By Hafid Akrout
By Hafid Akrout
Morocco World News
Brussels, April 11, 2012
Today some politicians, even scholars and intellectuals in Europe are betraying some of the fundamental principles that modern Europe was built upon. One of these principles is ‘the right to speak freely’, the right for a peaceful and academic debate.
Following the refusal of the Dean of l’Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Philippe Vincke, to allow the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan to participate in an debate within the University of Brussels, very few have responded to this form of intellectual and cultural segregation. In the present article, I write about my own experience. I explain how ULB authorities prevented me to invite Ramadan to give a talk in the university.
On December 14th 2011, and in my capacity as a master student in L’Institut d’Etudes européennes (IEE) de l’Université libre de Bruxelles, I sought to invite Dr. Ramadan to give a talk about the ‘Arab Spring’. First, I contacted Jennifer Reghioui, Director of Ramadan’s European Office. She not only expressed her appreciation about the invitation, but she also sent me an application form to fill in. I immediately emailed the president of the IEE to seek her approval and to discuss the details of Mr. Ramadan’s talk (time, place and possible financial support). The president forwarded my email to her director of communication who wrote to me the following message:
“The President asked me to see over this issue with you. Could you please come to see me in my office at your convenience in order that we discuss your project and the implications?’
In the first minutes of our meeting, the man made me understand in very clear and short sentences that “Mr. Tarik Ramadan is not welcomed here, because of his double discourse and because of his political stands.”
I tried to understand further his opinion and we had a one-hour conversation, talking about freedom of speech, Ramadan’s ideological positions, my right as a student within the institution and the need to promote cultural dialogues. Finally, the man told me that neither he nor the president is against Ramadan’s talk, but his talk would be problematic for all of us– Ramadan, me and the IEE–. The conversation ended when this director offered me two choices: either to forget about the project, or to continue, but with me assuming responsibility for it.
I understood that responsibility as both moral and financial. Moral means that I should assume responsibility for any unpredictable or strange events (i.e. Reactions of Jewish students at ULB). And by financial, I had to invite Mr. Ramadan at my own expense.
The project stopped because I hadn’t the sufficient financial and academic support to continue with it. However, if Tariq Ramadan did not come to ULB, at least we have proved once again that we are (as Muslims and immigrants) committed to cultural dialogue, and thus against any form of extremism or religious fundamentalism.
At the very least, and to use Ramadan’s ‘terms, in the age of colonialism, the West used to speak on our behalf; the argument then was that we didn’t have enough linguistic and intellectual means to narrate our own stories. Now, I believe, we can narrate our own stories, and to answer the philosophical question raised by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Can the subaltern speak? My answer is ‘YES’.
Edited by Benjamin Villanti
Akrout Hafid is a master student at the European Studies Institute in Brussels. He holds a B.A in English studies and M.A in Humanities and Area Studies from Mohamed I University, Oujda in Morocco. Mr. Akrout is a trainee at the European council of Moroccan Oulma (religious institution), Brussels, and a member and freelance translator in European institute for Islamic Studies (academic institution). He is interested in philosophy, literature, Mediterranean Studies and European construction.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy
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