A wise sage, learned in both the sacred and medical sciences — and rightfully respected — tells his seventeen thousand followers on Twitter:

The French couldn’t refute/silence Professor Tariq Ramadan with ideas, so they’re literally trying to kill him and get away with it using a corrupt judicial system.

It is a common thread, apparently gaining traction across the anglophone webscape, where media coverage of the case has been minimal and very effectively drowned out by the Free Tariq Ramadan campaign. What is never explained by proponents of this thesis, is why such an elaborate ploy is necessary.

Dr Ramadan has frequently and regularly appeared on French television and radio for 20 years. If the French really wanted to silence him, they could simply decide to stop giving him so much air time, which could be achieved easily enough, given that he has been living in the UK for the past decade.

Is it really true that an academic, celebrated everywhere else in the world as a moderate voice of reason who devotes his efforts to pluralism, ethics, reform and integration, is so maligned in France and perceived as such a threat that he must be liquidated? What, the same motivational speaker who, when addressing vast audiences at conferences across France, insists that Muslims must consider themselves citizens who respect the Republic and its values?

Without a doubt, he has his detractors amongst ardent secularists on both the Left and Right, who guard the separation of Church and State with such zealotry that every preacher of religion must be viewed with exceptional suspicion — but what does he really stand for that cannot be countered in the public debates between personalities so loved in France? What actual power does he yield, that threatens French society?

For proponents of this thesis, it is argued that the accusations aim to sully the scholarship of the man, forever associating it with accusations of hypocrisy and moral degradation — imagining him a tartuffe of the worst kind — so that his ideas can never again be entertained by the masses. Fair enough, but Dr Ramadan is not alone in articulating such ideas, though perhaps he does so more fluently than others. As they say: you cannot kill an idea.

In any case, if that is the plan, it is not working, for the overwhelming majority of active Muslim commentators online — amongst them teachers and imams with great followings — appear to have decided that he is an innocent man, wrongly arrested and unfairly abused by the eternal enemies of Islam. The official narrative put forward by Dr Ramadan’s supporters is considered the absolute truth, and all other information is disregarded. His scholarship and reputation is far from sullied, because the masses don’t believe the accusations to be true; it is all but a conspiracy perpetrated by the French state. If anything, this very sinister plot to kill his ideas, imagined everywhere, could only make him a martyr.

Is it true? Well of course anything is possible, but the argument seems to be based on the premise that the French judicial system is corrupt, that Dr Ramadan is actually being held in solitary confinement, that he is suffering from life-changing medical conditions and has been sentenced without trial. These claims have been repeated so often and by so many people now that they have become corroborable facts in the popular imagination. The fact that French public prosecutors and investigating judges are regularly required to carry out a pre-judgement, during an ongoing investigation into rape allegations, that may lead to pre-trial detention, is completely ignored. No matter how many times it is pointed out that Dr Ramadan is one of nearly 20,000 people held in similar conditions, awaiting trial during an ongoing investigation, his case is continually presented as a rare aberration, rather than a systemic problem in the French criminal justice system.

Once you begin to see that, no, his situation is not unique — and that some of the claims about his treatment are patently false — the whole edifice of the conspiracy begins to crack and disintegrate. Once you see the lies that are being promoted by good people, perhaps unsuspectingly, then the case becomes what it is. Far more tragic than the conspiracy imagined so vividly.

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