Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Hyman Suffers from Thinkaphobia

Mark Hyman recently returned to the issue of Tariq Ramadan. He first brought up the prominent Muslim scholar in a diatribe against the ACLU, which defended Ramadan’s right to enter the United States.

At issue is the U.S. government’s revocation of Ramadan’s visa, a move that has angered those at the University of Notre Dame, who had invited Ramadan to come to the school as a scholar and teacher at their International Peace Studies program.

Why was his visa revoked? Good question.
Some say it’s because of donations he made totaling a few hundred dollars to a Muslim charity that ended up being linked to Hamas. That might make sense except for the fact that the charity Ramadan donated money to weren’t blacklisted by the U.S. government until long after Ramadan had given money. The suggestion is that Ramadan should have known he was giving money to an organization that might in turn give it to Hamas. Yet the U.S. government itself hadn’t identified this charity as having connections to terrorists.

More frightening is the cacophony of innuendo that’s been used to bolster the case against Ramadan. Hyman repeats several
slanderous accusations that have no support and in fact have been proved wrong (including calling one of the men responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, as well as a high-level al-Qaeda leader, “close terrorist colleagues”; in fact, Ramadan has never met either man). As we know all too well, Hyman has no problems making up horrific allegations to smear someone he thinks he doesn’t like (I doubt he knows enough about Ramadan to actually have an informed opinion).

The scary thing isn’t simply that reactionaries like Hyman have resurrected Red baiting, but that they are targeting an individual who’s exactly the last person they should attack.

Ramadan, in addition to being named one of the 100 most innovative people for the coming century, has long argued that Muslims living in the West should embrace their adopted cultures and stop seeing being Muslim and being Western as mutually exclusive. He’s spoken out for modernization of Islamic beliefs, to such an extent that he’s been
called “The Muslim Martin Luther.” He upbraided fellow Muslims who sought to scapegoat America, Israel, or other forces for the 9/11 attacks. British Prime Minister Tony Blair asked him to be part of a government taskforce to help root out Muslim extremists in Britain.

In other words, he’s precisely the sort of progressive Muslim voice we should hope gains a wider audience. Let’s not forget to mention (as Hyman did) that Notre Dame invited him to be part of their International Peace Studies program. Unless Hyman and others of his ilk (such as Daniel Pipes) want to argue that Notre Dame is a hotbed of subversive anti-Americanism that secretly wants to give a terrorist sympathizer a soapbox on which to preach violence, it’s difficult to reconcile any of the charges made against Ramadan with his actual views and intellectual mission.

Ultimately, what’s most frightening (but, alas, not surprising) is that Hyman and his ideological allies are arguing *against* having an open discussion involving provocative ideas. They aren’t actually worried about Ramadan advocating violence. They worry about his ideas (he’s seen as not being sufficiently pro-Israel or anti-Muslim enough to be a true voice of reform).

Heaven forbid we actually *discuss* things in this country. As we’ve seen not only from Hyman himself, but the Bush administration and the neo-con project as a whole, ideas, debate, and even thought are inherently suspect. Those skills that we’ve often considered central to having a well-developed intellect, often collectively referred to as “critical thinking,” are dismissed as irrelevant or subversive, even as they are paid lip service by the educational standards coming out of the “No Child Left Behind” initiatives. Look at a situation from someone else’s point of view? Hell, no! That’s for pussies!

It’s not Ramadan’s non-existent ties with terrorists, or even his politics, that offends Hyman and Co.; it’s the very idea he represents: that exploring alternative ideas that challenge the status quo is a healthy and productive thing.

And that’s The Counterpoint.

Hyman Index: 5.61


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