Date: October 14th 2004
From: Alan Clarke, National Union of Students NEC
For immediate release
On Wednesday October 6th, the National Union of Students national executive committee voted overwhelmingly to oppose the invitation to Swiss academic Tariq Ramadan to speak at the upcoming European Social Forum. The ESF, of which NUS is a major sponsor, is a gathering of progressive forces from across Europe, including left-wing political organisations, grassroots campaigners and the trade union movement. Mr Ramadan is a prominent Islamist whose views the NEC thought should not be promoted as the “voice of the global south” at the ESF.
Despite his claims to be in favour of democracy and equal rights, Mr Ramadan has described himself as being in the same “Muslim reformist” tradition as his grandfather Hasan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist or Islamic fundamentalist party in the Arab world. He believes that homosexuality is unnatural, stating that “God wanted things in order. And that order is ‘man for woman’ and ‘woman for man’”. Rather than opposing physical punishments such as stoning and amputation and demand their abolition, he proposes only a “total and absolute moratorium, to give us the time to go back to our fundamental texts. . .and to determine precisely the necessary conditions”. He sees the clerical dictatorship in Iran as a positive example of “democratic institutionalisation”.
Unfortunately, NUS President Kat Fletcher is refusing to carry out the motion in question, citing the fact that some executive members have since got cold feet.
NUS NEC member Alan Clarke said “This is not about Tariq Ramadan’s right to speak and debate, his right to hold an academic tenure or his right to travel. We would be perfectly happy to debate Tariq Ramadan, but we do not think a major gathering of the European left should have a religious obscurantist prominent on its platforms. I call on Kat Fletcher to implement the NEC’s decision to protest.”
He was supported by Nadia Mahmood of the Middle East Centre for Women’s Rights, who said “We deeply regret that the organisers of the ESF have chosen to give preference to Tariq Ramadan over progressive, secularist, feminist and socialist activists from the Middle East, such as the new independent trade union and women’s movements in Iraq. Promoting Tariq Ramadan as some sort of spokesperson stereotypes all people from Middle Eastern and Muslim countries and communities as religious obscurantists.”
Note to editors
More information, including a briefing on Tariq Ramadan and the ESF, at http://www.workersliberty.org/node/view/3206
For more details, email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07976 000 940.
Alan Clarke, National Union of Students executive