Michelle Mazel on Brother Tariq: Rhetoric, Strategy and Method of Tariq Ramadan by Caroline Fourest

, October 1, 2006

Jewish Political Studies Review 18:3-4 (Fall 2006)

 

 A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?

Frère Tariq: Discours, stratègie et méthode de Tariq Ramadan (Brother Tariq: Rhetoric, Strategy and Method of Tariq Ramadan), by Caroline Fourest, Bernard Grasset, 2004, 425 pp. [in French]

Reviewed by Michelle Mazel

“Who is Tariq Ramadan?” asked the influential French newspaper Le Monde in its issue for 23 December 2003. What prompted the question was a much-publicized television debate held by the French second channel on 20 November that year. It pitted Nicholas Sarkozy, then interior minister for the first time, against Tariq Ramadan, a charismatic preacher and publicist who was beginning to gain recognition as the spokesman of European Islam.

In the debate Ramadan defended himself skillfully, if not convincingly, against the charge of anti-Semitism. He refused, however, to condemn the position of his brother Hani Ramadan, director of the Geneva Islamic Center, who advocated death by stoning for adulterous women. He would only say that he asked for a moratorium on stoning in the Muslim world to give time for mentalities to change.

 

A Controversial Figure

Tariq Ramadan was born in Geneva in 1962. He is the son of Said Ramadan, exiled leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, and the grandson of its founder the Egyptian Hassan al-Banna, who created the ideology and the methods of modern radical Islam. This radical Islam is today the basis of all the jihadist groups throughout the world.

Ramadan is a highly controversial figure with devoted followers and tenacious detractors. Is he indeed the harbinger of a new, modern Islam, ready for progress while adhering to the basic tenets of the faith, and hence the great hope of millions of Muslims living in Europe? Is he truly the victim of relentless attacks motivated by hatred of Islam or inspired by the Jews and the Zionists, as he has been heard to say? Or is he in fact, and despite his frequent denials, the standard bearer of the Muslim Brotherhood, and thus a member of a shadowy movement aiming to take over Europe from within and turn it into a Muslim society?

It is partly to answer these questions that Caroline Fourest wrote Frère Tariq. She brings solid academic credentials to her brand of investigative journalism. A graduate of the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences sociales et en Sciences politiques, Fourest has carved a niche for herself in the elite field of the study of religions and their impact on global politics. Although in 1997 she founded ProChoix, an organization dedicated to promoting a largely feminist agenda,[1] it was through this unlikely route that she came to focus on religion and, especially, religious fanaticism.

 

The Art of Taqqiyya

In researching the topic of Tariq Ramadan, Fourest worked her way through dozens of tapes, fifteen books, and more than 1,500 pages of interviews and reviews. The name she gave her book, Brother Tariq, is a not too subtle reference to the Muslim Brotherhood and clearly indicates the conclusion she reached. Demonstrating her view, however, is not easy. As Fourest repeatedly acknowledges, Tariq Ramadan is a consummate debater, master of innuendo, and difficult to pin down.

The lengthy analysis of the Muslim Brotherhood with which the book opens is easily its best part. Step by step Fourest retraces the itinerary of Hassan el-Banna, who founded the movement in 1928 at the age of twenty-two and was assassinated in 1949. She clarifies the movement’s ultimate objective and planned means to achieve it, quoting al-Banna’s “Epistle to the Youth”: “Allah is our goal; Allah’s messenger is our guide, the Koran is our constitution. Effort is our way. Death on the path of Allah is our ultimate wish.”[2]

With a series of quotations Fourest demonstrates that, notwithstanding his denials, Tariq Ramadan follows closely in his grandfather’s footsteps and does not hesitate to practice the art of taqqiyya, that is, lying or dissimulating to further the ultimate goal. That involves implementing al-Banna’s vision in Europe with the help of the millions of Muslims now living there. The Sharia will be the law of the land, boys and girls will study in separate schools, and all dissenters will be suppressed.

Although Fourest vehemently builds a strong case, her presentation lacks structure. She does not tell enough about Tariq Ramadan as an individual. The details she gives about his education and career are sketchy and scattered throughout the book. Regarding the tenets of Islam and current trends in Islamic society, the details are overabundant and a reader not conversant in the subject may sometimes get lost in them. There are also factual errors, as when Fourest writes that the Brotherhood decided to assassinate Egyptian president Anwar Sadat because he “wanted to reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel.”[3]

Yet, on the whole, this is a fascinating book that opens a door on the enigmatic Tariq Ramadan.

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 Notes

[1] “ProChoix is a network of for reflection and activism dedicated to issues as varied as racism, antisemitism, homosexuality, women’s rights, abortion and secularism. ProChoix defends personal liberties against hate and fanaticism,” http://www.prochoix.org/.

[2] P. 30, translated from the French by the reviewer who substituted “Allah” for “Dieu” as closer to the original Arabic text.

[3] P. 58. Sadat was in 1979 the first Arab leader to establish diplomatic relations with Israel. Two years later  he was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood.

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MICHELLE MAZEL is a graduate of the Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris and the Faculté de Droit of that city.

About Michelle Mazel

Michelle Mazel is a graduate of Sciences Po – the Institute for Political Science – and the Paris Faculté de Droit. She is a writer of both fiction and non-fiction and lives in Jerusalem.