[Editor's preface, Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi]: In light of the recent scandal surrounding Tariq Ramadan's Zeus-like escapades, I have decided to publish an account from a very close friend regarding her experiences with this man. I have briefly alluded to this friend's experiences in some social media posts. I first met her in 2015 when she told me of this story, long before any rumours of his lecherous behaviour garnered real public attention. Whereas the accounts that have come out so far regarding Tariq Ramadan's excessive libido have originated in French-language media, this post is the first original testimony in English.
I would like to stress that this post is not about Tariq Ramadan's politics and the controversies surrounding them, such as the allegation that he is secretly advancing the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood. Even if he had all the 'right' opinions, it would not justify his behaviour towards women. For my own part, I consider him to be vapid and incoherent, and I question why my alma mater- Oxford University- employed him in the first place. What has been more disgraceful in any event is the sluggish response of the university to the various revelations.
I have no reason to doubt this story given how I well know this person. Should Tariq Ramadan accuse me of libel, let him sue me. Some graphic details surrounding the actual encounter have been omitted. I have helped in editing this piece.
In such an imperfect world, it's hard to find a sincere scholar who can guide you in difficult times.
I have decided to share my experience with one of the supposed Muslim scholars in the west. This so-called scholar is in my opinion just as dangerous for my religion as the Islamophobes and thugs of the Islamic State. He is none other than Tariq Ramadan.
I have no reason to lie about this story. I have no interest in fame, applause or praise. I have no desire for my name to be associated with the likes of Henda Ayari. I am skeptical of all the 'ex-radical Muslims'. I simply don't trust them. And I don't see them doing any good for our religion.
Rather than pursue the media spotlight, my main intention is to warn the Muslim community in general about those from whom they may seek knowledge. We must also look out for our youth in particular, many of whom have come to regard Tariq Ramadan as a figure of spiritual guidance as they grow up.
I cannot profess to be a perfect Muslim, or even make a claim to be a devout Muslim, but I am proud of my faith and I love Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). I believe that through his teachings I became who I am. He taught me to be proud of being a woman and how valuable I am, to the point that a whole chapter in the Qur'an is named after us (al-Nisa': Women).
Being an American Muslim in the United States, I witnessed the rise of Islamophobia in the West. I found myself in the front row talking about my religion as I was working as a civilian contractor/cultural instructor with DoD, teaching military personnel about Islam and Middle Eastern culture as part of their pre-department training.
In these circumstances, I became desperate to find a voice to reflect what I consider to be the true teachings of Islam. It was a heavy burden as I did not wish to harm my religion by misrepresenting it. I did not feel I was equipped with the knowledge or proper background in Islamic studies to convey the truth to my students, but at the same time I had a lot sympathy for them as I know they were just trying to understand Islam.
What I needed was a learned Islamic scholar to aid me. At that time one of the most prominent supposed voices of Islam in the West was that of Tariq Ramadan. Like many others, I was initially taken in with admiration for him. One of his outward qualities was that he seemed to be very engaged with Muslim youth and he seemed to be advocating for a reformation of the religion without doing away with the essence of its teachings. Besides, I was searching for answers to some dilemmas I was facing in my personal life. Could I marry a Jewish or Christian man? At heart, I did not feel the reasons for the traditional prohibition applied in this century.
I was intrigued by the fame his name attracted, and I always liked interacting with those I perceived to be intelligent and intellectual people, in the hope that I might learn from them and befriend them. Accordingly, I decided to reach out to Tariq Ramadan on Facebook messenger in March 2012 and we became friends on Facebook, exchanging messages, until one day he approached me for a Skype video call. I was hesitant, as I am generally not a fan of video communication, but he insisted, urging me to trust him and telling me that it was not secure to communicate on Facebook. He sent me a Skype invitation, which I still have till now, but just as I expected, the connection was bad and we had a lot of technical issues. We did however manage to confirm our identities to each other, so in that way it was a successful communication.
During that Skype communication, I began to sense that he might have an interest in me that was more than just the interest of a scholar communicating with a fan seeking to learn from him. Rather, I got the sense that romance was on his mind.
I remember having mixed feelings after chatting with him on Skype. I felt flattered that he should find me attractive, but was also surprised and shocked, that a scholar like Tariq Ramadan should behave in this manner. My mind was flooded with a deluge of confusion and guilt. What of his wife? Was he dissatisfied with his marriage? Was he seeking a divorce? I did not deem it appropriate to ask him about these matters.
How was I to respond to his signals? He seemed to be making a move so quickly that he had me feeling uncomfortable. Following that event, we didn't communicate for a while as I focused on advancing my career and pursuing the American Dream.
And thus that man remained somewhat of a mystery to me, till one day in July 2013. I approached him asking if he was speaking at any event in DC area in the near future. He replied promptly, noting he would be at an event at the end of August 2013. As he was not a fan of text communication, claiming it was not secure, we did not speak until that time. Then on August 29, I asked him if he was around in DC area, and he told me he was there. At last, I thought, the time had come to unravel this enigma. I suggested meeting for lunch, but he declined on the grounds he was busy and could not give a straight answer about the location, and so the logistics initially did not work out.
But then, overnight on August 31, he suddenly inquired again about meeting. He asked why I wished to meet him. I made clear that the basis of the meeting should be intellectual: I wished to learn from him and I still had some issues in my mind related to dating non-Muslims. Yet I also wanted a clear answer as to whether he was romantically interested in me, and what precisely his marital status was. If he was married, why he would cheat on his wife? Surely he must have known that such overtures were wrong? Why would this intellectual icon act like this? Certain remarks he made, such as describing my admiration for his intellect as "very romantic," only elevated my concerns.
The priority was to set a time and place for the meeting. I already made clear to him I had a date with a Christian physician. He was curious to know whether this person was my boyfriend, and again offered hints as to his own romantic interests in me.
"You told me you were attracted," he ventured. I reminded him that I admired his character, yes, and that for such a personality, he would be the dream of a lot of ladies. Evidently disappointed, he asked: "Only?" I ignored it, and suggested meeting right away, maybe in the lobby of the hotel where he was staying or the park. Options were limited as it was already 1:40 a.m. However, he insisted I come directly to his hotel room, whereas I preferred meeting in the lobby first.
As I was on my way, he again urged me to come to his room directly, not wishing to be seen in public. I began to think it would be better to take a step back and meet him tomorrow for lunch, and told him finding a parking space was difficult. "Disappointed, so much, I waited 2 hours," he wrote to me, in clear frustration and likely seeing through the excuse. I then decided that I had little choice but to go directly and knock on his door, and that his wish for some privacy as a public figure made sense to me. Initially receiving no answer, I headed back to my car, only to receive a message from him asking where I was. I then went back to the room and knocked on the door again.
He opened the door. We stared at each other for 2 seconds: I could immediately sense the excitement in his eyes. He offered to shake my hand. The lighting was very dim, save for the television put on mute and a table lamp. He remarked that I was much better looking in person than in the photos. I asked whether he often met people through social media and then in person, but he assured me I was the only one, as he supposedly trusted me.
I could tell from his looks there he was sexually interested in me. He urged me to relax, and not be nervous. I tried to bring up general topics of conversation, but felt so nervous I don't even think I was remotely coherent. It's getting too late. I should go now. I got out of my chair as he was standing in the middle of the living room, with the door behind them. As I tried to leave, he took me by the wrist, trying to hug me and leaning in to kiss me. I immediately turned my face away and pushed back, telling him, 'No, I don't feel it'. Then he pulled me in even more strongly: Please, please, ارجوك ارجوك ['I implore you, I implore you']. Just a hug, just a hug, he urged. I raised my voice: No, I don't feel it! He then let go, and went to sit on the couch in the living room
"Why are you cheating on your wife?! You are one of those in the Qur'an: يقولون ما لا يفعلون ['they say what they do not do']." With a smirk, he shook his head, saying, "You don't know. You don't know." Gotta go now, I retorted. A huge wave of disappointment came over me as I left the room and walked through the halls. I felt pity for his wife, cheated on by him. She didn't deserve this. Then a greater sense of pity: for the Ummah, like an orphan at the hands of an abusive stepfather. How deceived I was! This is the Tariq Ramadan who was begging me for a hug! In the same hotel where he was lecturing the youth on how to be an exemplary Muslim during the day, he wanted to cheat on his wife with me at night!
As I follow the ongoing revelations of Tariq Ramadan's sexual misconduct, it saddens me to see how Tariq Ramadan and Islamophobes feed off each other so well. While the voice of the majority of Muslims is marginalized, it hurts my heart even more to watch Tariq Ramadan playing the Islamophobia card, using it to hide his deplorable behaviour!
I'll end this by advising the Muslim youth: Tariq Ramadan is not a sincere scholar. Do not look to this man as your role model, your guide to help you in matters of your faith as you grow up, the supposed reformer who brings together Islam and the West. Womanising and rape have nothing to do with Islamic morality. Tariq Ramadan does not embody the character of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). In all seriousness, I cannot decide who is more dangerous for my religion: the likes of Tariq Ramadan, the Islamophobes, or Islamic extremists.