Tariq Ramadan on Diversity of Religion

What needs to be done to narrow the rift between the West and Islam?

January 8, 2011

What needs to be done to narrow the rift between the West and Islam?

1. How has globalization changed the world?

“The modern era is one of confusion and insecurity. The globalization of communications has globalized attitudes that were once mostly encountered at the local or national level.”

2. What is perhaps the biggest change sweeping across the globe?

“From India to Africa, a new consciousness is awakening in a quest for spirituality and meaning. The same is true of Western societies.”

3. What needs to be done to address this quest?

“It is important to produce a better understanding of these different traditions in order to ensure that they do not become fantasy ‘refuges’ from materialism and/or the consumer society.”

4. Can history help us understand our present situation better?

“There can be no humanity without memory. In times of doubt, crisis or conflict, memory is a refuge, a remedy, even a hope.”

5. How do civilizations progress?

“There is no such thing as a series of stages that realize the historical process of civilization. There are a multitude of civilizations, each with its own points of reference and its own development.”

6. Has diversity always been a part of the history of our civilizations?

“We now speak of 18, 16, eight or four ‘great civilizations,’ but those figures mean very little. We sometimes identify civilizations with the cultures they embody, with organized religions, philosophies or spiritualities, with a language or with a geographical space. The criteria are, to say the least, vague.”

7. Why has our worldview always been so narrow?

“What is referred to as ‘civilizations’ in the plural is actually referring to only two civilizations — the West and Islam — that seem, in terms of values, cultures, historical development and economic and geostrategic interests, to be in direct competition with one another.”

8. And why do we need to change this view now?

“It took the two ‘world’ wars of the 20th century, the rise of fascism and the economic crises of the 1920s and 1930s to raise certain doubts about Western civilization’s ‘definite superiority’ over all other civilizations.”

9. What is the biggest similarity among all the different religions?

“All spiritualities and religions seek reconciliation and harmony — and try to overcome the intrinsic and basic tension within man: the tensions between love and suffering.”

10. And finally, what does society need to do to embrace diversity?

“We all have to learn to bring about a real Copernican revolution within ourselves. We must learn, as we start out on the periphery, to develop a healthy curiosity about diversity and multiplicity, and freely commit ourselves to the quest for the center.”

Editor’s Note: All the quotes in this Read My Lips have been drawn from Tariq Ramadan’s book, “The Quest for Meaning,” published by Penguin Global on September 28, 2010.

Each edition of “Read My Lips” presents quotes made by the featured individual at the time specified in the answers. However, it is a “virtual” interview only — insofar as we have added questions in order to provide a better context to the thoughts expressed.