The prominent Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan has been charged with rape and ordered to remain in custody in France.
Professor Ramadan, 55, is being held on charges of rape and rape of a vulnerable person after two women accused him of violently assaulting them in hotel rooms in Lyon and Paris in 2009 and 2012 after conferences.
Ramadan, a Swiss citizen whose grandfather Hassan al-Banna founded Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, was taken into custody on Wednesday as part of a preliminary inquiry in Paris.
The professor – who made his name as an author and commentator on Islam, as well as advising successive British governments on Islam and society – has denied the accusations. He says they are part of an Islamophobic witchhunt against him which has been ongoing in France for decades.
Meanwhile, more than 24,000 people have signed a letter to express their full support for Tariq Ramadan, who has a huge following among Muslims in the francophone and anglophone world especially.
The letter says: “Over and above the presumption of innocence to which Tariq Ramadan, like everyone else, is entitled, we support him because such a stance is dictated by our religious and/or ethical principles. It is unthinkable that we withdraw our esteem and our confidence following accusations that are highly questionable at best…
“We express our support for Professor Ramadan because we, like most people, have seen that the accusations leveled against him are now being treated by a section of the French political and media establishment as guilty verdicts.
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“The same accusations are part of an ongoing campaign that has attempted to demonise him ever since the beginning of his involvement as an intellectual and an activist in the early 1990s.
“Professor Ramadan and his ideas have never left people indifferent. But instead of confronting him in open debate, his ideological and political opponents have unfailingly used the most underhanded methods to discredit him as a Muslim intellectual and to discredit his thought.”