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2 Frenchwomen Accuse Prominent Islamic Scholar of Sexual Assault

Tuesday 31 October 2017, by siawi3

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/29/world/europe/france-tariq-ramadan.html?emc=edit_tnt_20171029&nlid=19064258&tntemail0=y&_r=0

Europe:
2 Frenchwomen Accuse Prominent Islamic Scholar of Sexual Assault

By CARLOTTA GALL and ELIAN PELTIER

OCT. 29, 2017

Photo: Tariq Ramadan in New York in 2010. Two Frenchwoman have accused him of rape. Credit Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Amid a recent outpouring by Frenchwomen reporting episodes of sexual harassment and naming their aggressors, two women have accused a renowned Islamic scholar of violent sexual attacks.

The French activist and author Henda Ayari filed a police complaint 10 days ago accusing the Swiss-born Islamic scholar, Tariq Ramadan, of sexually assaulting her in 2012.

Then on Thursday, a second woman filed a complaint in Paris against Mr. Ramadan, accusing him of rape and assault in a hotel room in Lyon, France, in 2009.

Mr. Ramadan’s lawyer has issued a categorical denial about the first accusation and said that Mr. Ramadan would sue his accuser for defamation.

The explosive accounts came in the aftermath of accusations that the powerful Hollywood film producer Harvey Weinstein had engaged in decades of sexual harassment and assaults against women like the actress Rose McGowan.

A New York Times investigation revealed that Mr. Weinstein had paid off at least eight women over the years.

Many women, and some men, around the world have added their voices to a wave of complaints on social media, including under the hashtag #BalanceTonPorc, or ExposeYourPig, in France.

Among the figures accused by Frenchwomen in recent days are Pierre Joxe, a former top Socialist leader and minister under François Mitterrand. Mr. Joxe, accused of groping a woman sitting next to him at an opera in Paris in 2010, told the French radio station Europe 1 that the accusation was completely unfounded.

Soon after, a 29-year-old woman told Franceinfo radio that she had filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by Christophe Arend, a lawmaker in President Emmanuel Macron’s governing party.

Mr. Arend has denied the allegations.

Mr. Ramadan, 55, is a well-known Islamic scholar and the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in the 1920s. The group has become one of the most influential transnational Sunni Muslim movements in the world.

Mr. Ramadan teaches contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University and is the author of a dozen books in English on modern Islam and the Western world.

A familiar figure at conferences and in the news media, he is also a major presence on social media, with two million Facebook friends and more than 200,000 followers on Twitter.

Neither Mr. Ramadan nor his lawyer has responded to the accusations by the second woman. In a Periscope video posted on Twitter that he made several days ago after the first complaint, Mr. Ramadan said that he would not comment and that he would trust the courts to see that justice was done.

Asked about the latest allegations, his lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, said he had not been informed, Le Monde reported.

Ms. Ayari, 40, said she had been corresponding with Mr. Ramadan on Facebook and had often asked him for advice on religion, until one day he proposed a meeting at the hotel where she said she was attacked.

The author had written about the assault in her book “I Chose to Be Free,” an account published in 2016 of how she been drawn to Salafism, a radical Islamist ideology, and then fought to break away from it. But she did not name the attacker, she said, because he had threatened her and her children.

But she said she had been moved by other women who were speaking out and decided to name her aggressor, even though she expected a storm of criticism.

Ms. Ayari first named Mr. Ramadan on social media on Oct. 20, the same day she filed a complaint with the French police accusing him of rape, willful violence, sexual harassment and intimidation in a Paris hotel room in 2012.

“Many people are angry because I denounced someone whom people respect a lot,” she said in a telephone interview last week. “I, for example, never would have thought he would do that to me, never, never. I had a great admiration for him for years. For me, he was something like a saint.”

“And today I have decided to denounce him,” she added, “because there are religious men who profit from their position to abuse women.”

The second woman, whose name has not been published by the news media, gave an account of an extremely violent assault to two French newspapers, Le Monde and Le Parisien.

A 45-year-old Muslim convert, she said she had also corresponded with Mr. Ramadan on Facebook and met him in his hotel on the sidelines of a conference to discuss religion. When she went to his room, she said, she was raped and beaten.

She said she suffered months of threats afterward to keep her silent.

Ms. Ayari’s lawyers said they had yet to see any complaint of defamation filed by Mr. Ramadan.

One of her lawyers, Grégoire Leclerc, said Mr. Ramadan was using his numerous supporters to defend him.

“He prefers to give space on social media to his fans,” Mr. Leclerc said, “who are throwing a political-religious veil over this affair, to try to detract from the fundamental.”

Another of her lawyers, Jonas Haddad, said at a news briefing on Thursday that his client had already assisted at a hearing with the French criminal department and had submitted some proof. The case was transferred to Paris, where she said the attack took place.

Ms. Ayari has said that she expects Mr. Ramadan to be defended by his supporters.

“I am about to go through a big storm,” she wrote on Facebook, “but I don’t plan to shut up or backtrack anymore, in the name of all the female victims.”

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Correction: October 30, 2017
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of one of Henda Ayari’s lawyers. He is Grégoire Leclerc, not Leclercq or Leclerq.
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Eloise Stark contributed reporting.