Current Affairs, Islamophobia

Why Are French Authorities Dehumanising Tariq Ramadan?

Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim theologian and academic at Oxford University, stands accused of a series of allegations relating to sexual misconduct after some women came forward as part of the viral #MeToo social media campaign. Since early February 2018, Tariq Ramadan has been in solitary confinement at Fresne Prison in France. In most places, the discussion surrounding this case has not been fair at all. Some have been quick to label Tariq Ramadan as “guilty” before he’s even been charged by the judicial system in France, others have jumped on the bandwagon to throw slurs at other Muslims and to make this an issue about the religion of Islam, like the Gatestone Institute have done here. The issues I aim to raise will not delve into the specifics, nor will I say whether Tariq Ramadan is guilty or not for this will eventually be revealed, God-willing when a fair trial takes place, but what I will discuss is the denial of basic human rights in this case, and the importance of contextualising the wider issue of anti-Muslim sentiments in France – which has proven to be a major factor judicially, politically, and socially.

Islamophobia in France has intensified drastically over the years, despite the fact that there are approximately 5.7 million Muslims living there that greatly contribute to French society. You cannot dismiss the fact that the state fosters such hostility towards Muslims. A nation that prides itself on “diversity” and “multiculturalism”, yet the system, in conjunction with the mainstream media, has fostered an agenda against Muslims and people of colour. This has led to a monumental rise in Islamophobic and racial attacks transpiring physically and on social media. The state undeniably plays a major role in the treatment of minorities – and principally, this is a factor we cannot disregard when it comes to the Tariq Ramadan case.

It is vital to remember that this is not the first occasion French authorities have mistreated or vilified Tariq Ramadan or his family members, despite the fact his wife and children are French nationals. In 2003, former Prime Minister Sarkozy took it upon himself to debate Tariq Ramadan on the issue of punishments such as the death penalty and stoning in Islam [1]. Last year, Ramadan’s brother was expelled from France as they felt his remarks were a “threat to public order”[2] and in 2016 when Tariq Ramadan applied for French citizenship, a notorious politician in France by the name of Maneul Valls, publicly declared that Ramadan’s application was “a provocation against the French republic.” [3]

After Tariq Ramadan was arrested in by French authorities in February. He was denied bail and then forced to remain in custody. In fact, his bail requests were completely dismissed and ignored. It is pivotal to remember that Tariq Ramadan has not been convicted of any crime and was denied bail during the initial stages of the investigation, which is a clear indicator that the French judicial system usurped Ramadan’s rights from the beginning of the case. The judges argued that they feared Ramadan would flee the country – but why would anyone even attempt to do something so irrational knowing the severity of the consequences? More importantly, if Ramadan was to “flee” the country, then why has he incessantly cooperated with the authorities as well as voluntarily contacting them when the allegations surfaced? It appears that the French authorities will do everything to prevent Tariq Ramadan from receiving the rights he is entitled to by law. It is also important to note that solitary confinement for those accused of rape is very rare, which begs the question, is there one law for some, and another for Muslims in France?

Ramadan’s case was transferred to prosecutor François Molins, who essentially specialises in cases involving “Islamist Terrorism” – one may question whether this transfer was a deliberate attempt to further criminalise Tariq Ramadan before he could prove his innocence. It is well known across France that this prosecutor (François Molins) frequently appears on French media outlets to discuss terror attacks and the rise of “Islamist terrorism” in France [4], therefore associating Tariq Ramadan with this specific prosecutor is a grave injustice – especially if Ramadan is found guiltless.

Non-Muslim individuals such as the Minister of Public Action and Accounts Gérald Darmanin, and Minister for Ecology and Solidarity Transition Nicolas Hulot were also accused of rape/sexual assault by more than one individual [5] – but unlike Ramadan, these two men were interviewed and then soon after allowed back to work where they continue to serve in government… the stark dichotomy here is revolting. One can suggest that had Ramadan not been a Muslim man perhaps he’d be free by now. Tariq Ramadan’s daughter, Maryam Ramadan, believes this case is being used as an opportunity to “silence” her father for the views and further exclaimed:

“I feel a great injustice. He does not benefit from the presumption of innocence: he is in fact presumed guilty, while his accusers benefit from a presumption of sincerity, it is not normal. Besides, he’s sick. We have to stay strong to fight.”

On 6th December 2017, Ramadan’s lawyers formally filed in evidence to the prosecutor’s office which would back an alibi against one of the charges. The evidence submitted included a travel document. However, the document went “missing” upon being submitted and magically appeared roughly two months later. In the first week of February 2018, Tariq Ramadan’s lawyers realised that this critical piece of evidence was never entered into his file whilst the investigation was taking place, and therefore never assessed by those conducting the investigation. By the time the evidence resurfaced, it was far too late to be considered and the very next day Ramadan was unjustly confined.

Towards the third week of his incarceration, Tariq Ramadan was assessed by medical professionals in the prison, who emphasised that his health was “not compatible” with detention. Two other private medics, in London and France, supported the diagnosis, however, despite having the medical documents to suggest Ramadan’s health was deteriorating and as someone that already suffers from Multiple Sclerosis, the judge extended the length of Ramadan’s confinement [6]. Days later, Ramadan was hospitalised and due to his declining health was unable to focus on his defence, and again was not allowed to be visited by his spouse or children [7] with no explanation or justification provided – another example of the justice system in France dehumanising Tariq Ramadan. “He suffers from Multiple Sclerosis. The experts claim that his state of health is compatible with detention under the condition that he has access to multidisciplinary medical care, which is not assured. Imagine that he has not seen a neurologist since March 9th!” his lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, said.

Hend Ayari, the Salafi turned feminist has changed her version of events on multiple occasions. Marsigny has written a detailed account describing the claimant’s contradictions, lies, and false alibi’s which can be accessed here. It’s interesting to observe how many changes have been made to Ayari’s story and yet Ramadan still remains confined and is unable to defend himself when and wherever possible. Emmanuel Marsigny has declared Hend Ayari’s claim is “implausible” considering she has contradicted herself on far too many instances. [8]

Going by what Ramadan’s lawyer has mentioned in the account above, almost demonstrates a wider agenda against the Muslim theologian. Recently, renowned scholars and academics including Noam Chomsky, Former Archbishop of Canterbury and Rowen Williams, Peter Oborne, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, and the Vice Chairman of the Advisory Board of the United Nations Human Rights Council signed a document calling for French authorities to grant Tariq Ramadan his most basic human and civil rights. The international appeal fundamentally demands Ramadan’s right to the presumption of innocence, a fair judicial procedure and fair treatment by the French justice system. [9]

It is not up to us to declare or judge whether Tariq Ramadan is guilty or not, however it is up to us to call for a free and fair trial. As believers, and as individuals with a conscience we cannot allow another fellow human being to be tortured by a system that is openly discriminating against him purely for the faith he believes in. Tariq Ramadan must be granted his basic rights and should be given the opportunity to defend himself, especially in accordance to the European Laws, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) that France adheres to.

Stay updated with the campaign here, and sign the international petition calling for a fair trial.


[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PruffAs3VTI

[2] https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170410-brother-of-tariq-ramadan-forced-to-leave-france/

[3] http://www.france24.com/fr/20160523-valls-tariq-ramadan-francais-nationalite-empecher-islam

[4] https://www.francetvinfo.fr/faits-divers/attaque-au-siege-de-charlie-hebdo/video-francois-molins-l-experience-des-attentats-de-janvier-nous-a-servis_2009591.html

[5] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-43093032

[6] https://www.nouvelobs.com/societe/20180217.OBS2358/en-detention-provisoire-pour-viols-tariq-ramadan-a-ete-hospitalise.html#xtor=EPR-1-%5BObsActu8h%5D-20180218

[7] https://www.facebook.com/FreeTariqRamadanCampaign/videos/1959550760740036/

[8] https://lemuslimpost.com/en/emmanuel-marsigny-tariq-ramadans-henda-ayari.html

[9] https://www.facebook.com/FreeTariqRamadanCampaign/posts/-for-immediate-releasenoam-chomsky-aminata-traor%C3%A9-and-former-archbishop-of-cante/2163921393636304/

 

Human Rights Activist and Law Student

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