Friday, September 4, 2009

I Just Saw Tariq Ramadan!!!

Yes! It was amazing!

I was having iftar at a friend's house yesterday (I'm making friends! Yay!) and she mentioned that Tariq Ramadan would be speaking in a debate the next day about the fact that he got fired from Erasmus University (in Rotterdam). This was a big story here for a few weeks. Ramadan worked as a visiting professor at Erasmus and also for the local Rotterdam government on issues of citizenship and immigration. Then suddenly he was fired from both positions, apparently because a show he hosts, "Islam & Life", is funded by Iran.

Ramadan then wrote a letter about the issue, click here to read.

Anyway the debate today was between Ramadan and a representative from Erasmus, and then between Ramadan and 2 politicians, one from the far right, and another who was on Ramadan's side.

Ramadan's opening statement was basically about how he knew that the reason he got fired was because of the upcoming elections. There's a lot of anti-Islam sentiment now in Holland, and so politicians know that they need to focus on this to win, and thus firing someone with a high profile like Ramadan would surely win votes.

My favourite quote was this: "I'm leaving. Goodbye. Wilders is staying. Good luck." Wilders is a far-right politician who wants to ban the Qur'an in Holland and who was responsible for making Fitna - a very negative documentary about Islam. Polls show that were elections to take place now, Wilders would win (!).

What's happening to Holland? When and how did it go from being the most open-minded, tolerant country to being one of the least? The far right politician at the debate today said so many insulting things about Islam, including that "anyone who is Muslim cannot develop to their full potential" and that Islam contradicts the "open, Western, Christian culture in Holland". He kept bringing up the fact that Muslims could not become ex-Muslims and the bad treatment homosexuals receive from Muslims (both true and both serious issues) despite Ramadan giving clear, concise rebuttals.

Ramadan then said that power combined with a lack of understand is very dangerous, and he was referring to this politician. He said the guy had a very simplistic view of Islam, and that he was just creating an atmosphere of fear (post 9-11 America anybody?) where Dutch people don't trust their fellow Dutch Muslims. And that the reason for all this is so they can win the next elections. Ramadan kept saying he was trying to focus on bigger issues and on the future, not just on the next election.

Why are far-right politicians so obsessed with Islam?

Is there a problem with Muslims integrating into Dutch society, or is it all hype created by the media and politicians to manipulate people into voting for conservative parties?
More importantly, do these politicians see Dutch Muslims as DUTCH or immigrants? Because looking at and treating them like immigrants will obviously make these Dutch Muslims feel like they don't belong. Ramadan mentioned getting emails from Dutch Muslims saying they no longer feel like they belong in Holland, and that they don't feel safe or welcome anymore. These are people, for the most part, who speak Dutch, have jobs, have families, and on the whole are Dutch - so why is there a problem? Of course there are some who don't integrate. But is it the majority?

Anyway it was an amazing night, and I'm so happy I got to see him! It's so sad he won't be teaching at Erasmus anymore, otherwise I could have taken his classes. He was actually offered a position at the university I will be going to, and he accepted, but then something weird happened and he ended up turning the job down. What's up with Ramadan and Holland??!


Sara said...

I don't know who that is :S

But then...what's with all the controversy! It's like how Amr Khaled is not allowed to come to Egypt.

Stephanie said...

Salam Alaikum and WOW that's awesome. Yeah I've heard about this Wilder's character. He's made a name for himself even here in the US. Inshallah for the good of Holland he won't be allowed into power but it certainly looks precarious at best.

WhiteOrchid said...

lucky you! :)

I think all this hatred surfaced after Theo Van Gogh's film

you might find this interesting

Anonymous said...

Yeah that Geert guy sounds awful.
But how exciting to see Tariq Ramadan! Yaaay for you!! :)

Jaz said...

I read his letter, he's very clear and his arguments are very well developed - they leave almost no room to disagree with him.
He is a smart guy, it's a shame that all this is happening.
Is he actually banned from Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Saudi & Syria?

Talking about good writers, you're one too! I liked this post a lot :)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Sara - I know, Ramadan is also banned from Egypt. It's so annoying! I was so pissed when I found out about that, but then again Holland just did the same thing by firing him from a job for a very shady reason.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Stephanie: yes, Wilders is seriously something else. The sad thing is that his party would win the elections were they to happen now. It's crazy the openly anti-Islamic things he says!
When he traveled to the UK a few months ago they actually didn't let him into the country. America on the other hand, let Wilders in, while not giving Ramadan a visa! Hmm.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

White Orchid - thanks for that link! I heard about that story too and seriously couldn't believe the hypocrisy of the Dutch gov't.
Theo van Gogh's film definitely started a lot of this tension.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Aynur - yeah! It was amazing! By the way turns out that I'll be studying Mohamed Asaad in one of my classes. I didn't know he was a convert!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Jaz - yeah he is actually banned from all those places. He mentioned that last night, when he was criticized for not taking a stand against corrupt regimes like Iran. He said "I've been banned from 5 countries for taking a stand, so you have no right to say that." He's even banned from Egypt, where his parents are from.
Thanks for the compliment :) It made my day!

Umm Omar said...

Sounds like an amazing night!
Thanks for the background; sounds eerily similar to the situation here in the U.S. Some of the things that come out of politicans' mouths-shocking! And how they get away with it-more shocking. And rarely-RARELY-some high profile person will come out and say a few words against the hatred (e.g. Colin Powell, Ben Afleck)but those few moments here and there can't hold up to the overwhelming amounts of daily anti-Islamic rhetoric. The thing is, no country (govt or the majority of it's citizens) will see itself as less tolerant if it's anti-Islamic simply because they equate Islam with terrorism, whether it's said out loud or not. So, in fact, they think they're heroes by lashing out against Muslims, the Quran, Islamic practices, and Muslim values. Even the quote you put here-"anyone who is Muslim cannot develop to their full potential"-he's phrasing his hatred of Islam in a way that makes him look as innocent as the most noble philanthropist or something. He wants to *help* people gain their full potential. yeah, right. The majority of lay people don't have a thorough enough education of world religions/theology/cultures and so, it's easy for them to agree. And even if they do have some knowledge of Islam, many can't get past the images they've seen in the media (beheadings, Afghani women covered head to toe..) to truly understand Islam independently of those false representations.
Anyway, it seems that Ramadan made excellent points; we all know that creating an atmosphere of fear is the best way to control people, after all.
And omg, he wants to ban the Quran from Holland? What is that supposed to mean, anyway?
Too bad you couldn't take Ramadan's class-how awesome would that have been? I feel your pain on that one.
Well, sister, your posts keep getting better and better, masha'Allah. Keep blogging!

pinay in dutchland said...

I used to like Wilders when I couldnt understand what he was saying but I know of the issue. Im just living in Holland for 7 months but when I watched his interview in a Danish television in English, I was disappointed. He was ranting irrationally. He might have a point but the problem is he doesnt know what should be done about the problem. He has completely no idea of want he wants to do.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Umm Omar - what you said is very true: no country/person really sees themselves as racist when they insult Islam because to them Islam is a bad religion anyway, and they are just pointing that out. It's really sad.
While it's true that most lay people don't have a lot of knowledge on Islam, I think they are to be blamed a bit. Anyone who is interested CAN find objective sources and CAN educate themselves. Living in Cairo you can imagine the propaganda I heard about Jews and the images I saw on TV of them. That doesn't mean I should just believe it without using my brain.

I seriously don't know how Wilders is going to ban the Qur'an! Is he going to search every house to see if there are any? Are people banned from reading it in public? Or in the mosque? I don't know! If you watch his movie Fitna you'll see that the guy really hates the Qur'an, and you'll also see how simplistic his ideas on Islam are.

Thanks for the compliment sister :) I've been worried cause no one seems to be commenting/reading anymore. It's either cause my blog isn't interesting anymore or because it's a quiet time in blogging world :) I hope it's the latter!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Hi Pinay - welcome to my blog =)
I think Wilders does have a point to an extent - there are immigrants in Holland who take advantage of he system and who don't integrate. But kicking out ALL immigrants isn't really a solution to that. Like you said, he has no idea how to solve the problem.
Also the problem isn't as big as he's trying to make it out to be. When I came to Holland I expected to see millions of unemployed Muslims living off welfare, not knowing Dutch, and creating problems. What I've actually found is that every Muslim I see or meet speaks perfect Dutch, has a job or is studying, is well-adjusted, and does things other Dutch people do. So is there a problem, or are politicians trying to create a problem to win votes?
By the way where do you live in Holland? And thanks for commenting :)

Muni said...

This is alarming. It it's really true the party would win, it seems like they've done a great job making non muslim Dutch fear/hate muslim Dutch and thus support an anti-muslim party.

What could possibly become of the muslim Dutch then?

Anonymous said...

Assalamo aleikom,

Oh, we are reading your blog, just not articulate enough to comment all the time :).

Anyhow, the way I see it, in Europe things are going towards extremism more and more. If you just think about that youtube movie about the statistics of Muslims in Europe and all the phobia, it's crazy. I have never felt so much negativity towards my religion as nowadays and I work in a field where people are pretty exposed to the "other". *sigh* It's getting a bit scary. But as I commented before, it's scary on the other side of the fence too, in the "muslim countries".

Allahoma ehfazna, my Allah protect us from the evils.

p.s. I would LOVE to see Tariq Ramadan in real, and congrats on making friends. YAY!


ellen557 said...

That is pretty scary about the Wilders guy... like you, I just don't get why people like him go on and on and on! Enough already.

And woah, Tariq Ramadan and making friends! Yaaaay. I'm happy that you're settling in.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Muni - exactly, that's what I'm wondering too. At the end of the day, Dutch Muslims are DUTCH. It's their home, so they shouldn't be made to feel otherwise.

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Natalia - what you said is so true - it's scary on the other side of the fence too. After experiencing both Egypt and Holland I'm wondering if there's any country on earth where it's relatively easy to be Muslim? Maybe it's just the times we are living in...

Where do you live, if you don't mind me asking? =)

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Ellen - thanks hun :) I'm glad things are getting better here too.

Wilders is really annoying. What I don't get is why he has so much support :S.

NoortheNinjabi said...

First off, Mohammad Asad is fantastic :D And a convert from Judaism, which makes all of us Jews for Allah (as we are unfortunately known as) very proud.

Second, Wilders is dangerously unhinged. And ironically, most of the US love him. Shows you how the US thinks :S

Third, have you seen Morgan Spurlock's "30 Days as a Muslim"? I think ol' Geert and all of his buddies could do with watching/experiencing the same thing. Maybe then they'd realize that Muslim values don't go against their "Western Christian" ideals!

Last, Salaam alykom!! I'm new to your blog but loving it already!

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Hi Noor! Yeah I had no idea that Muhammad Asad was a convert. MashAllah. By the way do a lot of Jews convert to other religions? You don't hear about it often.

Yes the US does love Wilders for some reason. I guess it says something about Islamophobia there.

Thanks for commenting!

NoortheNinjabi said...

So the thing about Jews is, even if we convert out, our communities still call us "Jews" and include us in the numbers. So there are a lot of Buddhist Jews, Jews for Jesus, Jews for Allah, etc, the premise being that we believe something else, but we still have a Jewish soul. It also means that they are allowed to proselytize to us to try to bring us back into the fold. *muttering curse words* Anyways, there are a lot of "secular" Jews (*ahem*, agnostics) and more and more Jews are converting out daily.

I've been seeing more and more Jews, especially women, converting to Islam. Actually, "Lori Almost Live" (the wife of a rabbi) just had a youtube video about it...

Before the elections, a massive amount of newspapers sent the "Obsession" dvd out with the daily rag to their subscribers. I think it was the David Horowitz fund or some group somehow connected that funded the project. Not many people complained. :(

cairo, lusaka, amsterdam said...

Wow that's so interesting that even after you convert you're still considered Jewish. I feel that because there's a lot of political tension re. Palestine/Israel, conversions between Islam and Judaism are even more controversial than between Islam and other religions.

I'd love to hear your story :) (if you don't mind). You can email me if that's easier :)

NoortheNinjabi said...

Honestly, it's a bit frustrating, although funny at times. I think another reason why it's so controversial is that Jews are seen as "the accursed", while Christians are seen as "the misguided." So in the eyes of Muslims, it's a huge leap from being cursed to rejoicing in the light. On the flip side, Jews tend to feel threatened because the two religions are SO alike and it's hard enough to keep the temple seats filled as is. The reaction seen most is "gee, why didn't you just become Orthodox?"

Here's my story :D