Scholar under siege defends his record
Published in Chicago Tribune
August 31, 2004
Tariq Ramadan responds point by point to the `unfounded allegations’ of a critics
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, without offering an explanation,
has revoked a visa that was granted to me to teach at the University of
Notre Dame. In Sunday’s Chicago Tribune on the Commentary page, Daniel
Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, provided his “explanation” for
this action. In what follows I respond to his unfounded allegations.
– Pipes claims that I have praised the brutal Islamist policies of the
Sudanese politician Hassan al-Turabi.
Nothing of what I said about al-Turabi’s policies is remotely favorable.
After visiting Sudan in 1994, I wrote: “Nonetheless, one must clearly say
that the present regime does not offer minimal guarantees for political
pluralism, that opposition parties are muzzled and that cronyism is the
rule. Muslims are called to remain vigilant, for the opposition of the
United States and Israel is not enough to support the `Islamic’ character of
– Pipes notes that I was banned from entering France in 1996 on suspicion of
having links with an Algerian Islamist who had recently initiated a
terrorist campaign in Paris.
Yes, I was indeed banned from entering France between November 1995 and
April 1996, but a reason was never given for this ban, and it was later
revealed to be a case of mistaken identity. I challenged the ban and won the
case in 1996. Any assertion that this ban was for having “links with an
Algerian Islamist” is baseless.
– Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian indicted for Al Qaeda activities, had “routine
contacts” with me, according to a Spanish judge in 1999.
I was asked about contacts with this individual last year and I
unequivocally denied ever meeting or speaking to him. This was investigated
by Frederic Chambon, a reporter for the French daily newspaper Le Monde, who
on Dec. 23, 2003, issued reports that Brahim’s daughter was able to confirm
from her jailed father that he did not have contacts with me.
– Djamel Beghal, leader of a group accused of planning to attack the
American Embassy in Paris, stated in his 2001 trial that he had studied with
When Djamel Beghal was first arrested in Dubai, he claimed that in 1994 he
was attending my course and wrote my speeches. He changed his story when he
was extradited to Paris and only claimed to have attended the course in
1994. That, too, was inaccurate since my courses did not start until 1997.
– Along with many Islamists, says Pipes, I have denied that there is “any
certain proof” that Osama bin Laden was behind Sept. 11, 2001.
Pipes distorts the facts by selective references. My post-Sept. 11 stance is
clear. On Sept. 13, 2001, I put out an open letter to Muslims calling for
them to unequivocally condemn these acts and wrote: “Do not hide yourself
behind conspiracy theories: Even if we don’t know who did it, you know as I
know that some Muslims can use Islam to justify killing an American, a Jew
or a Christian only because he/she is an American, a Jew or a Christian; you
have to condemn them and to condemn these attacks.” On Sept. 20, when
investigations were still ongoing, I said: “The probability [of bin Laden’s
guilt] is large, but some questions remain unanswered. … But whoever they
are, bin Laden or others, it is necessary to find them and that they be
– I refer, Pipes claims, to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Bali and
Madrid as “interventions,” minimizing them to the point of near-endorsement.
The term “interventions” was not mine, but was used by journalists in the
French magazine Le Point (April 22, 2004) following a phone interview with
me. I have always condemned the terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, Madrid
and elsewhere in the strongest terms.
– Intelligence agencies suspect, Pipes charges, that I coordinated a meeting
at the Hotel Penta in Geneva for Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy head of Al Qaeda,
and Omar Abdel Rahman [the blind sheik, now in a Minnesota prison].
This is nonsense. The Swiss intelligence cleared my name of these
accusations when it publicly confirmed that Ayman al-Zawahiri had never
entered Switzerland. I never met him or Omar Abdel Rahman.
– My address, Pipes avers, appears in a register of Al Taqwa Bank, an
organization the State Department accuses of supporting Islamist terrorism.
In fact, neither my name nor my address appears in a register of Al Taqwa
Bank. I never met nor talked to its director.
– There is the “intriguing possibility,” Pipes speculates, that Osama bin
Laden studied with my father, Said, who founded the Islamic Center of Geneva
(Switzerland) in the early 1960s.
My father did not know bin Laden and I have neither met nor talked to bin
Laden. It is possible, however, that Pipes is confusing Osama with his
half-brother, Yaslem bin Laden, whom I met once for exactly five minutes
after a lecture I gave in Geneva in 2003 and who also is known to be in
contact with high-level American politicians.
Anyone who has read any of my 20 books, 700 articles or listened to any of
my 170 audio-taped lectures will discern a consistent message: The very
moment Muslims and their fellow citizens realize that being a Muslim and
being American or European are not mutually exclusive, they will enrich
their societies. Since Sept. 11, I have lectured at countless American
universities and civic organizations. The French consul of Chicago invited
me in 2002 for a lecture trip in the United States, and I spoke at the
Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. I was invited to speak at the U.S.
State Department and spoke at an event organized by former President Bill
Clinton and was invited again this year by him. I engage in similar
activities in Europe and worked closely with Scotland Yard and many European
If there were any truth to any of the malicious allegations that have been
circulating, does anyone really believe that these international agencies
and groups would not have prosecuted me?
The American public ought to know a few other facts about me. I take pride
in my faith as a Muslim and the West as my home and birthplace and I make no
apologies for taking a critical look at Islam and the West. In doing so I am
being true to my faith and the ethics of my citizenship. Instead of mere
theoretical criticism, I propose practical solutions to the challenges the
world faces. I not only speak to ordinary citizens of many faiths, religious
leaders and academics but also to politicians, world leaders and
Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the Muslim majority world.
Becoming full, independent Western citizens, working with others to address
social, economic and political problems, will allow Western Muslims to
assume this role. However, that can only happen if their governments and
other citizens do not cast doubt on their loyalty every time they criticize
government policies. This critical and constructive loyalty of their Muslim
citizens enriches Western societies, and it is the only way for Western
Muslims to be credible in Arab and Islamic countries to assist in bringing
about freedom and democracy.
2 commentaires - “Scholar under siege defends his record”
When you next come to the United States, please feel free to stay in my home if you visit California. We are not Muslims, but we could make you a good burrito. :).
I have full sympathy for the tone of your article. I appreciate your condemnation of terrorism, including that of 9/11. Yet, I believe that your stature requires from you to remove the blood libel affixed on Muslims for the crime of 9/11. Thousands of Americans and Europeans have come to the conclusion that 9/11 was orchestrated by the US regime, not by Muslim fanatics (who have been wrongly and shamefully accused for the crime). The time has come for Muslim intellectuals to join the world-wide 9/11 truth movement.
With my kindest greetings,