Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Sword and the Koran: Paul Landau on Tariq Ramadan and the Muslim Brotherhood

The last year has seen an explosion of interest in the French media for the Swiss-born Muslim orator and sometimes university professor Tariq Ramadan. Numerous magazine articles and no less than five books have been devoted to him. It is unfortunate that Paul Landau’s Le sabre et le coran [The Sword and the Coran] – subtitled “Tariq Ramadan, the Muslim Brothers and the Conquest of Europe” – has reached the market a bit later than the other entries, since it merits a very close look indeed. On the whole, far less polemical in tone than Caroline Fourest’s Frère Tariq, it is no less severe in its conclusions. Through a careful comparison of Tariq Ramadan’s own writings and pronouncements with those of the key figures in the development of the Islamist movement – Hassan Al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb, Ramadan’s father Saïd Ramadan, among others – Paul Landau demonstrates the essential ideological continuity of the supposedly “moderate” Islamism of Ramadan, ostensibly dedicated to proselytism (dawa) and “bearing witness” (shahada), with the more radical currents explicitly preaching violent jihad.

Indeed, on the subject of jihad, Landau notes the following remark by Ramadan:

We do not deny that there are struggles that circumstances will lead us to have to confront with arms or stones in hand, in order to oppose ethnic cleansing here or military occupation there or another type of aggression like those…of which we continue to be witness in Afghanistan, in Palestine, in Chechnya or others [sic.].

Landau comments:

This enumeration conforms to the Islamist vision of the world, which continuously exalts the jihad against the West undertaken by the “fighters for Islam” in Afghanistan, Palestine and Chechnya. It is precisely these three places that serve nowadays – along with Iraq – as the focal points of all the discourses calling for jihad and that one finds mentioned, notably, on the Islamist websites. Thus, far from condemning jihad, Ramadan in fact makes himself the apostle of jihad, calling it “armed resistance” and preaching struggle “with arms or stones in hand”.

Paul Landau notably rejects Gilles Kepel’s optimistic thesis according to which the Islamist ideology will find itself “ the market economy”, as well as Olivier Roy’s assessment that September 11 marked a gratuitous and self-defeating departure from global Islamist strategy. On the contrary, Paul Landau sees in 9/11 a significant victory for the Islamist movement inasmuch as it succeeded in opening up – I would say rather that it revealed – a fissure between the United States and its erstwhile European allies. “Europe, the soft-underbelly of the West, is again tempted by the dangerous and illusory dream of an alliance with Islamists against the United States and against Israel,” Paul Landau warns in the concluding chapter of his book,

The “grand design” of the pro-Nazi Mufti and friend of al-Banna, al-Husseini – that of a judenrein Europe, ridded of the “Judeo-Christian deception”, to use the expression of Tariq Ramadan – seems as if it might be realized two generations later.

Incidentally, for ample evidence that Europe is indeed tempted by the choice of alliances that Landau suggests, see for instance the website of the EU-financed European Institute for Research on Mediterranean and Euro-Arab Cooperation, which goes by the acronym MEDEA. Note for starters the olive branch in the Institute’s logo:

When was the last time you came across a EU-financed institute for, say, “Euro-American” or transatlantic cooperation that had an olive branch in its logo?