Tariq Ramadan is a Swiss-born philosophy professor currently based in France. In February 2002 Salon.com called him “one of the most important intellectuals in the world,” characterizing him as “the Muslim Martin Luther.” In 2004 Time magazine named him one of the world’s top 100 scientists and thinkers.
When speaking to Western audiences, Ramadan preaches an amicable message of unity and mutual respect. But to Arabic-speaking audiences, he vents his deep-seated hatred of the West and his endorsement of Wahhabism, the most extreme form of Islam. Moreover, Ramadan has numerous connections to fundamentalist Islamic militants and is suspected by U.S. intelligence agencies of maintaining ties with the terrorist group al Qaeda.
Ramadan’s maternal grandfather was Hasan al-Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood. Ramadan’s father, Said Ramadan, led the Brotherhood throughout the 1950s and then was exiled from Egypt to Switzerland, where Tariq was born in September 1962.
Tariq Ramadan grew up in Geneva, Switzerland. He was schooled in philosophy and French literature at the University of Geneva, and in Arabic and Islam at Al Azhar Islamic University in Cairo. He eventually found work as a professor in the fields of philosophy and religion. By the end of the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood was courting Ramadan to be its European representative.
Upon his return to Switzerland in the early 1990s, Ramadan established the Movement of Swiss Muslims — an outreach organization that exhorted Muslim youth to Islamize modernity rather than modernize Islam. He taught at the University of Fribourg and the College de Saussure, and became the Islam-and-secularism correspondent at the French daily newspaper, Le Monde.
In February 2004 Ramadan was offered a tenured position as Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peace Building at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
Five months later, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) revoked Ramadan’s work visa, thereby preventing him from remaining in the United States. DHS spokesman Russ Knocke explained that the visa revocation was in accordance with a law which denies entry to foreigners who have used a “position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.” Among the items that led to this DHS decision were the following:
According to terrorism expert Jean Charles Brisard, Ramadan took part in a 2004 London conference with Yusuf al Qaradawi, who has justified suicide bombings, the killing of American soldiers in Iraq, and the 9/11 attacks.
Caroline Fourest, a French specialist on Islamic fundamentalism who has meticulously studied all of Ramadan’s writings and speeches, states, in the 2008 book Brother Tariq: the Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan, that Ramadan, like his grandfather (Hasan al-Banna), promotes rigid fundamentalism and can accurately be classified as “a war leader.”
“Even though Ramadan cannot be charged with terrorism, it is clear that his speeches and tapes broadcasted in a lot of European mosques constitute an incitement to terrorism against the West. He supplies moral support for terrorism, and therefore should be viewed as a very dangerous man, because of the numerous terrorists his views foster…. There is a danger in bringing Ramadan into our Muslim communities, because, with his smooth double language, he might succeed in radicalizing the Muslim community, while charming our naïve Left, as he did so successfully in France.”
In 2006 Ramadan appealed the DHS decision to ban him from the United States. The State Department denied his appeal, this time on the grounds that he had given money to a French pseudo-charity with ties to the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas.
Following his initial expulsion from the U.S., Ramadan quickly found work as a professor and lecturer at a number of schools throughout Europe. In October 2005 he began teaching at St. Antony’s College at the University of Oxford on a Visiting Fellowship, and he was a senior research fellow at the Lokahi Foundation in London. In November 2007, he was appointed to the Sultan of Oman chair of Islamology at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands, and he is also a guest professor of Identity and Citizenship at Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
Vis a vis Israel, Ramadan candidly favors the complete eradication of the Jewish state. According to one French investigative agent, Ramadan’s ambition is “to bring about the legal extinction of the state of Israel through a major Muslim lobbying campaign, first in Europe, then in the United States.”
In February 2008 Ramadan led a boycott of the annual Turin [Italy] Book Fair — to punish its organizers for having designated Israel (which was celebrating the 60th anniversary of its creation) as the event’s “guest of honor.” According to Ramadan, it is “neither normal nor decent to commemorate Israel when Israeli state and government policies in the devastated occupied territories are clear for all to see.” In protest of the book fair, Ramadan helped organize a counter-event of Muslim writers, intellectuals, and activists at the University of Turin, titled “Western Democracies and Ethnic Cleansing in Palestine.”
In Ramadan’s view, women should be forbidden to play in sports where their uncovered limbs would be seen by men. When asked whether he would condemn his own brother’s statement that stoning a woman for adultery was an acceptable punishment as prescribed by Islamic law, Ramadan said only that he would ask for a moratorium on stoning.
Ramadan has written more than 700 articles and some twenty books, including: To Be a European Muslim (2003); Western Muslims and the Future of Islam (2005); In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad (2007); and Radical Reform: Islamic Ethics and Liberation (2008). In addition, he has recorded at least 170 lectures, many of which have become popular among Muslim youths in Europe and elsewhere. His speeches attract many young Muslims from France’s poorer neighborhoods, and audiotapes of those talks sell by the thousands.
Ramadan serves as an adviser on religious issues for the European Union. He is also a host/presenter for Press TV, the English-language channel run by the Iranian government; another noteworthy host/presenter is George Galloway.
In January 2010, the U.S. State Department announced that as a result of an order signed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, it would no longer bar Ramadan from entering the United States. According to The New York Times, this move paved the way for Ramadan “to apply for a new visa free of the authorities’ former accusation that he had contributed money to a charity connected to terrorism.”
On April 8, 2010, Ramadan made his first public appearance in the U.S. since 2004. The venue was Cooper Union in New York City, where Ramadan participated in a panel discussion titled “Secularism, Islam and Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West.” The event was presented by the American Association of University Professors, the American Civil Liberties Union, and PEN American Center and Slate.
In October 2017, the feminist activist (and former Salafist) Henda Ayari revealed that Ramadan had raped and assaulted her in a hotel room several years earlier — an incident to which she had referred in her 2016 book, I Chose to Be Free. But in the book, Ayari had referred to her assailant by the pseudonym “Zubair,” for fear that she would face retribution if she were to reveal the man’s real name. “I confirm today, that the famous Zubair is Tariq Ramadan,” Ayari wrote on Facebook on October 20, 2017, noting that she was now inspired to expose Ramadan because of the recent news stories about rampant sexual abuse in Hollywood, most notably by film producer Harvey Weinstein. “I have been silent for several years because of fear,” Ayari wrote in a subsequent update, because “he [Ramadan] 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.” Upon filing a complaint against Ramadan in the French city of Rouen, she wrote: “Justice will now do its job.”