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9/11 memories: Tariq Ramadan

We asked the Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University: where were you on 9/11?

I was driving when I got a call: there was a terrorist attack in New York. My friend described the events to me and said, "It is horrible, unbelievable!" I was in Geneva then, and went home to watch the images.

I was shocked. My first reaction - the same intellectual and religious stance I still have - was to reject such behaviour and to condemn these actions. How had somebody decided to kill innocent people in such a sophisticated way? In the following days, I was quite incredulous, not really buying the official story. I had questions about the facts.

I decided to take a clear stand when I was invited to a press meeting in New York a week later (and it has remained consistent): to condemn
in the light of what I knew and to question anything unclear. It was clear that some Muslims thought it was Islamically right to kill innocents in the name of Islam; it was my moral duty to condemn such an understanding.

I never thought 9/11 would have such an impact and would be instrumentalised in such a way. The positive, out of so many negative consequences, is that it forced Muslims to clarify their discourse, to explain (for themselves and for others) what Islam is and is not. It helped them to be less naive and more lucid: the way forward will not be easy.

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This article first appeared in the 05 September 2011 issue of the New Statesman, 9/11