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Tariq Ramadan: Holding his “piece”?

This is guest post by the Emir of Geneva

Tariq Ramadan’s latest book, the modestly titled ‘The Quest for Meaning’, has been slammed in the UK for being ‘dated’, ‘philosophically facile’, full of ‘pseudo-intellectualism and faux-mysticism’ – as well as marred by ‘bad poetry’ and ‘wooliness’.

The author John Gray gave the book at scathing review in The Guardian:

‘Before it is anything else, The Quest for Meaning is an exercise in rhetoric – something in which, Ramadan seems to think, clarity should be avoided wherever possible. He tells the reader that time is linear or cyclical, but which is it? Can it be both? Similar questions arise throughout the book, which contains few clear statements of any kind. One can read tens of pages, even whole chapters, and come away without recalling a single straightforward assertion.’

Last month, the British Muslim writer Kenan Malik, author of ‘From Fatwa to Jihad’, delivering an even more damning write-up in The Independent:

‘There is a wilful shallowness about this work, a refusal to think deeply or to pose difficult questions, that is truly shocking. Insofar as it is provocative, The Quest for Meaning seeks to provoke not through the excess of its rhetoric but the banality of its reasoning … The Quest for Meaning reveals Ramadan as neither a bridge-builder nor a dangerous bigot, but as a shallow thinker taken far too seriously by both supporters and critics.’

Tariq Ramadan, never one to keep quiet, has now responded on Comment Is Free with an article which is, well, rather vague, shallow, woolly etc…

What caught my eye, however, was this final paragraph:

‘Such open, critical readings reinforce my optimism about the future of our pluralist societies, as against the hasty dismissals of certain intellectuals and critics trapped in their certainties, ready to insist that an intellectual they describe as “Muslim” must either speak of Islam or hold his piece.’

‘Hold his piece’?

Has Tariq Ramadan, the great intellectual, finally exhibited a hitherto unexpected sense of humour. Has the ‘Muslim Martin Luther’ belatedly discovered his inner Falstaff?