Traveling with Ramadan on a whirlwind November lecture tour in France, I found no particular discrepancy between the sermons he delivered to Muslim audiences and his published work. (Ramadan has written some 10 books in French, and Oxford University Press has just brought out his "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam.") Nonetheless, Ramadan's message is itself fraught with the complexities and contradictions of Europe's Muslim community, which often seems to occupy two worlds - one traditional and religious, the other fast-changing and secular.
The article had barely circulated when [Bernard-Henri LOvy] compared it to the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, [Bernard Kouchner] denounced Ramadan as an intellectual villain, and three Socialist Party leaders disowned their collaboration with Ramadan in the antiglobalization movement, writing in Le Nouvel Observateur that Ramadan preached hate and echoed the rhetoric of far-right leader Jean-Marie LePen. On Nov. 1, LOvy published a blistering attack on Ramadan in Le Monde. Called "The other face of Tariq Ramadan," the article accused Ramadan of double-talk, fundamentalism, and even links with Al Qaeda.
Keeping up with Ramadan during Ramadan wasn't easy. I finally lost him in Lille, where he spoke at an enormous mosque. A young woman led me upstairs, past a mountain of shoes, into a humid, low- ceilinged room where veiled women were packed knee-to-knee on the carpet, their only view of Ramadan on a closed-circuit TV. The Koran says not to dress in order to attract the gaze of others, Ramadan was saying. American Muslim women sometimes protest that it's because they wear the hijab on the streets of American cities that people stare at them. Ramadan's reply, he tells the congregation, is "Yes, but it is not the same gaze."