Saturday, October 14, 2006

On Tariq Ramadan, and Integration/Assimilation

I finally took the time to read one of Tariq Ramadan's articles. For those of you who don't know, Tariq Ramadan is the grandson of Sheikh Hasan al-Banna (may Allah have mercy on him), the founder of the Ikhwaan al-Muslimeen. However, that's not what Tariq Ramadan is famous for. He's more well-known for being a controversial 'moderate' Muslim - on one hand, right-wingers in the West (mostly Europe) denounce him as anti-Semitic, a supporter of terrorism, etc. On the other hand, many Muslims view him with suspicion because of his stances on certain topics.

Personally, I don't know much about him. My dad really doesn't like him; calls him one of those 'progressives' (which is one of the latest terms used as an insult between Muslims these days). Anyhow, due to someone's insistence (:smile:) I went and decided to check him out online quickly.
I've read two articles about him - one is actually an interview with him by some people at Prospect magazine (link: and the other is an excerpt from his book "Western Muslims: Isolation or Integration?" (link:

I liked the second one best. In it, he makes a lot of good points, and I agree with pretty much all of it (the first one I found a couple things that I disagreed with, but it'll take too long to write about it). The topic is on isolation and integration in the Muslim community (promoting integration).

Isolation, and clinging to cultural practices, isn't very healthy for the Muslim community. But I also think that the issue of 'integrating' into Western society is a serious one, because it is so easy to lose yourself, your identity as a Muslim, when you try too hard to 'fit in' and 'integrate'.

I think that the issue of isolation and integration mostly affects Muslim families, trying to raise Muslim kids (especially teens) in this Western society.
From what I've seen, there are two scenarios that are most common between the Muslim parents and teens:

(1) parents are determined to keep their kids away from Western influences. They invariably fail. At school, with their friends, they're exposed to it, and it affects them. Forbidding them from going anywhere only fosters feelings of anger, resentment, and rebellion.
(2) The parents are oblivious as to what their kids are being exposed to, are happy that their kids are getting along well at school and making friends and all, and think everything's just hunky-dory until one day their son tells them he's got a girlfriend, and their daughter reveals that she's pregnant (maybe that sounds extreme, but it's happened a lot. I know 'cuz my dad, the director of an Islamic centre, had to deal with the freaked out, shell-shocked parents).

As you can see, the first case was one of isolation; the second of integration gone too far.

What we need is to strike a balance.

The first thing is to have a strong Islamic identity, because before we are anything, we are MUSLIMS, who follow the laws of Islam in our private and public lives. We need to know who we are as Muslims, what our beliefs are, what our goals are. We need to educate ourselves Islamically, so that we are grounded in our religion, so we have that guiding compass that we can always trust to keep us on the straight track.It's especially important for Muslim kids to develop and strengthen their own Islamic identity.
This I know from experience, 'cuz I used to go to public school, and even though I wore hijaab and abaayah I didn't have a strong enough Islamic identity to keep myself straight. Let's just say that I made some mistakes I really wish that I hadn't made, but that al-Hamdulillaah I've learned my lesson.
If you don't have a strong Islamic identity, if you don't have Muslim friends who can help strengthen that identity, if you don't have a support group of Muslims who'll always be there to keep a loving, protective eye on you - it can be really, really hard.

(Keep in mind that in developing and strengthening this Islamic identity, it's very important to go to the Masjid or an Islamic centre regularly, to listen to the lectures and to hang out with fellow Muslims - but not to the extent of isolation, which, again, is unhealthy)

Now, when we go to the 'integration' stage, we've got to be cautious.

Integrating does *not* mean compromising your Islamic values and beliefs in favour of Western ones. It does *not* mean doing everything you can to fit in and be like the non-Muslims. It does *not* mean trying to 'modernize' Islam so that it's appealing to the non-Muslims. Because there will always be something about us, or about Islam, that people will not like, or criticize, and we can't change ourselves just to make them happy.

However, that doesn't mean we can't socialize at all with the non-Muslims. I think that we should, to an extent, and we do, everyday, at school or work or whatever. We can't help it.

Anyway, I think it comes down more to *how* we socialize with them, how we act towards them. As Muslims in a non-Muslim country, everyday when we step out of the house we have remember that we are Da'wah machines. The way we speak, the way we act, the way we conduct ourselves... that's all going to make an impression on the non-Muslims we're interacting with, and we need to remember this and take advantage of it. We have to be on our best behaviour. Think of it this way: We aren't just anyone. We are MUSLIMS. We must act in a way that reflects the teachings of Islam, the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

We've got to be friendly, open, willing to answer any questions that non-Muslims may have for us (they always do...) without getting defensive or aggresive. In this way, insha'Allah, they'll realize that Muslims are not *the Other*, but their neighbours whom they do not have to fear.

Another way to boost our image, and to 'integrate', is by becoming more involved in society, making positive contributions.
For example, volunteering at preschools or daycares, food banks, at old-age homes, at shelters... that sort of thing. People will see you and get to know you and appreciate the effort you're making. That's more Da'wah, right there!

My experience, living in Canada for the last 12 years, has been a good one. My family's raised me to be a strong, practicing Muslimah, and with my father being the director of an Islamic centre I was almost always in a good Islamic environment. When we went 'out' and had to deal with non-Muslims, it was pretty easy... if you're polite and kind and prove yourself to be a nice person, most people won't care that you wear hijaab or don't do certain things (like drink alcohol or have girlfriends/boyfriends or whatever).

So you see, it's really quite simple (although, as with other things, it's easier said than done). Always remember that you're a Muslim, always be proud of it, and present an open, smiling face to the non-Muslims.

Basically, follow the Sunnah of the Prophet (peace be upon him).

May Allah help us strengthen our Islam and our Iman, and keep us always upon as-Siraat al-Mustaqeem, ameen!

(I have the niggling feeling that I've forgotten to mention some important points, but I can't for the life of me think what they are... so if you can tell what they are, please do point them out... Shukran!)


Anonymous said...

As-Salaamu alaikum wa rahmatuAllahi wa barakatuh :-)

Dear sister Mouse, mashaAllah! That was a wonderful blog and I think it would make a wonderful essay as well.

May Allah help us as Muslims living in non-Muslim countries to, as you say, "strike a balance" between integration and segregation from the non-Muslim society, ameen.

your sis RoH04

Anonymous said...

princess mouse,
Thanks for your response. There are lots of good and important essays on Tariq's site that I hope you can check out sometime( I'll stop bugging you!)
He just seems alot more universal and contemporary which I think is good for Islam. He doesn't advocate people becoming lukewarm Muslims.
In a time when Islam needs a sane dialogue with the rest of the world and the western world in particular, I think Tariq can really get the ball rolling way more than an orthodox, fundamentalist, sectarian practicioner of whatever religion or sect.
Any other feedback from mouse and company is much appreciated.
Thanks again mouse, you are a champ!

Anonymous said...

Fellow mouseketeers,
Where is your response?

AnonyMouse said...

LOL, Datta, everyone seems to be busy with the 'real world' lately... even me!

Anyhoo, here are my responses:

Wa 'alaikumus-salaam wa rahmatullaahi barakaatu, sis! :)

Shukran for the compliments... it was actually typed up somewhat in a hurry... I'd written another version of it that dealt with the first article, critiquing it, but then I didn't like it so I scrapped it and wrote this one instead.
But insha'Allah I'm going to write a couple more posts regarding Tariq Ramadan's views...

Princess Mouse, eh? Heehee, I like it! It's got a nice ring to it, don't you think? ;) :D And Mouseketeers sounds pretty cool, too... :P

Yes, Tariq Ramadan has some great qualities, and he's pretty influential amongst the Muslim youth. I think that his intentions are good, but there are some issues I disagree with him on.
But I do agree that more people like him (personality-wise, anyway) are needed in the Muslim community, to urge and encourage and participate in more positive action.
Insha'Allah I'm planning on writing a post regarding the need for really good leaders in the Muslim community...

Anonymous said...

The reason I recommended Tariq Ramadan and Ingrid Mattson is specifically because they both have a large "youth"
I know your dad is a Sheik and that might make it alot harder,
but can you (or your father) really
deny that Islam needs a modern package.
For God's sake, we are living in the post modern world!!!
No premodern paradigms are capable of saving everyone.
I hope that wasn't too harsh. I'm a big fan. You are getting such a great education. You and christian sunni are totally amazing.

AnonyMouse said...

I really do appreciate hearing what you have to say :)

I understand where you're coming from, and I do agree, mostly.
Muslims have to learn to 'adapt' in this postmodern world, we can't deny it or fight it.
But personally, I don't think that we can fully put aside the example of the past; what we do need to do is somehow reconcile it, or rather, balance it, with the present. We need to look forward, and move forward, but also make sure to look at our rear-view mirror regularly ;)

I've a lot more to say on the subject, so insha'Allah I'll save it for another post :)

Anonymous said...


This is Grettir from Angry Arab. I was a teenager in the 60s. The anger over American crimes has not lessened. It would be a pleasure to help you - do you have some e-mail address at which I can reach you? or would you rather I posted one of mine?


AnonyMouse said...

Could you please post one of yours? Thanks! :)

Anonymous said...

how utterly f+*%%#$ lame is the response!!! My God!!!

AnonyMouse said...

Ummm... woah.
Datta, who and what are you talking about?

Anonymous said...


Tasneem said...

I dont really know you, but I do admire your blog!

I think you have hit the nail head on. I think your right that integration is important and we should be more involved. Sometimes its hard for muslim youth to deal with tricky situations such as not drinking or dating.

-Ma Salaam

Anne Rettenberg LCSW said...

I don't know if I think your example of over-integration illustrates that, or perhaps just illustrates parents who don't have a really close and honest relationship with their kids.

Non-Muslims wouldn't be too happy about their teenage daughter coming home pregnant either.

I'm dying to know about the naughty things you did! Please tell us more.

AnonyMouse said...

Tasneem: Thank you! :)

Elizabeth: Heh, I didn't really do anything 'naughty', just silly and stupid.