Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Ramadan and Lévy: Separated At Birth?

Mirror images at odds

Print Email
Tariq Ramadan (L) and Bernard-Henri Lévy (R).(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images (Ramadan); Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images (Lévy))

Two months ago, Columbia University rolled out the red carpet for French Jewish public intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy when he headlined a panel discussion on secularism, Islam, and democracy in the West. Lévy asserted the need for Muslims to respect the Enlightenment value of free expression—including the freedom of Westerners, like the notorious Danish cartoonists of 2005, to criticize Islam without fear of censure or violence. Wearing his trademark spiffy, half-buttoned white Charvet shirt and blazer, fielding questions in his charming European accent from New Yorker editor David Remnick and flaking for the Intentional League Against Racism and Anti-Semitism (the French Anti-Defamation League), which cosponsored his talk, Lévy, to my ears, was an entertaining but ultimately unbearable, grandstanding prig, and I said as much.

Last night, Swiss Muslim public intellectual Tariq Ramadan was welcomed with even greater fanfare—having been barred from America by the Bush administration, this was his first trip to the U.S. in six years—to Cooper Union (over 100 blocks down from Columbia!) to headline a panel called “Secularism, Islam, and Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West.” Ramadan asserted the need for the U.S. and Europe to respect the Enlightenment value of free expression—including the freedom of Muslims like himself to criticize the West without fear of censure or violence. Wearing his trademark spiffy white shirt and blazer, no tie, most buttons buttoned, fielding questions in his charming European accent from New Yorker staff writer George Packer and flaking for the American Civil Liberties Union, which cosponsored his talk, Ramadan was … well, you get the idea.

Lévy and Ramadan hate each other. They feuded after Ramadan published an article in 2003 accusing Lévy and other French-Jewish intellectuals of selling out their political consciences for Israeli interests when they supported the Iraq War. I would like to propose that this is a classic case of sibling rivalry—classic even in the Freudian sense—as the two, as though separated at birth, compete for the love and legacy of the same father. Both men make fairly obvious points about the necessity of upholding “European values” despite the challenges of Muslim emigration to the West, and both give themselves massive credit for doing so. BHL believes Islam thus far has not shown itself to be compatible with these values, but offers prayers for a reformist Muslim intellectual to come along and resolve the clash of civilizations; Ramadan believes Islam is compatible with these values, and that he is the intellectual of BHL’s dreams. Oh Father Enlightenment, who is your favorite son?

Earlier: Live, From New York, It’s Tariq Ramadan
A French Intellectual’s French Views of Islam

Print Email
Peter Niedermann says:

Oh-là-là – you are not obliged to consent with BHL, but if you don’t realize that Tariq Ramadan is one of the best taqqiyya specialists, one of the best muslim actors and liers, then not even the “Father Enlightenment” can help you anymore. Good luck…

To even compare the two men is ignorant of who they are. Ramadan is the inheritor of the Moslem Brotherhood and BHL,at times self-important, is a spokesman for the freedoms brought about by the enlightenment. Ramadan was barred from the US for a real reason, that Obama has decided to ignore in his push to make the Islamo-fascists love us. You need to open your eyes to reality and stop trying to find opposite sides to every issue. Islamo-fascists want to destroy our civilization and supplant it with their own. There are many ways that they plan to do this. First with charming spokespeople playing on the leftist desire to beliked. The next is legal warfare and political warfare using our systems against us. It has been done before in history.It’s why the state of democracy is eternal vigilance. You need to wake up before its too late.This is not a negotiable issue with them. This is not an issue with two sides.

Amen. I just don’t think the two of them can be equated in any way, no matter how pompous Levy may be. And if you read his recent work on the why he remains in the Left camp, he doesn’t come off that way at all.

Why does Ramadan need the West at all? The Arabs control a large portion of the globe, possessing the greatest concentration of wealth in human history, which they have exploited to their advantage.

Why should his perverse way of thinking gain any traction in the one part of the world where we have emancipated ourselves from the barbarism that prevails in the rest of the globe? He should be resisted, ardently, passionately, devotedly, uncompromisingly.

The West: love it or leave it.

Ramadan is a very well educated and able speaker who defends the values of his grandfather (founder of Muslim Brotherhood) very subtly. He is trying to introduce in the West, by stealth, a series of measures which he knows would be rejected if requested immediately. He is working (successfully) for the long-term.

Ken Donow says:

The argument that BHL and TR are similar in any substantive way is preposterous. They both exploit European media culture to their own — very different — ends. Big deal. BHL has consistently put his person and fortune at risk in places such as Bosnia and Darfur. I swallow hard, and then celebrate him. I am indifferent to TR. It is good that the US relented on the infantile path of obstructing his visits. I don’t care what he says. We are big enough to deal with it.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Ramadan and Lévy: Separated At Birth?

Mirror images at odds

More on Tablet:

How To Make Middle Eastern Stuffed Vegetables

By Joan Nathan — Video: Filled with warm rice and unexpected spices, they’re perfect for a cool autumn night—as a side dish or vegetarian entree