News & Politics

Prominent Islamist Scholar Tariq Ramadan Accused of Rape

Swiss Muslim theologist, philosopher, and writer Tariq Ramadan takes part in a meeting on the theme "Live together" at Bordeaux's congress hall. (Sipa via AP Images)

Tariq Ramadan is not only the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood (Hasan al-Banna), he’s also one of the most well-known Islamist intellectuals in the world. Ramadan simultaneously presents himself as moderate and as a loyal grandson. For instance, in the foreword to a new edition of al-Banna’s “Risalat al-Ma’thurat,” a collection of key texts from the Qur’an and Hadith, Ramadan calls the book “the core of spiritual education for all members of the Muslim Brotherhood.” He then praises his grandfather, extolling the “quality of his faith and the intensity of his relationship with God. Anyone who had ever been in contact with him perceived and experienced this.”

Note, Al-Banna wrote, among other things:

In [Muslim] Tradition there is a clear indication of the obligation to fight the People of the Book [that is, Jews and Christians], and of the fact that Allah doubles the reward of those who fight them. Jihad is not against polytheists alone, but against all who do not embrace Islam.

Despite presenting himself as an enlightened intellectual, Ramadan has failed to condemn this part of his grandfather’s legacy.

In any case, considering Ramadan’s strict religious views, you’d expect him to treat women with respect. After all, an Islamist leader (like him) should especially control himself and resist the urge to have sex outside of marriage.

But according to former Salafist Henda Ayari, who became a feminist activist several years ago, that’s not quite the case. In her book, I Chose to Be Free (published 2016), Ayari describes a terrible event that happened several years ago. A prominent Islamist scholar invited her to his hotel room, where she was raped and assaulted. When she rebelled against this “intellectual” — whom she calls Zubair in the book out of fear that exposing him would cost her dearly — he became extremely aggressive. He screamed at her, slapped her, insulted her, and used other kinds of violence against her.

“I confirm today, that the famous Zubair is Tariq Ramadan,” Ayari wrote on Facebook Friday. She added that she was inspired to share his identity because of the stories in the media of sexual abuse in Hollywood. “I have been silent for several years because of fear,” she writes in a second update, because, when she threatened to press charges for the rape, “he did not hesitate to threaten me and to tell me also that they could go after my children. I got scared and kept quiet all this time.”

In the end, Ayari decided to file a complaint against Ramadan “for what he did to me.” She did so immediately in the French city of Rouen. “Justice will now do its job,” she writes.

Ayari’s complaint is sure to set Ramadan’s life on fire. He’s the professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and also teaches at the Oxford Faculty of Theology. It goes without saying that he will lose a lot of respect and appreciation if Ayari’s accusations are even partially correct.