Berman is wrong, we should welcome Ramadan
Charles Taylor 19 December 2007

I consider the Berman-type position both incredibly imperceptive and extremely dangerous. It ignores a) the incredible diversity of Islamic modes of devotion and spirituality; b) that the present jihadism is only one form of these, and very dubious from the standpoint of Koran and Hadith (that you become a ghazi killing women and chilfdren, or a shaheed by killing yourself in order to kill women and children), c) that this jihadism is a modern amalgam in which the faith is mainly lived out in the register of modern identity politics of the polarized kind, complete with the identification of a radically opposed enemy, and in the language of honour, humiliation, annihilation of the enemy, etc, leaving no place for the God who is always addressed in the Koran as “the compassionate, the merciful” (al raham, al rahmin), d) that people can get recruited in and out of this amalgam depending on the prevailing climate of group conflict, e) that the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric serves to entrench the feeling of an all-englobing conflict, and hence tends to facilitate the recruitment of believing Muslims into the jihadist amalgam. In other words Huntington is helping Bin Laden’s recruitment drive, as is the whole gang of neocon numbskulls running the Us.

What we need is an alliance of people of all faiths and civilizations who will resist together this slide into polarization. The last thing we want to do is spread the myth that al believing Muslims are committed to something whose logical working out involves this form of jihad. That’s what Bin Laden is saying, but it’s false. Tariq Ramadan should be welcomed as a prime member of this alliance, not denied a Us visa.

Charles Tayor, Professor Emeritus at the McGill University of Montreal, has been teaching in recent years at the New School for Social Research in New York, and at the Northwestern University of Chicago. His works include Hegel and Modern Society (1979), Sources of the Self: the Making of Modern Identity (1989), The Malaise of Modernity (1992), A Catholic Modernity? (1999) and Modern Social Imaginaires (2004). His latest work is A Secular Age (Harvard University Press 2007).