It has taken me years to reveal the double-talk of the controversial Islamic speaker Tariq Ramadan.
Since 2009 I have known that he has also led a double life, contradicting his many sermons on the « Islamic conception of sexuality. » Yet I could not write what I knew. The most serious facts could not be revealed without strong evidence, without a victim filing a complaint. Other facts were deeply troubling, revealing a hypocritical and misogynistic pathology, but I wanted to respect the principle of the right to privacy. I had enough evidence to demonstrate the duplicity of Tariq Ramadan without entering such a sordid area. But I did, however, alert colleagues and even lieutenants of Ramadan. Nothing happened.
The preacher’s groupies continued to quote him as a reminder that sex outside marriage was haram. It made me smile as I listened to his Puritan sermons about temptation and the duty of chastity. Like the tape on « the great sins, » where he gets carried away against men daring to swim in mixed pools: « You go there and inevitably it attracts you!
In this sermon, he urges his flock to ask for « places where it is healthy, » meaning single-gender pools. The tone of these tapes is not that of Tariq Ramadan’s polished performances on TV, but that of a preacher obsessed with sexuality, betraying a more personal neurosis.When I think of all the fundamentalist Christian or Islamist preachers I have investigated, I do not think I have ever come across a man who had a balanced sex life or simply conformed to what he preached. The world is full of homophobic televangelists with homosexual relations, pedophile priests and Islamist sex predators.
In the case of Tariq Ramadan, it seems that we are dealing with a behavior similar to that of the disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, perhaps more violent. If I write these words today, which under French law could lead to prosecution for defamation, it is because a woman, Henda Ayari, has had the courage to file a complaint for rape, sexual assault, harassment and intimidation . Of course, Tariq Ramadan denies her charges and will file a lawsuit against her.
On social media one of his loyal lieutenants already sees the work of an « international Zionist » plot . His fans accuse the victim, a repentant Salafist, of lying and wanting to promote herself (which, as everyone knows, is tempting). I have not met her. But what I can say is that her precise and terrifying story is very similar to what four other women have told me.
It was in 2009, on the eve of my debate with Tariq Ramadan on TV. The French press had announced the debate. A first woman contacted me to tell me what she had experienced. I was suspicious. A false testimony to push me into making a mistake? With Tariq Ramadan anything is possible. At first I did not answer. Her messages became increasingly detailed. To clarify the situation I ended up seeing her. She showed me text messages and pictures that confirmed her allegations against Ramadan. She also put me in touch with other girls. They had experienced the same events: a request for religious advice had turned into a compulsive sexual relationship, very violent and very humiliating, before ending in threats. One of them had been subjected to such violence that it warranted prosecution. I presented her to a judge. But she feared Tariq Ramadan too much. She thought she was being followed. She was clearly too fragile to persevere.
My conscience refused to force her to take action that I feared would make her more vulnerable. I am well-placed to know the violence of the networks of the Muslim Brotherhood when one stands up to « brother Tariq. » I can hear the sermonizers joking about « everyone knowing and no one saying anything. » They cannot imagine the storm which would have engulfed this young woman if she had dared to break the omerta at the time. Now that Henda Ayari has had this courage, the situation has changed. My duty is to invite all those who can testify to do so, either in the press or at his trial. We must not abandon her. We must not leave her to confront the pack alone.
Caroline Fourest is renowned in France for her books against extremists from the right-wing National Front to Islamists. In 2004, she wrote a book in which she demonstrates for the first time the double-speech of Tariq Ramadan, « Brother Tariq » (Encounter Books).
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