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Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan Spar Over the Peacefulness of Islam. Article by Walter Owen for Vanity Fair. Part 2 of 2.
By Admin (from 24/10/2010 @ 08:00:24, in en - Global Observatory, read 1736 times)

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Hitchens asked Ramadan, who has said that terrorism is never justified but that he could understand how, in certain circumstances, people could be led to commit terror, “who has the authority to issue fatwas?” Not to be misunderstood, Hitchens pointed out, “I’m certainly not going to criticize Islam for not having a pope. The Christian world is full of pope-types.” But, he told Ramadan, “in cities from Sweden to Spain” Muslims are calling for inclusion into a restored Caliphate. “That’s why you’re in the position you’re in.”

Ramadan admitted there was a “crisis of authority” in Islam, but told Hitchens that he could not “reduce” Islamic leaders who espouse suicide bombing, to that position alone. “I read what is said and I try to be selective,” Ramadan said. “We need to have a particular debate.”

“You seem to want to have that a little bit both ways,” Hitchens said, before rounding on the biggest applause line of the night, “If you want diversity, you need a secular state with a godless constitution. Secularism is the only guarantee of religious freedom.”

Returning to the evening’s assignment, Hitchens said Islam requires the belief that the prophet Muhammad was “a perfect human being” and that the Koran is “a perfect book.” “These are categories that do not exist,” Hitchens said. “Yet any challenge to them is heresy. The demands that you believe these imperatives do not lead to peaceful outcomes.”

In the evening’s one stirring moment, Hitchens pointed out that the Jews had “decided about the second messiah what they had decided about the first.” There was a note of despair in his voice when he asked, “Will they ever be forgiven for either?”

Having defined jihad as a “resistance to reform the world for the better and blamed “political instrumentalization” for the misunderstanding of Islam, Ramadan did not respond. Later, when Hitchens remarked that “Syria does fund the murder gang Hezbollah,” Ramadan reacted, with some relief, as if he’d scored his biggest point of the night. “You agree on the instrumentalization of religion,” he said. “That’s good enough for me.”

After the debate a viewer said of Ramadan, “He was very articulate, but it sounded like he was talking around what would have gotten him in trouble.” This quality was apparent several times in the evening, not least when the moderator, Laurie Goldstein of the New York Times, asked Ramadan if he really meant to say that Turkey was becoming “more progressive” as its government became increasingly Islamic.

Ramadan, who had said Turkey was “progressing” and “moving to become more democratic,” responded by saying, “We don’t know what to call the leaders now. Islamists? Ex-Islamists? They have new thoughts on the rule of law promoting what they are trying to promote.”

But he never said what new thoughts either the Islamist or ex-Islamists had in mind.

By now Hitchens, who had arrived on stage in a trim blue suit with a clipboard and a bottle of water (and, incongruously, a massive Flashman collection), was no longer taking notes. Ramadan, whose voice rises when he slips into jargon such as “Islam says your dignity is in your freedom,” went on to say “don’t reduce Turkey to levels… there are dynamics… Turkish women everywhere are promoting a better kind of Islam. This is what I promote.”

At the end of the debate, Hitchens was rolling his pen in the fingers of one hand and looking over his shoulder offstage. After shaking hands with his opponent, he stood and waited for Ramadan to leave the stage before he turned to leave on his own.

Source: VanityFair.com