pic1.jpgI haven’t read much from Dr.Abdul Karim Soroush, but I have been attracted to Iran, it’s history and people for years now and one day plan on visiting Iran, inshaAllah. I have a great concern for that people, especially in light of recent aggressive posturing by Western Imperialist nations.  He is clearly a very heterodox thinker who believes in the createdness of the Qur’an, the parallel of Rumi’s Masnavi with Qur’an, etc.

It is good to read the heretical, the strange opinions and sayings because much can be learned from them. His insights are important and worth listening to though I find much to disagree with I also find much that compels me to reflect. Here he gives his take on the debate about Islam and democracy in Amsterdam which I wrote about earlier. He also speaks about Tariq Ramadan and his opinion of him and his work.

Q. What was your assessment of the other panellists, especially Mr. Tariq Ramadan, who is receiving a lot of attention in Europe these days? Did you know him before? Do you follow his discussions now that you’re in Europe or not?

A. I first met Mr. Tariq Ramadan 10 years ago; as it happens it was here, in the Netherlands. It was at a seminar, which was also attended by Mr. Abu Zayd, Nur Khalis Majid and Mohamad Sharafi from Tunis. And there was a bit of a clash between the two of us at a roundtable discussion on the occasion, on the subject of religiosity and religious freedom.
My impression was that, 10 years on, he’s matured a great deal and there’s more interest in him nowadays. The fact that the US Administration prevented him from visiting the US was not without impact on this interest. European Muslims are very interested in Mr. Tariq Ramadan now and the main focus of his work is the amalgamation of European Muslims’ Islamic and European identities. In one of his most important books, Muslims in Europe, he advises Muslims to behave in a European way in Europe and to take advantage of democracy and European resources; not in order to overthrow the ruling systems, but in order to bring about more justice, to create a climate in which they can air their views, and to show the compassionate face of Islam without resorting to violence of any kind. The most important issue for him – as I understand it – is to discuss the socio-political concerns of Muslim minorities in Europe with a view to resolving their dual identities. He wants to reconcile European Muslims’ religious identity with their identity as Europeans, so that they don’t have a sense of internal conflict in their lives and can become integrated in Europe whilst also preserving their religious identity.
As you know, the issue of integration is of great concern in Europe. Take this university, Amsterdam University, for example. They have set up a training course for imams. Imam means religious leaders and people who can lead congregational prayers and answer believers’ religious questions. The aim of the course at this university is to teach European culture to religious leaders too, so that religious leaders proceed in a way that ensures that Muslims opt for moderation and aren’t drawn towards violence. Of course, I have on occasion explained to Europeans that there are two sides to this tale. It isn’t enough to expect moderation from Muslims; Europeans, too, must behave moderately towards Muslims. You can’t provoke Muslims and expect them not to be provoked. European media should show adequate respect for Islamic values.