Indeed, after initial recognition from my society and the school system, everything had now changed. The values of dignity, solidarity, and justice which I had upheld as a citizen and teacher with no apparent religion (and which had elicited such praise in the past) no longer had the same substance or worth when they were upheld by a “Muslim intellectual” or “Muslim scholar.” From the very moment when I started speaking as a “Muslim” or when I was seen as such, a haze of suspicion fell over my intentions and discourse. I experienced this revelation : the heavy, age-old burden of Europe’s stormy relations with religion, and in particular with Islam —including denied intellectual influence, the crusades, and colonization— still needed to be cast off. I was a Swiss, a European, but I was above all “a Muslim” in my fellow citizens’ perception: besides, I was not a “real European,” or if I was, I had to prove it. My interlocutors had lists of questions that were to be put to me to “test” the real nature of my “integration” and incidentally compel me to a defensive posture of constant justification.
I observed, analyzed, and assessed the nature of inherited burdens and present fears. Continuous immigration since the Second World War, the new visibility of the younger generations of Muslims, new demands in schools and hospitals, and other issues—all those phenomena (which were soon to include violence) were liable to foster fear, suspicion, and doubt. Everywhere, the Western conscience was facing deep-set doubts : what will become of us with this onslaught of immigration which, moreover, is necessary to Western societies? Who are those Muslims who represent “a new citizenship” and who are mainly faced with serious economic difficulties, while political parties know so little about them? What is it they really want: to “integrate,” or to “Islamize” Europe, America, the West?
My involvement in the Western public debate over the issue of Islam was very soon to focus on the “visible intellectual” a large number of projections and/or animosities that beset me from different sides. My appeals for dialogue, for coming together through shared universals, for harmonious coexistence involving mutual enrichment, seemed “too good to be true” and were bound to “hide something.” In effect, my positions were also apt to impede the interests of some ideologues, organizations, movements, and governments, for whom the presence of Islam and of confident, sometimes critical and protesting Muslims, was in itself a problem and a potential danger. Over the past fifteen years, attacks have stepped up and have come from several fronts which can be fairly easily identified, as will be seen at the end of this book. The media have often relayed those criticisms either to further their own dubious agendas and objectives (when they were ideologically involved themselves) or simply repeating the allegations gathered here and there on the Internet (always the same, repeated a thousand times).
First, my lineage was attacked. Being the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, I was dangerous by definition and I must not be listened to. Islam, people said and still repeat, allows dissimulation (taqiyyah) and so I practiced it in the extreme; all that sounded so fine to Western audiences was in fact nothing but the presentable side of a far more obscure hidden agenda: I wanted to Islamize modernity, Europe and Europeans, and I certainly had links with radicals or terrorists. Such allegations, repeated several hundred times on the Internet (without any evidence, of course), now give the impression that there must be some truth in all this. Where there is smoke, there is fire, they repeat, without trying to find out what the fire is and who is feeding it.