Two European Muslim Views on Identity, Islam and Democracy

March 2, 2006

Source: Open Democracy

On March 2, 2006 Open Democracy reported, "Zakaria Hamidi is surprised at how many 'Dutch people' have come along to the first public debate in Rotterdam organised by New Horizon, a newly-launched platform for discussion focusing on Islam in the Netherlands. Over 800 of us are packed in serried rows into a big conference hall in Erasmus University on a Friday night, mid-January, awaiting the arrival of 'two men who have dedicated a lot of time, energy and heart to analysing the problems of disharmony between Muslims and non-Muslims, beginning with Belgium and France, but always aiming for European solutions – solutions for the world at large,' in the words of the young chairwoman. It has taken Zakaria a year to bring his speakers together, and 200 people have already had to be turned away. Both men have a considerable following, and on the surface seem to disagree about almost everything. Lebanese-born Dyab Abou Jahjah, president of the Arab European League (AEL) has been called the Belgian Malcolm X, while the young philosopher, Tariq Ramadan, as he will remind us tonight, has often been referred to as 'the preacher of the banlieues'. So our chair's closing remark that, 'maybe by the end of the night, we will find out that both men would however like to join forces ... in helping Muslims to freedom and peace,' does little to dent the hopes of those who came wanting to hear a good row."