Controversial Islamic Scholar Tariq Ramadan Accused of Sexually Assaulting Three Women

Supporters say accusations are part of 'international Zionist plot' against him; all the complainants said they had been in contact with Ramadan for spiritual guidance

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Swiss Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan poses during a conference on the theme "Live together" in Bordeaux, France, March 26, 2016.
Swiss Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan poses during a conference on the theme "Live together" in Bordeaux, France, March 26, 2016.Credit: MEHDI FEDOUACH/AFP

Three women said they were sexually assaulted by Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar on Islam and a prominent critic of Israel among European intellectuals.

Supporters of Ramadan, who is a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford’s St. Anthony’s College, have called the accusations against him part of a “international Zionist plot” to blacken his name.

Ramadan, who in 2009 was fired from Rotterdam’s Erasmus University for taking money from the Iranian regime and who has been refused entry to France and the United States over his ties to Hamas and other terrorist groups, has often aired conspiracy theories about Israel and Jews. Ramadan has denied any wrongdoing with regards to the sex crimes accusations.

The third and most recent complainant to come forward told Le Parisien in an interview published Saturday that Ramadan sexually harassed her in 2014 and blackmailed her for sexual favors. She said Ramadan threatened to distribute “compromising pictures” of her, according to the French daily.

The woman, who was identified only as Yasmina, said she was filing criminal charges against Ramadan.

On Thursday, a convert to Islam who has a disability in her legs, she said she suffered “sexual violence of great brutality” by Ramadan in 2009. She filed a formal complaint against Ramadan.

Less than a week earlier, on October 20, Ramadan was charged for allegedly raping Henda Ayari, a former Islamist turned secular feminist. Ayari said the sexual assault took place in 2012 in France. She said Ramadan threatened her and that she was afraid to denounce him “for fear of reprisals.”

All the complainants said they had been in contact with Ramadan for spiritual guidance. A lawyer representing Ramadan said he was working on libel suits against the complainants, whose accounts the lawyer said were mendacious.

On Friday, following Ayari’s account, journalist Caroline Fourest, who has reported extensively about Ramadan’s controversial career, wrote in the Marianne weekly that supporters of Ramadan are calling the accusations the result of an “international Zionist plot” to blacken his name.

Ramadan often has been accused of anti-Semitism, including by the French-Jewish philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy in 2007 after Ramadan published a list of people he identified as “French Jewish intellectuals” whom he said had “relativized the defense of universal principles of equality and justice” because they support Israel. Ramadan has rejected the allegations and has called on Muslims to oppose anti-Semitism.

But some of his critics said this was part of what The New York Times in 2007 called Ramadan’s “identity issue.” He was seen to be encouraging violence and alleged misogyny when speaking to Muslims, and denouncing them when speaking to non-Muslims.

In a column titled “The Double Life of Tariq Ramadan,” Fourest wrote that she first heard in 2009 of sex crimes by Ramadan: She could not publish the accounts because none of the victims would step forward, she wrote.

“Ramadan seems to be a counterpart of Harvey Weinstein, perhaps a more violent one,” wrote Fourest, referring to the Hollywood mogul accused by more than 50 women of sexual harassment and sexual assault.

In 2014, Ramadan said the slaying of four people at the Jewish Museum of Belgium, which authorities say was perpetrated by the Islamist Mehdi Nemmouche, was in fact a deliberate attack on Israeli secret agents. In a 2004 interview, Ramadan said that violence for the Palestinians is “a legitimate resistance,” and “the only way for them to be heard at the international level.” In the same interview, he said he does not justify the use of violence against Israelis.

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