French and Swiss sources have recently reported that Tariq Ramadan claimed to be professor at the University of Fribourg when he was not.
Following allegations of sexual assault and his subsequent exit from the University of Oxford, disgraced Tariq Ramadan seems to be the object of yet another scandal.
Currently awaiting trial for his sexual misconduct, the French-Swiss Muslim intellectual is alleged to have ‘usurped’ his University of Fribourg credentials. According to French news magazine Le Point and Swiss magazine Le Temps, as well as Dutch outlet TPO, Ramadan presented himself as Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg when he was not, in fact, in possession of these titles.On November 13, 2003, on the French TV program 100 minutes pour convaincre, on which political figures and journalists would discuss and debate their perspectives on current events and social issues, host Olivier Mazerolle presented Ramadan as Professor of ‘Islamic studies at the University of Geneva and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg’.
Ramadan went on to publish an article on Le Monde on the theme he had proposed previously on the show – a call for a moratorium on the application of sharia law in the Muslim world – signing it as Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). Did he wish to lend weight and authority to his document? At the time of signature, Le Point reports, Ramadan did not hold these credentials, as evinced by the University’s response to a demand for an explanation by Xavier Ganioz, Vice-President of the Socialist Party of Fribourg, as to how Ramadan came to be associated with it.
The rector of the university has since confirmed that Ramadan, indeed, was neither professor nor assistant at the institution – he would offer one-hour lectures on Islam, once a week. It is now being reported also that five female students filed a complaint of sexual assault against him after the single course. The rector added that the university was not responsible for the academic titles attributed to Ramadan after he left in 2004. In 2005, however, Ramadan would continue to present himself in Le Monde as professor. This, despite the fact that his alleged doctorate studies were fraught with controversy.
Arab world specialist and former dean in the Faculty of Languages at the University of Geneva, Charles Genequand, had rejected Ramadan’s thesis on Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Ramadan’s grandfather, whom Ramadan tried to make out as a sort of ‘Muslim Gandhi’. The dean had few charitable words for his former student, calling him a ‘pseudo-intellectual’ and a ‘vain opportunist’ whose ideas on Islam were ‘backwards’.
According to a source, Genequand explained that Ramadan even refused to make corrections to his thesis, going so far as to harass and threaten the university in the case he was not awarded his doctorate. Professor Emeritus at the New Sorbonne University, Ali Merad, recalled that Ramadan threatened him with malicious complaints if he did not get his doctorate, and the academic has described how he had never seen a student behave that way in 40 years.
What is clear, however is that, even then, he had begun to achieve the celebrity status that surrounds him today. At the time, the legitimacy of Ramadan’s position was contested by Deputy Claire Peiry-Kolly of the Swiss People’s Party and concerns regarding the risk of proselytisation were brought to the attention of the rector, but Ramadan’s students expressed their support for him through a petition. According to another source, Ramadan, in his book, Musulmans dans la laïcité, professed that certain aspects of biology, history, and philosophy might be in conflict with the principles of Islam.
Ahmed Benani, political scientist and anthropologist at the University of Lausanne claims Tariq Ramadan to be little more than a ‘television star’, asking, ‘Where is his academic body of work? Not one researcher…has ever taken him seriously”. His opinions have brought the wrath of Ramadan’s followers against him, and Benani claims that even three words of opposition to Ramadan are liable to incur online hate. Political scientist, sociologist, and Islamic and Arab world specialist Gilles Kepel has expressed a similarly less than favourable opinion of Ramadan, whom he considers neither an academic nor a colleague.
Ramadan has yet to respond in his own defence.
Sarah Mills is a managing editor and writer at Uncommon Ground Media.