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16th November 2007 Victoria Lazar Graham

‘Should the West fear Mohammed?’

On the 14th of November Dr Tariq Ramadan, renowned Muslim scholar and theologian, was invited to come and give his reaction to the stark and potentially controversial question ‘Should the West fear Mohammed?’

The talk which followed was both balanced and clear and his response to the question unambiguous. Dr Ramadan believed that the current tensions between the West and the Muslim world were due not to a ‘clash of civilisations, but a clash of perceptions.’ He acknowledged the significant diversity within the Muslim community and the differing interpretations of Mohammed’s teachings, and emphasized the importance of staying faithful to the principles of the book without resorting to dogmatism. He explained that if the West has anything to fear, it is the potential for a literalistic approach to the Koran rather than the message it contains.

‘The main objective of Islam is peace. I have never met anyone, whatever religion, who wanted the opposite of peace. We have differences, and there are tensions, but we all want the same thing.’

Although he felt literalistic readings of the Koran did not represent the Muslim mainstream he accepted that it was nevertheless a problem, and one that needed to be tackled from within — ‘It is the Muslim world that should challenge such interpretations.’ Seemingly unaware of his own appeal and credentials to fill the position, Dr Ramadan emphasized the need for the community to stop passively waiting for a charismatic intellectual or scholar to ‘speak for the people,’ and to instead implement their own grass-roots initiatives. ‘It’s our business.’

His final comments were certainly the most surprising and introduced the issue of women’s role within this ‘business’. ‘They are the ones who can push men to come back to the true meaning of things as they are the ones who truly understand the meaning of liberation.’

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