The Magazine

The State Dept. Was Right

To deny Tariq Ramadan a visa.

Oct 16, 2006, Vol. 12, No. 05 • By OLIVIER GUITTA
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ON SEPTEMBER 20, the State Department denied a visa to Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan on the grounds that he had contributed around 600 euros to a French charity classified as a terrorist organization since 2003 because of its relationship with the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. This latest exclusion follows on the revocation of Ramadan's visa to live and work in the United States while teaching at Notre Dame in 2004, a step taken at the express request of the Department of Homeland Security. While the American Civil Liberties Union and the leftist literary group PEN, among others, present Ramadan as a moderate and accuse U.S. authorities of intolerance, the background and views of Tariq Ramadan suggest the government's move was entirely justified.

For starters, Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, the highly influential Islamist organization born in Egypt in 1928. It was the Brotherhood that invented the now-familiar Islamist modus operandi of covert organization, assassination, and extremist theology. Its goal was to overthrow the Egyptian regime, install a fundamentalist Muslim government, and impose sharia (Islamic law) as the new constitution. Tariq's father, Said Ramadan, was a major figure in this organization, expelled from Egypt by Gamal Abdul Nasser for Islamist activity.

Said Ramadan took refuge first in Saudi Arabia, where he was a founder of the World Islamic League, one of the largest Saudi charities and global missionary groups. He then moved to Geneva, where in 1961 he created the Islamic Center, a combination mosque, think tank, and community center. The philosophy of the Muslim Brotherhood influenced a generation of wealthy Muslim kids, including Osama bin Laden. Interestingly, Said Ramadan also had U.S. connections: He had a close relationship with Malcolm X and was personal mentor to Dawud Salahuddin, a black convert to Islam who murdered an Iranian dissident, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, in Bethesda, Maryland, in 1980. After fleeing the United States, Salahuddin spent a few days in Geneva visiting Said Ramadan before taking refuge in Iran. Profiled in the New Yorker in 2002, Salahuddin confirmed that Ramadan remained his adviser and spiritual guide until Ramadan's death in 1995.

Said Ramadan was one of the most important Islamist thinkers of the 20th century. He is probably the author of "The Project," a 14-page document dated 1982 found by the Swiss secret service in 2001. "The Project" is a roadmap for installing Islamic regimes in the West by propaganda, preaching, and if necessary war. (It can be read here.)

Tariq Ramadan was born in 1962 in Switzerland. After toying with a career as a professional soccer player, he settled into the family business as an Islamic scholar. He became a teacher of philosophy and theology in Swiss universities. Most European secret service agencies are convinced that, at the end of the 1980s, the Muslim Brotherhood chose Tariq Rama dan to be their European representative. In 1991, he went to Cairo to study with Islamist professors. Upon his return to Switzerland, he founded the Movement of Swiss Muslims. His objective was to reach Muslim youth by Islamizing modernity rather than modernizing Islam.

Charming and smooth, Ramadan holds out Islam as the solution to all the problems of Muslim youth--in keeping with the slogan of the Muslim Brotherhood, "Islam is the solution." The first indication of his fundamentalism came in 1993, when he lobbied to outlaw a play called Mahomet, being produced in Geneva, which represented the prophet in a light that did not fit with Ramadan's views. In 1995, Alaa el-Din Nazmi, an Egyptian Secret Service agent assigned to watch the Ramadan family, was murdered in Geneva. No one has been arrested for the crime.

Ramadan is also a pragmatist. When he realized that his Swiss venture was leading nowhere, he turned to France. There he won the support of one of the main Muslim organizations linked to the Brotherhood, the UOIF (Union des Organisations Islamiques de France), along with the main Muslim youth organization, the UJM (Union des Jeunes Musulmans). His notion of Islam as the solution was favorably received by many French Muslim youths and partly explains the radicalization of this community. But his popularity really took off when he threw in his lot with the antiglobalization crowd. Rama dan is an opportunist, and saw the appeal of this growing movement. Thanks to this alliance, he quickly became a media star in France.