YOU ALMOST had to feel a little sorry for Tony Jones on Lateline last night. There he was, set up by his producer to discuss the sudden end of Osama bin Laden with Tariq Ramadan, the Oxford professor and grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder. A nice, predictable ABC set piece was to be expected – the pro forma denunciation of American vigilantism, a line or two about the tragedy of the terrorist chieftain having been rendered permanently unavailable for court appearances and, to wrap things up, the inevitable prattle about Muslim alienation and why it is so very understandable. That is what Jones must have been anticipating. Instead, he found himself with a full-blown loon on the other end of the ABC’s satellite link.
Asked if he believes bin Laden responsible for the 9/11 massacre, Ramadan agreed – but then not so much.
TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes. I accept that. I don't have a - you know, between the conspiracy theory on one side and everything it should be clear on the other side, in between still there are lots of questions. There was no independent, you know, inquiry about what happened, and still now there are questions to be raised (ed: no independent investgation? huh!). And the first questions that we have is about what happened two days ago. So I think that ...
TONY JONES: No, can I just interrupt you there. We'll just stick with September 11 for the moment because are you saying there are still questions about what happened there? Because you were quite equivocal about this 10 years ago when you were first asked about it. You said, "Perhaps bin Laden is a useful bugbear, like Saddam Hussein." What did you mean by that?
TARIQ RAMADAN: No, the first reaction that you are talking about is the week after, when we, for example, heard that with all what happened, we find two passports almost completely clean and with nothing, and I think, "OK, what's that?" I had questions, yes, with silly people leaving a car in a car park with things in Arabic when we all know that the pilots are reading things in English.
I think that these are questions that have to be asked, and it doesn't mean that we are saying that bin Laden is not behind and Al Qaeda is not behind. And if you are a serious citizen, you have the right to ask, and this is what I did also in the UK after 7/7, asking: we need an independent inquiry, we need to know what happened, we need transparency on all these things, because the way afterward it was used by the Bush administration is to go to kill innocent civilians in Afghanistan who were not supporting bin Laden and not supporting the Taliban and they paid a price. And this innocent people would ...
TONY JONES: Well, but you would have to admit that that was where Al Qaeda - but you know that Al Qaeda, the name Al Qaeda means "the base". The base was in Afghanistan. That's where they were, that's where the September 11 attacks were plotted and it was done so in ...
TARIQ RAMADAN: We don't know. Who knows about that? Who knows about that? Who knows about that?
TONY JONES: You don't know about that; is that what you're saying?
TARIQ RAMADAN: We were told -- no, nobody knows -- even the Americans. And I met people from the State Department and I met people from security services and intelligence, even in Europe. They said they were and we don't know where they are. So, after this, it's just you can't kill Afghani civilians because you think that someone is hiding in Afghanistan. You can't do that.
Mysteriously parked cars? Enigmatic documents in Arabic "when we all know that the pilots are reading things in English"? Nobody knowing where to find Osama, even though a SEAL team found his address without, aparently, even having to consult the Melways. What a mountain of garbage!
Still, there is reason to take heart. When next inclined to criticise the peddlers of cant and po-mo mysticism who infest Australia’s universities, stay that tongue. If Ramadan can hold down a job beneath the dreaming spires, our own institutes of higher learning really are, as vice-chancellors are always saying, absolutely “world class”.