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Why France demonizes Prof. Tariq Ramadan?

A Paris court on Friday fined Professor Tariq Ramadan for disclosing the name of one of several women who have accused him of rape. GVS News Analysis gives you a detailed background to understand why France demonizes Prof. Ramadan.

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A Paris court on Friday fined Professor Tariq Ramadan for disclosing the name of one of several women who have accused him of rape, violating a French law that protects alleged victims from “retaliation and harassment”.

Ramadan, who denies the five rape charges against him, was fined 3,000 euros ($3,560), with 2,000 euros suspended, for revealing the woman’s full name in a 2019 book as well as during a TV interview.

Tariq Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and a professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford, was accused of raape and sexual harassment in 2017. Prof. Ramadan advocates a “European Islam” free from foreign influence and which promotes social integration.  In 2000, Time magazine recognized him as one of the seven religious innovators of the 21st century, and as one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2004.

It is worth noting that in 1995, Prof. Ramadan was temporarily banned from entering France for alleged links to Algerian armed groups. However, no ties were ever proven. The US also accused him of endorsing in 2005 but dropped the lawsuit later on. He was also “persona non grata” in Tunisia before its revolution, as well as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Syria. He said he was not allowed into those countries because of his criticism of their “undemocratic regimes”. He is also not welcomed in Israel.

As Henda Ayari accused Ramadan of “rape, sexual violence, harassment and intimidation, the New York Times was quick to run a story about him, entitled the “Harvey Weinstein of Islam”.

Read more: Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan hit with another rape charge

Although none of the allegations were verified, a panel of French judges ruled that Tariq Ramadan posed a “flight risk” and could be prone to re-offend. Based on this, he has been put in pre-trial detention. Later on, some other women also accused him of rape and sexual harassment. Ramadan has been denied bail and placed in solitary confinement at the Fleury-Merogis prison.

Why France demonizes Tariq Ramadan?

Ali Saad, a French sociologist and media critic, wrote an article Why France demonizes Tariq Ramadan? in 2016 for Al Jazeera and explained Ramadan’s case.  Saad noted that Ramadan’s critics accuse him of “ambiguity”, “double discourse”, and working to “Islamise Europe”, without providing evidence to support their claims except rhetorically citing his lineage – being the grandson of Hassan el-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood – as the “smoking gun” to prove their allegations.

Saad noted that a quick scan of Ramadan’s discourse, writings and lectures suggests that he is a voice that France – and Europe – needs to listen to today. Ramadan’s writings and discourse confront, dissect and dismantle the pro-governmental and/or elite’s discourse.

He strives for a European Islam free from any foreign influence and that promotes social integration. He also calls on governments to pursue policies of social equality and adopt anti-discrimination laws since such policies and laws have the power to prevent extremism from taking root among marginalized people.

Ramadan calls upon French and European Muslims to act as full citizens, to think, speak and interact out of the communitarian spirit, to question their governments on socioeconomic policies, to refuse injustice and discrimination, to demand social equality; and to react to emotional attacks with a rational response.

He encourages politicians, intellectuals and media pundits to grant the same dignity and respect to all victims of terror regardless of religion, race or country.

“Ramadan challenges racist stereotypes”

Saad asks why France demonizes Ramadan. Is it because Ramadan’s profile challenges the racist stereotypes of Arabs or Muslims? Since to the French ruling oligarchy, a Muslim or an Arab has to stick to a preconceived image, a predefined archetype, that of an ignorant, uneducated person who barely speaks French and is constantly framed as a source of conflict to his/her surroundings, and on the rare occasions when he/she is given a platform, it is mostly to corroborate these pre-existing cliches, not to promote the government’s policies and narratives. Consider Hassen Chalghoumi, a figure promoted by the media but fiercely controversial among the Muslim community in France.

Read more: Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan admitted of having “consensual sex” with the rape accusers

Or is it because Ramadan publicly exposes the flawed arguments of the government’s intellectual junta? Is it because debating with Ramadan would lay bare their own contradictions and shake the lies they promote to serve their own interests?

Framing Ramadan as “the Muslim enemy” creates a false nationalistic cause that allows the government to divert public attention from real socioeconomic challenges, maintains Saad.