Tariq Ramadan, a distinguished Islamic studies scholar, has been absolved of rape and sexual coercion charges by a Swiss court. A Swiss citizen and grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Ramadan was implicated in a case initiated by a Swiss woman who accused him of rape in a Geneva hotel in 2008.
The accuser, who converted to Islam and admired Ramadan, alleged a severe sexual assault, accompanied by physical abuse and verbal insults, occurred after Ramadan invited her for a coffee post-conference. At the age of 60, Ramadan, had he been convicted, would have faced a maximum of three years in prison. He refuted all allegations, acknowledging meeting the woman but denying any wrongdoing.
The trial presented a stark contrast to Ramadan’s career, which saw him lauded as a leading figure in Islamic thought. Amidst Europe grappling with terrorist threats and growing anti-Muslim sentiments, Ramadan emerged as a voice of rationality, denouncing terrorism, opposing capital punishment, and criticizing the democratic deficits in Tunisia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Syria. This resulted in him being barred from these countries.
In 2004, Time magazine recognized him as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. By 2007, he had assumed a professorship in Islamic studies at St Anthony’s College Oxford. Despite his achievements, Ramadan faced criticism, notably from French academics accusing him of anti-Semitism.
However, in 2017, his soaring trajectory was halted when a French woman accused him of rape. Following these allegations, more women stepped forward with similar charges. By 2020, Ramadan was confronted with five rape allegations – four in France and one in Switzerland – and he had spent nine months in French detention before being released on probation. He has consistently refuted all charges.
The Swiss case was the first to reach trial, creating a tense atmosphere in the Geneva courtroom. His accuser, using the pseudonym Brigitte for anonymity, requested a screen to shield her from having to see the man she accused of rape. She provided a detailed account of the alleged attack and expressed fear for her life.
Ramadan admitted to inviting her to his hotel room but vehemently denied any violence. He maintained the allegations were politically motivated attempts to tarnish his reputation. His defense team in France and Switzerland echoed this sentiment, highlighting inconsistencies in the accusers’ accounts regarding the dates of the alleged assaults.
Ramadan’s family supported his defense, with his son Sami suggesting that his father’s prominent role in the discourse about Islam in France was a potential political motive for the charges. This perspective was endorsed by prominent figures such as American philosopher Noam Chomsky and British filmmaker Ken Loach, who publicly questioned the fairness of Ramadan’s legal process.
In the Geneva court, the prosecution argued that Brigitte’s detailed account was too elaborate to be fabricated. However, Ramadan’s defense team maintained his innocence, dismissing the charges as “unfounded”. Ramadan himself pleaded with the court not to judge him based on his “real or perceived ideology”.
After a week of deliberation, Ramadan was pronounced not guilty by the Swiss judges. Although acquitted in Switzerland, he still faces potential trials elsewhere, as French prosecutors evaluate whether charges against him warrant a court trial. Ramadan persists in asserting his innocence across all cases and pledges to vindicate his name.
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