Tariq Ramadan: Exposing the Irrelevance of His Defenders in America
by Dr. Robert D. Crane
An important milestone in the history of Islam in America was the publication of Marc Lynch’s article in the current Foreign Affairs, which arrived in the mail this past week, entitled “Veiled Truths: The Rise of Political Islam in the West”. For many decades, this journal has represented the dominant power in American political thought.
This article focuses on the case of Tariq Ramadan and ably counters Paul Berman’s new book, “The Flight of the Intellectuals”, which is an expansion of a 28,000 word essay published three years ago in The New Republic during the Bush Administration to justify its permanent exclusion of Dr. Ramadan from America.
Unfortunately, Marc Lynch focuses on the Islamist movement’s early emphasis on creating a clash of civilization by creating the “Islamic state”. Nowadays only Salafis call for an Islamic State, which is a contradiction in terms, a classic oxymoron. Osama bin Laden goes one further by calling for a global Islamic caliphate, which is one of the greatest modernist perversions of classical Islamic thought. Emphasizing an issue that does not even concern Tariq Ramadan causes Dr. Lynch to overlook the difference between Muslims in a European environment and Muslims in America.
Ramadan is classified as a pragmatist and a compromiser and even an assimilationist, which Dr. Lynch seems to think makes him a good guy. This may be true in the extremist European Muslim environment, where Salafis are dominant. In America, however, there is no need to be pragmatic or assimilationist because America from its very founding has been a deeply religious country but traditionally has rejected religious or any other kind of extremism.
The difference between Europe and America stems from the fact that Europe jettisoned religion at the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, which, in turn, produced the French Revolution and its offspring in Communism, Nazism, and secular Zionism. All of America’s founders, except Thomas Paine, followed their mentor, Edmund Burke, minority leader of the English Parliament, who represented the deeply spiritual Scottish Enlightenment, which was the opposite of the secular Continental “Enlightenment”.
America’s founders were familiar with the “Contract Theorists”, such as Locke, but rejected their concept that man creates truth. All of America’s founders opposed “democracy” in principle, but supported the democratic process as the safest technique of governance. Because of this, classical Islam and classical American thought are identical.
Tariq Ramadan may be correct in his assessment of Islam as having to adapt to a foreign European culture, but his unfamiliarity with American history may prevent him from educating American Muslims that Islam is deeply American and America is deeply Islamic. This ignorance or indifference to the traditionalist perspective of America’s deeply spiritual founders, who vigorously opposed any links between organized religion and organized government, makes Tariq Ramadan’s search for a “middle road” simply irrelevant in America.
This ignorance of America as a “traditionalist” civilization is a tragedy, because most American Muslims are equally ignorant both of Islam and of America and therefore do not see the opportunity to help Muslims and others in America recover their common heritage.
The challenge in America is how to marginalize both the extremist conservatives and the extremist liberals who would hijack America’s heritage, just as both conservatives and liberals among Muslims are trying to hijack Islam.
The only adequate response by Muslims in America is how to integrate both the wisdom of Islam and themselves into the national discussion so that interfaith dialogue and cooperation can focus on shaping a national agenda dedicated to rehabilitating the role of religion in the world as the only means to promote peace, prosperity, and freedom through faith-based, compassionate justice.