In a recent Boston Globe, Diana Eck, professor of religion at Harvard and president of the American Academy of Religion, published an op-ed piece attacking the administration for not allowing Tariq Ramadan to come to the USA. It is a sterling example of PCP liberal cognitive egocentrism and just begging to be fisked. (Her piece in block quote, my comments in italics, other quotes in block/bold. Hat-tip Larry Lowenthal)
Shutting out a voice for Islam
By Diana L. Eck | February 2, 2006
WHY IS THE American Academy of Religion, with more than 10,000 members who teach religion in colleges and universities, suing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff? It takes a matter of grave concern for an academy of scholars who study everything from the Bible to Buddhists to join the American Civil Liberties Union in bringing a case against the US government. The concern is this: Our colleague, Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar and theologian, has been barred from entering the United States to participate in the discussion of one of the most important topics of today: contemporary Islam in the West.
For 18 months, the government has withheld his visa on the basis of the ”ideological exclusion” provision of the Patriot Act, interpreted so broadly as to be a danger to the enterprise of debate and exchange in a free society.
At first it seemed an ignorant mistake. Ramadan, a Swiss national of Egyptian ancestry, had previously lectured at universities and attended conferences in the United States. But in August 2004, he suddenly had his visa revoked by the Department of Homeland Security on the eve of his departure to teach at Notre Dame. Those of us who had known and admired his work were astounded. He was at the top of my reading list as an articulate spokesman for Islamic engagement in civil society and in the dialogue of religions. I had met Ramadan that summer at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona. I looked forward to hearing his plenary address at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion in November 2004. So why would the US government revoke the visa of a scholar whose entire body of work was dedicated to an emergent ”reformist” Islam? Why would the United States deny entry to someone able to contribute constructively to public discussion in Western countries with growing Muslim populations?
For Eck apparently, there’s just no problem. Ramadan is a proponent of the “emergent ‘reformist’ [i wonder what the scare quotes mean here] Islam” and we should be encouraging him every step of the way. Is Eck completely unaware of the problems with “reformist” Muslims who hide a radical agenda behind the kind of nice-sounding phrases that they aim precisely at their liberal ears? As Altan Gokalp points out, Ramadan has some favorite phrases that he repeatedly uses. They’re aimed right at the ears of liberal cognitive egocentrists, prime targets of demopaths: “Partnership… dialogue… reformism.” Who could ask for more? Isn’t this what it’s all about?
That very summer, Rice had spoken at the US Institute of Peace, calling for the United States to dramatically expand ”our efforts to support and encourage the voices of moderation and tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim world.” So why would she be party to the exclusion of one of the most prominent of these voices?
Eck apparently feels no need to address the question of whether Ramadan has been correctly identified as “the most prominent of these voices” (i.e., of tolerance and pluralism). The reader is expected to trust her and Ramadan with no evidence.
The government has invoked a provision of the Patriot Act that allows it to deny a visa to anyone who ”endorses” or ”espouses” terrorism. It is chilling to see that this provision has been interpreted to ban a prominent intellectual who has been a consistent public critic of Islamic extremism and terrorism.
I love that word “chilling.” It’s what we hear from those members of the academy who support the chilling rants of the anti-Zionists like Massad at Columbia, to describe anyone who wants to insist that he play by the rules of the Western, not the Arab academy. I’m unaware that Eck has described as chilling the kind of hatemongering that goes on at Solidarity Conferences at major US campuses.
Of course the government has and should have the power to exclude known terrorists.
… and their supporters.
But this provision of the Patriot Act is being used to exclude people whose voices the government does not want us to hear and to block critics of US policies from engaging in public discussion and academic debate.
Now we get to the nitty gritty. Ramadan will come in, “criticize the administration” and that is why they’ve banned him. Because America is really like a third world country that can’t take criticism. And that’s all the readers of this op-ed piece will hear from Prof. Eck on the problems with Tariq Ramadan.
In November 2004, Ramadan did deliver that keynote address, sitting at a bare table somewhere in Canada, speaking to us on a large-screen video monitor. Ramadan articulated the themes he has long emphasized. He spoke of the ”new reality” of American Muslims and of the importance of being ”fully Muslim and fully American.” Without a trace of bitterness, he spoke of the ”ethics of citizenship” and participation as Western Muslims. Western Muslims must be able to say ”This is our country. It is not an alien space in which we forever perceive ourselves as foreigners. It is our home.”
This is interesting since in one of his books (p.53-4), Ramadan writes:
To consider oneself at home is not to hesitate to apply the qualifier ‘Islamic’ to every law, every institution, every organization, every cultural trait, and every process that is compatible with our references”.
As someone once pointed out to explain why he felt uncomfortable around cats: “If they were bigger than you, they’d eat you.” How on earth is Diana Eck so sure that Ramadan is not casting a covetous eye on the West, but covering it with the kinds of things she likes to hear? I’m not saying that’s the case, but how can she be so sure he’s what she thinks he is? As Paul Landau notes:
For the Islamists, Islam serves, in effect, as a substratum upon which they construct an ideology of power inspired by European political ideologies (Communism, Fascism, Nazism). Paradoxically, however, at the same time the Islamists use their Western educations to make themselves accepted among Western audiences and to dissimulate the subversive and dangerous character of their ideology and their political objectives.
Now there’s plenty of evidence for the Communist and fascist inspiration of much of Islamism. Is Eck aware of this? Or does she assume that if the man looks like a scholar and talks like a scholar, he’s just like she is?
He spoke of the ”silent revolution” of reformist Islam taking place today.
Now the issue here is, is Diana Eck dupe to the same kind of thirst for Islamic “reform” that Richard Norton has for Arab “civil society” — so deeply desirous of believing that it, like the messiah, is just around the corner, that any reassurance that it’s going on will inspire them to eloquent approval? Do such people ever register when their fantasies have no grounding in reality?
Is she aware of the people that Ramadan considers “reformers”? Presumably she’s read the work and knows the deeds of Tariq’s grandfather, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al Banna and his colleague the apocalyptic Jihadi Sayid Qutb? Does it bother her to hear them referred to as “reformists”? Or does she go here for her biography of al Banna?
And he spoke of the critical significance of interfaith dialogue, grounded for him in the Muslim doctrine of tawhid, the oneness of God. It was a stirring message by a Muslim theologian of the stature of a Reinhold Niebuhr or Paul Tillich, delivered to us from the other side of the walls we ourselves have built.
Wow. To be really blunt, can you imagine this woman asking Ramadan one hard question? Ready to revere, ready to be stirred, ready to project the finest of her own culture on anyone who says the “right words” (or nearly’s good enough), my guess is that she will sweep aside any ambiguity that might be involved in the message, any double language. Tillich and Niebuhr never would have used double language. So why would Ramadan? LCE, PCP, QED. Of course neither Tillich nor Niebuhr would have referred to the Deutsche Christen, the Nazi admirers who celebrated Luther’s 450th birthday in 1933 with a bang, as reformists.
While heartened by his message, I felt saddened, ashamed, and fearful for my country.
Now there’s a chilling quote. Your country is, along with the rest of Western civilization, under attack by deeply regressive political forces — theocratic ambitions that your civilization set aside centuries ago so that you could teach about the history of religion without fear of going to the stake. Part of the assault is open — 9-11 et al. — part is hidden by demopaths who use our values to undermine us. And, even if, in this case, your country erred and excluded the wrong person, you are saddened, ashamed, and fearful for your country? It’s not an understandable part of trying to cope with a vicious and largely unknown enemy? You can’t give your country 1/100 the slack you give Tariq Ramadan and a dozen other “reformers” who have a suspiciously demopathic profile?
The study and analysis of religion is indisputably important in the world in which we live today. Religious and theological studies are integral to the curriculum of more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and seminaries across the country. Our community of colleagues is global.
And if the Islamists win, this time will be remembered by its survivors as a lost golden age… lost partly because we didn’t show enough critical intelligence, because we studied religion but figured, now that we had secular culture, we could treat it as something no longer dangerous. We’re all in the lovely conversation of Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr. Or are we?
Here’s Tariq on Jihad:
Everything in the message of Islam appeals for peace and co-existence among men and among nations. In all circumstances, one has to prefer dialogue to silence and peace to war. With the exception of one situation that makes struggle an obligation and opposition a testimonial of fidelity to the sense of one’s faith, jihad is the expression of the refusal of all injustice and of the necessary affirmation of equilibrium and of harmony in equity.
The key issues here, as Landau points out, depends on how you define “defensive” and what are appropriate responses. Does Eck know anything about the potential double-speak? Does she care to investigate? What does she make, for example of this exchange between co-author Jacques Neirynck in which the latter gently tries to get Ramadan to condemn suicide bombing? (p.179)
Jacques Neirynck: It remains the case, nonetheless, that the image created by jihad scares the West. What shocks the most, of course, are those Muslims who sacrifice their lives. There have been suicide-commandos, notably in Beirut, against American and French troop barracks. There are regularly such attacks in Palestine…. During the Iran-Irak War, the Iranian army used children, who deliberately walked through minefields, to clear a path. Obviously, all of that makes the West uneasy…
[note: JN doesn't even ask TR to refer to the place these attacks -- one of the most odious of the list (along with using your own children as mine-sweepers) -- as "Israel" RL]
Tariq Ramadan: …To resist all forms of oppression, all dictators and all unjust colonizations in the name of one’s faith, in the name of one’s human conscience, even going to the point of sacrificing one’s life if necessary – this represents a very strong recommendation of the quranic message. He who takes his resistance and his combat all the way [jusqu’au bout] is called shahid in Arabic: literally, he “bears witness”.
Now I don’t know what Eck reads in this passage, but it sure seems to me to that his response to Neirynck is to explain how in good conscience Muslims can and should do this in response to [what they perceive as] injustice. This is not the language of a candidate for the peaceful paths of civil society. Eck, however, lunges forward in her denunciation of the US government’s unacceptable hostility to this man.
Denying us face-to-face access to scholars and theologians who contribute to critical reflection on the religious currents of our world is an intolerable impoverishment of the academic enterprise.
This may be true. But it could also be true that preventing credulous scholars from giving a bully pulpit to pseudo-scholars and theocratic theologians who practice taqiyya and work for the destruction of civil society, that precious entity so hard to establish, so hard to sustain, may be, if not a good idea, at least “understandable.” Maybe if academics were less enamored of their dialogues and more courageous about criticizing Islam, it wouldn’t even occur to the government to get involved. Maybe instead of feeling shame for her country, Professor Eck should do just a wee bit more research, check her paradigms at the door, and try some other working hypotheses before coming down on the side of a now way too familiar hyper-self criticism (MOS) combined with a profound refusal to criticize others. It’s not a particularly felicitous combination these days.
Why is the American Academy of Religion, with more than 10,000 members who teach religion in colleges and universities, suing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff?
Good question, which Professor Eck has not even begun to answer.
Diana L. Eck, a professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, is president of the American Academy of Religion.
Is this the person you want to deal with the cartoon scandal? Woe is us.
Update: Check out this intervierw with Tariq. The mask slips. (Hat tip: Miss Kelly