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#MeToo: W&L Equality and Difference Speaker Facing Rape Allegations

#MeToo: W&L Equality and Difference Speaker Facing Rape Allegations

Saimon Islam ('19)-

Twenty-two days after Tariq Ramadan stood at the podium in a place that stands for honor and integrity and delivered a speech about equality, the first allegation of rape against him surfaced. And now, with three allegations of rape, an allegation of statutory rape, and three more statements ranging from abuse of power to sexual misconduct, he was detained for questioning last week by the French police in Paris. Local news confirmed that he was summoned and taken in into custody as part of a preliminary inquiry into two of the charges of assault and rape.

The interaction between Tariq Ramadan and Washington and Lee community started on September 28, 2017, when Dr. Ramadan came to W&L’s campus and delivered a speech titled, “Equality as a Social Requirement and a Human Ideal”. He was invited as the keynote speaker of Mudd Center for Ethics’ 2017-18 series titled “Equality and Difference”. He was co-sponsored by the Center for International Education. His speech can be seen here.

On October 20, 2017, Tunisian activist Henda Ayari filed a charge against Dr. Ramadan for “acts of rape, sexual assault, violence, harassment, and intimidation.” The incident in question took place between March 31 and April 8 of 2012, in Paris. Following the #MeToo campaign, she came forward on social media. In 2016, she described the incident in her book “I Chose to be Free” without naming any individuals.

Only a week later, on October 27, a second victim came forward and filed charges against Ramadan with a detailed and damning testimony. The alleged event took place in 2009. While she remains anonymous, the police report mentioned that she is disabled.

We asked the Mudd Center if they would like to make a comment on the events. Professor Smith from the Center said “We at the Mudd Center were shocked and horrified by these allegations, which first emerged several weeks after Dr. Ramadan’s visit to W&L.  Needless to say, we had no idea of these accusations at the time he was invited to speak here.  Dr. Ramadan was invited to speak as a part of the Mudd Center’s series on ‘Equality and Difference’ because of his extensive and influential scholarly writings on the role of Muslims in Western societies.  He is an internationally recognized scholar who gave lectures at Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, and the Carter Center in 2017 prior to his visit here.  It is beyond distressing that he, like so many other prominent public intellectuals, news personalities, artists, and entertainers over the last few months, has been accused of such egregious misconduct.”

Dr. Ramadan has been a controversial figure over the last two decades. Allegations of harassment against him started surfacing back in 2013. As a self-proclaimed Salafi reformist, he has long preached the virtues of female “modesty” in clothing and sexuality, directly contradicting Mudd Center’s theme of 2015-16. He avoided supporting a ban on stoning women for adultery in a public debate against former French president Nicolas Sarkozy. He opted for the more conciliatory method, a moratorium. His grandfather was the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization steeped in the traditions of Sharia law; his father worked as a leader in the same organization. Because of these very reasons, France denied him entry for a year in 1995, and US government denied him entrance in two occasions, in 2004 and 2006. While the Mudd Center couldn’t have known about the recent events when they invited the speaker, Ramadan’s previous sympathy towards extreme groups and his family background should have caused concern. In the future, we hope that the Mudd Center is more careful in its invitations.

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