Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Tariq Ramadan again
New Perspectives Quarterly offers a point-counterpoint with Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Tariq Ramadan on recent examples of “Islamic justice” (I’m never sure whether to put the scarequotes on “Islamic,” “justice,” or both in situations like these): the rape victim who has to face the lash for “mingling;” the teacher who faces the lash for letting her young students (and I would bet that some of the little darlings are actually named Muhammad) name their teddy bear “Muhammad,” which is somehow blasphemous; and the writer and activist who is hounded wherever she goes simply because she advocates for democracy. Hirsi Ali is angry because of the absence of the so-called Muslim moderates in condemning these travesties, and calls out Ramadan for his apparent “indifference.” Ramadan responds by reminding Hirsi Ali (and the rest of us) that he has spoken out against all acts of manifest injustice carried out in the name of Islam, as well as against “defenders” of Islam who find criticism such as Hirsi Ali is leveling to be simply about the West’s disdain for Islam. Ramadan’s argument with Hirsi Ali is more about tactics than Hirsi Ali admits. The two are appalled by the same things, but Hirsi Ali–like a Dawkins or Sam Harris–won’t be satisfied until the religion itself is consigned to the dustbin of history. Ramadan, not unlike (atheist) Jeffrey Stout in his American Academy of Religion presidential address, “The Folly of Secularism,” argues that religion is not going to go away, and that voices like Hirsi Ali’s will not be effectively heard in the Muslim world. Ramadan dips to ad hominem when he insinuates that Hirsi Ali is merely trying to please the West, but that aside, his argument is the more persuasive in terms of how to proceed. Nevertheless, we still need Ayaan Hirsi Ali to keep the West alert to the sickness in the Muslim culture, a sickness that Tariq Ramadan is hoping to treat for the good of all concerned, but especially for the good of Islam itself.