unity | 19.10.2004 10:12
Tariq Ramadan urges Muslims to embrace and get to know the culture and history of the countries they live in in Europe, and develop a "blossoming" confidence as the inheritors of Islam, one of Europe's great faiths.
"The situation is bad throughout Europe, and now is the time for Muslims to reach out and create partnerships," he says.
"Muslims must stop the perception of victimisation and their obsession with their minority status - that way we are nurturing the idea that we are not really at home here, and that is reinforced by governments.
"There are millions of Muslims in Europe and always have been. It is a distorted history which omits the role of Islam in the construction of European consciousness."
In recent years, Mr Ramadan, the author of several academic books, has been attacked from all sides for attempting to formulate a modern, moderate, confident Islam.
He has been named as one of the 100 most influential thinkers in the world by Time magazine, but that did not stop his US visa being revoked under the Patriot Act in July, when he wanted to take up a professorship at Notre Dame University in Indiana.
Mr Ramadan, who was born and educated in Geneva, is teaching by teleconference while the US authorities reconsider his application.
He had been admitted to the US many times, and given a presentation to the state department on European Islam.
He has also been barred from many Muslim countries for his advocacy of democracy and human rights.
"A silent revolution is coming in how Muslims think about themselves and about the universal common values they share with the west, and about democracy and modernity," he says. The develop-ment of a European Islam will have a "tremendous impact on Islam throughout the world".
But Mr Ramadan says fear is being used as an ideological weapon: "It gives governments a kind of political control - 'We will monitor you in order to protect you' - a new ideology when all the others are so empty."
At stake, he says, is not just the wellbeing of the Muslim community, but the values and principles of western democracy: "The way Muslim people are treated is undermining British values such as freedom of conscience, equality before the law, and anti-racism."
"We need to develop mutual knowledge, not just tolerance. The question is, what are you doing to find out about others? Respect comes out of knowledge; when you recognise my reality is as complex as yours, that's when you begin to know me andrespect me."
Mr Ramadan's grandfather, Hassan al-Banna, was the founder of one of the most powerful Muslim political movements in the 20th century, the Muslim Brotherhood. But Mr Ramadan is careful to distinguish his own thinking, particularly on violence.
"There is an acceptable diversity within Islam, but killing innocent lives has to be condemned," he says. In situations such as modern-day Israel, "the context may explain the killing, but it can never justify it".