Nothing justifies the killing of innocent civilians, but Western governments must be more consistent in their treatment of human life, says Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University.
Speaking on the BBC’s Today Programme, last week Thursday morning, Ramadan condemned the attack on the Paris headquarters of satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, saying that, “these are very difficult times and a very sad situation”.
He expressed his deepest sympathy for the victims’ families.
“We must start by condemning what happened and what was done in the name of Islam… what they did in fact was to betray our principles, our values and the overall message of Islam,” he stated.
Whilst vocal in his criticism of the perpetrators, Ramadan highlighted the importance of a calm and coordinated response to the attack, and to not allow ordinary Muslims to bear the brunt of the actions of a few violent extremists.
“What is important for us on this day of mourning, in France but also in the West, is to understand that what is happening now and what will come afterwards is not only a Muslim business.
“It is our responsibility to come together to know who are our enemies when it comes to violent extremism and not to go to…confusion in our discourse.
“Politicians, journalists and intellectuals are responsible and there is a shared responsibility,” he stressed.
Ramadan also outlined the need for a more nuanced reaction to the atrocities, and noted that there should be a real attempt to understand the grievances that might lead such people to commit such extreme acts of violence.
In particular, he emphasised that the divergent responses to the deaths of Westerners and those of other individuals around the globe may be partly blamed for the growing appeal of extremist ideology.
“We need to have an overall vision of what is happening around the world, and for us (you as a British citizen and me as a Swiss citizen, and as European citizens) we have to come together and condemn what is happening here.
“The value of lives in Iraq or in Syria or around the world, in Palestine, in Africa or elsewhere, have the same value as our lives.
“We have to ask our governments for consistency and that they should come up with social policy when it comes to equal citizenship to act against racism and anti-Semitism and anti-Islam.
“I think there is a lack of consistency even in our emotional reactions to the death of people,” he said.
The Today Programme presenter, James Naughtie, responded that such an emphasis on equality of life might in fact be a slippery slope towards justifying the behaviour of such radicals.
“When you talk about looking at individual lives, being of equal value; from whatever culture; religion; or whichever country they come from the difficulty is that for some people, including those who perpetrated the dreadful attacks in Paris, that inevitably leads to a comparison.
“If there is an atrocity committed by the West in Iraq or in Syria, then it justifies what happened in the streets of Paris, or in a magazine office in Paris yesterday.
“And the difficulty of avoiding those comparisons with bloody conclusions is very great,” Naughtie stated.
Ramadan responded that this should not be the case, and that upholding the equal value of all human life should not lead to any form of justification or absolution for those who believe they have the authority to judge who should live and who should die.
“I think we have to avoid going to such comparisons and ending with justification. Nothing can justify the killing of innocent people.
“Every day we have between 100 and 150 people being killed, and they are the victims of Daesh and violent extremist Muslims.
“I think that this is where together we should understand that you and me, as Europeans, we are on the same side acting against violent extremism and asking for consistency from our governments when it comes to the dignity of people and the dignity of life,” he added.
Ramadan’s comments on the BBC came in the wake of a wave of protests in Paris against the killing of 12 people by masked gunman thought to be linked to Al-Qaeda on Wednesday, January 7, 2015
News of the shooting at the Charlie Hebdo offices had been met by sorrow and outrage worldwide, and Muslim community leaders have been quick to distance themselves and their religion from the incident.
SOURCE: MiddleEast Monitor