On 27th February 2009, Quilliam Director Maajid Nawaz took part in a heated, and at times chaotic debate with Tariq Ramadan on Press TV on the subject of ‘Islamism and violence’. Other guests included the writer Ziauddin Sardar and Alastair Crooke from Conflicts Forum.

The debate focused on the nature of Islamism and on whether its claims to be ‘Islamic’ were justified. Maajid Nawaz strongly attacked Islamists’ focus on implementing Sharia law which he described as a distortion of Islamic teachings. He said:

 

“There is nothing in the tradition of Islam that commands Muslims to impose one brand of Sharia, or even one version of a moral code on society.”

 

Just over half an hour into the debate, tensions in the studio rose when Tariq Ramadan disputed Nawaz’s observation that Islamist parties habitually criticise their secular or liberal rivals as being less Islamic than themselves. When Nawaz cited the case of Ayman Noor, the Egyptian secularist, Ramadan said, “Who said that he is less Muslim than others?” Ramadan then repeated his question, asking “Who [i.e. which Islamist groups] is saying that these other political parties are less Islamic than them.”

 

In response, Ziauddin Sardar and Maajid Nawaz cited the actions of Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh and Sardar specifically referred Ramadan to Sayyid Qutb’s book Milestones, telling him: “Read Milestones; in Milestones everybody who do not follow a particular line is kafir.” Perhaps wisely, Professor Ramadan then changed the subject.

 

The full debate is available to watch here.