Tariq Ramadan is very much a public figure, named one of Time magazine’s most important innovators of the twenty-first century.
He is among the leading Islamic thinkers in the West, with a large following around the world. But he has also been a lightning rod for controversy.
Indeed, in 2004, Ramadan was prevented from entering the U.S. by the Bush administration and despite two appeals, supported by organizations like the American Academy of Religion and the ACLU, he is still barred from the U.S. at this time.
In What I Believe, Ramadan attempts to set the record straight, laying out the basic ideas he stands for in clear and accessible prose.
He describes the book as a work of clarification, directed at ordinary citizens, politicians, journalist and others who are curious (or skeptical) about his positions.
Aware that that he is dealing with emotional issues, Ramadan tries to get past the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding to speak directly, from the heart, to his Muslim and non-Muslim readers alike.
In particular, he calls on Western Muslims to escape the mental, social, cultural, and religious ghettos they have created for themselves and become full partners in the democratic societies in which they live.
At the same time, he calls for the rest of us to recognize our Muslim neighbors as citizens with rights and responsibilities the same as ours. His vision is of a future in which a shared and confident pluralism becomes a reality at last.
Here is the author’s introduction to the book.
By Tariq Ramadan
This book is a work of clarification, a deliberately accessible presentation of the basic ideas I have been defending for more than twenty years.
It is intended for those who have little time to spare: ordinary citizens, politicians, journalists, perhaps some social workers or teachers who may be in a bit of a hurry but who want to understand and possibly to check things out.
Rather than entering my name in a web search engine (and coming up with the million links that mainly report what others have written about me) or being content with the so-called free virtual encyclopedias that are in fact so biased (like Wikipedia, where the factual errors and partisan readings are astounding), I give readers this opportunity to read me in the original and simply get direct access to my thought.
In recent years I have been presented as a “controversial intellectual.”
What this means is not quite clear, but in effect everyone admits that a controversial intellectual is one whose thought does not leave people indifferent: some praise it, others criticize it, but in any case it causes them to react and think. I have never kept to a single ﬁeld of intervention: I have not dealt only with the “Islamic religion,” although it is important to note that one of the areas I work on is indeed theological and legal reﬂection starting from within Islamic references.
I do not represent all Muslims but I belong to the reformist trend.
I aim to remain faithful to the principles of Islam, on the basis of scriptural sources, while taking into account the evolution of historical and geographical contexts.
Many readers who have not yet looked into religious issues or who have limited knowledge of the subject sometimes ﬁnd it difficult to understand my approach and methodology.
Unlike literalists who merely rely on quoting verses, reformists must take the time to put things in perspective, to contextualize, and to suggest new understandings.
To grasp this reasoning, readers or listeners must follow it from beginning to end: if they do not they may misunderstand its conclusions and consider that there are contradictions or that it involves “doublespeak.”
Things should be clariﬁed: doublespeak consists in saying one thing in front of an audience to ﬂatter or mislead them, and something else, different in content, elsewhere, to a different audience or in a different language.
Adapting one’s level of speech to one’s audience, or adapting the nature of one’s references, is not doublespeak.
When addressing my students I use elevated language with philosophical references that they can understand; when speaking before social protagonists or manual laborers, I also use appropriate speech and illustrations; and if I speak to Muslims, my language and references also take into account their level of discourse and their universe of understanding.
This is a necessary pedagogy.
To avoid doublespeak, what matters is that the substance of the discourse does not change.
Yet, what really matters lies beyond this smokescreen, which must absolutely be cast aside to grasp the essence of my thought and of my approach.
In the present book, I deal with the issue of identity crisis and of the doubts that assail each and every one of us.
I state ﬁrmly that we have multiple, moving identities, and that there is no reason—religious, legal, or cultural—a woman or a man cannot be both American or European and Muslim.
Millions of individuals prove this daily.
Far from the media and political tensions, a constructive, in-depth movement is under way and Islam has become a Western religion.
Western Islam is a reality, just like African, Arab, or Asian Islam.
Of course there is only one single Islam as far as fundamental religious principles are concerned, but it includes a variety of interpretations and a plurality of cultures. Its universality indeed stems from this capacity to integrate diversity into its fundamental oneness.
It is up to Muslim individuals to be and become committed citizens, aware of their responsibilities and rights.
Beyond the minority reﬂex or the temptation to see themselves as victims, they have the means to accept a new age of their history.
For those who were born in the West or who are citizens, it is no longer a question of “settlement” or “integration” but rather of “participation” and “contribution.”
My point is that we have now moved, and we must move, to the age of “post-integration” discourse: we must henceforth determine the profound, accepted meaning of belonging.
This is the new “We” that I have been calling for, and that is already a reality in some local experiences.
Meet the author: http://www.meettheauthor.com/bookbites/1847.html