Tariq Ramadan and the Three Public Faces of Islam

There are three images of Islam competing for space in the public mind.

One portrays Islam as a violent and predatory religious force seeking to overthrow the West by fire and sword. The standard bearers of this version are the orthodontic disasters we see in the media from time to time, screaming into the camera, hoisting placards promising death to America and setting bonfires in which American, British, and Israeli flags are reduced to char.

Another and more heraldic image depicts Islam as a noble and courageous faith, born in the harshest of environments, which it overcomes through the exercise of the manly virtues and a sense of heroic style mediated by the romantic aura of the flowing galabieh, a revered tradition, and elegant rituals of hospitality. We see this fetishizing of the Arab and his faith at its most flamboyant in T.E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom, and at its most insidious in Robert Kaplan’s The Arabists.

The third and perhaps most pervasive mental icon of the faith today is that of a socially and spiritually liberating institution whose ancient pedigree is not only capable of doctrinal flexibility and modernization but offers a vision of stability and assurance in an increasingly chaotic world. The most conspicuous representative of this perception of Islam is Tariq Ramadan, an erudite, supple, and persuasive Western-tailored “intellectual” whose soothing rhetoric operates as an ideological narcotic. For in reality he is the most deceptive and oleaginous of Islam’s new breed of warrior, who penetrates our defenses from beneath our historical ramparts. In the words of French social critic Caroline Fourest, from her La tentation obscurantiste, “Tariq Ramadan est devenu un virtuose du désamorçage rhétorique et sémantique.” (“Tariq Ramadan has become a virtuoso of rhetorical and semantic defusing” -- in the sense of downplaying a crisis.)

Ramadan’s grandfather Hassan al-Banna was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. His father Said founded the World Islamic League and later established the Islamic Center of Geneva, whose function was to bring Islam to the West. His brother Hani chairs the board. As Robert Sibley writes in the Ottawa Citizen, “Normally, you don’t hold a man’s family against him. In Ramadan’s case, however, it is permissible because he makes so much of his heritage.” And this heritage encloses within its core the central principle of the grandfather, who believed, as Nick Cohen puts it in What’s Left?, that “only a restored and pure Islamic Caliphate could end the humiliation of the Arabs.” Al-Banna then organized “his followers into ‘falanges’ modeled on General Franco’s, and admiring Hitler’s brown shirts.”

The crucial element in this campaign against the cultural integrity and, indeed, the ultimate survival of the West is the subterranean agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood, which since its formation in the Egyptian city of Ismailia in 1928, has been at the source of internecine violence, assassinating two prime ministers, Mahmoud Fahmi Nokrashi and Anwar Sadat -- in the latter case, via its offshoot Islamic Jihad, despite its verbal renunciation of violence in 1970. The Brotherhood’s emblem is a Koran with crossed swords. In an interview reported by the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI), in the organization’s General Guide, Muhammad Mahdi Akef, who resigned in 2010 (to be replaced by the equally hard-core Muhammad Badee), affirmed that “the movement supports martyrdom operations in Palestine and Iraq in order to expel the Zionists and the Americans.”

Those who try to launder the Brotherhood’s infusorial project might be advised to study its 1991 memorandum, the "General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America," which proposed a “Civilization-Jihadist Process” and stated that Muslims “must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and sabotaging its miserable house.”