OPINION and Postscript: "On the Tariq Ramadan Affair"

In attempting to publish his opinion, "On the Tariq Ramadan Affair", Dr. Abou El Fadl submitted the piece to eight media organizations. The only outlet that agreed to publish it was OpenDemocracy.net on 17 July 2018, after which it was circulated widely.


After only one day, on 18 July 2018, OpenDemocracy.net substantially censored the article without Dr. Abou El Fadl's knowledge or permission. As a result, Dr. Abou El Fadl asked for his piece to be removed from the OpenDemocracy.net site. The original opinion and a Postscript written by Dr. Abou El Fadl are published below. Extensive reference links supporting Dr. Abou El Fadl's arguments also follow below.


POSTSCRIPT, 18 July 2018


By Khaled Abou El Fadl


After writing this article, I was rather surprised by the cowardly reaction of so many media outlets. Many outlets were willing to publish the article but only in a heavily censored version. I guess freedom of speech in the non-Muslim West only goes so far! Eventually, OpenDemocracy.net agreed to publish this opinion piece without much censorship. However, after only one day of the piece being on the website, they caved into pressure and deleted substantial portions of the article without my permission forcing me to remove the entire article from their website. Apparently, even an outlet that prides itself on being one of the last bastions of freedom of speech could not uphold its own principles.


I write the addendum to underscore what should be obvious points.

  • The presumption of innocence means: the defendant does not bear the burden of proving their innocence. The accusers, whoever they may be, bear the burden of proving guilt. Ramadan, like any other defendant in the world, must be presumed innocent. In other words, he is not a rapist until proven otherwise.

  • Some people seem to think that it is irrelevant that the accusers have associations with rabid Islamophobes of the likes of Caroline Fourest or Robert Spencer. I invite these people to read Alain Gabon’s careful review of the record. Maintaining that Islamophobia and its network are irrelevant is akin to arguing that racism and prejudice do not impeach credibility. If a woman, known for her white supremacist, racist outlooks accuses a black man; or if a Nazi accuses a Jew of a crime, their racist prejudices go to the issue of credibility. The entire point of my argument is that racism matters. There are ample anthropological and sociological studies on institutionalized racism in the French legal system, and indeed, the narrative by French public officials and media outlets on the Ramadan case has been distinctively racist and bigoted.

  • These plaintiffs do a disservice to the #metoo movement. As a matter of principle, I am predisposed to believing any woman who alleges sexual assault. Yet, it would be incredulous to hold onto this presumption when the accusers have demonstrated a track record of inconsistencies and inaccuracies. While most women in most circumstances are truthful when they allege sexual assault, these particular plaintiffs lack credibility. They lack credibility because of inconsistent testimony, and there is evidence that they have vested ulterior motives in bringing these sexual charges. To continue ignoring the insidious role of Islamophobia in this case is quite disingenuous.

  • Some have insisted that the privacy of the accusers should be respected and evidence of their lack of credibility should not be underscored. I would normally agree that the privacy of accusers must be honored but this does not hold true when the defendants have chosen to try their cases in the media by making regular appearances in every outlet and telling inconsistent stories again and again on numerous shows. It is the accusers who made the choice to publicize their narratives in every media outlet, and indeed, Tariq Ramadan has already been tried and convicted time and again in the French media, precisely because of the hyperactivity of the accusers in every imaginable media outlet. Again, read the public legal record in this case. The accusers have made numerous inconsistent narratives; promised to present evidence that they failed to deliver;  and were forced to disclose what amounted to a concerted campaign to discredit and take down a political foe.

  • Normally, in the vast majority of cases, the French criminal legal system holds defendants in pre-trial detentions when they have a number of felony convictions—they are convicted repeat-offenders—or they are a high flight risk. Empirically, there is irrefutable evidence that an inordinate number of those held in pre-trial detention are Africans, Arabs, and other minority ethnicities. In other words, the French legal system treats minorities the way the American legal system treats Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos, but I daresay, even worse.

  • Some have wondered why I have failed to mention a potential accuser in the United States and another in Switzerland. The reason, quite simply, is that they are not accusers of record. Charges have not been filed. Everything known about these potential accusers is speculative at best. If these cases do end up in charges being filed, then one should assess those charges on the merits as filed. Again, for those who honor the presumption of innocence, such speculative stories about potential accusers here and there cannot be considered until such evidence materializes.

  • I will conclude with the following point: At this juncture, I am convinced that the French legal system is plagued by institutional racism and I have no confidence in its processes or its verdicts.

OPINION: "On the Tariq Ramadan Affair," 17 July 2018

By Khaled Abou El Fadl


What is happening to Tariq Ramadan in France is disgraceful and simply ignominious. I can no longer maintain my silence before this grotesque travesty of justice. Since rape charges were filed against him in France, Tariq Ramadan’s case has been marred by procedural irregularities, denials of due process, and evidence of insidious discrimination. In fact, Ramadan’s mistreatment by the French courts, and his virtual public lynching by the French media has been so outrageously unfair to the point of rising to the level of outright persecution. 


Alain Gabon (https://bit.ly/2lZIttj) and others have already detailed the record of persecution and abuse by the French authorities in this case, and more than one hundred prominent academics and scholars have signed a statement demanding fair treatment and due process rights for Tariq Ramadan. So why do I write? I write first because as a Muslim, I am outraged by the embarrassing silence of Muslim organizations and leaders before the undeniable lynching of a prominent Muslim scholar. The same organizations who at one time rode on the coattails of Tariq Ramadan’s prominence and fame, and that competed for bragging rights by having Tariq Ramadan on their slate of confirmed speakers in their conferences and symposiums, have now conveniently abandoned him and his family to their plight. 


The second reason I write is that as a student of history and law, Ramadan’s case reminds me of the shameful Dreyfus affair in which the enlightened French legal system wrongfully tried and convicted an innocent man, simply because he was a Jew. I write because I strongly suspect that the way that Ramadan’s case is being handled evidences clear political and religious biases, and that these biases account for the numerous irregularities that plague France’s judicial proceedings. I write because I am deeply troubled about the mockery being made of the presumption of innocence, and because there is substantial evidence that Tariq Ramadan is not treated as a suspect properly facing rape charges, but is effectively a political prisoner being persecuted by his sworn ideological enemies. Having studied a whole host of criminal cases filed against suspected rapists in France, there is no question that Tariq Ramadan’s treatment is not justified by the charges, allegations, or investigatory proceedings of the case.


Here is a partial accounting of the irregularities and problems in this case: 


1)    Tariq Ramadan has been languishing in preventive detention since February of this year. No date for trial has been set, and it is not even certain whether there will be a trial. 


2)    The case was built on alleged charges by three women: Henda Ayari, Mounia Rabbouj a.k.a Marie, and Paule-Emma A. a.k.a. Christelle. But Ramadan was not treated as a normal criminal defendant. His case was inexplicably transferred to the jurisdiction of prosecutor Francois Molins, someone who has made a career of prosecuting terrorism cases in which the suspects were invariably Muslim.


3)    Molins treated Tariq Ramadan precisely as he would treat a terrorism suspect. Ramadan was placed in solitary confinement;  his access to family, attorneys and his own case files were severely restricted; and he was denied mail privileges and any privacy rights. 


4)    Shockingly, Ramadan was detained for months before being allowed to speak or introduce any exculpatory evidence on his own behalf. Only on June 5th of this year was he finally allowed to offer testimony and evidence in rebuttal. In legal terms, by the terms of his confinement, Ramadan has been placed in disadvantageous circumstances, where his ability to defend himself against the charges are severely restricted. The problem with the imposed restrictions are not just psychological but they constrain the ability of the defendant to conduct research, deliberate with counsel, and launch a vigorous defense against the charges made.  Imagine trying to organize a defense against serious charges when you are imprisoned in solitary confinement twenty-three hours a day, allowed only short sojourns outside your cell, denied access to a library or a computer, denied access to most mail, denied writing and reading material, and denied access to your own case file! 


5)    Add to this, Tariq Ramadan is very ill, and it is not an exaggeration to say that the conditions of his confinement are tortuous. The conditions of his confinement are leading to a severe deterioration in his health and may even lead to his death. Despite overwhelming medical documentation, the French court has refused to place him in a hospital and to provide him with adequate medical treatment.


The presumption of innocence means that we must presume a person to be innocent until proven otherwise. But this is not the way that Ramadan is being treated. The way he is being treated is reminiscent of the way French courts have treated terrorism suspects, where their rights to due process have been severely restricted because of purported national security interests.


Tariq Ramadan’s case, however, is not supposed to be about terrorism but about alleged sexual assaults. The court has produced no convincing justifications for all the restrictions placed on him in prison, leave alone for refusing to treat him like the overwhelming number of defendants facing similar charges, who are released in some supervised capacity until the date of their trial. In fact, most recently the French government uncovered a terrorist plot by a white nationalist group, named the AFO, to attack and murder Muslims all over France.  Although the ten members of the AFO admitted that they planned to execute deadly attacks against mosques and Muslim schools in France, the leader of the group and most of its members were charged and granted supervised release immediately. (https://lemde.fr/2LvtQZZ) The AFO defendants have not suffered anything even close to what has been inflicted upon Tariq Ramadan.  


I must admit that I might be less sympathetic to Tariq Ramadan’s plight if the evidence against him by the three purported victims was stronger. The truth is that to date, no credible evidence has been presented against Ramadan. The first plaintiff, Henda Ayari, has offered very contradictory and inconsistent narratives not just in court but in her many media appearances in the French media.  Among other things, she lied about her relationship with the second plaintiff, and about coordinating and streamlining their joint sexual assault narratives against Ramadan.  Moreover, it turned out that she has well-documented and long-standing relations with Ramadan’s ideological foes, including the most notorious Islamophobes of France.  More recently, she has become connected with and supported by American Islamophobes, such as the infamous Robert Spencer. Disturbingly because of the Islamophobic rabid lust for Muslim blood, Henda Ayari has become a pop celebrity in the French media and has turned her accusations against Ramadan into a career. 


In many ways, the second plaintiff, the so-called Christelle, fares worse. It turns out that Christelle is a documented and proven French white supremacist who has an extensive record of advocating genocidal pogroms against Muslims in France and Europe, and who appears to have developed a compulsive hatred for Tariq Ramadan. Like Henda Ayari, Christelle has an extensive and well-documented association with Caroline Fourest, Ramadan’s arch-enemy and the author of Brother Tariq, a book of pristine and unadulterated Islamophobia published in 2008. Christelle pretended to convert to Islam so that she could bring Muslims down as an insider. And like Henda Ayari, her testimony has been contradictory, and inconsistent. 


As to the third plaintiff, the so-called Marie, well, she is no longer a plaintiff. Her claims were so dishonest that even the French court, that has so far ignored the inconsistencies and contradictions of Ayari and Christelle, was forced to dismiss her case. In the June 5th hearing, Ramadan’s attorney presented ample evidence that Marie’s story was an outright lie, and her case was dismissed. So as of now, Ramadan remains detained in solitary confinement and continues to be treated like a terrorism suspect would be treated in France because of the flimsy accusations made by two non-credible plaintiffs, Ayari and Christelle.


Let me state this as clearly as I can: the problem with this case is discrimination—Tariq Ramadan is not being treated like any similarly situated defendant facing the same set of charges; the problem is denial of due process—the conditions of Ramadan’s confinement effectively deny him the opportunity to launch a vigorous defense in his own behalf; and the problem is persecution—not only have Ramadan and his family been subjected to a lynching in the French media, but there is cumulative evidence that Ramadan’s political foes have conspired with the plaintiffs to fabricate unsubstantiated and very often inconsistent and contradictory narratives of sexual assault. 


Moreover, the French state has been complicit in exploiting the opportunity offered by the charges brought by two highly-suspect women to persecute a Muslim public intellectual, who for years has been a thorn in the side of France’s government. The problem is that, like the Muslim ban which was recently upheld by the US Supreme Court, there is ample evidence of anti-Muslim animus that is being conveniently ignored by the French court. The very serious problem is that, considering the track record of the French court thus far, it is highly doubtful that the French system can offer someone like Tariq Ramadan a fair and just trial. Like the infamous Dreyfus case, with every passing day, this is looking more and more like a political assassination and not a fair adjudication. 


In the Dreyfus Affair, an innocent man had to be convicted and imprisoned for years before French Jews realized that the ideals of the French Republic of liberty, equality, and fraternity did not include them, and that as citizens, they enjoyed second-class status. But the Dreyfus Affair also became a wake-up call for Jews in France and Europe to aggressively claim dignity and equal rights as citizens, and not to shy away from demanding their due as a people. The Dreyfus Affair was also a transformative event in the history of European Jewry because it convinced so many Jewish intellectuals of the imperative of becoming conscientious of their collective identity, dignity, and solidarity as a people before they could hope to achieve equal rights as citizens.


I am forced to wonder what it will take to wake up Muslims to the fact that the Ramadan affair is quickly becoming symptomatic of the gross disempowerment and political meekness of Muslims all over Europe? I must say that I cannot resist the rather gloomy thought that a people who do not recognize the importance of rushing to the aid of their brightest and sharpest when they are unfairly treated and denied basic justice, will be hard pressed to win respect as a people.


To read this article in French: https://blogs.mediapart.fr/marianne-france/blog/270718/affaire-tariq-ramadan-par-khaled-abou-el-fadl 



The Tariq Ramadan Case: A Comprehensive Review, by Alain Gabon



The Tariq Ramadan Case: A Critical Update, by Alain Gabon



Tariq Ramadan: Oxford Professor, Detention Without Trial



Tariq Ramadan and the integrity of French justice



Why Is Professor Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?



Former national councilor Jacques Neirynck demands fair judicial proceedings for Tariq Ramadan



Tariq Ramadan Confesses to 5 Extramarital Affairs



Tariq Ramadan's accuser changes details of rape account



Prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan testifies over rape accusations



Letters from Readers:

With permission, we republish here a kind letter received by Dr. Abou El Fadl in response to the Tariq Ramadan writings.

July 31, 2018


Dear Dr. El Fadl:


I am forwarding the letter I sent to OpenDemocracy today about comments I made on your article about Tariq Ramadan, which I believe may have prompted the editors to edit your article by removing references about his accusers. I regret defending those women. Sorry, I hope you put back your article on your own website too.




Dear Open Democracy:


I am writing with regard to an article published by Dr. Abou El Fadl regarding Dr. Tariq Ramadan's incarceration in France on alleged rape charges. The article was taken down after I, under a pseudonym (Hamrah), posted comments chastising Dr. El Fadl for discussing the victim's association with Islamophobes and it being irrelevant. An editor at OpenDemocracy edited the article to exclude references to the victims. But Dr. El Fadl didn't want it edited so he just took it down.


I regret making those comments because I actually started following one of the accusers on twitter (Henda Ayari) and she followed me back because I defended her, but then I started translating her tweets from French to English and I was shocked at how vitriolic she is toward any religious Muslim. Her supporters are mostly right-wing Islamophobes who seem focused on Tariq Ramadan being put behind bars because of his alleged "Muslim Brotherhood ties" rather than regarding any rape charges against him. Henda also keeps making references to Tariq Ramadan and his supporters being "Islamists" and how Islamists' speech and activities must be dealt with by the government. She stops short of saying they should get the death penalty.


I started reading more articles online on the matter and I now see why Dr. El Fadl wrote what he wrote. It is very plausible that these women could be lying and only doing what Islamophobes want.


Thank you for taking the time to read this. I am sorry for the inconvenience, but I think the article should be put back up. I was so aggressive in my comments defending these women without actually reading through much of the articles detailing the case and Islamophobe connections.


Kind regards,

Alana B.