Early in July, a federal appeals court reversed an earlier ruling barring Swiss-born Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan from the U.S. Ramadan’s coming to America was prohibited in 2004 and again in 2006. The U.S. authorities cited Ramadan’s donation of $1,300 to a Swiss charity supporting Hamas as the basis for their decision denying him entry.

As moderate Muslims we believe that the latest U.S. judicial decision on Ramadan is incorrect, and that his exclusion from the U.S. should be reaffirmed.

Aside from his donation to a Hamas front, it is clear to us that Tariq Ramadan represents an extreme element in the global Muslim community, embodying the reactionary views of the fundamentalist cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Both Al-Qaradawi and Ramadan are associated with the radical Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Qaradawi, who was born in Egypt but has operated from Ireland, Qatar, and Belgium, among other places, directs the so-called European Council for Fatwas and Research (ECFR). (Fatwas are not limited to death sentences such as that pronounced by Khomeini against Salman Rushdie; they are religious opinions covering many situations.)

Al-Qaradawi has argued that suicide terrorism against civilians is a legitimate form of “resistance” and has eulogized Saddam Hussein. He also issued a notorious fatwa legitimizing female genital mutilation, stating “the most moderate opinion and the most likely one to be correct is in favor of practicing circumcision in the moderate Islamic way indicated in some of the Prophet’s hadiths even though such hadiths are not confirmed to be authentic. It is reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said to a midwife: ‘Reduce the size of the clitoris but do not exceed the limit, for that is better for her health and is preferred by husbands…’ ” Al-Qaradawi added, “whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world.”

In 2003, the Al-Qaradawi-Ramadan partnership was displayed to the world when the ECFR published its first collection of fatwas in French, with Ramadan’s approbations appended (see Conseil europeen des fatwas et de la recherche, Recueil de fatwas, Serie no. 1, Presentation [by] Yusuf Al-Qardawi, Preface et commentaires [by] Tariq Ramadan, Lyon, Ed. Tawhid, 2003).

In our recent study, A Guide to Shariah Law and Islamist Ideology in Europe, 2007-2009, we offered a thorough analysis of the published fatwas of ECFR, now running to two series and thoroughly supportive of a radical, fundamentalist interpretation of Islam. These fatwas expose the real outlook of Tariq Ramadan.

We should first, however, point out the absurd pretension of the ECFR to constitute a Shariah-based body attempting to govern the lives of all the Muslims living in Europe. ECFR has consistently included only one representative of indigenous European Islamic culture, the pseudo-moderate Bosnian chief cleric Mustafa Ceric. The rest of its 33 members have comprised four Saudis (even though few Saudis live in Europe), as well as 12 from Arab and African countries, plus Pakistan, while the others represent immigrant communities, mainly Arab, in Western Europe. Russia alone has more Muslims than many Arab states, and is unrepresented in ECFR, as are mainstream French Muslims, and the overwhelming majority of Turks and Kurds living in Europe.

ECFR members are, it seems, upset by claims that they want to use non-Arabs to advance a radical agenda. Sheikh Husain Halawa, the current ECFR secretary general, in Islamic media, has “denied charges that the organization is hijacked by Arabs to the extent of alienating some European Muslims.”

Our reading of the first series of ECFR fatwas shows that they include the following:

No. 29: Recourse of the Muslim wife living in the West in case of irresolvable family disputes. ECFR calls for such problems to be turned over to Islamic “family tribunals”, which are described in our study, and present a serious conflict with Western services to women by public agencies dedicated to family problems.

No. 32: The right of a husband to forbid his wife from visiting a female friend. ECFR holds that husbands may prohibit wives from visiting certain women friends if the husband fears harm to the family or a risk to conjugal relations. We have stated in our study, when discussing so-called “honor” murders, that this religious opinion may be utilized to justify violent actions against such allegedly illicit friendships.

In the second series we find the following:

No. 12, Requirement for women to obtain permission from a male legal guardian for marriage. ECFR acknowledged that traditional Shariah scholars considered this requirement arguable, except when girls were under the age of puberty. ECFR blandly states that women’s guardians “wish only for their best interest and that they marry good men rather than deceitful and illheart (sic) suitors”, which can hardly be assumed in every case, especially given the widespread abuse of Muslim women, also described in our survey.

No. 13, Affirmation of the right of Muslim men to four wives. ECFR produced a classic fundamentalist defense of polygamy, although it is disappearing in most of the Muslim world and is illegal, at least de jure, in the West.

No. 16, Ruling on women initiating divorces. ECFR states that a woman may initiate a divorce if a provision for such an action was written into her marriage contract. Otherwise, it reinforces the exclusive right of men to initiate divorce, and makes the initiation of divorce by women dependent on judicial authorities.

No. 32, Exposure of women’s bodies during swimming. This fatwa grants permission for Muslim women to expose the area from the navel to the knee to non-Muslim women while swimming, but with the stricture that men must not be present. It further states that non-Muslim women who do not swim in the presence of men should be considered virtuous, and should be called to Islam by Muslim women. The latter represents, in our view, an excessive religious intrusion into ordinary social relations.

No. 34, Prohibition of gender mixing. The fatwa bans unmarried men and women from meeting alone, as well as physical contact between them, and demands that women meeting men to whom they are not married cover their entire bodies except for their faces and hands. The fatwa also calls for gender segregation in public meetings. Such practices are not banned in the West, but obviously conflict with general Western customs.

No. 35, Requiring women to inform their husbands if they leave the house, and to travel in the company of a chaperone (mehram). Like the preceding fatwa, this opinion represents a stark difference from canons for women’s rights in the West.

The second collection also includes a fatwa (No. 36) against the surrender of any part of Jerusalem or sale of Palestinian land to non-Arabs. While this fatwa does not impend on the relations of Muslims with Western legal systems it most certainly reveals the orientation of ECFR toward a radical position on Palestinian issues and reinforces the observation that ECFR is Arab-dominated.

Tariq Ramadan is a “modern” fundamentalist but this in itself defines many of his attitudes as radical. His associate and apparent mentor, Al-Qaradawi, is banned from entering the U.S. and Britain, although the UK authorities, ever inconstant when dealing with radical Islam, decided to admit Ramadan. The present U.S. administration may consider a new laxity in dealing with Tariq Ramadan useful as evidence for the authenticity of Barack Obama’s soft policy toward radical Islam. But the U.S. should not make the same mistake as was made by the British. Al-Qaradawi, Ramadan’s collaborator, has called on Muslims to boycott American products. Let the U.S., in turn, boycott Tariq Ramadan, a radical Islamist.

Center for Islamic Pluralism, www.islamicpluralism.org

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