Professor Tariq Ramadan, 55
An Oxford don who advised the Government on religion has been accused of raping a glamorous French writer.
Professor Tariq Ramadan, 55, who regularly appears on the BBC and Channel 4 as an expert commentator on Islam, strenuously denies the claim lodged by Henda Ayari, 41, with the French prosecutor.
Ms Ayari claims it happened in a Paris hotel in 2012 but until now she has been too ‘scared’ to complain to police. Her lawyer says she felt ‘encouraged’ by the slew of allegations made against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
On Friday, Ms Ayari, a self-confessed former Muslim extremist, filed a complaint of ‘rape, intentional violence, harassment and intimidation’ with the prosecutor’s office in her home town of Rouen.
And after she repeated the allegations on social media, the story appeared in leading newspapers around the world.
Ms Ayari told her Facebook and Twitter followers: ‘I’m really going to need your help my friends, because by revealing the name of my attacker, who is none other than Tariq Ramadan, I know the risks I’m running.’
The divorced mother-of-three who champions Muslim women’s rights in France, said she wrote about the alleged rape in her memoir, I Chose To Be Free, published in 2016.
She said on Facebook: ‘I actually devoted a whole chapter to the attack in my book but changed his name to avoid legal problems. But now I can no longer keep it a secret. It’s too much for me to bear and it’s time to tell the truth.’
Henda Ayari, 41
In the book, she describes trying to resist during an alleged assault and claims she was repeatedly slapped. She wrote: ‘He let me leave the room alone… so that no one saw us together. I realised after that he had slipped some money into my bag. As if I was a prostitute…’
Ms Ayari’s decision to publicly accuse Mr Ramadan on Facebook mirrors the plot of the ITV series Liar, in which schoolteacher Laura Neilson, played by Joanne Froggatt, goes on a date with the father of one of her pupils and afterwards accuses him on social media of rape.
In her Facebook posts on Friday, Ms Ayari claimed that shortly after the alleged assault, Mr Ramadan threatened to target her children if she went to the police.
‘When I threatened to go to police and reveal I was raped, he in turn threatened me and even said he would go after my children. I was terrified so I said nothing,’ she posted.
Her Facebook claims were immediately picked up by leading French newspapers, including Le Monde and Le Figaro. The story was published yesterday by the Times in the UK and the New York Times website.
Mr Ramadan, a professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford who sat on the Foreign Office Advisory Group on freedom of religion, is now planning to sue Ms Ayari for defamation in France.
A source close to Mr Ramadan said: ‘Henda Ayari is a fierce ideological critic of Tariq’s – she has often expressed hatred towards him. He will certainly fight these very serious allegations and prove that they are without foundation.’
Mr Ramadan was once listed among the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. But in the past he has been accused of being an Islamic extremist who portrays himself as a moderate.
His critics point out that he is the grandson of Hassan Al-Banna, an Egyptian who founded one of the world’s most prominent Islamist organisations, the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Government tried to ban in Britain.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Mr Ramadan, a Swiss national, was placed on a US no-fly list, which prevented him from entering the United States and taking up a teaching post. The ban was lifted in 2010.
Ms Ayari used to practise a hardline version of Islam known as salafism. But she was so horrified by the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in 2015, she then declared herself a liberal Muslim. At that time, she ran away from her violent husband with her three children.
She now runs Libératrices, a charity that supports women who suffer violence and are subjugated by Islamic extremism.
In her memoir, Ms Ayari befriends her alleged future attacker, whom she describes as a well-known theologian, on Facebook. At one point he comments on her new profile picture, saying: ‘Henda, peace be upon you. How are you, dear sister? I wanted to say that I’m surprised by what you have just done. You shouldn’t put photos like that online, because you’re wearing make-up and in a leather dress. You risk attracting attention if you do that.’
Ms Ayari claims it happened in a Paris hotel in 2012 but until now she has been too ‘scared’ to complain to police
From then on, they communicate regularly, according to the book. She describes in the memoir how she begins to doubt that her Facebook friend and the renowned theologian are one and the same.
But her concerns are assuaged when they speak on Skype. She details in the book how her alleged assailant invites her to meet him at a hotel in Paris, where he is taking part in a conference.
Her book reads: ‘When I resisted, when I told him to stop, he insulted and humiliated me. He slapped me and was outright violent. I saw someone who was no longer in control of himself. I was scared he would kill me. I wanted to escape but at the same time I couldn’t believe what was happening.
‘I started to cry and he said to me: ‘So honey, you’re whining are you? Stop pretending you don’t like it. You didn’t know what a real man was like before. Well, now you do.’ ‘
Ms Ayari declined to discuss the allegations yesterday. Her lawyer, Jonas Haddad, said his client was waiting ‘for this matter to be dealt with via due process’.
Last night, Mr Ramadan, who is married to a French convert to Islam, issued a statement through his lawyer.
It said: ‘Prof Tariq Ramadan categorically rejects all these false allegations. A complaint for slander and defamation will be filed with the public prosecutor in Rouen on Monday.’
An Oxford University spokesman said: ‘We are aware of the reports. We are taking them extremely seriously. We are not in a position to comment any further at this time.’
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