What I Believe
Tariq Ramadan
Social Science
Oxford University Press, USA
06/10/2009
160

Tariq Ramadan is very much a public figure, named one of Time magazine's most important innovators of the twenty-first century. He is among the leading Islamic thinkers in the West, with a large following around the world. But he has also been a lightning rod for controversy. Indeed, in 2004, Ramadan was prevented from entering the U.S. by the Bush administration and despite two appeals, supported by organizations like the American Academy of Religion and the ACLU, he was barred from the country until spring of 2010, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton finally lifted the ban.In What I Believe, Ramadan attempts to set the record straight, laying out the basic ideas he stands for in clear and accessible prose. He describes the book as a work of clarification, directed at ordinary citizens, politicians, journalists, and others who are curious (or skeptical) about his positions. Aware that that he is dealing with emotional issues, Ramadan tries to get past the barriers of prejudice and misunderstanding to speak directly, from the heart, to his Muslim and non-Muslim readers alike. In particular, he calls on Western Muslims to escape the mental, social, cultural, and religious ghettos they have created for themselves and become full partners in the democratic societies in which they live. At the same time, he calls for the rest of us to recognize our Muslim neighbors as citizens with rights and responsibilities the same as ours. His vision is of a future in which a shared and confident pluralism becomes a reality at last.

Actually I started to know Tariq Ramadan since he visited UIAM last year and became eager to having one of his writing. After searching through the reviews on the Net, I decided to begin with “What I Believe“.

Some of us may find problem in his definition of secularism and syariah. He is quite lenient when defining secularism, where I suspect cause criticism towards him from Islamic world itself.

Contrary to majority of Muslim believe, he proposed that syariah is ‘The Way’ not ‘The Law’. Since my copy is not with me when I write this review, I choose not to elaborate on this matter as it can cause further misunderstandings and fitnah towards the author.

However, I agree to him on the matter that some basic tools to understand the source of Islam and its jurispudence must be taught to the public. He mentions one, which is Usul Fiqh that helps us to understand how a fatwa is derived based on sources such as Al-Quran and As-Sunnah.

In my honest opinion, public should be taught on this knowledge besides Arabic Language as it helps us to understand the beauty of fiqh (Islamic Jurisprudence) and avoid sectarian fanaticism.

Besides, I amazed with his idea on ‘post-integration’ in multicultural Western society. Even though he explained it using Western background, I think it not much different from what happen in Malaysia nowadays.

After 50 plus years gaining independence (or should I say we’re never been colonised?), we are still clueless when it comes to define Malaysian identity. We are polarised into ethnicity, even we have our bahasa kebangsaan, sekolah kebangsaan and a lot of festivals that we celebrate it together.

Tariq Ramadan is suggesting that interfaith or intercultural dialogues are not enough. He pointed out one of the problem between Muslim in the West, which they are confused and still stick to their origin’s culture back in the Middle East, Asia or Africa. He also described himself as:

Swiss by nationality, Egyptian by memory, Muslim by religion, European by culture, universalistic by principle, Moroccan and Mauritian by adoption.

An honest example for us, that everyone has our own multiple identities and each must be used or judged in appropriate situation. In a nutshell, this a good book for those who interested with his thoughts. Even though it is written by a controversial academician, one can read and understand it as he wrote this book in simple language with some Islamic terms also being used.

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