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It won’t be easy…

Muslims in the West bear an enormous responsibility, and it falls to them to commit themselves to building their future.There is no doubt that some will continue to identify themselves over and against the West, as “the other,” and to complain that in these places no one loves Islam or Muslims. They will thus maintain the unhealthy victim mentality, hoping that their salvation will come from scholars and thinkers in the East. But there are clear signs today, particularly among women, that things are changing and that more and more Muslims are aware of the challenges they have to confront. To remain Muslim in the West is a test of faith, of conscience, and of intelligence, but the only way to deal with it is to stand up and get involved-armed with the “need of Him,” humility, and determination.

 

The reform movement that is in the process of being born has as its first requirement knowledge of the comprehensive message of Islam, its universal principles, and the tools available to help human beings to adapt themselves to their society as well as to change the world. All Muslims are invited first of all to this study, this initiation, this self-knowledge. This process must naturally continue to deepen and extend. At the same time, we must not short-change study of the Western world, the history of its societies and their institutions, cultures, and collective psychology. This is the route that must be traveled if we are to feel at home and apply in a positive way the Islamic principle of integrating all that does not contradict the prohibitions and making it our own. This reform movement requires a true intellectual revolution that will make it possible to be reconciled to the universality of Islamic values and to stop considering ourselves a marginalized minority, on the brink of adapting or integrating, and trying to do no more that protect ourselves from an environment we consider dangerous. In order to achieve this, Western Muslims need to free themselves of their double inferiority complex -in relation to the West (and the domination of its rationality and technology) on the one hand and in relation to the Muslim world (which alone seems to produce the great Arabic-speaking spirits of Islam who quote the texts with such ease) on the other. We shall have to liberate ourselves from these faults by developing a rich, positive, and participatory presence in the West that must contribute from within to debates about the universality of values, globalization, ethics, and the meaning of life in modern times. In addition, it is time to be committed to forms of religious education that will encourage independence of mind and in-depth consideration of the application of Islamic principles in the West and the meaning of being a European, American or Australian Muslim. The foregoing pages make humble claim to opening the way to the first steps on this road, but there is still much to be achieved and many obstacles to be overcome. One of these is the reclamation by Muslims of complete political and financial independence: they must in-creasingly reject control, intervention, and surveillance by foreign states such as Western governments in order to be able to speak freely and credibly. Muslims increasingly have the means of doing this. This certainly does not mean that they should refuse to be in contact with the Islamic world for mutual advantage, but exchange is one thing and being under guard-ianship is another, here or anywhere else. As citizens of states that recognize human rights, Muslims are no longer under the law of foreign states or former colonies and they should reject the status of subcitizens that is the product of a perverse internal neocolonialism. To regain confidence in oneself, one’s values, one’s role also means, in practice, reclaiming one’s rights and respect. Though involvement in education reform, social and political participation, economic resistance, interreligious dialogue, and contributions to culture, people will be much more successful than if they persist in solitary confrontation and continual complaint. It is a struggle, a jihad -that goes without saying, but for principles, not against people, and if the people around one, willingly or unwillingly, forget the principles, the struggle consists in reminding  them of those principles and making them apply them. In this way, the normalization of the Muslim presence will not be a trivialization: their presence, their contribution, their participation should make a difference, not because of their otherness but because of the singular richness they bring to their society.

 

Western Muslims will play a decisive role in the evolution of Islam  worldwide because of the nature and complexity of the challenges they face, and in this their responsibility is doubly essential. By reflecting on their faith, their principles, and their identity within industrialized, secularized societies, they participate in the reflection the Muslim world must undertake on its relationship with the modern world, its order, and its disorder. Does the Islamic world have an alternative to offer? Does it have the means to implement new proposals? How should we engage in the debate between civilizations? Huntington’s thesis on the “clash of civili-zations” has been much criticized, and progressive, optimistic thinkers en masse have rejected this prophecy of doom. My many visits to the Muslim world and to European, Australian and American societies, especially after shocks like that of 11 September 2001, indicate that if the clash is not a reality, the ingredients that could lead to it are very present in current mentalities: on both sides, the lack of knowledge of the other (and of self), the acceptance of simplistic and absolute caricatures and final judgments, not to mention conflicting political and geostrategic interests, are objective features that could lead to the breakdown. In my view, the future dialogue between civilizations will not take place at the geopolitical frontiers between “the West” and “Islam” but rather, paradoxically, within European, Australian and American societies. Here again, Western Muslims will bear a heavy responsibility for demanding that the debate be opened and that it be conducted at a serious and deep level that requires listening to and exchanging with their fellow-citizens. They may be able to bring about the avoidance of a breakdown and the emergence of a path to fair dialogue and reconciliation.

 

This will not be easy. Prejudices, racism, and Islamophobia are tangible expressions of the hard reality of Western societies, and Muslims must not naively think that these will simply disappear as they become citizens settled in their societies. Increasingly, and for a considerable period, they will have to become accustomed to facing political security measures, discrimination, accusations of “double-talk,” menacing, malevolent looks, and acts of surveillance and control. Distrust is so great and suspicion so widespread that times of mutual trust seem still to be far away. But rather than complaining sadly, it seems to me that there is only one response to this state of affairs: to hold to one’s convictions; express one’s principles and hopes; make clear comments and criticisms; keep to one, open way of speaking (with Muslims and with one’s fellow-citizens); participate in society for good in partnership with all human beings who, in conscience, reject a world without conscience; and, armed with one’s faith and a critical mind, reject dualism and keep one’s head by cultivating patience and

long-suffering.

 

Spirituality is a priority: the effort and the process of spiritual initiation that lead us in our hearts toward the Transcendent are the best provisions for the journey. Through this teaching, we learn perseverance, which gives us the key to success: to stand firm in the face of people who trade in prejudice, who are responsible for oppression and who spread hatred, while retaining the presence of mind to say, “Salam!” “Peace!” and not to give up one’s efforts along the way, offering the brotherhood of one’s soul and humanity to all people of conscience, from one’s heart and in love, and inviting them to travel with one, training oneself to keep on resisting and learning how to be a friend, faithfully .

8 commentaires - “It won’t be easy…”

  1. We in Australia have recently had the pleasure of witnessing first-hand Professor Ramadan’s comforting insight and vision. The task that lies ahead for Muslims in the West is certainly not easy but it is that much harder when one has to confront it alone. Brother Ramadan’s article not only does justice to the methodology of remaining faithful to being Muslim in the West but more importantly, it gives us hope. I pray that Allah Most High grants us the wisdom and patience to do justice to this sacred task and that he continues to bless us with the support and guidance of such people as Professor Ramadan – people that we, as Muslims, are proud to have representing us.

  2. Tariq Ramadan, I feel you brother!

    Don’t you sometimes feel alone? Do you ever feel that your attempts are just a shot in the dark? Who is to know what will unfold?

    You are right that it is our faith and efforts that will only keep us going! We cannot feel hopelessness because Allah is All-Powerful, decider of destinies! Let us keep our faith and pray that Allah will protect us from evil. Let us pray that Islam can still provide a viable solution to our ever closing world. You have done your part…Inshallah, I too will do mine. I will pray to Allah subhana-wa-tallah that there will be a thousand more Tariq Ramadans born… for if it were to happen, our world will truly become a better place!

    Salaams
    AbdulBasitMukri aka Whuddup on MWU site.

    PS Have you read Syed Hussein Nasr’s books? I find great similarities in both of your messages! Is it unfounded?

  3. It was a pleasure to meet you. Your vision and insights resonated with so many of us here in Australia. But the work ahead is ours. It is reassuring however, to know that we are not journeying down this path alone.

    Consider Irfan’s suggestion: we can do with Ramadan all year round!

  4. It won’t be easy, and I feel that it never will be. Muslims in many of these western countries are too busy criticising other islamic groups which are not their own, causing greater division within the ummah. This filters through to the non-believers who we supposedly want to see what a unified relgion we are. As Yusef Islam once said : ” if I knew muslims before I knew Islam I would never have become a muslim”. Maybe we as muslims need to look at the bigger picture, fix our own selves through many of the things Professor Ramadan speaks; and surely our job in promoting and strengthening this great religion will slowly become easier. Brother Tariq, only two words……. THANK YOU.

    1. I admire how prof. Ramadan manages to make a difference between the different groups of muslims (literalists, traditionalsts, reformists etc.), and places himself in one of these groups, but without being arrogant or putting other muslims down.

  5. As an African-American born and raised in the USA, I can relate perfectly to the ‘It won’t be easy’ topics that Bro. Tariq Ramadhan so eloquently stated. As an African-American Muslim, I have also faced additional ‘burdens’..not just from Americans but from Middle Eastern Muslims as well…no one thinks that we, as African-Americans, quite add up. Within my own race, we face the same challenges. What is my point? Hated and rejection is so prevalent in the American culture that it permeates the souls of everyone, in some form or fashion. This is a constant battle for every soul. The only solution is to constantly be vigilant in the knowledge that G’D has a masterful purpose for every part and parcel of His Creation. Acceptance of that concept alone brings peace to the soul and conciliation to the heart. We are all part of the True G’D’s Creation, and if we truly believe that, then our hearts can change to a greater goal and direction. There will always be those who chose to incline towards evil. G’D says to turn away from them, or fight them if they fight you. Outside of that, persevere in seeking the higher path in all aspects of this world and the next. While doing that, perchance we can all help each other and connect to a true goals and aspirations for which the human was intended. As-Salaam-Alaikum!

  6. “to hold to one’s convictions ; express one’s principles and hopes ; make clear comments and criticisms ; keep to one, open way of speaking (with Muslims and with one’s fellow-citizens) ; participate in society for good in partnership with all human beings who, in conscience, reject a world without conscience ; and, armed with one’s faith and a critical mind, reject dualism and keep one’s head by cultivating patience and
    long-suffering.”

    Thankyou for your words of wisdom. You are truly a beacon from which the universalist, humanitarian and egalitarian spirit of islam can shine.

    “Spirituality is a priority : the effort and the process of spiritual initiation that lead us in our hearts toward the Transcendent are the best provisions for the journey.”

    So true. Being a young muslim in the west can be difficult experience, and often Islam in the west is riddled by would-be reformers and profiteers. Revolutionary leaders like yourself who are rooted in a strong intellectual and spiritual tradition are inspiring and make the journey to and within Islam easier. Thankyou.

    Sarah, Sydney

  7. In my experience people are not ‘complaining’ enough about being muslim and its implications for living here. Everybody is going about their own lives and is acting like there is nothing going on, while people do feel feel the tension of being muslim amongst non-muslims. Everybody is living on their own island and people are not sharing their experiences with each other. Conversations about such issues are being avoided and when they come up are stopped because people don’t know how to to handle it. I think that’s why I come to this site, because although you insist on not having a ‘victim mentality’, you do acknowlegde that things are difficult. And maybe that’s where the process begins: seeing things for what they are to make it better. In my observation this is not happening. The same with internal problems: people prefer not to discuss issues they find dufficult to adress, while sooo many things need to be adressed because things obviously don’t work.

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