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Hope for the Future with Tariq Ramadan

George Grombacher August 30, 2023

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Hope for the Future with Tariq Ramadan

LifeBlood: We talked about the importance of having hope for the future, the idea and practice of being for peace versus of peace, the important distinction between Muslim countries and majority Muslim countries, and how we’re all brothers and sisters, with Tariq Ramadan, Professor or Islamic studies, philosopher, and Time Magazine top 100 most influential people.       

Listen to learn why it takes courage to be optimistic!

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Our Guests

George Grombacher

Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss Muslim academic. He is a philosopher and writer. He is professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. He’s Time Magazine has listed him as one of the seven religious innovators of the 21st century, one of the 100 most influential people in the world. He’s offered over 30 books and written hundreds of articles. Welcome to Rick.

Tariq Ramadan 0:25
Thank you, thank you for inviting me.

george grombacher 0:26
Yeah, excited to have you on. Tell us a little about your personal lives more about your work and why you do what you do.

Tariq Ramadan 0:34
Look, I’m teaching, teaching contemporary Islamic Studies, researching as well and writing books, mainly around three, of course, connected to Islam, but not only also to philosophy and to social concerns. So mainly what interests me is, is really to write about the fundamentals within the Islamic tradition, meaning that I am faithful to the principles and the texts. But I also think that we have to renew our understanding our interpretations. So the renewal is more about how do we read the texts, in the light of new contexts, not only the West, by the way, but whatever. So so if we are talking about transhumanism today, you can’t just rely on text and think that it’s going to answer or to address your questions. So this is one field, the second field is about Muslims in majority Muslim countries, meaning how do we deal with minorities? And how do we expect to deal with people who are not sharing our concerns. So this is all our beliefs within our societies, and, and this is why I refuse to call these countries Muslim countries, I call them Muslim majority countries and the differences is huge in our understanding. And of course, I have been dealing with Western Muslims and the new challenges that we are facing. This is on one side. And the second is really about inter cultural, interfaith dialogues. Philosophy is also something which is important for me and issues about ecology and ethics. These are all fields I’m trying to cover, because I really think that it’s, in fact, I’m against anything, which has to do with fragment knowledge, I think that transdisciplinary approach is essential for everything.

george grombacher 2:35
Appreciate that, what is an example of a Muslim majority country that you are referencing

Tariq Ramadan 2:41
any kind of, for example, Egypt, or Senegal, or even Saudi Arabia, so even you know, where you have 99% or 95% of Muslims? I think that it’s only a majority, you can’t just govern, without taking into account minorities and beliefs if they have or if they don’t. So I really think that this is essential. And we have been used in our tradition to speak about the Islamic world versus the west or the non Muslim countries, as if when we are in majority is our country. And when we are in the minority, we’re sharing the space. I think that that’s unfair. And it’s wrong. Because this understanding that when you are a majority, you are more faithful to your principles. If this would have been true, this would have been known. And it’s not, for example, I’m an opponent opponent to Saudi Arabia by saying this is a dictatorship there is, you know, they are yes, the guardian of the sacred spaces, but the way they are dealing with the people the way they are dealing with women, the way they are dealing with even migrants. It’s unacceptable. So this is a Muslim majority countries betraying the very Islamic principles. And I think that we have to be very, very clear on this. When it comes to our voice and especially if you live in the West, if I am experiencing freedom in the West is not to be quiet when my brothers and sisters in Islam or in humanity are facing discriminated discriminations. And I’m saying this not only for Muslims, I’m saying this for Christians and for Jews and for Buddhists and Hindus, or people who have no religion. I think that victims are victims no matter what.

george grombacher 4:31
And how is that message received?

Tariq Ramadan 4:36
You’re asking the question, because you get the sense that it’s not liked by its you know, it’s like by all the victims because I don’t agree with any selective approach. You know, I’m not going to support Muslims because we are victims and differentiate between them and Tibbets. For example. I was, you know, struggling for the Tibetan right Say when to meet the Dalai Lama, I said, three weeks just to understand and this is I wanted to understand and on the same side, on the same way I was supporting Mandela when nobody was talking about him in the in the 80s, saying that the discrimination towards black people and towards black, South African people, it’s unacceptable. So I think that you are in between. So you are supporting the victims everywhere. So you don’t you don’t please your own people, so to speak, when they are sharing your religion saying, oh, you know, what, we Muslims, we have to support Muslims. I know, we Muslims, we have to support humanity, and you have to support the victims. And on the other side, of course dictators and dictatorships, they don’t like this. So this is a stand that I want to have everywhere. And at the same times without forgetting the fundamentals, I say, okay, principles are here to be known and to be understood, and Islam is helping us to promote them. And this is why I’m always saying, you know, what, if you talk about monetary reasons, and even Buddhism and Hinduism, I don’t think that these are spiritualities and religions, of peace, that’s too easy. They are for peace, which is completely different, of peace, meaning, oh, you know, we are peaceful. And once again, look at our common history. And you will see that we are not people of peace, that for in order to hear, know, to proselytize and to convert, the people who are going to do are ready to kill. But when we come to our religion, and we understand its full peace, meaning from where you are, to go to peace, there is a struggle, and this struggle is intimate deal with your own violence, deal with your own injustice. And sometimes you are unfair with your own self. So this is for peace mean, you have to struggle to get it. It’s an ideal. It’s not a given. So that’s something which is important. And this is why, you know, I had a difficult discussion was Hitchens before he died, and he was very much against Islam, and saying, you know, Islam is a religion promoting war. I’m saying it’s not promoting war, and it’s not of peace, it’s for peace, meaning we have to go from war to peace. Because it’s easy to create spaces and conflicts, it’s much more difficult to promote peace. And if you, if you want to promote peace, you have to be for justice. Because it’s true. It’s as simple as this. And it’s true with your own self, you are not just with yourself, you will not get intimate peace, you’re not just with the people, you’re not going to spread peace around you.

george grombacher 7:48
I certainly agree with that. And and that makes sense when somebody says that, that it’s a religion of war. Couldn’t that be said of of just if you’re taking the literal translation, trans, if you’re reading the holy books of any group, and taking that directly? Couldn’t you say that about most groups, all the

Tariq Ramadan 8:15
spiritual books, all the teachings, they are dealing because they are dealing with human being, in fact, human being, it’s a being of war, that’s the reality of it. We are at war, sometimes our own self and with our neighbor and with our neighbor, countries, that’s the reality of it. Peace, it’s about education. It’s not a given for human being. It’s not a given, not spiritually, we our intention from the very beginning, from the very beginning, we came to this world suffering and crying, not at peace, with the environment, trying to find a way to survive. That’s the biological reality. Now when it comes to our realities that okay, if you want to say off piece, don’t speak about human speak about angels. But if you take yourself as an angel, you are going to be a monster, the angel, so to speak, because that that’s beyond our reach. So I would say here that it’s all about this. So, let us start with this. All the religious teachings start with the reality be realistic in the way you deal with human being and even with your own text, there is not a single spiritual book not talking about tensions and wars and, and, and difficulties and ordeals and tests. So that’s the very beginning of everything. And so, you know, when the, you know, people, atheists and people who want to who want to criticize religions, they they start by saying, Oh, you are promoting peace and you do exactly the opposite. And and we respond in a very idealistic way you know, we are we as Christians, and as Muslims and as Jews, we are promoting spiritual values. True But real life is something else. So don’t confuse between your ideals and the daily life of your people.

george grombacher 10:10
Is that where some of the conflict lies with? And I don’t want to use incorrect terms, but people who say, Nope, this is how it’s going to be and take a more dictatorial approach. Versus Yeah, but we live in the real world, and we want to be for peace. And be realistic, is that one of the dividing lines?

Tariq Ramadan 10:32
Yes, it’s good to be. It’s one of them. There are many, but this is one of them. And, and I think that, you know, when you come to our common humanity, you and me, whatever the people say, We are brothers in humanity. And this is the starting point of everything meaning by this, that we are from the same family, we are coming from the same source, and we are going to same way, whatever where you are going, and I’m going at the end of the day is going to be the same, the same. And starting with this, we have to rely on some common principles. And the common principles is okay, lets us be clear about the fact that we are brothers and sisters in humanity, and we are promoting peace as an ideal. But for this, we need to promote justice. And we have to do we have to promote some principles about, you know, we are equal in humanity. But there is something which is unacceptable. dictatorship, by definition, it’s unacceptable. Supporting oppressors by definition isn’t acceptable. There are some principles on which, you know, when I talk to people they agree, and your first question was, you know, straight to the point, which is, are all the people agreeing with what you are saying? No, no, of course, but crossing the line, meet meaning meeting with Christians and Jews and, and ETs and Buddhists and Hindus, I found many people agreeing, because they have the same understanding. And I think that if we want to build a world based on this idea of full peace, we have to stop being the silent majority. Because that’s, that’s, you know, these people who are dictators, or who are who wants to impose, or they want to impose, you know, systems that are based on oppression and literalist understanding of religions. These people are very vocal, and our problem is our silence, and sometimes our lack of courage. And you know, I’m a teacher, I, you know, I’m used to say, there are many things that I was able to teach, there is one that I was unable to teach, which is courage. So just be courageous with your own principles and promote them because, and to be courageous is not to be crazy cruel, to be courageous is just to be faithful to your principles and trying your best with wisdom, patience and determination.

george grombacher 13:04
It’s something that I’ve been spending a good amount of time thinking about, personally is, is the idea of courage, and then the practice of it, and easy to think that I’m a courageous person. But when the rubber meets the road, do my actions actually demonstrate that I’ve been a courageous person when I see things and I don’t say things when I am that silent majority. And here in the United States, a lot of it was talking about COVID Just different issues with with with with with COVID, and what’s right, and what’s what’s, what’s wrong, and things like that. So, why, why are people silent?

Tariq Ramadan 13:49
For many reasons, and I would highlight two positive and one negative, the first positive very quickly is that they think that their voice doesn’t count. So it’s as if you know what I’m going to do, you know, I’m not going to change anything. So, feeling helpless, they keep silent because they think that nothing is going to change and this is the lack of spiritual understanding. John Paul the second said something which was very powerful saying, if you change have you removed the suffering of one man, human being on the world, and the world is better, and this philosophy, what is called the philosophy of the Colibri, which is a bird saying, going to a fire and trying with just a spot to try to remove it is not going to change anything and some you know, you can ask, why are you doing this is not going to change the I’m doing my part, I’m just trying to do so I think it’s not a question of quantities, not of question over Salt is a question of principle. And it’s positive to think that, you know, with humility, I’m not going to change the world, that’s fine. But by doing this, you may not change the world, you change yourself and changing yourself means you change the world, because you are the world. In fact, if you get to this day, so this is one the second years, the people are silent, because there is also something which is all with thinking that I like, I lack the knowledge, I don’t get the knowledge. I don’t know. So because I don’t know, it’s very complex, and you know, this hyper power, and this, you know, networks today and all what we have now, this technology, make you think that, oh, I don’t know what is happening, and I don’t know what, and because we don’t know, our ignorance could justify our assignments. And I think that no, you know, what, you know, and there are things that, you know, you can’t see that, for example, you don’t know what is happening to migrants, you don’t know what is happening. For some, for example, in the United States of America, and away some black people and racism and discrimination, and some, you know, corrupt people are running this, some companies and, and some, you know, organizations, you know, this, so at least see what you can rely on what what you know, and you know, enough to be able to say, so, it’s positive to think that you are not knowledgeable on everything. But this cannot justify your silence on what you know. And the last, which is very negative is, and this is where we have to tell the people is just we don’t want to get out of our comfort zone. Okay, yeah, I don’t want problems. I’m happy like this. And of course, the word is bad. And people are and they are victims. And but, but that’s it. So the point is just, I it’s a kind of selfish positioning within the wall. So because I want to know, to protect my family and myself, I don’t want problem like don’t want to say, you know, there is something in our modern time, which is something which is coming also, from the spiritual teachings that we had in all the philosophies and spiritualities, the sense of sacrifice, you know, give something from yourself. So give something, and what you are giving outside your family is helping your family symbolically and spirituality, if you don’t, if you don’t get this, it’s a problem. So there are three main reasons I would say that we have to consider it might be, of course, I would say there are many, but at least if these three are essential.

george grombacher 17:44
They’re good. That makes a lot of sense. And I love the metaphor about just putting out a small part of a fire feel like you’re maybe not doing anything, but what jumped into my head was, well, if everybody was also doing that, then it would have a really dramatic impact.

Tariq Ramadan 18:00
True. Yeah, true. Exactly. So So I think that, you know, it’s the the counter argument to the people that was like, if I do this, nothing is going to change. But if we are millions thinking the same way, it’s going to have a huge change in our world. And this is what we are helping you just remember that the friends of your friends means millions of friends. So don’t get this capitalistic mindset, which is oh, it’s all about quantity. It’s about quality. And the starting point is do what you have to do. And be faithful, just be able to look at yourself in the mirror and say, at least I’m consistent, or I’m trying to do

george grombacher 18:45
that as well said, Are you hopeful for the future?

Tariq Ramadan 18:49
Um, um, um, um, you know, once again, if you look at the world the way it is, it’s very easy to be pessimistic. But you know, what, as we were talking about courage, the courage of being optimistic, today, the courage being optimistic, meaning, if I’m courageous enough to say things good are going to come. And it depends on the way I’m going to behave. It depends on my friends, it depends on the way I’m dealing with my neighbor, in the sense of the fact that in my street, I will never ever leave someone without, you know, justice or being unfairly treated in my neighborhood. And thinking that yes, we need national movements of local initiatives and the local initiatives. It’s me in my home in my with my neighbors. That’s the so I’m, I’m Yes. Courage courageously optimistic are trying to be so.

george grombacher 19:56
Let’s act thank you so much for coming on. Where can people learn more about you? How can people engage with you?

Tariq Ramadan 20:02
What are you know, I’m on social media everywhere. And I’m giving lectures every month on media. I’m trying to do things that it’s, you know, following this philosophy meaning reaching out to people sharing views and thoughts and concerns. And this is the starting point of brotherhood and sisterhood. If you are my sister and my brother in humanity, share, and do whatever you can with what you have been given.

george grombacher 20:35
If you enjoyed as much as I did, show Turkey appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas, you can find him on social media and other places on the internet, which I’ll certainly list in the notes of the show. Thanks again, Derek.

Tariq Ramadan 20:49
Thank you so much for inviting me again.

george grombacher 20:51
And until next time, remember, do your part by doing your best at

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