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Like the constitutions of most “developed democracies” in the West, the French Constitution (customarily called the Constitution of the Fifth Republic) has a lofty ring to it.
Article 1 reads…
“France shall be an indivisible, secular, democratic and social Republic.It shall ensure the equality of all citizens before the law, without distinction of origin, race or religion. It shall respect all beliefs. It shall be organized on a decentralized basis.”
Like most of the world’s secular democracies, however, France often comes up short on the implementation side of such lofty ideals.
One of the French republic’s major tests, vis-a-vis the so-called “rule of law,” is the dilemma posed by the case of Dr. Tariq Ramadan, an internationally-renowned Muslim intellectual of Arab-Swiss heritage. Dr. Ramadan presently occupies a solitary confinement cell in Fleury-Mérogis prison. As a result of brutally imposed conditions of confinement pre-trial, his health is now in serious jeopardy as a result of inadequately treated multiple sclerosis.
While Tariq Ramadan has been viewed as a “moderate” bridge-building voice of Islam in the West, the combination of intellect, cultural versatility, willingness to speak truth to power, and bloodline, has been too much for some to bear. In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movement sweeping much of the globe, a self-described “former Salafist” (reconstituted secular feminist) by the name of Henda Ayari accused Ramadan of raping her years ago.
This accuser was then followed by others alleging the same – with rather bizarre storylines attending some of their claims – coupled with highly questionable affiliations to some of Ramadan’s leading critics and political enemies in France. It’s worth noting that Ramadan not only maintains his innocence, but he voluntarily traveled into France to answer the allegations, only to be arrested and placed in maximum security confinement.
Truth be told, France (and the French establishment by extension) is not alone in having its professed ideals tested by the case of Tariq Ramadan; the Muslim establishment is experiencing its own challenges as well – especially Muslims of the two AAs, the Arab world and America.
Ramadan is the grandson of Imam Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Ikhwan al-Muslimun (Muslim Brotherhood). If I were to draw a parallel to what the Ikhwan has come to symbolize in the collective mind of a corrupt Arab establishment – and its colonial, and later neo-colonial masters – it would be what the original Black Panther Party came to symbolize for the American establishment – times ten!
Ramadan has been one of the leading Muslim voices throughout Europe. He has graced the national stages of a number of “major Muslim organizations” in the United States over the past few years; and yet these organizations have been virtually silent on the ongoing violation of this prominent Muslim’s due process rights. Not unusual, but still sad and profoundly counterproductive nevertheless!
Tariq Ramadan must have his day in court. Until then, he should be accorded the same presumption of innocence and due process rights of any other person being accused of a crime. He should not be punished and have his health placed in severe jeopardy before trial and a finding of guilt!
In closing – on a somewhat related note – a new memorial museum recently opened in Montgomery, Alabama. The National Memorial for Peace and Justice (aka, The Lynching Memorial) symbolizes part of the reason why my personal response to the plight of Dr. Tariq Ramadan has been as it is. As a committed Muslim, and as a black man in America connected to his genetic memory, I have a visceral, deeply embedded (some might even call it instinctive) opposition response to reactionary, politically motivated mob violence.
While dressed up in French [un]constitutional legality, this is precisely how I view what is now happening to Dr. Tariq Ramadan in the French Republic – POLITICALLY MOTIVATED MOB VIOLENCE!
El-Hajj Mauri’ Saalakhan serves as Director of Operations for The Aafia Foundation, Inc. – a Muslim led human rights organization based in Metropolitan Washington, DC.