Tariq Ramadan Debates Moustafa Bayoumi on Proposed Islamic Center Near Ground Zero

Park51-siteOver at Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN:…We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Let’s go first to Oxford to Professor Ramadan. Why do you feel—and it might surprise many, the op-ed piece that you wrote—that the community center should not be built near Ground Zero?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Look, first, of course I’m aware of all the discussions, and I’m supporting anything which has to do with the rights of Muslims and American Muslims living in the States. I think that this is clear even in the op-ed that I wrote for the Washington Post.

My position is that in this situation, where we are struggling with something which is now built—is instrumentalized by, you know, political forces in the state and trying just to make it a symbol, I would say that the Muslims should think about, you know, the overall picture of their struggle for their rights and respect in the country. So, in my position, if this is a symbol—and we have to listen to this collective sensitivity of the Americans after what happened in September the 11th—is to say, look, on that, we can understand. We are not accepting anything which has to do with, you know, a free Muslim zone, but we should listen to what is said and what is felt. But at the same time, it was—should be quite clear that our struggle for our rights—you know, there are twenty mosques that are now facing problems in the local areas, because people are rejecting. It’s a very huge struggle. But sometime, we have to think about the symbol. And my position is, if this is possible, Muslims should think about, you know, not being instrumentalized in the whole process by political forces, but, say, understanding the collective sensitivity and to go for the struggle and saying we are not going to accept America becoming a country which is—has something which is an institutionalized discrimination and racism.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Bayoumi, your response?

MOUSTAFA BAYOUMI: Well, I certainly—excuse me, I certainly understand the desire to lower the temperature today on this hot-button issue, but I really think that we have to ask ourselves, you know, what kind of society do we want to live in? Are we going to be a society that’s ruled by our passions or by our principles? And I feel that if we adopt the view that we are willing to trade away the mosque to another location, then we’re also willing to trade away the principle of the free exercise of religion for Muslim Americans. And that’s true not just then for Muslim Americans, but really for all Americans. I feel that, by now, the issue has become so important that it has to be something that we understand as being a central question around our rights as a collective, as a nation. And I feel that there’s something at stake here that is missed if we’re only looking at being sensitive to what is a controversy that is fueled by outside forces.