banned from entering the United States for six years. The Swiss-born Tariq Ramadan is a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, the president of the Brussels-based think tank European Muslim Network, and the author of a number of influential books on Islam and Europe.

In 2004, Tariq Ramadan had accepted a job at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and Time Magazine listed him among the top 100 thinkers in the world. But nine days before Ramadan was set to start teaching here in the United States, the Bush administration revoked his visa, invoking a provision of the PATRIOT Act that allows the government to deny entry to non-citizens who, quote, "endorse or espouse terrorism." The ACLU took up Tariq Ramadan’s case in court and claimed he was being excluded because of his views. The administration then accused Ramadan of donating over $1,000 to a charity that had allegedly given money to the Palestinian group Hamas.

Well, in January of this year, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lifted the travel ban on Tariq Ramadan and another scholar, the South African Adam Habib, who we interviewed on Democracy Now! earlier this week. Tariq Ramadan arrived in the United States on Wednesday evening.

Anjali Kamat and I spoke to him yesterday, shortly before he gave his first public address in this country at Cooper Union here in New York. We began by asking him to explain why he had been barred from entering the United States.

    TARIQ RAMADAN: Look, I was banned from the country six years ago, and I was told that this was because of the PATRIOT Act and my connection and my links with terrorist groups. And then this was removed, and they said, “Oh, you gave money, and you, yourself, acknowledge the fact that you gave money to organizations that are allegedly, you know, connected to Hamas and terrorist groups.” But they made a mistake, because I gave the money one year before this organization — these organizations were blacklisted in the States, and they are not blacklisted in Europe. So, you know, it’s just a silly and ridiculous decision.

    And at the end of the day, what is quite clear for me is that the fact that I was so very critical, so much critical towards the foreign policy in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and criticizing also the unilateral support of the United States of America towards Israel and not acknowledging the Palestinian rights, is something which, at the end, was the main reason, knowing that this is what I have been saying. I am critical towards the American policy — I have been — and very much against the Bush administration.

    AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about why the policy has changed under President Obama, what they told you, and then, when you came into the country and were taken in by immigration, what questions they asked you?

    TARIQ RAMADAN: First, about — you know, it’s quite clear that there is a shift in the American policy. And from the beginning, you know, when I was supported by ACLU and American Academy of Religions and other — you know, the American Association of University Professors and PEN, it was quite clear that I was — I should not confuse between people, Americans who are supportive and defending the human dignity and human rights, and this specific Bush administration, having something which is a binary vision of the reality — you are with us or against us. Now you have elected a president who is much more sophisticated than the previous one, and his administration is different. So what we can see now is, you know, the banning of scholars is something which is quite over. They want to change this, and they want to engage into open dialogue and critical dialogue. And I think that this is the way forward. So I would say that what is the reality of the United States now is this something which is new. So we have signals that things are changing.

    Now, on the global picture, we still need to see more coming from the Obama administration, when it comes to what I still criticize, when it comes to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Palestine and the rights of the Palestinians. So we want now this administration to deliver much more than only to speak. The speeches are good and open and right. I would say this, and I’m always constructively critical when I see things moving. I say, OK, this is good. But I think that this is the way now it’s moving. So there are changes in your country, and they are welcome. And this is why I’m here. I would say that this is a political decision that says this era is over now. We are opening a new chapter with the relationship — as to the relationship with the Muslims in the West and the Muslim-majority countries.

    Still, when I arrived yesterday in the country, something which was quite interesting is that they were asking me, “Why are you here? What are you talking about, and who are you meeting?” And I would say that the first step is to let me in. The second step is to avoid asking me this question. In a democratic society, you don’t ask someone, “What are you going to speak about?” I am used — I was used to this in my country of origin in Egypt, and I am banned from Egypt, where they were asking me, “Where? Who with? Whom are you going to meet, and what are the topics you are talking about?” In a non-democratic society you can expect this, not in the United States of America.

    ANJALI KAMAT: In June of last year, President Obama gave a much-heralded speech in Cairo to the Muslim world. What’s your assessment of the way he’s reaching out to the Muslim world, while continuing, in many ways, the policies of the Bush administration, in some ways worsening them in certain places?

    TARIQ RAMADAN: Look, my first reaction was a positive reaction, because I really think that this speech in Cairo was a very good one. It was a brilliant discourse, open to the Muslim-majority countries, but not only. You know, many people were saying, OK, he was addressing the Muslims around the world, which is not only this that he was doing. He was also talking to Americans, saying, look, American Muslims are contributing, and they are part of this country — something that I’ve been saying for the last twenty years. Islam is an American religion, is a European religion. And to speak about them, outside, it’s wrong. So I think that he was targeting and trying to get the Muslim-majority countries, but also Muslims and Americans from within. So this was a very important discourse.

    While, as I said, we are happy to see a new vision, a new way of talking, now we want practical measures. We want to see things happening. We spoke about Guantánamo, and still — you know, we were told it was going to be closed, and still we have the problem, it’s not going to happen. In Iraq and Afghanistan, while he was against the war in Iraq, that’s fine, but now how are we going to solve the problem in Afghanistan, where many people are not clear on what is happening? This war is a mistake. It’s wrong. And in Iraq, it’s illegal. And then we are talking today about the tensions between the United States of America and the Israeli government and Netanyahu. That’s fine. These are tensions. But is it going to change? Are we going to see something on the ground which is protecting the Palestinian dignity and rights? I don’t see this happening.

    So, I’m not naive. We know that during the first term of a new president it’s very difficult for him to change, and it takes time. But still, we want more than words, and we want things to happen. So there is something which is a mixed feeling towards the new president, which is, OK, that’s good, new vision, smart, intelligent, charismatic president, but still, policies are not moving the way we want and not — he can do better on translating these speeches into policies.

    ANJALI KAMAT: And let’s move to an issue you’ve written extensively about, which is Muslims in Europe, and how you see — you said Islam is a European religion, Islam is an American religion. Expand what you mean by this, and talk about it in the context of growing Islamophobia in Europe. We’ve seen the Swiss attempt to ban minarets, the French attempt to ban full veils on women, the crisis over the cartoons. Talk about what it’s like to be Muslim in Europe.

    TARIQ RAMADAN: Look, I am used to speak about Western Muslims. And as much as you are talking about security here, we talk about new visibility there. You don’t have a problem with visibility in the States, for example, but you may have a problem with this presence and mistrust. In Europe, we have — we are facing exactly the same problems with new populist parties, old populist parties, far-right parties, using the Muslim presence and pushing us toward something which is emotional politics, using fears and very old racist attitudes and, you know, logic, just to target the Muslims: “They are threatening the very homogeneity of our culture.”

    So this is something which is really important, while, what I’m saying, it’s — we are dealing with perceptions. So there is a clash of perception and mistrust here, while if you look at facts and figures, millions of Muslims are American, Canadian, European, and they don’t have a problem. They are abiding by the law, and they don’t have a problem of living as European. When I’m saying that, for example, I’m a European Muslim, I’m European by culture and Muslim by religion, and there is no problem. I find my way.

    And this is the three L’s that I’m mentioning in my last book. I say we need to abide by the three L’s. The first one is to abide by the law of the country, to know the language of the country, and to be loyal to our country. And to be loyal means critically loyal. I’m a citizen when I’m saying yes when it’s right, and I can be critical when I think it’s wrong. So this critical loyalty is very important.

AMY GOODMAN: European Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. We’ll come back to the interview in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We return to the interview that Anjali Kamat and I did with Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan, a professor now at Oxford University, president of the Brussels-based think tank European Muslim Network, just allowed back into the United States after a six-year ban imposed by the Bush administration. We asked Tariq Ramadan to describe the concerns and realities of Muslim communities in Europe.

    TARIQ RAMADAN: If you look at what is happening in many countries, the point is that it’s as if the visible Muslims are problematic. So we accept US citizens, as long as you are invisible. This is the new era of invisible Islam, invisible Muslims — no symbols, no visibility, no minarets, no mosques, nothing. Well, it’s exactly the opposite. The more you are visible and you are settling down, the more you are part of the landscape, the more you are fitting into the neutrality of the landscape and the civil society. So this is a distorted perception of what is the Muslim presence.

    So, yes, the Muslims have a great deal of responsibility explaining, communicating, reaching out. This is their duty as citizens. But we also need our fellow citizens to understand that it’s a richness to live with Muslims, it’s a potential contribution, and then they are part of the society. So this is what I call the new “we.” The new we is to be able in the United States of America to say we have the common future and we are coming with common values to change it for the better, and not to have this us versus them. It’s still here in the United States; it’s everywhere in the West. So we cannot speak about equal citizenship if there is no common sense of belonging. And there is no common sense of belonging yet, because we don’t trust each other. Not enough.

    You know, if you have to compare and to understand what is happening in Europe and to compare this to the States, you know, there is a big difference, is that the great majority of the Muslims who came to Europe came out of economic exile, which is not the same as the immigrants, the Muslim immigrants, that you have coming from the Middle East or from Pakistan with, you know, liberal professions and more educated. They came, in the States, much more educated. So the immigrants are not the same.

    In Europe, what we have is really very modest, low-profile and workers coming to try to survive in Europe. In fact, their reality is closer to what you have in inner cities with African Americans. So this is the reality, that, you know, they are marginalized, living in areas that are segregated. It’s very close to this. And this is why it’s quite interesting when you come to the States to listen to what the African American Muslims, for example, are saying about the country, when they say, “OK, you speak about equal citizenship. That’s fine. But we don’t experience this. We experience that there is a citizenship for the white and another citizenship for the black.” It’s the same in Europe, when you have, you know, people coming, and they are in specific areas, the first generations were invisible. They were in suburbs. They were not in — living with others.

    So I would say here that when you try to understand what is happening in Europe, there is something which is now done by politicians, and we have to be very cautious. What they are doing is that they are Islamizing the social problems, religionizing them, saying, oh, you know, the common feature of all this, they are all Muslims, and they are coming from North Africa or coming from West Africa or coming from Pakistan or from Turkey. And my answer to this is that this has nothing to do with religion. Don’t come with this. Because you don’t have social policies, you end up with, you know, very emotional politics and with Islamizing the problem. So I would say that this is a trap, and we have to be very cautious.

    Of course, there is an overlapping reality that the great majority of the people living in segregated areas are coming from Africa or are Muslims. But our answer to this would be to say, when it comes to cultures and religions, it’s done. The Muslims are more and more integrated, and now they are contributing. And look at the second, third, and onward, generations. They are much more visible in the streets, in the campuses, in the media, everywhere. They are now visible. Their parents were not, because they were segregated. Now they are getting out of the ghettos or the social ghettos and the geographical ghettos, and they are coming to the society. And so, this visibility is creating a problem today, because yesterday they were not, and this is why we have all this, you know, discussion about the minarets and the headscarf and all that. So this is one dimension.

    But the most important one is that what they need, in fact, is not to carry on talking about headscarf and the minarets. It’s to talk about social justice. It’s to talk about class segregation. It’s to talk about people not having the same rights, and when you go to the job market, you are facing discriminations.

    ANJALI KAMAT: And your father was friends with Malcolm X?

    TARIQ RAMADAN: He was. Yes, he was. And I heard my father talking about him, because Malcolm X, when he first was with the Nation of Islam, was very far from what we call the mainstream Islamic understanding, and he changed his mind. He went to the pilgrimage. And coming back, he went through Geneva, and he met my father.

    In fact, the last letter that he was — what was on his typewriting was for my father. He was answering ten questions. And in this letter, he was saying, “They are going to kill me.” He knew that this was going to happen. And for one reason, which was quite interesting, is that “because I came back to the true Islam.” And in his mind, true Islam meant it’s not black against white. It’s all the people of principles against all the oppressors and the colonizers. And at that point, he became very dangerous.

    AMY GOODMAN: I’m looking at the latest piece in The New Yorker magazine that’s headlined "Tariq Ramadan Comes to America!" — with an exclamation point. And it refers to the writer Paul Berman, who “wrote a long article for The New Republic, the basis of his new book The Flight of the Intellectuals, to be published this month, arguing that Ramadan is to be feared, not admired — that his writings reveal a strong kinship with the radical Islamist ideology of his grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. To Berman, Ramadan is a false moderate.” And it goes on from there. Can you respond to those points?

    TARIQ RAMADAN: I can respond by telling you something, which is, I was expecting from Paul Berman something which was at the level of his, you know, reputation. In fact, this book is a translation of what was written in French for the last twenty years. He is not a writer; he’s a translator in this book. It’s translation. I responded to all this by saying, come with the evidence. Come and tell me what I’m saying in Arabic that is not said in French or in English.

    If this was the case, how is it that I’m banned from six Muslim-majority countries? If I have a doubletalk, I should be welcome in Saudi Arabia. Why am I banned from there? From Egypt, when I’m criticizing the lack of democracy? So my life is a response to this, which is rumors, Googling, no reading, translating. And that’s OK, if he has one evidence. You know, I heard just this morning that I said once that there is something called Islamic biology, that he’s saying that I said that. That’s fine. I never used this, and I’m completely against that. But if you are repeating this on Google and having books like this, saying things that are completely wrong, my answer is, come to my life, come to my works, come to my books, and just show me where I have this doubletalk.

    And I would say something to people like him, who are quite leftist and, you know, promoting social democracy in the States and coming back with this, that —-

    AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know if people would call him leftist in the United States.

    TARIQ RAMADAN: Sorry?

    AMY GOODMAN: I don’t know if people would call him leftist in the United States.

    TARIQ RAMADAN: No, no, social democrats are -— yes, that’s OK. But, you know, people who knew him tell me he has changed a great deal over the last years. And that’s fine. He’s not the only one. I am seeing this and meeting people in Europe exactly the same, saying, “Oh, we were too liberal. These Muslims are threatening us.” So they are changing their mind. And in fact, you can see that all over the West. You have a kind of a network of people nurturing exactly the same ideas and projecting onto the Muslim presence something which is old, that this is a threat.

    And if you come to the common ground, you understand that, in fact, they have a problem with us of being Westerners or being Europeans. They want a binary vision: us versus them. More than this, they are not happy with us as Europeans or as Americans being able to say we disagree with the American policy, for example, in the Middle East, we disagree with this unilateral support towards Israel. They don’t want this. So I’m a threat because of this, not because I’m advocating citizenship. So let us come to who is hiding a specific agenda. And it’s not on my side.

    ANJALI KAMAT: Let’s go back to Egypt. Amy mentioned that you’re the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim —-

    TARIQ RAMADAN: She’s good, isn’t she?

    ANJALI KAMAT: —- the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. No rumor there. What’s your assessment of Islamist parties, in general, and their role in pushing for a more democratic process, in particular in Egypt, where they are trying to oppose the rule of President Mubarak?

    TARIQ RAMADAN: You know, once again, Islamism is as diverse as Islam and Muslims. You cannot just, “Oh, Islamist means, you know, violent extremism.” This is superficial, wrong, and has nothing to do the scientific work of understanding what is happening. You have political Islam and the Islamist parties and trends that we have put into context.

    For example, the Muslim Brotherhood. My grandfather founded the Muslim Brotherhood during the ‘20s, and then he was dealing with a specific context. He was, quietly, we don’t want the British colonization, we want to be autonomous. And for this, I would have supported this, by saying we don’t support colonization.

    Now, the specific answer for a specific period of time is something that we have to take into account. So the first thing that we have to do is not to essentialize political Islam by saying they are all the same — that’s not true — or to say, oh, for example, these are the nice or the very beautiful face of something which is hidden behind, which is al-Qaeda or bin Laden. These are things that are very superficial and dangerous, because where are you going to put, for example, Erdogan today or the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt or other trends in Morocco? So we have to go case by case and understand what is happening first.

    Every single movement is moving itself. Within history, you can see that they are moving, that they are changing their position. This is one thing. And then there are a diversity of strategies that they are using. So you may agree or not that Islam is a social reference or political reference, and I could be very critical towards this, but I’m not going to come with a very simplistic answer by saying, you know, this is all bad.

    And still, in many countries, it’s not because of Islam or because of these Islamist parties that we have dictatorships, like, for example, Saddam Hussein or Hafez al-Assad or Mubarak today. They are people who are not advocating anything which has to do with Islam, but still they are dictators, and they are promoting dictatorships.

    So I would go for more democratization in Muslim-majority countries and to let these parties be able to speak out, as long as they are not using violence and killing innocent people. If they are in the political process, let them be in, and we’ll see what is happening. It’s by challenging their ideas that we can change; it’s not by pushing them underground. And they then end up being violent or being supported because they are not accepted by the official political arena. I would say that this is the way forward for me. No simplification on this, because it’s not helping us at all.

    AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask you about this controversial figure in Yemen who comes from the United States, the US-born Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, who recently issued this audio message to American Muslims. This is a little excerpt of what he said.

      ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: I, for one, was born in the US. I lived in the US for twenty-one years. America was my home. I was a preacher of Islam involved in nonviolent Islamic activism. However, with the American invasion of Iraq and continued US aggression against Muslims, I could not reconcile between living in the US and being a Muslim, and I eventually came to the conclusion that jihad against America is binding upon myself, just as it is binding on every other able Muslim.

    AMY GOODMAN: So this is Anwar al-Awlaki, and I want to ask you two things. On Democracy Now!, we had on the UN rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, because the CIA has issued an order of assassination for this US citizen, and we talked to Philip Alston about the legality of targeting him for assassination. And second, I wanted to ask you about exactly what he said. He’s been linked to the failed Christmas Day bombing and to the shootings at Fort Hood.

    TARIQ RAMADAN: Two things. The first is to decide that we can kill someone, the way it was decided, it’s unacceptable. It’s simply unacceptable. It’s unacceptable anywhere. It’s unacceptable in Israel, when they are saying, “We are targeting people, and we’re going to kill them.” It’s unacceptable to listen to a democracy and a governments saying, “Oh, we can kill him. He’s an American citizen, and we can kill him because of what he is saying.”

    I think that we cannot — you know, the most important danger that the States and European countries are facing is not the Muslim presence, is not violent extremists, per se; is because we are facing extremism and violent extremists, to come to a point that we are betraying our own values, that we say things that we can torture, that we can go towards extraordinary rendition, and we kill someone like this. This is the big threat. This is just unbelievable that we can forget our values, say, “OK, we can do things like this.” No, it should be — he can be arrested, and a trial, and we see what is said and what is not said. So this is my position. It’s a position of principle. And I think that, with my presence as a European Muslim or Western Muslim, I’m helping my country, my continent, to reconcile itself with its own values, not to act against them. So this is a first point.

    The second is, we have something here which is quite interesting. He was in the state, and at the beginning he had a very open — you know, this speech and understanding that we have to be American. And then, after all this, there is something which is missing here. And the missing link is this one. There is a lack of sense of belonging. If you listen to what he’s saying here, that America and us killing Muslims, so it’s as if it’s us versus them. And this is something which is quite important. If we are not able, in this country, to be American citizen, Muslim and non-Muslims, and to be critical and not to see our loyalty being questioned because we are critical, how could we get the sense of belonging?

    So if, for example, me, I’m banned from this country, I’ve been banned from this country because I speak my mind, I get the message: in fact, I’m not one of you. You are putting me outside, saying, “No, you’re banned from us." So this is exactly what is happening with people like this. We push, we push, we push. We kill in Iraq. We kill in Afghanistan. And when we need a critical discussion here, by saying, “No, we don’t agree,” it should be open, and we should not be suspected. It’s not working. So you get everything except this sense of belonging.

    And if you don’t get this sense of belonging, which is the psychological integration to your society, meaning if I want to change the policies in Iraq, I should be a citizen in this country to vote and to be critical and to reach out — this is where I belong, this is my country — if I don’t get this sense, I’m going to end up like this, exactly like, in the same way, Mohammad Sidique Khan. After — just before the bombing in London, he was saying, “You are killing our brothers there. We are going to kill you.” You and us, our brother and you. But he was born and raised in Britain. Exactly like him, he was here.

    So it’s very — it’s a deep question here. It’s a deep dimension, that we have to understand that critical discussion is important. To feel at home here is important. And then, with this kind of understanding, I will challenge this understanding of Islam, of course, by saying, you know, we cannot be loyal to the United States of America and this very black-and-white attitude, dogmatic mind. I can understand that it is coming out of frustrations, but I disagree.

    But I would like the politicians in the States and in the West to understand, if you carry on this atmosphere, this nurturing this perception that Islam is a threat, that the Muslims are a problem, not a potential contribution, you will end up having this kind of, you know, gap between us and them. And you ask yourself sometime, is it not what some populists want? This is not what exactly they are doing. This is not what Bush was willing, just to push us to — “They don’t like us. They don’t like our democracy. They don’t like our” — who is this "they" you are talking about? It’s — who are they? It’s the Muslims, are all — we are not — we are not targeting the Muslims. We are targeting only the violent people, but the whole rhetoric and the narrative behind is very problematic. So I would say we have — as a Muslim, I should, and I am, criticizing these kind of statements.

    But I would also be heard when I’m saying to my fellow citizens, if we don’t change the narrative, our mindset, in the way we deal with all this, we are not going to have people to go beyond this and say, “OK, you are my people. I’m critical towards my government, in the name of my principles, not only because I am a Muslim, but because killing someone is wrong.” Killing, even if you torture, is wrong; even if you suspect someone, you cannot kill him that way. So I would say that this is something that we have to share together.

    ANJALI KAMAT: How would you respond to criticism that has come from some feminists of your position on women’s rights and gay rights? Can you explain what your position is?

    TARIQ RAMADAN: You know, it’s quite funny, because I am considered by many Muslim women as a feminist. And in my book, I wrote the birth of Islamic feminism. So I have been, for the last twenty-five years, saying that Islam has no problem — no problems with women, but Muslims have, and we have to reform their mindset and their understanding. So I’m advocating this. I’m not advocating this sitting here. I’m advocating at the grassroots level, working with women and pushing them to get rid of this victim mentality as a woman, say — be autonomous, learn your religion, and then free yourself from any kind of alienation.

    And we are facing two problems in Islam today: what I call reduction, a reductive approach, literalist understanding of some of the verses of the Koran; and the other thing is projection, is the cultural projection onto the texts, you know, and confusing Islam with a Pakistani or an Arab or an African reading of the scriptural sources. So we have to free ourself from this.

    So I would say to the feminists, some of them — because you said some of them, not all — I am supported by many feminists, even in Europe, saying, oh, this is a very important step that I’m pushing in that direction. But, for example, when you have feminists saying, if you say to a woman that she has to wear the headscarf, it’s by definition against feminism. I say no, what is against feminism is to say to a woman, you have to do this or to do that. You want to wear the headscarf, do it; you don’t want, don’t wear it. This is your freedom. This is why I’m against the Saudi imposing it onto women. But I am against France telling to the young girls, “You have to remove it, because this is the only way to be free.” I think that these are two wrong options. So some feminists are very dogmatic, and they think that the only right feminism is to think the way they think. So, you know, you can be progressive as to your vision and dogmatic as your decision. And I would say that I’m critical of this, while I still think that we need to go to a better — to go to push in that direction a better understanding of Islam.

    My position is, you know, on — for example, on homosexuality, if you come to all the religion and go as far as, you know, the Dalai Lama, he’s saying homosexuality is against the Buddhist tradition, or some are saying against the Jewish tradition and Islamic tradition. If you say it’s not promoted by your religion, this is one thing. Now, you are also saying — and this is what I’m saying — it’s not promoted by Islam. But what is our attitude towards this? So a Muslim, for me, could say, I may not agree with what you are doing, but I respect who you are. And if we live in a pluralistic society, this is what we should expect from everyone. You may disagree with what I believe, what I am doing, my behavior, but what you should do, with no exception, is to respect who I am. My dignity is not disputable. It’s something which is inalienable. So this is where I stand.

    So I would say, what is wrong in this? Is it wrong that I’m not saying exactly what you want me to say? Is that the only way to be free, is to be Westernized? No, Westernization of the world is not to be free; it’s just to have a dogmatic mind. And I would say, let people find their way, but still, yes, we still have a lot to do within the Muslim-majority countries and the Muslim communities. And maybe one of my last lectures was to say, speaking about this, that we should maybe stop talking too much about the problem of Muslim women and speak more about the problems of Muslim men.

AMY GOODMAN: Swiss-born Muslim philosopher Tariq Ramadan, professor at Oxford University in Britain, coming to the United States for the first time in six years.

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