Prof. Tariq: Islam, Democracy, Human Rights

Professor  Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. He is a grandson of Hassan Al-Banna the revered founder of Muslim Brotherhood, one of the largest modern day Islamic movements in the world. Through his writings and public lectures, he has greatly contributed to the debate on the challenges of Muslims in the West and the current political revival in the Muslim world.

Prof. Tariq was in Penang recently to give a lecture on the topic of  “Islam, Democracy and Human Rights: The Awakening of the Muslim World” at Traders Hotel, Penang. The lecture cum forum was organised by the Penang Institute. After his lecture, there was a panel discussion which was Dr Ahmad Farouk Musa, chairperson of the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF). The discussants were Professor Tariq Ramadan himself along with YB Nurul Izzah Anwar, Member of Parliament for Lembah Pantai, Dr Maszlee Malik, Assistant Professor at the Department of Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh in the International Islamic University of Malaysia, and Professor Datuk Dr. Woo Wing Thye, Executive Director of Penang Institute. (all of them as picture in above, photo by yours truly)

I attended the talk and found his talk to be very interesting and enlightening. Since Ahmad Farouk of IRF was one of the speakers, I was keen to attend too as I had admired his writings very much. I had thought of writing about the lecture for CJMY but since Susan Loone was there, she had already written for Malaysiakini. Also, due to my carelessness, I had left my notes behind. 

Anyway, since I find that whatever Prof Tariq had said during the lecture, and also at another talk, were very good indeed, which everyone should read, thus I'm sharing here all that Susan Loone had reported from his talk.

I particularly like one of his talk where he said regarding the Allah row in our country. He said this reflected that those Muslim who argued that Chrisitans should not use the word 'Allah' has inferiority complex. Whoaa!! Haven't I been saying that all along… as far as 5 years back… always in my blog I mentioned about some Muslim, especially the Muslim UMNO government, having inferiority complex, not only on this matter but other matters as well. 

Ok, so here are 4 articles by Susan Loone of Malaysiakini, the first one was the one that I attended and I had taken a few photos which I had put up on my Facebook album.


Tariq Ramadan: Muslims must fight unjust laws
Susan Loone
11:31AM Jul 18, 2012

World leading contemporary Islamic philosopher and thinker Prof Tariq Ramadan has offered six principles of governance which break the stereotype that frames Muslim administrations as anti-democratic and anti-human rights.

In a lecture organised by Penang Institute yesterday, Tariq listed rule of law, equal citizenship, universal suffrage, accountability, separation of powers and ethics in politics as basic democratic principles which must be complied with by Islamic governments.

For example in Malaysia, Muslims – as any other citizens of other religions – must abide by the law as they have accepted the framework of the country, added Tariq in his lecture titled ‘Islam, Democracy and Human Rights: The Awakening of the Muslim World’.

However, citizens must struggle within the given framework to oppose existing (or new) laws which are unjust, said Tariq, adding “And you know how many laws in this country need reform”.

The remark elicited a loud round of applause and laughter from the 300-odd crowd – comprising Penang government officials, academicians, politicians and NGO activists – who attended the three-hour lecture.

But an amused Tariq told the participants that their response to his comment made him feel like he was with the opposition, which he clarified he was not.

 I am not with the opposition, not in political terms. But in philosophical terms, I say something which is very true, your model is not perfect and your mores are not perfect,” he said.

 That in the name of justice, in the name of your conscience, as a Muslim, Buddhist, Christian or whatever you are, in the name of the citizenship you have, it is your duty to stand up for what is right, if not for your government, it is for the people who live in your country,” he added, to more applause from the audience.

 Don’t put me in the political landscape of your country. I don’t care, for if one day you come into power and you are in acceptance of injustice, you will have my wrath against you. This is the way principles are maintained,” he stressed.

 Unity must be based on what is right’

Later, Tariq – the grandson of Hassan Al-Banna who founded the Muslim Brotherhood – said the Muslims must not be united based on what is wrong for to do so is not being powerful but weak.

The 49-year-old Swiss citizen of Egyptian origin also took part in a panel discussion with Islamic Renaissance Front chairperson Ahmad Farouk Musa, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, Universiti Islam Antarabangsa Malaysia assistant professor Maszlee Malik and Penang Institute executive director Prof Woo Wing Thye.

Meanwhile, Tariq elaborated at length on the second principle – equal citizenship – which must be present in Islamic governance to ensure the government practised democracy and human rights.

He said that citizens must not only be equal before the law but must participate in the narrative that binds them as a nation.

He described Malaysian society as being “pluralistic”, saying that it is a society with different cultural and religious backgrounds.

But every citizen, no matter what their origin or their religion, should be treated equally,” he said, followed by loud applause from the floor.

"Don’t talk about my citizenship as if I am a minority. I am a citizen, you get it? Equal citizen means don’t ask me about my history or where I come from but where we are going together.”

'Jews welcomed as part of ummah'

Tariq then cited a situation where the Prophet when arriving in Medina – which Muslims described as the first Islamic government or society – had welcomed the Jews as part of the community or “ummah”.

He said “ummah” in Islam is not only from the spiritual aspect or an organised structural community at the local level but meant that a community was “part of us and have the same rights and duties as us”.

He added that no community is better than the other just because they are Muslims.

It is not by discriminating others that you are going to be the best,” he quipped, to another round of loud applause, which he attempted to halt but which ended with much laughter from the crowd.

Tariq then advised that a citizen of a country must observe the laws, speak the language to express himself or herself, and must be loyal.

If you are a loyal citizen, you would want the best for your nation. But a loyal citizen is always critical. Blind loyalty is dangerous, sectarian and racist,” he added.


Tariq warns against 'playing with Islam and hudud'
Susan Loone
1:50PM Jul 19, 2012

As the country’s Malay based parties – PAS and Umno – try to outdo each other by showing who is more Islamic, an influential Islamic thinker and philosopher has warned against using hudud on non-Muslims.

In a lecture organised by the Penang Islamic Foundation, Prof Tariq Ramadan said even in the harshest Islamic position, to say hudud is to be implemented on non-Muslim is “un-Islamic”.

Tariq – who lectures at Oxford University – warned against political parties “playing with Islam” and using hudud as a means of competition to show who is more Islamic.

Why attract the emotions of Muslims? To feel that this is good is in fact something that is wrong. Be careful with this type of politics, it is not right,” he warned during the two-hour lecture in Penang themed ‘A Civil State’.

Don’t try to use Islam to attract vultures because the elections are coming. The first people to resist is you, the citizens who must be clear on what Islam is and not to play or be distracted by these discourses,” he told the 500-strong crowd yesterday.

Tariq – who is scheduled to speak in Kuala Lumpur today – cautioned against the implementation of the Islamic jurisprudence in the current context as the victims would eventually be “the poor and the women who are more fragile”.

He added that the Islamic law would most probably not be used against the royalty – who he claims use public funds to travel overseas for their personal enjoyment.

I see this every day. In Switzerland, we see them involved in corruption and prostitution but nothing has happened to them,” he said, referring to Arab kings and princes.

Back in their countries, for example, the poor Pakistani guy who is involved in the same would have to face hudud as the leaders want to show people how Islamic they are,” he added.

But they are not. They are just being hypocrites,” he quipped, at the session launched by Deputy Chief Minister I Mansor Othman and chaired by Islamic Renaissance Front chairperson Ahmad Farouk Musa.

Implement justice, not punishment’

Instead of hudud, Tariq advocates focussing more on the Sharia’ – which he describes as mainly Islamic principles and not a set of laws to punish people.

He added that the Sharia’ is a set of objectives to promote respect for justice and dignity of all people, and not just for the Muslims as Islam is based on principles and ethics.

If you want to start implementing justice, stop talking about punishing, and start talking about social justice and transparency,” said the grandson of Hassan Al-Banna who founded the Muslim Brotherhood’

If you want to punish, punish the corrupt. Don’t play with Islam,” warned the 49-year-old Swiss citizen of Egyptian origin.

In Malaysia, Tariq proposes that to promote Sharia’, the government must be more serious about education, justice, fighting corruption and the manner in which women and migrants are treated.

Women are to be given their rights to be “present and vocal” as the Prophet was very clear about the matter, he added.

He advocates focussing more on implementing Sharia’ in the heart – to be generous, tender and courageous – and to immediately act against corruption and injustice.

I said all this at an Islamic convention and was heavily criticised. But my position is clear. I am against the death penalty because I am for justice and God is justice,” he said.

I am not going to support a symbolic representation of my religion but go against the very essence of what God is and that is justice.”

Suspend death penalty’

Meanwhile, Tariq spoke passionately against the death penalty – which is still implemented in Malaysia – and reiterated his call for a moratorium on the punishment.

Although Muslims cannot avoid the fact that the matter is stated in the Quran while stoning is mentioned in the Hadith, he asked if the law is to be carried out “literally without considering the current context and the evolution of time and situation”.

He called on Muslim scholars to consider three questions before supporting capital punishment: (1) what the Quran or Hadith says? (2) what are the conditions to consider? and (3) what is the current context?

I am stressing that we have to suspend the death penalty because we cannot implement it in societies we have today. We can’t kill people like this. Whatever you do in Islam, you cannot forget your ethics or justice,” he said.

Justice is justice for all and even tyrants need to be judged according to the rule of law , not by killing people as this is not the dignity of our religion,” he added, citing the case of how former dictator Muammar Gaddafi was killed.

He may be a tyrant and I oppose what he has done in history but the way in which he was killed was unacceptable, as if he was as animal. And we are happy because he was a tyrant?” he queried.


Scholar: Not haram to topple unjust Muslim gov't
Susan Loone
11:15AM Jul 19, 2012

Is it forbidden in Islam (haram) for Muslims to support groups that intend to oust a Muslim country's government as claimed in an Utusan Malaysia report?

On the contrary, said one of the world's most influential Islamic scholar and thinkers, adding it is only right that Muslims resist an authority that is unjust.

The outspoken professor Tariq Ramadan – who lectures Contemporary Islamic Studies in Oxford University – said that it is right for Muslims to be constructively critical of their governments.

"We have to resist injustice. The Prophet has said that the best jihad is to take a world of truth and place it in front of a tyrant," he told Malaysiakini when met in Penang yesterday.

Tariq was responding to Masjidil Haram fatwa council member Sulaiman Saloomi who reportedly said that it was haram in Islam to topple Muslim governments, especially if the replacement brought greater danger to society.

Umno-owned Malay language daily Utusan Malaysia in its regular dose of Pakatan Rakyat bashing  had quoted Sulaiman as saying that demonstrations are forbidden even if the leadership has gone against Islamic teachings.

The cleric’s solution was that the errant leader should be advised instead, according to the Umno-owned daily.

Cleric siding with the powerful

Tariq however completely disagreed with the remark, saying that Sulaiman's authority was incorrect.

When asked if demonstrations are forbidden in Islam, Tariq replied that the cleric was speaking only for those in power.

"We have to resist based on principles of justice.

"There must be elections. When the leaders are not elected..," said Tariq, who presented a two hour lecture organised by the Penang Islamic Foundation in Penang yesterday.

 "It is right for Muslims to resist any unjust power by non-violent means. We can remove unjust leaders like what happened in the Middle East. It was the right thing to do," he added.

He also criticised Sulaiman’s claim, while speaking in Kuala Terengganu, citing Prophet Muhammad that anyone who tries to disrupt the affairs of the ummah (Muslim community) while they are united, should be killed.

Tariq, who was on a two day speaking tour in Penang, replied that it was wrong to say this, as it is not based on the correct Islamic principles.


 Scholar: Allah row shows signs of 'inferiority complex'
Susan Loone
1:09PM Jul 20, 2012

While use of the Arabic word for God, ‘Allah', has been a hot topic between Muslims and Christians in the country, a renowned contemporary thinker and philosopher sees discussion on the matter as having been "too simplistic".

Speaking at a lecture in Penang on Wednesday, Prof Tariq Ramadan said that for someone coming from the Arab world, arguments as to whether a non-Muslim could use the word ‘Allah' were "completely out of touch with reality".

Tariq – who lectures at the University of Oxford in England – said Christians were using the word ‘Allah' much earlier, before the Muslims in Egypt did because, in Arabic, the term means ‘God'.

"When I speak about God, I use the word Allah. It means one God and no other God," he said in the lecture organised by the Penang Islamic Foundation in George Town.

"So, suppose we say you cannot use this word because it is ours, we would be monopolising the word," he told the 500-strong crowd at the two-hour session.

"It also means we are not confident in our language," quipped the influential Islamic scholar, who is a Swiss citizen of Egyptian origin.

In January 2010, Catholic weekly The Herald won its suit in the High Court, which overruled a ban by the Home Ministry on the weekly's use of the term ‘Allah' in its Bahasa Malaysia edition, -which had prompted fiery protests from certain quarters nationwide.

On a three-day tour

The federal government has since appealed the decision of the High Court, which also granted a stay in favour of the Home Ministry to stop The Herald, from using the word 'Allah', pending an appeal by the ministry.

Tariq – who is the grandson of Hassan Al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood – was on a three-day lecture tour of Penang and Kuala Lumpur, from July 17-19.

He also spoke before a well-attended crowd at the home of PKR de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim in Kuala Lumpur last night.

Tariq also said in Penang on Wednesday that some liberals believed that even when speaking in the English language, one must use the word ‘Allah'. However, this was not the reality.

Muslims believed that diversity of languages was a sign of God's presence.

Not allowing others to use the word ‘Allah' showed "inferiority complex and that we are not confident" about our principles, he added.

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