Whilst Tariq Ramadan has been released, his imprisonment raises fears for European Muslims
Categories: Latest News
Friday November 16 2018
Tariq Ramadan, the Oxford professor facing charges of rape in France, has been granted conditional release after ten months of imprisonment. Following an “impassioned argument for his release”, the Swiss scholar – who was forced to take leave from his position as professor of contemporary Islamic studies following the allegations last year – had his bail set at 300,000€ and was required to give up his passport and report to police every week. Significant concerns still surround his imprisonment and treatment at the hands of the French media and judiciary, however, and have startling implications for Muslim communities throughout Europe.
Concerns surrounding Ramadan’s treatment by the French state and the impact this has had on his health have been raised since he was initially charged. He has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and has been placed under isolation during stages of his imprisonment. This has been coupled with a startling lack of due process with regards to the case, which has included solitary confinement for the first 45 days of imprisonment, no access to his own court records, no right of a presumption of innocence, a lack of adequate medical care and a refusal by judges to question the credibility of plaintiffs and witnesses.
Ramadan has also had to endure trial by media, with skewed media coverage and the French press engaging in smearing tactics which paint him as an “Islamist”, “preacher”, “Tartuffe” and “potential rapist”. Ramadan has had fake news, misinformation and rumour spread about his academic credentials, his personal life and his character. This is not a recent development – although it has intensified since his trial – and he has been demonised in French media for many years, with the scholar complaining in 2015 that him and other Muslims are forced to “constantly justify themselves, [seen as] suspect and suspicious, their freedom of expression limited by the metaphorical gun held to their heads”. This hyper-patriotism and Islamophobia by the French media has lead to the normalisation of xenophobic and racist speech, ultimately fueling the Extreme Right in France.
As well as highlighting the hostility of the French media towards Muslims and the way in which the national press can become a powerful propaganda tool, the trial of Tariq Ramadan should give Muslim and minority communities in France and Western Europe cause for concern. If a well renowned and highly respected international scholar can be subjected to the judiciary malpractice, state violence and the public mockery akin to a contemporary Skimmington Ride, it casts a threatening shadow over Muslims in Western Europe who don’t have the same access to such personal networks and professional influence.
With Muslims in Western Europe already facing significant limitations in accessing mainstream societal opportunities, the Ramadan Affair starkly exposes the unequal way in which minority communities are afforded protections. A man who should be presumed innocent has been locked up without due process, without taking into account the impact that it has had on his career, his health, his family his community and on broader European society. It is an event that has rightly been likened to the notorious Dreyfus Affair, which showcased the virulent anti-Semitism in early 20th Century France. Whilst Tariq Ramadan is no longer in prison, he is far from free in a European state that has been so quick to dispense with his civil rights.