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Tariq Ramadan on respecting people June 22, 2006

Posted by Rasheed Eldin in Islam, Religion.

I'm not sure what to think of Tariq Ramadan nowadays, as his ideas on Islamic reform seem occasionally to be veering towards the extremes displayed by certain less intellectual/Islamic people. Still, this interview is an interesting one, and here's what he had to say in response to a (rather strange) question about homosexuality…

Q: But realistically, how far can you go in a non-literalist interpretation of the Koran? Let's take the issue of whether someone can be both gay and Muslim. In Christianity you'll get a variety of answers. Broadly speaking, in Catholicism homosexuality is a sin. But like all other sins in Catholicism, a little bit of penance can get you out of it before judgement day. In some versions of evangelical Protestantism, homosexuality is a complete sin because evangelicals tend to be literalists. But in the Church of England there are a large number of openly gay Anglican clergy. The argument being that the Old Testament has to be contextualised. Is it possible to have a similar reading of the Koran? Or is it that homosexuality is simply wrong. Could you imagine there ever being a homosexual imam in the same way that the Anglican church in the US has just consecrated a homosexual bishop? Would that be possible?

Tariq Ramadan: It could happen if such an imam did not declare that he was homosexual. You cannot expect to see homosexuality being promoted within the Islamic tradition. Homosexuality is not perceived by Islam as the divine project for men and women. It is regarded as bad and wrong. Now, the way we have to deal with a homosexual is to say: "I don't agree with what you are doing, but I respect who you are. You can be a Muslim. You are a Muslim. Being a Muslim is between you and God." I am not going to promote homosexuality but I will respect the person, even if I don't agree with what they are doing.


1. Yousef - June 23, 2006

One of the things that I love about Tariq Ramadan (besides him being my brother in faith) is that he truly tries to be a free thinker within the Islamic context. He never loses respect to the faith and the faithful yet constantly challenges things that are (mostly) challengeable. I think his response is right on…we should never hate the person, we hate their actions. Much as it is hard to do, it is truly somethng we need to strive to achieve.

2. sunni - June 25, 2006

i agree Yousef…
i guess many would regard Tariq as being apologetic…but we all know what it says in Al Qur’an..theres heavy penalties for such actions and that its all part of a test…the word ‘hate’ is a wrong word to use…many of us have sinned, some maybe deadly!…nevertheless can we possibly say those 98.9% Muslims who have sinned should be hated too? surely its double standards and hypocritical?

dont get me wrong im notpro gay…


3. Dawud - March 15, 2010

As-Salaamu Alaykum,

As a free-thinking Muslim I feel very let down by Mr. Ramadan’s views on homosexuality. As hard as he tries, he consistently ends up resorting to double-speak and euphemism, his trademark tools. As a supposedly rigorous scholar in the Islamic tradition he should never have taken the bait by declaring that homosexual acts, if done in private, are acceptable and worthy of respect. No traditional religious authority in Islam or for that matter in any other traditional religion (such as traditional Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism or Buddhism) could accept such pitiful declarations. To claim tolerance is one thing but to misrepresent Islamic teachings is something else. No religious authority worthy of its name can give religious authority to unnatural sexual acts that are committed in private. This amounts to a flagrant contradiction and so Ramadan has, sadly, exposed himself (not literally) as a highly unorthodox and troubled man. Individuals are free to respect unnatural lifestyles if they choose but they should not say that this emanates from the religion when it clearly condemns it in unambiguous terms. The gulf between public and private acts does not extend to homosexuality which is considered intrinsically unnatural by all orthodox religious traditions. Ramadan should have known this; if he did not what kind of “Islamic scholar” could he be? If he did know it, who is he trying to fool?

4. Rasheed Eldin - March 19, 2010

Dawud, salaam.

Personally I don’t see in Prof. Ramadan’s comments that there would be “religious authority” granted to deeds done in private, but merely that they can remain within the private realm and thus the person will face whatever punishment God wishes to give, or otherwise.

However, I’ll certainly criticise Prof. Ramadan for not distinguishing here between different meanings that could be attached to “being homosexual”, which is a confused concept. I certainly think it is out of line to suggest that there could be a “homosexual imam” in the case that he “did not declare that he was homosexual” – unless all he means is that this imam has inner feelings he struggles against for the sake of God. Here we refer to that as being “same-sex attracted” or SSA.

However, Dawud, you are wrong to put in his mouth that those deeds are “worthy of respect” – he only said that the people are, by virtue of being humans and also by virtue of their faith in Islam. What we should add, which he didn’t, is that as Muslims we are required to call such people away from their sins and not validate them in any way.

5. anon - April 8, 2010

excuse me for pointing this out-
but anyone blatantly following the examples of a nation that was obliterated in the blink of an eye… can NOT be respected. How many doomsday stories do we need before we get the message?
if a person is gay, admits it and repents- thus STOPPING such amoral acts, then we can not judge him.
but when one openly does something against the quran, without repenting or worse, negating Allah’s words- then that action is on the verge of kufr.
such a person can not be respected.
(so is tariq going to say to a rapist- i dont agree with your action, but i respect you as a person? admittedly, there was one unwilling participant, but even with gays- there are two ppl oppressing themselves with wrongdoing.)
and whilst we can not say if he will in future repent- we can judge that action as wrong.
not by me, but by Allah.
and if that sin is all we know of the person, hold onto your respect before it means nothing.

we can treat others respectfully, but it is never the same as respecting someone.
faffing and word games are the recourse of other nations. we should beware of falling into such ominous traps.

Keksks - June 5, 2015

Why should you repent for loving somebody? Because you say so?
You and whose weapons?

6. Rasheed Eldin - April 8, 2010

Anon – you make a good point, and I agree that there is no benefit in playing with words in order to avoid offence, if that results in distorting our message as Muslims.

I think these few sentences from Dr Ramadan – which were from a spoken interview as opposed to something written and thus more precisely worded – won’t enable us to judge exactly what he meant.

I would agree about respecting a Muslim who commits such grave sins in the following sense: recognising that their declaration of faith makes it incumbent on us to invite them back to proper behaviour.

Indeed, we need to awaken in such people a sense of respect for the religion and its boundaries, indeed reverence of Allah their Creator.

7. anon - April 9, 2010

slms rasheed

i Do understand the need to bring such people back into the fold of Islam- not as we make it, but as it was revealed- and that during this stage, harsh words and full out condemnation should be exchanged for tact and ‘tolerance’…
However- at what point do we stop with sweet persuasion and say- enough fitna?
(this isnt meant to be an inflammatory statement… im honestly just wondering about it:)

at which point do we give up on a person and their persistence in amoral acts, and draw recourse on islamic segragation- if in a haraam environment- or islamic punishment in a shariah compliant country?
when does tolerance become an accessory to oppression?

i know… ominous questions.
do i have the answers?

only unpalatable ones

Rasheed Eldin - April 9, 2010

Often on this blog, such as in the info box at the top-right corner, we make a distinction between different sorts of people.

1. There are those who struggle with same-sex attraction, who deserve support and indeed respect for their inner jihad. Maybe these people fall into sin from time to time, but don’t try to justify it Islamically.

2. Then there are those who engage in homosexual acts, and fail to understand how serious this sin is. Like others who think relationships outside marriage are acceptable, they need to be cured of their ignorance. Still, at a certain point, recourse will have to be taken to the actions you’ve mentioned if the call to reform goes unheeded.

3. Thirdly, those who lead others into sin by re-writing the faith to suit their own desires. They deserve outright condemnation. Still, if ever they are interested in sincere dialogue, we are ready for that. But I’ve learned not to hold my breath.

8. anon - April 9, 2010

thanks for the distinctions. i know im too impatient by half to ever stop and read properly!
(my eternal downfall….)

as for number three… there are very few ppl who go into a debate intending on listening:)
(and i fully admit to not being in that fortunate category….)
well. good luck with everything youre trying to do. May Allah…bless your efforts with success, ameen.

9. Rasheed Eldin - April 10, 2010

I’ve enjoyed your insightful comments, so please keep an eye on the blog. After further thought, I feel there is definitely something to distinguishing between “respecting” and “treating respectfully”.

I think we may have been right to use the word “compassion” as well as “understanding”, because indeed the sinful behaviour does not deserve respect. When people are due respect, it is for other things.

10. Rasheed Eldin - May 24, 2010

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