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Secularism, Islam, and Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West

  April 8, 2010 | Great Hall, Cooper Union | NYC

With Dalia Mogahed, George Packer, Tariq Ramadan, Joan Wallach Scott, and Jacob Weisberg

Co-sponsored by Cooper Union, AAUP, ACLU, and Slate

VIDEO & AUDIO
• Entire event (1:19:10)

AUDIO
• Tariq Ramadan’s opening remarks (18:47)

PEN, the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), and Slate will join forces to present Tariq Ramadan’s first public appearance in the United States since he was barred from entering the country in 2004. PEN, the ACLU, and the AAUP won a Supreme Court case against this instance of intellectual exclusionism to allow Ramadan—one of Europe’s most respected Islamic scholars and chair of Oxford University’s Islamic Department—back into the U.S. The April 8 event will offer a unique opportunity to hear Professor Ramadan talk about issues relating to secularism, Islam, and democracy, along with Dalia Mogahed, George Packer, Joan Wallach Scott, and Jacob Weisberg.

“Switzerland votes to prohibit the construction of minarets”; “France debates barring women from wearing the niqab and burqa”; “The United States seizes the assets of the largest American Muslim charities”—such headlines suggest an increasingly polarized relationship between Islam and liberal, secular democracies, especially in Europe. Is this the full story? Is there a fundamental clash of values between secularism and Islam and between freedom of expression and freedom of religion? In what ways are Muslims living in the West contributing to democratic societies? Can Islam exist as a Western religion? Is it a Western religion already? How do we better understand the life of the Muslim community within various Western societies? Dalia Mogahed, George Packer, Joan Wallach Scott, and Jacob Weisberg will join Tariq Ramadan to discuss all this and more.

The author of more than 20 books, including Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, Islam, the West, and the Challenges of Modernity, and To Be a European Muslim, Tariq Ramadan was Professor of Islamic Studies and Luce Professor of Religion Conflict and Peacebuilding (Kroc Institute) at the University of Notre Dame. In 2004, the Bush administration revoked his visa just days before he was scheduled to begin teaching. PEN, the American Academy of Religion, and the AAUP joined a lawsuit brought by the ACLU to challenge Professor Ramadan’s exclusion, and late last year an appeals court in New York ruled that the government had failed to provide a sufficient legal basis for its action. In the wake of that ruling, in January 2010, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued an order that effectively ended Professor Ramadan’s exclusion.

This event is presented as part of an initiative to promote national reflection and accountability in the United States. It also celebrates a victory of important principle—that American audiences should be able to hear directly from important figures such as Professor Ramadan.

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