Oxford University Islamic professor denies rape allegations by French feminist author

Steve Bird
Tariq Ramadan vehemently denies the allegations - AFP

A professor of Islamic studies at Oxford University who has advised the Government on countering extremism has been accused of rape by a French feminist author.

Professor Tariq Ramadan, 55, was said to have attacked Henda Ayari after inviting her to his hotel room following a conference on Islam in Paris in 2012.

The 40-year-old author, who spoke about the allegations on social media, claimed she had decided to “name and shame” Prof Ramadan as a “pervert guru” following the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

Ms Ayari confirmed to The Telegraph that she had filed allegations against Prof Ramadan for rape, sexual assault, violence, harassment and intimidation with the prosecutor’s office in Rouen.

Prof Ramadan, the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, was chosen by Tony Blair to work on a task force to help tackle extremism in the UK following the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005.

He has also worked with the Foreign Office’s Advisory Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, chaired by Tory Peer Baroness Warsi. He is Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University.

Author, Henda Ayari Credit: CLAUDE GASSIAN/FLAMMARION

Last night, the professor issued a statement through his lawyer, Yassin Bouzrou, saying he “categorically rejects all these false allegations” and will lodge a complaint for slander and defamation with the public prosecutor in Rouen.

A spokesman for Oxford University said: “We are aware of these reports and are taking them extremely seriously. We are not in a position to comment further at this time.”

Ms Ayari devoted a chapter to the alleged assault in a book she published last year, called “I Chose to be Free,” which describes how for 20 years she had been a Salafist - an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam - before finally breaking away from them.

In the book she gave her alleged rapist the pseudonym, Zoubeyr. Writing on her Facebook page on Friday night, she said: “Today I confirm that the famous Zoubeyr is indeed, Tariq Ramadan.  

“I have kept silent for several years for fear of reprisals."

In her book, Ms Ayari, who is of Tunisian origin, says she met Prof Ramadan at a congress of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France held in Paris in 2012.

Prof Ramadan, of whom she was at that time a great admirer, was said to have invited her to join him in his hotel. She said she was surprised that he asked her to meet him in his room rather than the lobby.

She claimed when she went to the room he put his arms around her and began kissing her. “When I fought back and shouted at him to stop, he insulted me and humiliated me,” she wrote. 03

“I will not give precise details of the acts he did to me. It is enough to know that he benefited greatly from my weakness.”

She claims Prof Ramadan continued to contact her using text messages, and for several months regularly tried to get her to meet him again, which she refused.

Ms Ayari said on Friday that although she “may not have the same financial means as him (Prof Ramadan) to pay for lawyers and experts,” she “will go to the end of this fight whatever it costs.”

Professor Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who grew up in Geneva, has been praised as a reformist and, on occasions, denounced as a radical.

He is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brother, the Sunni Islamist group in Egypt. In 1995, he was temporarily stopped from entering France over suspected links to Algerian terrorists.

In 2003, he clashed with France’s then interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, when he refused to condemn stoning, insisting instead on a “moratorium on the death penalty”.

In 2004, he was due to take up a post as professor of Islamic studies at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana, but was barred entry by the American government, for “providing material support to a terrorist organisation”.

However, he argued that no such link with a terrorist organisation existed and six years later, Hillary Clinton, the then Secretary of State, revoked the ban.

By then he was working at St Antony’s College, Oxford. Ms Ayari’s lawyer, Jonas Haddad, said Ms Ayari’s decision to speak out was partly prompted by the Harvey Weinstein affair in which an ever growing number of alleged victims of the disgraced Hollywood producer have been publicly denouncing him.

Mr Haddad said he had filed the legal complaint against Mr Ramadan with the prosecutor’s office in Rouen, the city north of Paris where his client lives. The prosecutor must now decide whether or not to charge Mr Ramadan.

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