One of Tariq Ramadan’s favoured rhetorical ploys, employed during the debate, is to blather at length about the need for “dialogue” and “discourse” (as if no-one else had thought to suggest such a thing), before denouncing as “arrogant” almost any statement, question or discussion that might realistically address the fundamental issues. In response to this manoeuvre, Douglas Murray asks how a “dialogue” might begin:
“Where does [the dialogue] start? Would it start, for instance, with making a joke? Contra Mr Khomeini – not a funny man. Or, would it start with an article, perhaps? Would it start, perhaps, with a film? It did, a few years ago, with Submission, and Theo van Gogh was killed. Could it start with making a joke, perhaps? A joke in a cartoon? Well, apparently not, because we know there were burnings and killings and lootings and rioting across the globe in reaction to those cartoons. If you’re going to start a dialogue, what could you do that would be smaller than drawing a cartoon? This dialogue which we keep on being offered is not reciprocated.”
Indeed. The “dialogue” Ramadan forever alludes to, somewhat vaguely, is by implication a dialogue on strictly Islamic terms – which is to say, on terms that are censorious, often circular and profoundly unrealistic. In this, Ramadan is far from alone. I’ve lost count of how many people seem to imagine that it’s somehow possible to challenge jihadist ideology and related horrors without mentioning Muhammad’s rather central role in the origination, sanctioning and perpetuation of those horrors, and without offending an apparently endless menu of other ‘sensitivities’. But if one cannot – dare not – draw attention to the link between sacralised atrocity and the exhortations of Islam’s founder, then what kind of dialogue is likely to be had?