Defending a Nation’s Security

I was on blog hiatus thanks to the Blogger’s Block enormous workload in which time I got worried emails from concerned fellow-bloggers. I have over the past 10 days, not opened a single news site/blog, not thought about anything post-worthy until I read this today. I quote:

According to Abu Aardvark, Tariq Ramadan – a francophone Swiss Muslim who is usually cited as a particularly modernist and moderate European Muslim scholar – has been denied a visa to enter the US to take up a teaching posiiton at Notre Dame University. As I understand it, the visa had earlier been issued, but has now been revoked under the portions of the Immigration and Nationality Act that were modified by the PATRIOT Act two years ago.

The US Department of Homeland Security claims that Ramadan?s visa was revoked because of a section of US law affecting people who use a ?position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity? as well as ?public safety or national security interests.?

All fine and dandy. On further reading, Scott Martens is concerned that the denial of the US government does not befit a truly democratic nation. I quote again:

Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan Al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the US used to be a place where guilt was not held to automatically pass from father to son.

Fully agree. As I read on, my interest began to simmer, and it certainly reached a boil when I read this:
Ramadan had been offered a temporary position as a guest lecturer at the Kroc Institute for Peace Studies at Notre Dame. For the conspiracy junkies out there, yes, that?s Kroc as in Joan Kroc, the recently deceased McDonald?s hambuger widow. Your purchase of a Big Mac goes to support the man Daniel Pipes calls a ?militant Islamic figure?. Personally, I think nothing speaks higher for a man?s character than having enemies like Pipes.

Daniel Pipes is an accomplished scholar, and now, an advisor to the US government on Middle East policies. He speaks and writes about Islam, Muslims, and the Middle East with a passion which perhaps, I have not come across in anybody else save (the late) Sita Ram Goel. Scott’s estimate of Pipes also shows the respect he has for the man: Pipes is definitely a formidable enemy to have. The gist of Scott’s arguments is, as I comprehend it, this: that it has not been proved so far that Ramadan is a potential radical Islamist, and/or that he poses no threat to US security. Scott further contends that no prominent Muslim in the world today, is free from suspicious glances coming from the West, especially the US. Agreed again. It’s not good to generalize all Muslims as terrorists.

To verify Scott’s claims for myself, I did a bit of research on Ramadan, because he happens to be the subject of the controversy. Apparently, and notwithstanding Scott’s benefit of doubt to Ramadan, I found that Ramadan is not quite the “liberal,” “moderate” Muslim as he is painted. This does not mean that he harbours/supports terrorists. My point is to just reveal what Ramadan has himself revealed in his speeches and writings.

Before getting to that, I found something interesting related to the Muslim Brotherhood, which originated in Egypt and whose founder happens to be Ramadan’s maternal grandfather. The Muslim Brotherhood has to its credit some real bloody history. Ramadan’s brother–with whom he claims he has no ties–is actively involved with it, and he is rumoured to have ties with Al Qaeeda.

My misgivings about Ramadan’s “liberal” Muslim ideology, or the Islam of his vision began when I read this.

In recent months he has been accused of anti-Semitism. He has had harsh confrontations with influential Jewish intellectuals… But for Ramadan, this is all proof of the rightness of his position and of the West?s innate hostility toward Islam.

Now, this is a superb piece of logic. Because Jewish intellectuals have harshly confronted him, he is convinced that he is right, and that the West is deeply hateful of Islam! A basic question: if the latter was true, how is it that hundreds of Westerners are still converting to Islam? Okay, chide me that my reasoning is faulty. Does his statement answer the question that if the West did hate Islam innately, would it allow immigrants from Muslim nations? Britain for example, which consists of lakhs of Pakistani Muslims. Is the “proof of the rightness of his position” evidenced from people who disagree with him or his brand of Islam? Does this mean to say if somebody confronts me with a contradictory theory/argument/whatever, that alone is sufficient to “prove” that I am right? If anything, the West–Europe especially–has never been more tolerant to Islam than at any time in its entire history–the Crusaders, anybody? Let’s see further.

Other twentieth-century Muslim intellectuals went down this road ahead of him, frequently studying in European universities. One of these is the Indian Muhammed Iqbal […]

This is the problem with Islam, from my perspective: those of its adherents, who have studied European history, philosophy, and other forms of thought, as students staying in Europe, can/have never come to terms with their Islamic identity, which is strong, to say the least, and which is the genesis of the conflict in their minds: ultimately, and in most cases, Islam has won. Islam, with its exclusivist claims remains the fundamental obstacle that they can never overcome despite having what we call a “modern” education. If anything, a “modern” education teaches us to value free thinking, tolerance, respect for others’ views and democracy, which starkly contrasts Islam’s claim on its adherents, its promises of 72 virgins, paradise, and the need to convert or cleanse the world of infidels until the whole world becomes Dar-ul-Islam. This and this alone is the cause for people of other faiths to look at Muslims as “the other.” In the case of Mohammad Iqbal, who as a student championed the cause of Indian Nationalism, later gave the disastrous speech that culminated in the creation of Pakistan. He wrote, in his Saare Jahan se accha that religion does not teach us to divide, that we’re all Indians–this was in 1900. 30 years later, a Europe-returned Iqbal delivered that calamitous speech in his Presidential address to the Muslim League Session at Allahabad. Ramadan is no better, although he is not this direct. He seeks refuge in the Koran–in his words,

?The Koran confirms, completes, and corrects the messages that preceded it? (?Les messages musulmans d?occident?).”

Indeed. He clothes the Prophet’s words in a wonderful raiment of refinement. According to Islam, the world is divided into two parts: Jahiliya or the lands of darkness, meaning those lands that had/have not been enlightened by the light of Islam, and the rest, that is, the Islamic world. This concept therefore mandates Islam’s adherents to “spread the light of Islam” to these lands by force, if necessary. Read Ramadan’s statement, “completes, corrects the messages that preceded it” and judge for yourself. Does this imply that all messages that precede Islam stand in need of completion and correction? If yes, how is it Islam’s business to bring in the correction? And assuming that it is indeed Islam’s business to correct/complete, how are we to verify that the correction itself is correct?

Some Christian personalities whose charitable works cannot be misconstrued ? Mother Teresa, Sister Emanuelle, Abbé Pierre, Fr. Helder Camara ? are exceptions who show only that all good people are implicitly Muslims, because true humanism is founded in Koranic revelation.

Another superb piece of logic. Notice how Ramadan seeks to appropriate saints/good people belonging to other religions by terming them as “implicitly Muslims,” and then, as if by some queer logical extension, seeks to vitiate such other religions. He calls these people “exceptions,” which then should mean that all others are bad/evil. On what grounds does he base his conclusion that all others are evil? The Koranic revelation, of course! Doesn’t this tantamount to exclusivity? That true humanism is only found in the Koran? But wait, he extends this logic, which only proves the truth of the point I made earlier:

Thus, both directly and through this humanism, the ?Muslim City? can be founded upon the earth. ?Today the Muslims who live in the West must unite themselves to the revolution of the antiestablishment groups from the moment when the neoliberal capitalist system becomes, for Islam, a theater of war [?] The revelation of the Koran is explicit: whoever engages in speculation or cultivates financial interests eneters into war against the transcendent? (?Pouvoirs,? 2003, n. 164).

As Ramadan’s critics have (rightly) said, his greatest strength is his garb of modernity, of his ability to project exclusivist Islamic theories cloaked in politically-correct language. How different is his concept of “Muslim City” from Dar-ul-Islam? Those familiar with software-program terminology can see that this is a fine job of find-and-replace: Find: Dar-ul-Islam, replace with Muslim City. Simple, but effective because post 9/11, there has been a worldwide curiosity to understand the true nature of Islam, and why most (if not all) terrorists come with the message of Islam, the Religion of Peace, but only wreak death and destruction in its name. And the meaning of Dar-ul-Islam is pretty clear to such people. Hence, “Muslim City” sounds different, and more importantly, takes away the focus from Islam’s violent nature. Ramadan’s next sentence is also significant: note how subtly he calls for a “revolution.” In quoting from the Koran (again) on the subject of money, does Ramadan display insidious signs of anti-Semitism? I have reason to answer in the affirmative because one of the primary reasons Jews were hated and persecuted historically is because of their monetary shrewdness: to put it more bluntly, because of usury. This is the same reason that Ramadan does not like Capitalism; which is why he has called for all Muslims to unite and prepare for a revolution.

This, then is the profile of the man who has been denied entry into the US. I’ll re-quote the reason for denying him the Visa:

The US Department of Homeland Security claims that Ramadan?s visa was revoked because of a section of US law affecting people who use a ?position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity? as well as ?public safety or national security interests.?

A University position in the US is a pretty prestigious issue. Let me reiterate that I’m not convinced that Ramadan’s true purpose of going to the US is to spread messages that potentially threatens the US Security. However, having had a glimpse of the man’s track record, I am at crossroads: how am I to believe his claims of objectivity and liberality when he summarily dismisses that any good can be found in other religions (from his quote on Mother Theresa, et al)? How am I supposed to believe him when he talks about anticipating a “theater of war,” which might be forced upon the Muslims by the neoliberal capitalist societies?

Scott also writes,

Thus, the refusal to allow him to enter the US suggests that someone in Homeland Security agrees with the Daniel Pipes standard: Any Muslim who fails to condemn Islam, from its founding to the present and in all its manifestations, must be a fanatic and a threat to the West.

Well, for one, I agree with most positions that Daniel Pipes takes on Islam. But I’m not in the least, biased about Pipes. Nor do I care if Muslims themselves condemn Islam. But I do agree that Islam’s core teaching needs to be condemned, and yes, from its founding to the present because not much change has occurred in its fundamentals. I’m too lazy, and this isn’t the place to go into Islam’s fundamentals: if you wish to verify what I’ve said, this is a good place to start. Here’s another interesting, but relevant fact concerning Islam’s “manifestations.” While the rest of the world, generically speaking, looks at Islam as one religion, (which no doubt it is) most people forget (or are unaware) that its followers have split themselves into (violently) opposing factions: the Sunnis, the Shias, and closer home, the Ahmeddiyas. Each group lays sole claim over the Prophet, and has different interpretations of the Prophet’s message. For example, the Shias (dominant almost only in Iran) claim that theirs is the purest form of Islam because their founder, Ali, was the adopted son of the Prophet whereas the Ahmeddiyas claim that Ahmed (born in undivided India) proclaimed that he’d have a “second coming” as a Prophet. For this, and this reason alone the Ahmediyyas are persecuted everywhere they go because according to Islam, Muhammad is the Last Prophet and there’s no “second coming.” It is also notable that in countries where a particular sect is in majority, it routinely suppresses and/or cleanses people belonging to other Islamic sects. The state of Ahmediyyas in Pakistan is the most telling example–they are hunted down, and their places of worship burnt often incited by Sunni Mullahs. Viewed in this context, when prominent Muslims talk about “pure Islamic societies,” I’m unsure what they mean because within themselves, they don’t agree on several issues, or rather, the most vital issue of Islam: interpretation of the Prophet’s message. How I have digressed!

Scott writes further:

Europe has many Muslim citizens, present at all levels of society. It would be a mistake to allow the US to segregate European intellectuals into the threatening and non-threatening on such a feeble basis – especially at a time when it is trying hard not to be painted as the enemy of all Islam.

Now, this is a fine example of political correctness. True, numerous Muslims do live in Europe. True, democracy needs to respect and tolerate pluralism. True also that “minorities” shouldn’t live in perpetual fear of the “majority.” True, further that certain, laudable and deserving concessions need to be made to minorities–and it should end there. However, what we’re witnessing increasingly is that “minorities” have begun to demand concessions as a right: the France veil/scarf issue, and the crucifix issue in Italy. And it’s no coincidence that these minorities happen to be the followers of Islam. The issue is not so much the condemnation of Islam as is the disguised speeches and writings: saying one thing and meaning exactly the other. Here’s another example of Ramadan’s vision of “pure Islamic society/city/thought:”

In an interview to “Islam Online” on September 10, 2003, Tariq Ramadan calls for a revolution in the Islamic perception of its own principles, namely a revolution within Islamic thought. This call is addressed to the leaders of the Muslim communities around the world. His main call is for the implementation of Shari?ah “in its wholesome perception and not in the limited perception, which confines it to legal punishment (Hudud)”…

Shariah, the Islamic code of conduct has during the entire history of independent India, been a subject of violent debate: also known as the Uniform Civil Code (debate). If Ramadan’s words were indeed taken seriously–if the spineless leadership in today’s Europe is any indication, I have no doubt several countries will pass a bill that entails a separate law governing the Muslims in such European countries. It is from this angle that Ramadan’s case should in my humble opinion, be examined, and not on emotional/unrelated grounds as, “However, the US used to be a place where guilt was not held to automatically pass from father to son.”

Two questions and I’ll close this somewhat longish entry:

  • Why does the US take pains to show the Islamic countries that it is their friend: Petrol? Fear?
  • Has Islam ever bothered to take such pains?

3 comments for “Defending a Nation’s Security

  1. November 30, 2004 at 11:12 PM

    If music be the food of love, play on; Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die. That strain again! it had a dying fall: O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound 1 That breathes upon a bank of violets, Stealing and giving odour! vinnie My salad days,When I was green in judgment.

  2. September 5, 2004 at 2:17 PM

    Keep up the good work, Sandeep. I could not find any link to email you, so I am writing this as a comment.

  3. September 2, 2004 at 9:06 PM

    just to let you know that we have launched Spontaneous Order..

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