Hugh Fitzgerald: Tariq Ramadan Makes His First Appearance In Public

On March 18 in Seine Saint-Denis, a commune in the suburbs of Paris where Muslims, mostly from the Maghreb, make up a considerable part of the population, the mayor’s office had organized a public discussion, held at the Hotel de ville (City Hall) on the subject of “fighting everyday violence against women.” (“Lutter contre les violences envers les femmes au quotidien.”)

There were a good fifty people in attendance. And among them was an unexpected and most unwelcome guest: Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan, a grandson of Hasan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, was until late 2017 the most famous Muslim academic in the world. Since then he has become the most infamous Muslim academic in the world. Tariq Ramadan for years was a professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, a post bought for him by the emir of Qatar. He is now “on leave” while awaiting verdicts in various courts. A past master at soft-spoken taqiyya, and a star on the Muslim lecture circuit and on television — he has two million Facebook friends, and 200,000 followers on Twitter — Ramadan was once hailed by many as a “towering intellect” and a “leading Islamic scholar.” In 2000, TIME called Tariq Ramadan “one of the seven most important religious innovators” of the 21st century; in 2004, TIME named Ramadan as one of the “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” In Internet polls, Foreign Policy magazine listed Ramadan as one of the “100 top global thinkers” in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2012.

But in November 2017, charges were brought against this “towering intellect” by two French Muslim women, Henda Ayari and someone known only by her alias “Christelle,” both of them accusing Ramadan of extreme sexual violence and rape. In February, Ramadan appeared before French judges, and was promptly imprisoned while the charges could be investigated. A third woman, known as “Marie” — her real name is Mounia Borrouj — then came  forward to accuse Ramadan of rape. Other accusations of rape and sexual violence have also been made against him by a woman in the United States, and another in Belgium; the legal status of these accusations is not clear. In addition, four Swiss women have accused Ramadan of seducing them (in one case the attempt was unsuccessful) when they were his underage pupils at a high school in Geneva.

On June 5, 2018, the French judges handling Ramadan’s case dismissed the charges made by “Marie.” For she turned out to be no innocent, but an ex-escort girl, that is, a call girl, who had already been involved in a famous sex scandal in France. There was no hint of any such background in the lives of any of Ramadan’s other accusers.

This past November, Ramadan was released on bail of 300,000 euros ($340,000); he also had to surrender his passport, and is now required to check in with the police once a week.

When he showed up at this conference on “everyday violence toward women,” the organizers of the meeting were in a quandary. Here was Tariq Ramadan in the audience, a man who had been charged with sexual violence of the most vile kind. Does he stay or go?

Let’s remember what his first two accusers told the judges about him.

Henda Ayari explained to them that she had described Tariq Ramadan in a book she wrote, giving him the name “Zoubeyr”:

“This man, Zoubeyr, transformed before my very eyes into a vile, vulgar, aggressive being – physically and verbally.”

And then Ayari explained (to the French judges) that she was now giving him, in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, his real name: Tariq Ramadan. “For modesty, I will not give the precise details here of the acts he made me submit to. But it is enough that he took great advantage of my weakness and the admiration I felt for him. ”

“He allowed himself gestures, attitudes and words that I could never have imagined.”

“And when I resisted,” she writes, “when I cried to him to stop, he insulted and humiliated me. He slapped me and attacked me. I saw in his crazy eyes that he was no longer master of himself. I was afraid he would kill me. I was completely lost. I started crying uncontrollably. He mocked me.” And she described his violence: “He choked me so hard that I thought I was going to die.” She also described him as threatening that her children might be harmed if she were to tell anyone.

A second Muslim woman, “Christelle,” accused Ramadan of raping her in a hotel room in 2009. The unnamed 42-year-old, who is reported to have disability in her legs, said that the professor had subjected her to a terrifying and violent sexual assault. The French edition of Vanity Fair magazine, whose staff met the 45-year-old woman, said her lawsuit against Ramadan described “blows to the face and body, forced sodomy, rape with an object and various humiliations, including being dragged by the hair to the bathtub and urinated on.”

Despite such knowledge, the organizers decided that they would let him stay, provided he remained “discreet” — i.e., promised not to talk. A number of the other attendees expressed their extreme discomfort at Ramadan’s presence, and some left before the  discussion could begin. And he who had been the star of so many programs and meetings and lectures, the cynosure of all eyes, unstoppably eloquent, now was being told to remain silent.

One wonders what Ramadan could have been thinking when he showed up at this discussion of “violence toward women.” Did he think that now that he was out on bail he could go back to being that Great Man, Professor Tariq Ramadan, that he would be welcomed back to offer his views, as a “towering intellect” and “one of the “100 most important thinkers in the world”? Did he think that his sexual dalliances would be judged as mere peccadilloes, that his version of events — it was all “consensual sex” — would be believed? Did Ramadan, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Nietzsche, believe that as a Nietzschean übermensch he should not be held to the rules that constrained lesser men?

Whatever his own thoughts on the matter, his presence was seen by others as a deliberate provocation. It cast a pall over the proceedings. Nonetheless, the discussion was held, and Ramadan stayed silent.

In a communiqué published two days after the meeting, the municipality of Seine St. Denis, that had sponsored the discussion, pronounced Ramadan’s appearance as “unacceptable and indecent,” and said that he should cease his “dreadful provocations.” It was a slap in the face to this most unacceptable and indecent of men. He may be temporarily out on bail, for two of the many charges he faces, in France, Switzerland, possibly the U.S.. But he’s not out of trouble, and his trials, in every sense, have not ended, but just begun.

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