Ellen van de Bovenkamp
PhD candidate at VU University Amsterdam. Research project: La popularité de Tariq Ramadan au Maroc. Supervisor: Prof. dr. Thijl Sunier.
Tariq Ramadan has attracted the attention of a large, mainly Muslim audience, but also of non-Muslim intellectuals, politicians and journalists, through his ideas about Islam in Europe. Ramadan is very popular in Morocco as well, and therefore is supposed in this research that youngsters had to deal with the same problems as their peers in Europe. Can they go to a party where alcohol is served, and what if they have more chances of getting a job if they don’t wear a headscarve? These can be dilemmas in Morocco as well. But, albeit the distance between norm and practice is currently growing due to the rapidly modernising and secularising public sphere, Moroccans have learned from a young age how to live with seemingly contradictory sets of values. The dichtomy between a French speaking elite and an arabophone popular classes, does present a challenge to the new middle class, but doesn’t this have more to do with politics than it has to do with religion ? Aren’t we focusing too much on Islamic practices and texts when studying the popularity of Muslim leaders in different fields ? Why do we mainly look at the discourse of these leaders instead of at the reasons why their followers are interested in them ? Should the popularity of Muslim leaders not also be explained by their personal charisma and experiences ? Might their rise to fame not have as much to do with social and political factors as with ‘Islam’ tout court ? This research begins by sketching the French and Moroccan religious and secular contexts, and how the position of Tariq Ramadan should be seen within these contexts. In the succeeding chapters, the main focus is more on charisma and celebrity cults, neo-colonial power balances and eurocentrism. The concept ‘self-islam’ is borrowed from Bidar to show how current generations of middle class Moroccan Muslims live an individualised religiosity, in which ethics and politics are more important than rites. While describing the rise to fame of Tariq Ramadan in Morocco as well as his reception in the media, his case is used to analyse religious and political issues at stake for members of the Moroccan middle class.