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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By 2004 Ramadan was de facto spokesman of the French Muslim community, spending most of his time in Lyon, France's second-largest city, instructing the young Muslim population. His charisma and gift for public speaking made him a hit in the French suburbs, where high-rise public housing projects have become Islamic ghettos. Ramadan cultivated a "moderate" reputation by taking part in interfaith seminars and sitting on a commission on "Islam and Secularism." Indeed, some view him as a brilliant intellectual preaching a modern and tolerant Islam. The European Union has made him an adviser on religious issues.

But not all who know him are buying. One of Ramadan's interfaith partners, Fr. Christian Delorme, had this to say in 2001:

I am today convinced--and it took me time to understand it--that Tariq Ramadan's thinking and actions are dangerous. I believe he is not at all a man of dialogue. He knows how to charm his audience, but in reality, he wants a total separation between Muslims and other communities. I am convinced that Tariq Ramadan deeply hates the West.

For all his interfaith zeal, an examination of Ramadan's work fails to turn up any positive discussion of Christianity or Judaism. He calls Arabs "my brothers and sisters" while addressing all others as "madam," "sir," or without any honorific. When Ramadan faced off with Nicolas Sarkozy, the French interior minister and presidential hopeful, in 2004 on French TV, he repeatedly called the minister "Sarkozy" instead of the usual "Mr. Sarkozy" or, as the French say, monsieur le ministre. During this debate, Sarkozy pressed Ramadan to condemn the stoning of adulterers, a form of capital punishment endorsed by his brother, Hani Ramadan, head of the Islamic Center in Geneva. Tariq declined to go beyond his previous call for a moratorium on corporal punishment and the death penalty while Islamic scholars study the matter.

More to the point, Ramadan has multiple links to terrorism. In 1995, in the midst of terrorist attacks in Paris orchestrated by the Algerian Islamist group GIA, Jean-Louis Debré, French interior minister, denied Ramadan entry to France because of his links to the group. According to Roland Jacquard, who runs a terrorism watchdog website, Ramadan is not directly involved in terrorist activities, but many of his supporters are. For example, Ramadan greatly influenced Djamel Beghal, a French citizen arrested for plotting to bomb the U.S. embassy in Paris and sentenced to 10 years in jail in March 2005. Sylvain Besson of the Swiss daily Le Temps quotes court papers showing that Beghal "was a speechwriter for Tariq Ramadan." Ramadan denies ever meeting Beghal, although Beghal was living in Leicester in 1998 while Ramadan was studying there.

And Ramadan often speaks equivocally. Commenting on the September 11 attacks ten days after they occurred, he explained that one couldn't say for sure that bin Laden was behind them. He then asked, "Who profits from the crime?" noting that no Arab or Muslim cause was the better for it. This is an argument used by Islamist conspiratorialists who accuse Israel of perpetrating 9/11. In an interview with the French newsmagazine Le Point, Ramadan used the neutral term "interventions" when speaking of the major terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, and Madrid. And when asked recently by an Italian magazine whether car bombings against U.S. forces in Iraq were justified, he was quoted as saying: "Iraq was colonized by the Americans. Resistance against the army is just."

Ramadan's views about Israel are unsurprising: He strongly favors the elimination of the Jewish state. As one French DST (equivalent to the FBI) agent told the magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, Ramadan's long-term goal is to bring about the legal extinction of the state of Israel through a major Muslim lobbying campaign, first in Europe, then in the United States.

For her 2004 book Brother Tariq, Caroline Fourest, a French expert on Islamic fundamentalism, studied Ramadan's 15 books, 1,500 pages of interviews, and--most important--his 100 or so tapes, which sell tens of thousands of copies each year. Her conclusion: "Ramadan is a war leader." When an interviewer from the weekly L'Express asked Fourest how she could be so sure that Ramadan was indeed the "political heir of his grandfather," Hassan al-Banna, here's how she replied: