I am not supposed to write this epistle, because our families are long-time acquaintances. Whenever you appear on television, we prod each other to take note, celebrating yet another brush with fame through association. But I feel compelled to respond because you are an international award winning journalist and, well, an article you recently penned does that title a great disservice.
My role as a blogger is to ramble and rant about whatever takes my fancy on any given day: being opinionated comes with the territory. A blog — a truncation of the expression, ‘web-log’ — is an informal medium for the expression of personal views. Bloggers ought to be ethical in their approach to publishing information for others to consume, but they are not held to professional standards because, generally speaking, it is the sphere of the amateur.
The role of a journalist is different. A journalist is charged with disseminating information that is accurate, fair and thorough, requiring them to be honest and tenacious in gathering, reporting and interpreting information. A journalist is required to verify the information they report before releasing it, striving as far as possible to quote original sources. The role demands that they provide context, and shun the temptation to misrepresent or oversimplify facts in their reporting of events; and, further, that they update and correct their reporting as new information comes to light. A journalist must never knowingly distort facts or context, and differentiate between objective reporting and advocacy.
Your Op-Ed, Is Tariq Ramadan facing prosecution or persecution in France?, published in the Turkish Daily Sabah on 1st March 2018, and subsequently on IslamiCity, might be considered a fitting contribution to a debate from a social commentator or daily columnist. But for a serious investigative reporter, loyal to the ethics of professional journalism, can it be described as anything other than a travesty? Lets take a look: your words in quotes, followed by mine.
The basis of any justice system is the belief that one is innocent until proven guilty and that every person has the right to a fair trial free of prejudice.
Of course, that is our hope. Article 6 of both the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Kingdom’s Human Rights Act 1998 is the right to a fair trial. This is considered an absolute and unlimited right, which requires a fair and public hearing by an impartial tribunal established by law. A fundamental aspect of this right is that every person should be presumed innocent unless and until proved guilty following a fair trial. However not all States agree that the presumption of innocence necessitates the right to liberty, and many States will deprive a suspect of their liberty prior to lawful conviction, as in cases of remand.
Of all the judiciaries in the world, the French would claim theirs is one of the finest.
Well we would expect it to be the case that every nation would claim their system of justice the best. But funnily enough, many French people don’t make that claim at all. On the contrary, many in France are deeply troubled by France’s Inquisitorial system, in which criminal cases are investigated by an examining magistrate, and not by the police and prosecutor as in the British and US systems. French critics of the French judicial system complain that it is archaic, inefficient, sluggish and secretive, and that the use of examining magistrates should be abolished.
After all it is the country allegedly built on the principles of liberté, egalité and fraternité.
That building occurred in the late 18th century, when revolutionary forces fought to abolish unrestricted government power and aristocratic privilege. Those principles may have served France well in its battle against an oppressive monarchy, but it has proved useless in dealing with its subjects, whether under French colonialism or as migrant populations, who were never the intended recipients of these sentiments.
But in reality it would seem that this is far from true, at least in the case of Tariq Ramadan, the renowned Muslim scholar, theologian and civil rights advocate.
Absolutely: it is indeed far from the case, for just under a third of France’s prison population is made up of people held in pre-trial detention. In other words, Tariq Ramadan is one of almost 20,000 people currently held in pre-trial detention in France. Note that when I tried to make this point to activists campaigning for his release, my comment was immediately marked as spam and deleted.
Ramadan, a Swiss national and Oxford University professor, has been accused by two women of raping them several years ago. But his defense says that not only are the accusations completely false, the way in which the French prosecution has been treating their client has been oppressive, unjust and inexcusable.
Tragically, his situation is far from unique. Fair Trials International raised concerns about the prevalence of pre-trial detention in France five years ago, where the average period of detention before trial was 25 months, which is longer even than the country’s own guidelines. Reasons for pre-trial detention range from being suspected of stealing a bicycle through to serious fraud, murder and rape.
On Thursday a judge decided to renew Ramadan’s detention, keeping him locked up in a solitary cell for a fourth consecutive week despite him still being under investigation and not convicted.
Most people held in pre-trial detention in France are forced to share a cell with four other inmates. The judge has ruled in this case that as a well-known public individual, Tariq Ramadan should for his own protection be held in a special wing of Fleury-Mérogis prison, reserved for high profile media personalities. According to other reports, what is described here as a solitary cell (provoking connotations of solitary confinement) is in fact a cell of his own; this is presented as a measure to protect him from other prisoners.
In that time, he has not been allowed to see his family, who have been denied visitation rights, and more alarmingly, his health has deteriorated as a result of medical neglect. Ramadan suffers from multiple sclerosis and his doctors as well as a prison doctor who has examined him say his well-being is at risk as a direct result of his prison conditions.
Once again we can establish that the denial of visitation rights is not unique to Tariq Ramadan’s case. Lamentably, infringements of these rights are in fact commonplace in the French judicial system. Article 145-4 of France’s Code of Criminal Procedure states that when a charged person is placed in pre-trial detention, the investigating judge may prescribe against him the prohibition to communicate for a period of ten days, or for a further extended period on renewal.
Objective reporting of the facts, as is the journalist’s prerogative, necessitates the coverage of all aspects of the case, even when they conflict with one’s personal inclinations. So in addition to reporting that his doctor and an initial assessment by a prison doctor raised causes for concern, it should have been mentioned that a second expert assessment carried out in mid-February deemed the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and neuropathy uncertain and his continued detention compatible with his health. The day before this article was published, the investigating judge ordered that a new and complete neurological assessment be carried out, to report by 30 March. Other journalists have been able to report both set of findings, without excluding one or the other.
Ramadan reportedly refused to attend the hearing on last Thursday in protest of what he believes is a politicized case brought against him by sections of French society that have for years tried to silence him. His lawyers are now requesting his case be moved out of Paris to another region in France after they lost hope that their client would receive a fair trial with the current magistrate.
On this I cannot comment, because I only know of Tariq Ramadan in the British context, where he is lauded by Muslims and non-Muslims alike as a moderate reformer and great intellectual. Since 2005, when he took up his post at St Antony’s College, Oxford, he has been a regular fixture of print and broadcast media. In Britain, he is frequently described by non-Muslims as an acclaimed thinker, brilliant intellectual and a humble voice of peace. In Britain, he was the very opposite of anti-establishment, working with the Blair government on a task force to counter Muslim extremism. I first came across him around 2003, when I was dispatched by a charity I worked with to collect him from the airport, for a symposium on his proposed moratorium on capital punishment in the Muslim world. He came across as a humble and friendly man, and was well received by his tiny audience.
In France, by contrast, he seems to be presented by some rightwing commentators as a dangerous fundamentalist, aligned with Osama bin Laden’s brand of Islam, accused of double-speak and practising taqiyyah. However, I get the impression that this is only part of the story, because it is possible to find on YouTube a whole array of broadcasts featuring him on French TV, receiving a warm and uncritical welcome, and in the French press equally appreciative articles. Indeed, you can easily find articles in rightwing newspapers criticising the leftwing for giving him a platform. So ‘sections of French society’ is the definitive point here.
What started off with renowned Islamophobe Henda Ayari capitalizing on the media spotlight that was focused on the #metoo campaign,
Is describing one of the complainants as a ‘renowned Islamophobe‘ an objective way to begin reporting on the allegations? On her own Twitter account, both recently and going back several months before these accusations were made, she describes herself as a Muslim and is careful to make the distinction that her criticism is of Salafi Jihadism in particular and not Muslims or Islam generally. We can even find her advocating on behalf of the Rohingya of Myanmar — a typically Muslim cause — and criticising French racism and discrimination. Yet conversely, she also describes herself as an avowed secularist and Republican. Are to two positions irreconcilable? Of course some Muslims would say so, but many other Muslims also describe themselves in those terms. It does not necessarily make them Islamophobes.
…and claiming to have finally mustered the courage to name Ramadan as the man who she alleges raped her in 2012, quickly snowballed into what Ramadan’s supporters feel was an almost concerted and orchestrated campaign in the French press to vilify him and deem him guilty before he even faced a jury.
Over 300,000 allegations of sexual harassment or abuse were published under the French Twitter tag, #balancetonporc, following the Harvey Weinstein scandal last autumn. That was the unstoppable snowball already in motion.
A lot of high profile individuals in French society, including politicians and media personalities, were accused of terrible offences by multiple women. So in that sense we could say that Tariq Ramadan was made a scapegoat to deflect criticism of deeply engrained misogyny across French society as a whole. Instead of addressing the very real concerns of thousands of French women, a momentary manifestation of frustration was quickly rediverted in the direction of one man and his faith.
But an orchestrated campaign? It all depends how and what you read. For the past few months I have been reading the diversity of the French press in some depth, with the grateful aid of Google Translate. Contrary to the claims of the accused’s erstwhile supporters, the French media has not been completely one-sided and biased. I have read articles critical of the primary accuser’s allegations and witnessed the great schism between the likes of Charlie Hebdo and MediaPart, the former capitalising on events to rip apart its political enemies.
What the most devoted supporters of Tariq Ramadan fail to do is view the allegations in their context, which was a worldwide protest led by women against harassment and abuse. The allegations did not come in isolation. If anything, it must have been that unstoppable snowball of 300,000 women naming individuals they alleged had assaulted or abused them, that led one more woman to put a name to her alleged abuser.
In a country where a woman’s right to dress how she wishes is punishable by law – if she is Muslim – where the fascist National Front are the second largest party, and where ministers and senior politicians use the word nigger, it is understandable why many minorities believe that France is institutionally racist.
Undeniably so. Even the allegedly ‘renowned Islamophobe‘ appears to agree with that. Of course, being a member of a disadvantaged or disenfranchised group does not make one immune to transgression or sin. It is quite possible to be both oppressed and an oppressor. Likewise, just because mysoginy is commonplace in society, it does not necessarily mean that a woman’s claim to victimisation is true. In either situation, the individual case must be judged on the basis of the available evidence.
The other of Ramadan’s accusers is “Christelle.” She alleges that he raped her in a hotel room in Lyon on the afternoon of Oct. 9, 2009.
This complainant, it might be useful to add, has furnished extremely graphic descriptions of her alleged assault, very specific details of the time and place, and medical reports detailing her injuries recorded soon after the alleged events. Presented as a convert to Islam with a disability in her legs, this complainant filed her complaint anonymously — ‘Christelle’ is merely a pseudonym endowed by the media. In an interview published in Vanity Fair a month before this article, she sets out her alleged relationship with Tariq Ramadan, from daily student-teacher conversations by phone or Skype about religion and politics, to a growing affinity and fondness, and eventually the promise of marriage, following a temporary marriage conducted via Skype, made legitimate by the teacher’s knowledge and the student’s ignorance.
Whether these claims have any merit is for the court to decide, but they should not just be brushed aside as insignificant accusations by the journalist. A journalist is charged with representing the known facts or accusations without omission and without oversimplifying events, irregardless of their personal biases and sympathies.
Ramadan’s lawyers have already presented evidence that suggests he was in fact, on a plane some 30,000 feet above the ground at the time. His plane landed in Lyon at 6:35 p.m. that day, and by 8:30 p.m. he was addressing a crowd of hundreds of French men and women who had gathered to hear him talk about coexistence, integration and the civic duties of young Muslims. You would think that a potentially unequivocal alibi would be enough to dismiss the allegation. Not in France. Instead, after police investigators had confirmed to Ramadan’s lawyers that they had received the evidence, they failed to investigate it to confirm that he was indeed on that flight, mysteriously the evidence disappeared from the case files. Put that one down to incompetent filing.
A week before this article was published in the Daily Sabah, doubt had already been sown on this ‘potentially unequivocal alibi’. On 23rd February 2018, Le Muslim Post reported that the French Union of Young Muslims provided an itinerary of Tariq Ramadan’s movements that day, which contradict the evidence submitted by his defence. Instead of arriving at 6.35pm from London on 9th October, he reportedly arrived on a plane from Madrid at 11.15am that morning. Other media organisations subsequently reported that he had been giving a lecture at the Atalaya Museum in Jerez de la Frontera on the southern tip of Spain at 5.00pm the previous day, as a participant in their Agora Juvenil festival. According to an interview in Liberation, meanwhile, one of the organisers of the event in Lyon, Abdelaziz Chaambi, claimed that Tariq Ramadan arrived late and his speech did not begin until 9.00pm.
It has since transpired that “Christelle” met with senior magistrate Michel Debacq and notorious Islamophobe Caroline Fourest in 2009. His lawyers believe the meeting was arranged so that the three could conspire against Ramadan. Debacq, who now serves in the very same court trying Ramadan, never disclosed his previous involvement with “Christelle” or this case, which is illegal, according to French law.
Caroline Fourest has made no secret of the fact that she introduced ‘Christelle’ to a magistrate in 2009: since October she has repeatedly taken credit for just that in numerous newspaper articles and TV interviews. She even writes about her meeting with alleged victims that year on her blog, boasting that she believed in them when nobody else would.
That a Muslim convert would confide in a notorious opponent of Muslims in France — famed for her advocacy for the leftist Kurds and condemnation of Turkey, and her hatred of the Muslim Brotherhood — is of course problematic for many. Why did she not approach the Union of Islamic Organisations in France (UOIF) or another Muslim advocacy group instead?
On the other hand, let us suppose for a moment that the complainant’s account of events is true. If you had been a sincere young Muslim convert, who for months had been in personal contact with a teacher you had believed was the very embodiment of your faith, how would you respond if you were suddenly brutally assaulted by them? Might you start to question everything — realising that you had been purposefully groomed by one you trusted intimately? And in that case, might it be only natural that you approach an individual with a long-term special interest in your teacher? To me, that is at least plausible if such accusations were true.
Of course Caroline Fourest herself claims that she referred ‘Christelle’ to the magistrate with a view to making a complaint of rape, which raises the question: why did the magistrate not think her case worthy of prosecution? Or did the complainant simply decide not to purse the case, as alleged in Marianne? All of which are valid questions for a journalist to thoroughly probe and test.
Added to these flagrant discrepancies in “Christelle’s” case are numerous others, including that she “lost her cellphone” that contained alleged messages from Ramadan that she claims prove her story.
In a post on her Facebook page, Caroline Fourest claims to have presented numerous text messages, e-mails and screenshots from 2009 to the investigation on behalf of the complainant. Presumably digital forensics experts will be able to determine the veracity of this body of evidence, even if the physical devices are no longer available.
It seems convenient that her phone is lost considering the embarrassing situation her co-accuser, Henda Ayari, found herself in when Ramadan’s defense team released more than 280 Facebook messages sent by her as proof that it was Ayari who was harassing him. When confronted with the messages by a French publication, the former-Salafist-turned-Islamophobe admitted that it was an attempt by her to seduce and entrap him. Aside from the outrageously unethical reasoning presented by Ayari, these messages to Ramadan were dated 2014, that is, two full years after Ayari claims Ramadan raped her. Peculiar at the least.
I have not been able to find the French publication referenced here and on the Free Tariq Ramadan page, in which Henda Ayari allegedly admits to an attempt to entrap him, as sources are not provided. Provide the reference in question and I will happily examine this accusation.
In any case, I would suggest that the Facebook messages presented by the defence are problematic for both sides, as they seem to imply that Henda Ayari and Tariq Ramadan had once been in some sort of relationship, which had later gone awry. Of course, it is possible that in due course we will learn either that the messages were entirely the instigation of an infatuated and obsessed individual, or that the pair were married in accordance with Islamic law, which will make such a relationship entirely uncontroversial in the eyes of the Muslim community at large. On their own, however, they raise rather more questions than answers.
Even so, given the existence of these messages, I suspect that Henda Ayari’s complaint will not result in a direct prosecution. In British law, the heart of a rape case is the question of consent. In a British court, a partner in a relationship could still be convicted of rape if it could be proved that the other party did not consent to the act, as illustrated in Thames Valley Police’s famous Tea and Consent video. I don’t know if French law judges rape similarly, but I do know that of the ten percent of alleged rape victims who ever file a complaint in France, ninety percent of complaints are dismissed. Given reports suggestive of a relationship, I suspect that the court will not be able to determine that consent was not given.
Ramadan’s work spans decades. His books and lectures are almost all centered on the central messages of mutual respect among civilizations and cultures, women’s empowerment, liberation and justice. For millions around the world, Ramadan was, and still is, that voice of reason that channels anger among marginalized and oppressed Muslim youth into productive action that empowers them and makes them better citizens.
Absolutely. Often when I listen to him speak — apart from lamenting his command of the English language — I think to myself, ‘This is a good man.’ And that naturally makes me doubt the accusations made against him, both recently and in the past.
And yet, as books such as Sandra Horley’s Power and Control make clear, even the kindest and most intelligent of men can be abusers behind closed doors. Her book focuses on six women whose abusers came from all walks in life: amongst them a singer, a solicitor and an academic.
Another recent high-profile case brings this to the fore: everybody who knew the suspect charged with multiple sexual assaults described him as someone who was good in every way. Sadly a trawl of newspapers worldwide will reveal inspiring teachers, brilliant thinkers, generous charity workers, beloved religious leaders, policemen, musicians, politicians and people from every profession convicted of terrible crimes against others.
He has always rejected the use of the victim card, despite the fact that today, European Muslims are arguably the continent’s most mistreated and misrepresented minority. Maybe that is why he decided to voluntarily fly to France and meet with investigators, since innocent men have nothing to hide.
Tariq Ramadan was summoned for questioning by judicial investigators in Paris. Whether his response to the summons constitutes voluntary action is debatable. Perhaps so, as I understand that Henda Ayari chose not to attend the same summons. Whether his attendance constitutes innocence is similarly debatable: perhaps he simply received poor legal advice from his lawyers, who were convinced that his alibi was watertight. Perhaps they were simply poorly prepared to address the points raised in three months of preliminary investigation — or the lengthy confrontation between the second complainant and the accused — and did not respond adequately to assuage the doubts of the three investigating judges. Or yes, perhaps he is entirely innocent of the charges and has absolutely nothing to hide.
In spite of his cooperation, he is now being held alone in a cell in a high-security prison wing, even though he is yet to be convicted of any crime.
After 48 hours in detention, the prosecutor charged Tariq Ramadan with the crime of rape, including of a vulnerable individual. As I have already noted, in the French judicial system, remanding the accused into pre-trial detention is common practice. In this he joins thousands of other suspects held on remand pending conviction.
In fact, he offered to pay a 50,000 euro deposit, make daily visits to a police station and hand over his passport to assure police that he had no intention of leaving the country, but that was bizarrely not enough of an assurance for a respected university professor with no criminal record.
Anybody who has been following this case closely will be aware that there has been testimony from other alleged witnesses alleging intimidation, blackmail and threats. This includes the allegation that he sent fake legal correspondence purporting to be from his lawyers to a woman he was allegedly in contact with in 2013. It also includes the verbal abuse and threats of violence that the first complainant has been subject to at the hands of Tariq Ramadan’s supporters since making the accusation. It probably also takes into consideration the active social media campaign and widely circulated petition which paints him definitively as a victim of a conspiracy of his enemies, and the complainants as wilful protagonists in a vicious plot.
In response to these points, we could say that the allegation about dispatching fake correspondence is not proven. Fair enough, but the investigating judges have the file. Concerning online abuse and threats, we could say that this has nothing to do with Tariq Ramadan, who himself has publicly asked people not to attack these women. And as to the third: well, it could be argued that this campaign is the wrongfully-accused’s right. Which is all fair enough, but clearly the investigating judges, having accumulated 600 pages of evidence, do not see it that way, .
While we are used to the rabid Islamophobia and racism peddled by a large section of French media, there are so many holes in the case against Ramadan, and so many discrepancies in the way in which the justice system is dealing with his case that it is a mockery for one to claim that he has been afforded due process.
Yes, the whole case reminds me rather a lot of swiss cheese. In addition to the holes in the case against Tariq Ramadan, there appear to be quite a few holes in the defence case too, a few of which I have pointed out above. But part of the problem is that many of the commentators residing outside France concerned with the case have not taken any time at all to investigate the French judicial system, which is Inquisitorial rather than Adversarial.
Whereas in Britain we are used to a system wherein competition between the plaintiffs and defendants is used to establish the truth, in France the investigating magistrate alone is charged with distinguishing between reliable and unreliable evidence. Although legally a defendant is considered innocent until proven guilty, the French approach to weighing up the evidence at the hands of an investigating magistrate means that the system actually inclines towards a presumption of guilt once an individual is charged.
In the past few months, two senior members of the French government, Gerald Darmanin and Nicolas Hulot, both ministers in President Emanuel Macron’s cabinet, were accused of rape, both by two women, as well.
One case against Gerald Darmanin has been dropped by the Paris prosecutor, citing failure to establish the absence of consent on the part of the complainant, but he is still under investigation in light of a second set of allegations. Nicolas Hulot is not accused of rape, but of harassment by a former female colleague.
Unlike Ramadan, French media gave both of them an opportunity to defend themselves during what many media critics would classify as soft interviews.
Having followed the broad diversity of the French press for the past few months, it has to be stated that coverage has not all been one-sided. Various newspapers have reported on the doubtful aspect of Henda Ayari’s case, such as the Facebook messages released by the defence, as well as Tariq Ramadan’s purported alibi, for example. To my knowledge, under the instructions of his lawyers, Tariq Ramadan has refused to comment publicly on the case either in the media or on social media, other than in two Facebook posts, first on his leave from teaching at Oxford University and a second in which he denounced the climate of hatred that the accusations had spawned.
More alarmingly, however, is the double standard in the way in which the French police dealt with them – neither of them were arrested let alone put in a solitary cell in a maximum-security prison.
Tariq Ramadan was indicted after three months of preliminary investigation and a confrontation with the second complainant. Prior to this, he was free to travel the world and continue giving lectures, which he did with ease, apparently travelling to Malaysia, India, Russia, the United States and various other destinations. It is still possible that Gerald Darmanin will be prosecuted for the second case that is currently under investigation.
Both Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe went on record defending them, despite one of them admitting to having sex with his accuser, an escort who says he did not pay but he claims she agreed to sleep with him in exchange for a favor. Let that sink in for a minute.
It is quite normal for friends to stick together, come what may, and to choose the morality they wish to live by. Perhaps these men are excused their hypocrisies, because they do not believe they are doing anything wrong, whereas our men know the boundaries and proscriptions of faith. What excuse, other than loyalty, do the notables of our community have for offering a man accused of raping a Muslim convert their unconditional support? Could they not adopt a more nuanced approach, such as: “I hope and pray from the bottom of my heart that he is innocent of these accusations, but if he is guilty I pray that justice is served”?
There are those who believe Ramadan is being unjustly treated because of his opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine, which has irked France’s powerful Zionist lobby for years. Others believe it is because of his defense of immigrants, and others still who say it is because he is an unapologetic Muslim who refutes anti-Muslim stereotypes and inspires hundreds of thousands of those whom France’s political elite considers to be the enemy.
Of course it could be any of those things: character assignation for political gain is not unheard of in societies both east and west. It is indeed possible that he is victim of an enormous slander, designed to silence him for good: to bring to end his non-stop appearances on French TV channels, to stop him speaking sensibly to TEDx audiences, to end his round the world speaking engagements, to prevent him from writing books which call for moderation and active participation in civic life. It is possible that xenophobic white supremacists want to shut down and silence an articulate champion of the disenfranchised. That thought has crossed my mind.
But what if none of these things are true? What if the accusations that surface every few years are not mere slander? What if those women who claim to have been caught up in sadistic relationships with him are telling the truth? What if a sincere young convert was driven from the faith by a brutal encounter with her counsel one October afternoon? What if those Swiss women who claimed to have had intimate relationships with him while they were students and he was their teacher recalled events precisely? What if the witnesses in France, Belgium and America, who have raised concerns over the years are not mere fantasists driven by jealousy and inner hatreds?
How are we then any different from the faithful congregations who refused to believe the accusations levelled at predatory priests? How are we any different from the disbelieving masses who celebrated their much loved philanthropist who raised millions of pounds for worthy causes, who would likely have been charged with over 200 criminal offences had anyone taken the victim’s claims seriously in his lifetime?
All of that could very well be true, but what the racists and Islamophobes in France do not realize is that Ramadan transcended being simply a man many years ago.
And that, right there, is the problem. The People of the Book before us were censured for taking their scholars and monks as lords. How can a man who has transcended being simply a man ever be brought to justice, if he were to transgress or fall from grace? Surely this is the very opposite of the teaching of our Book, which emphatically states:
“O you who have believed, be persistently standing firm in justice, witnesses for Allah, even if it be against yourselves or parents and relatives. Whether one is rich or poor, Allah is more worthy of both. So follow not [personal] inclination, lest you not be just. And if you distort [your testimony] or refuse [to give it], then indeed Allah is ever, with what you do, Acquainted.” — Qur’an 4:135
Ramadan represents an ideology. One of justice, dignity and empowerment, and jailing him in a politically motivated case will only elevate his status even more.
I return to the beginning: what is journalism? Is it concerned with metaphysics and the philosophical transformation of a man into his message? Or is it concerned with verifiable information? If this case is politically motivated, then it is the job of the journalist to present the facts which demonstrate that to be the case, and to do so objectively without injecting their own biases and inclinations.
I do not know if Tariq Ramadan is innocent or guilty of the accusations levelled against him, and I do not stake claim to either position. I pray that whoever has been wronged is compensated in full and that whoever is guilty of whatever crimes is brought to account accordingly.
I have read accounts of women who claim to be victims or former partners of the man; however, given that there is absolutely no way for me to verify that they are who they say they are, and what they say happened to them really did happen, I am forced to withhold judgement. Their accounts may seem plausible, such that I allow for the possibility that they are telling the truth, but there is no certainty in these cases, only inklings. Likewise I have read the accused’s protestations of innocence, which similarly force me to withhold judgement. He could be the victim of a terrible political conspiracy, or he could be guilty as charged.
As a journalist, your job is to gather, update and correct information; to identify your sources; to take responsibility for the accuracy of your work; to verify that what you have presented is accurate; to give a voice to the voiceless; to be careful not to distort facts or context. In many ways the role of a journalist is akin to the role we imagine the muhaddith and historians of old took in transmitting our religion down through the ages. At its heart is the pursuit of truth: what really happened?
True, an Op-Ed is not the place for in-depth, investigative journalism. But nor is it the place for the presentation of partial facts and half truths. We need to do better than that. May truth become manifest and justice prevail.