A little more on Tariq Ramadan

by Ted on August 30, 2004

Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam has a few posts (here and here) about the decision of the State Department to deny a visa to Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan was to begin teaching in the fall at Notre Dame. (See also Chris’s post on the subject.) A spokeswoman for the State Department:

said Mr. Ramadan’s visa was revoked under a legal provision that bans espionage agents, saboteurs and anyone the United States “knows, or has reasonable ground to believe, is engaged in or is likely to engage after entry in any terrorist activity.” She said she could not provide any details about Mr. Ramadan’s case.

I don’t know much about Ramadan, and no scholar is owed a visa. However, I’ve just read Daniel Pipes critical article about why Ramadan should be denied a visa (linked by Silverstein). His evidence alone doesn’t sound like it’s strong enough to keep him out of the country.

It’s maddening. I don’t like second-guessing this sort of decision, and it’s absolutely possible that there is good reason to suspect Ramadan. If that were true, the State Department probably shouldn’t be sharing their suspicions in great detail. But… if there’s real reason to suspect this scholar will engage in felonies while teaching at Notre Dame, why would the State Department invite Ramadan to reapply for another kind of visa?



dsquared 08.30.04 at 7:31 pm

From the Pipes article:

Then there is the intriguing possibility, reported by Olivier Guitta, that Osama bin Laden studied with Tariq’s father in Geneva, suggesting that the future terrorist and the future scholar might have known each other.

If we’re playing the connections game with this many degrees of freedom, I bet I can do you a George W Bush.


lenin 08.30.04 at 8:18 pm

You can read Tariq Ramadan in Ha’aretz denouncing anti-semitism and urging his fellow Muslims to take action against Judeophobia.

I don’t think that is a hallmark of an Al Qaeda supporter.



naomi 08.30.04 at 9:47 pm

Why invite him to reapply for a visa? Here’s a very very wild guess: elections, before, after. No idea how long it takes to reapply, but, come November, the last thing on anyone’s mind will be Ramadan’s visa, so whether he gets (or wants, even) a second chance or not will be irrelevant to most people.

Right now, on the other hand, it appears rather relevant for some of a certain danielpipesy persuasion. It also looks like a very rushed affair – give visa, revoke, invite a second visa, it’s a bit of a mess, but nevermind, because what’s going to stick is that we, the only party that’s tough on terror ™, stopped a very scary and nasty fundamentalist from coming to teach at our universities, just like some of those persuasion asked us.

(Nevermind there’s thousands within the US that are far more extremist and pro-terrorist in deed than anything Ramadan could come up with in words, and yet, don’t even get a visit from the tax man. You just have to believe a revoked visa that might be given later is the sort of thing that proves how serious the fight against terror is).


Scott Martens 08.30.04 at 11:10 pm

I note that the interview that Pipes links to where Ramadan denies that “there is ‘any certain proof’ that Bin Laden was behind 9/11” is dated 25 September 2001. If Pipes is going to be dishonest enough not to point out that Ramadan’s resistence to just blaming bin Laden was all of two weeks after 9/11, I see little reason to trust the sleazeball on anything else.

But let’s indulge the lying swine anyway:

He claims Ramadan was denied entry into France in ’96 and that Baltasar Garzón claims he had repeated contact with an Algerian terrorist. Funny thing, I can’t find any source for the first claim – it’s not that easy to refuse a Swiss citizen entry into France – and the second one is explicitly denied by Ramadan, repeatedly. The lack of follow-up charges, and the plausibility of Ramadan’s account, suggest that only Pipes and a few others with agendas are still pushing the claim. Pipes repeats the claim made by Jean-Charles Brisard that Ramadan was under investigation by “various intelligence agencies” – but since none of those “intelligence agencies” have come forward, this smacks a bit of hearsay. The same person is the source of the charge that Ramadan is linked to Al Taqwa bank. Again, I can find charges – denied as well – that Al Taqwa bank may have donated some money to Ramadan’s centre in Geneva. Al Taqwa’s Geneva branch might – for any of a number of reasons – have names and addresses for local promonent Muslims on their mailing list.

And lastly, whatever else Pipes is no good at, he certainly isn’t a French translator. If his Arabic is as crappy as his French, I see no reason anyone should take him seriously about the Middle East. The sentence he is referring to – and links to, the dumbass – where he claims that Ramadan is “minimizing [the 9/11 attacks] to the point of near-endorsement” goes as follows:

Des banlieues françaises aux sociétés musulmanes, vous ne trouverez pas de soutiens, sauf infimes, aux interventions de New York, Bali ou Madrid. On ne peut pas confondre les résistances irakienne ou palestinienne avec les actions pro-Ben Laden.

“From French suburbs to Muslim society, you will find no support, except for some neglegible amount, to the actions in New York, Bali and Madrid. We cannot confuse Iraqi and Palestinian resistance with pro-bin Laden activities.”

“Intervention” is a relatively neutral word in French, but if you see a “near-endorsement” in the above sentences, please explain how. I guess Pipes assumes that if you actually know French, you’re already too far to the left for his pitch.

Daniel Pipes – the man who Al Franken could have had in mind when he wrote “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” Anyone with Google and a decent knowledge of French can show how his charges vary from hearsay to outright lies. Does he think people are stupid, or just his neocon amen-corner?


Scott Martens 08.30.04 at 11:26 pm

Oh it’s worse than that. Pipes actually links to a Le Parisien article that makes different claims than Pipes. Ramadan is not suspected of ever having talked to this Algerian terrorist arrested in Spain. His name apparently came up – not as a co-conspirator but as a name mentionned in conversation – in two taped phone calls, one of them to his publisher in Lyon. One of the terrorists arrested in Spain claims to have taken one of Ramadan’s courses in 1994, but Ramadan points out that he didn’t teach in Paris until 1997.

Good Lord – what on earth motivated Pipes to link to articles that destroy his case?


serial catowner 08.31.04 at 1:27 am

Well, uh, hate to mention this but State has been refusing visas for frivolous reasons since about 1900. If you wanted to choose an agency that should be second guessed because of their own record, the State department issuing visas would be high on the list.

Oh well- at least I didn’t have to tell you about Santa.


David Tiley 08.31.04 at 6:42 am

Imagine all that incited Catholic yoof rising up and burning the Pentagon screaming “Allah is Great..”

Interesting remark that “no scholar is owed a visa”. True if we mean people like holocaust deniers. But surely a bona fide scholar is “owed a visa”. And an appointment from a mainstream university, or participation in a significant conference, should establish bona fides.

Otherwise you are accepting the right of the visa granters to determine the flow of scholarship in the US.


naomi 08.31.04 at 1:58 pm

Scott Martens: wow, you did a very nice job there. It’s impressive how Pipes is literally making things up that are not in the sources he cites himself. Indeed, what was he thinking in providing the links?

Someone should have told him that French is not Arab, a lot of people can read it! (Maybe Campus Watch wants to ban French language courses too?)

Another interesting thing about the claim on Ramadan’s skepticism on bin Laden’s involvement, besides what you already pointed out about the date of the interview, is also the context of those claims Pipes extrapolated, the other things Ramadan says:



As an American intervention is apparently being prepared, no irrefutable evidence of the responsibility of bin Laden has yet been given. Caught between his feeling of fraternity with his co-religionaries and his disgust for fundamentalism, Tariq Ramadan remains cautious. For this philosophy professor, it is necessary to avoid confusing terrorism with Islam.

The likelihood is very high, but some questions still remain without an answer”, says Ramadan regarding the possibility of bin Laden’s involvement in the attacks against the United States. Many Afghans didn’t wait for answers to leave Kabul.

– Is bin Laden really the main culprit for the attacks on New York?
Ramadan: So far, the investigators have not brought clear and definitive evidence of his culpability [Indeed, as of 21 September 2001, this was fact]. The likelihood is very high, but some questions still remain without an answer: the difference between the extreme sophistication before [in the organisation of attacks] and the amount of mistakes after the attacks is impressive. Why leave so many traces without claiming responsibility for the attacks? There are still too many contradictions to be able to indicate the culprits with absolute certainty. But whoever they are, bin Laden or others, they must be found and prosecuted.

I guess it must be a case of creative interpretations, but there doesn’t seem to be anything so shocking or uncommon about his views, or much less anything that could possibly justify the idea he is defending bin Laden. Except of course in a worldview that requires that skepticism is simply taboo and that criticism of American policies equals support for terrorism.


naomi 08.31.04 at 2:19 pm

The full interview linked by Pipes to support his claim that Ramadan is “minimizing” the attacks “to the point of near-endorsement” by simply calling them “interventions” is also interesting, because Ramadan is talking about the perceptions in what he calls the “Muslim world”, and in fact, he has a few harsh criticisms for those perceptions himself, it hardly sounds like an endorsement for fundamentalists, let alone terrorists:


– Do you mean the West is showing arrogance?
I would say, rather, that Muslims perceive a lot of paternalism (patronising?). I refer to the idea that Islam will not go through its renewal until it goes through the same history as the Christian west, until it has had its Vatican II. As if there was only one history! Today, in the Muslim world, there is a caricature-like confusion between the West and Christianity. Decisions taken by local legislatures, taken by governing states, are instantly viewed as attacks against Islam. In those countries that are little educated, unfortunately all discourse is at the level of emotion. When France opposes the US policies, it’s seen as “a friend of Arabs”; when, a year later, the veil is banned in schools, France becomes “the enemy of Islam”.

– What are the effects of this “paternalism”?
The power and domination come from the North. The United States, at the international level, and Israel, at the local level, are perceived as dominating countries. And Muslims see themselves are resisting that domination. That’s what’s being repeated constantly by the current elite in Iraq. And, since 9/11, the North resists against an informal power that calls itself Al Qaeda. In short, both camps today see themselves as resisting against each other. And resisting in the name of God is more easily considered as legitimate. It’s two simplistic views facing each other.

– To the point of legitimising terrorism?
From the French banlieues to Muslim societies, you won’t find support, except in very small percentages, for the actions in New York, Bali or Madrid. We cannot confuse the Iraqi or Palestinian resistance with actions in favour of bin Laden.

– But it’s always about “jihad”…
There is one – huge – difference: Iraq is perceived as an occupied territory – “ard muhtalla”, as we keep hearing day in day out from Arab television networks – occupied by a foreign power that tries to impose a democracy under its protectorate. In the spirit shared by a majority of Muslims, the “jihad” of the Iraqi resistance has nothing to do with that of bin Laden’s partisans. One thing is very clear, when you travel: on both sides, fear dominates.


Scott Martens 08.31.04 at 3:40 pm

Naomi – I actually translated the lot of Pipes’ sources over at A Fistful of Euros. I had an afternoon off and felt Pipes really deserved my full attention.


naomi 08.31.04 at 4:29 pm

Ah, Scott, wish I’d checked AFOE earlier today. Thanks for letting me know, I’ll follow the discussion there.

I did send a comment on the Daniel Pipes site. Who knows. I noticed Richard Silverstein wrote and Pipes published and responded:

“I had an afternoon off and felt Pipes really deserved my full attention.”

Heh, same here, but I feel a bit ill by now. Like it was something really unhealthy to do…


naomi 08.31.04 at 4:33 pm

wow, Scott, I just checked on Fistful of Euros, you did an *amazing* job there! you actually went through every single claim. Bravo.

Why not post the link to your post on the DanielPipes.com comments? Who knows, they might even be that reckless.


Junius 08.31.04 at 8:15 pm

interventions de New York, Bali ou Madrid

Yes, Scott Martens, “interventions” is a relatively neutral word in French. Which is precisely why it is so jarring in the context. The obvious–and minimum–choice here would have been “attentats” (more or less “attacks” in English; that is the common term used in the French press). Ramadan is a careful speaker so I can hardly assume this is a slip of the tongue.

P.S. 1) French is my first language. 2) Denying a visa to Ramadan is silly and self-defeating.


Scott Martens 09.01.04 at 11:06 am

Junius – well, I suppose I can’t argue against native speaker competence (well, actually I can, but the topic here isn’t linguistics), but does a single word choice – the use of a less charged word over a more charged one in a single interview – really constitute much of a charge against him? Ramadan isn’t that careful a speaker. Look at how Sarkozy ran circles around him on the same basis: an unwillingness to use charged words on a single question.


naomi 09.01.04 at 1:07 pm

The Chicago Tribune, which had published Pipes’s piece, also published Ramadan’s rebuttal, and he has a simpler response to the question of whether the term “interventions” is pro-terrorist, pro-american, neutral, neutral but annoying, evasive, vague, infuriatingly generic, unconsciously or consciously biased, or just stylistically improper:

– I refer, Pipes claims, to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Bali and Madrid as “interventions,” minimizing them to the point of near-endorsement.
The term “interventions” was not mine, but was used by journalists in the French magazine Le Point (April 22, 2004) following a phone interview with me. I have always condemned the terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere in the strongest terms.


Al Qaeda 09.02.04 at 12:09 am

Naomi, Are you a member of Al Qaeda?

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