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Aspects of Life of Tariq Ramadan

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Most Westerners have a pretty clear idea of what comes to the mind of a Danish cartoonist when he imagines the Prophet Muhammad. They also have a good idea of what comes to the mind of a cave-dwelling Taliban fighter or an al Qaeda operative. Tariq Ramadan, however, is mortified by the caricatures that have shaped public perceptions of the man to whom Allah revealed the Koran in 610. Accordingly, the prolific Swiss-born theologian, who has become both a media star and a lightning rod for controversy, has made it his mission to change the way both Muslims and non-Muslims view Islam.

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Dr Tariq Ramadan is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Oxford University, teaching in the two Faculties of Oriental Studies and Theology & Religion. He is also Senior Research Fellow and Governing Body Fellow at St Antony’s College (University of Oxford) and Senior Research Fellow at Doshisha University (Kyoto, Japan); Visiting Professor at the College of Islamic Studies, Hamad Bin Khalifa University (Doha, Qatar); Director of the Research Centre for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE) (Doha, Qatar), President of the think tank European Muslim Network (EMN) in Brussels and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. He holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. In Cairo, Egypt he received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars (ijazat teaching license in seven disciplines). Through his writings and lectures Tariq has contributed to the debate on the issues of Muslims in the West and Islamic revival in the Muslim world. His research interests include the issues of Islamic legislation, politics, ethics, Sufism and the Islamic contemporary challenges in both the Muslim-majority countries and the West. He is active at both academic and grassroots levels, lecturing extensively throughout the world on theology, ethics, social justice, and interfaith as well as intercultural dialogue.

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Ramadan believes in the reinterpretation of the Qurʿān to understand Islamic philosophy better. He emphasizes the difference between religion and culture, which he believes are too often confused. He rejects the separation of people between dār al-islām and dār al-harb (the Islamic and non-Islamic realms), because these classifications are suspect according to the scriptures. Rather, he proposes that Western Muslims live in dār al-shahādah (realm of witness), where they can practice fundamental principles of faith and take responsibility for them. Because Ramadan has spoken on controversial subjects, including critical evaluations of Israeli treatment of Palestinians, and opposition to the U.S. military campaign in Iraq, many of his more conciliatory views were overlooked. For example, Ramadan condemned suicide bombings and violence as a tactic, and declared that terrorism was never justifiable. He cautioned Muslims not to overreact to Pope Benedict XVI's speech on Islam. Yet, a frequent charge against Ramadan is that he says different things to different audiences (Landau, Paul). Many suspect that he speaks to radical Islamists or young Muslims in one way, and to Western media or academia in another. Such criticisms notwithstanding, and no matter how convoluted some of his presentations may appear to outsiders, there is consistency in Ramadan's discourse—much like that of Hasan al-Bannā in Egypt (Zemouri, Aziz).

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After all, he is the author of many books, including To Be a European Muslim (1998), Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity (2000), Jihad, Violence, War and Peace in Islam (2002), Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2003), Globalisation: Muslim resistances and Muslims in France: The way towards coexistence (both 2004) and The Messenger (2007). He has contributed over 850 articles, reviews and chapters to various magazines and books, and tens of thousands of cassettes of his sermons and lectures are sold each year in France alone. He has two sons and two daughters.

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Landau, Paul. Le sabre et le coran: Tariq Ramadan et les Frères Musulmans à la conquête de l’Europe. Paris, 2005. Argues that Ramadan relies on the “word” to conquer Europe.

Zemouri, Aziz. Faut-il faire taire Tariq Ramadan?Paris, 2005. A highly readable conversation with Ramadan on controversial subjects.

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Aspects of Life of Tariq Ramadan
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