Formerly Banned Muslim Scholar Tours U.S.

Tariq Ramadan i i

Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, pictured here at a conference in France on April 25, is now able to enter the U.S. He tells NPR that when he speaks in the U.S., he's too much of a Muslim and when he speaks in the Muslim world, he's too much of a Westerner. Jean Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Jean Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images
Tariq Ramadan

Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, pictured here at a conference in France on April 25, is now able to enter the U.S. He tells NPR that when he speaks in the U.S., he's too much of a Muslim and when he speaks in the Muslim world, he's too much of a Westerner.

Jean Sebastien Evrard/AFP/Getty Images

In 2004, the Department of Homeland Security banned Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan from the U.S. when the Bush administration invoked the Patriot Act. He was accused of giving money to a charity that was later classified as a terrorist organization.

Earlier this year, the State Department decided he did not represent a threat, and lifted that ban.

Ramadan, a Swiss-born Egyptian, the grandson of the founder of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, is a professor at Oxford University.

Now, Ramadan is visiting the U.S., speaking about Islam and the West. His vision of reformist Islam has made him persona non grata in the U.S. — and also in the Arab world, where he is banned in six countries.

"When I speak in the West, I'm too much a Muslim," he tells NPR's Melissa Block. "There you are too much a Westerner, and then here you're too much a Muslim."

But he says that there are clashing perceptions of Islam.

"The perception is Islam is not a Western religion and Muslims are still to be integrated and they have to integrate," he says. "I'm saying it's exactly the opposite ... millions of American Muslims, Canadian Muslims, European Muslims are already Western by culture, Muslim by religion. They abide by the laws of the countries; they speak the languages of the counties. So the point here is ... we should go beyond integration. Now we should speak about contribution. A Muslim citizen should contribute to his or her country — and this is the way forward."

Ramadan says President Obama has a new approach to Muslims all over the world, and that is heartening to the Muslim communities.

"It's not at all following the footsteps of the Bush administration when it comes to multilateral approaches. The fact that I'm here even is something which is new. To open up to Muslims and to be able to say, as he said, 'Muslim is an American religion and Muslims are contributing to the future of this country.' I think this is a new vision and a new understanding," Ramadan says.

Ramadan says Muslims now want to see this goodwill turned into practical measures from ending the war in Iraq to closing Guantanamo.

"We need to have changes here," he says. "What I can say also is from within the Muslim communities, there is much hope. I would say now from speeches and discourses and goodwill, we need now to come with something which is more effective on the ground."

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