TCS Daily


Inviting Trouble

By Olivier Guitta - October 18, 2005 12:00 AM

Tariq Ramadan, the Swiss Islamist denied entry to the US last summer and to France in 1995, has been offered the red carpet treatment by our British cousins. Indeed, not only did he get a fellowship at Oxford University but was also picked by Tony Blair's government to be a member of its committee on tackling extremism. And all this after the July 7 bombings.

Obviously, even if Blair affirmed that "the rules of the game have changed" after the attacks on London, they clearly have not when it comes to extremist preachers. And that, quite clearly, is what Tariq Ramadan is. He is the grandson of Hassan Al Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928. Said Ramadan, Tariq's father, was one of the group's leaders in the 1950s before he was expelled from Egypt by Nasser. Most European intelligence agencies are convinced that, at the end of the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood picked Tariq Ramadan to be its European representative. In France, during most of the 1990s, Ramadan preached to young Arabs the solution to their everyday problems: Islamic fundamentalism. Coincidentally the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood is: "Islam is the solution." Ramadan's concept worked very well and explains partly the radicalization of the young French Muslim community.

Regarding his views on terrorism, Ramadan wants us to believe that he forcefully called on Muslims to condemn the September 11 attacks. But consider that in an interview on September 22, 2001, Ramadan explained with his usual gifted vagueness that he couldn't say for sure that Bin Laden was behind the attacks. He then asked the question: "who profits from the crime?" and answered that no Arab or Muslim cause would be better off. This is exactly the argument of Islamists who accused Israel and the Jews of masterminding the September 11 atrocities. In a 2004 interview with French newsmagazine Le Point, Ramadan evoked what he called the "interventions of New York, Bali or Madrid." So, September 11 was not a terrorist attack, it was rather just an "intervention." Of course, nowhere in this interview did Ramadan condemn terrorism. Also when recently asked by an Italian magazine if car bombings against US forces in Iraq were justified, he was quoted as saying: "Iraq was colonized by the Americans. Resistance against the army is just."

Ramadan's links to terrorism are many: In 1995, in the midst of a series of terrorist attacks in Paris orchestrated by the GIA -- the Algerian Islamist terrorist movement -- Jean Louis Debre, then French interior minister, forbade Ramadan from coming to France because of his links to the Algerian terrorist group. According to Roland Jacquard, president of the International Observatory of Terrorism, Ramadan is not directly involved in terrorist activities but most of his supporters are. His links to shady individuals or networks are numerous.

Some troubling allegations can be found in a lawsuit filed by the victims of the September 11 attacks: Ramadan greatly influenced Djamel Beghal, a French citizen arrested for plotting to bomb the US Embassy in Paris. According to Sylvain Besson from the Swiss daily Le Temps, the court papers show that Djamel Beghal "was in charge of preparing Tariq Ramadan's speeches." Ramadan has always answered that he never met Beghal and refused to comment after Besson left numerous messages at his home. Also, Beghal was living in Leicester in 1998, while (surprise!) Ramadan was studying at the Islamic university of Leicester. Lastly, regarding Ramadan's terrorist links, Daniel Pipes, the renowned Middle East expert, reported that he met a senior Department of Homeland Security official a few weeks ago who looked him hard in the eyes and assured him, "The evidence we have is damning."

Prominent moderate Muslims also accuse Ramadan of double talk. For instance, the head of the French Muslim Council, Dalil Boubakeur, declared: "when one invites Tariq Ramadan, it is not to listen to what Allah and the angels said; Ramadan is the vehicle of fundamentalist Islam." Also the head of the largest French anti-racism association, SOS Racisme, Malek Boutih, incidentally an Arab Muslim, told Ramadan after meeting him at length: "Mr Ramadan, you are a fascist."

One example of his contempt for the West can be found in a performance on a 2004 Swiss TV talk show. When asked by a Swiss politician of Algerian origin about the condition of woman regarding slavery, excision, polygamy, and stoning, Ramadan lost it. First, he answered that he should not have to justify his positions; he is not sitting at his trial. Then when cornered by this legislator about the obligation imposed on Muslim women and girls to wear the hijab, Ramadan fired back in a despicable tone: "you and your Western arrogance." So much for a moderate who supposedly wants to build bridges between the West and Islam.

If Blair is looking for someone who is going to elaborate plans for British Muslims to integrate, he is in for a surprise. As Ramadan declared in one of his tapes, "I accept the laws as long as they do not force me to do something against my religion. If to be a good Frenchman, one has to be a bad Muslim, I say no."

In the mid 1990's, Hassan al Turabi, the Sudanese Islamist who invited and hosted Osama Bin Laden, declared: "Tariq Ramadan is the future of Islam." This is not an endorsement to be proud of. It looks like our British friends did not do their homework before inviting Ramadan to the tea party. As a European diplomat declared to Radio France Internationale: "It's like putting a diabetic in the middle of a pastry shop."

Olivier Guitta is a freelance writer specializing in the Middle East and Europe.

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