THE Swiss Islamic activist Tariq Ramadan has been invited by Griffith University to be the keynote speaker at its conference opening in Brisbane today.
The fact that Australia is allowing Ramadan to enter the country at all will raise eyebrows in security circles elsewhere. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: the spiritual backers of al-Qa'ida and Hamas and whose goal is to Islamise the world.
While it is, of course, unfair to tar someone with his grandfather's views, there is ample reason to think that in the case of Tariq Ramadan the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
Ramadan has been banned from entering the US because of his alleged association with extremists. The Geneva Islamic Centre, with which he is closely associated, has been linked to terrorists of the Algerian FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and the GIA (Armed Islamic Group). A Spanish police report claimed that Ahmed Brahim, an al-Qa'ida leader jailed in Spain, was "in frequent contact" with Ramadan, a claim he has denied.
Yet the Swiss activist has not only been allowed into Britain but is ensconced at St Anthony's College, Oxford as a research fellow and is much lionised by the British establishment, appearing at security seminars on Islamism and even serving as an adviser to the British Government on tackling Islamic extremism.
So how to explain this wild divergence of views about Tariq Ramadan? And does Australia have cause to be concerned?
Ramadan's message is highly seductive to a Western world terrified by Islamic radicalism. For Ramadan preaches the comforting message of an unthreatening Islam that can accommodate itself to modernity and to the West. He does so in a charismatic style combining high intellect, a winsome French accent and impossibly hip glamour. To the desperate British establishment, the picture he paints so beguilingly of a way out of the Islamist nightmare has made him into the rock star of the counter-terrorism circuit.
But closer scrutiny of what he actually says - and perhaps even more importantly, does not say - suggests the talented Mr Ramadan is an Islamist wolf in moderniser's clothing. To the Islamic world he says one thing; to credulous Western audiences quite another in language that is slippery, opaque, manipulative and disingenuous.
His reputation as a Muslim reformer owes everything to the wishful thinking of those who want so much to believe in him that they fail to grasp what he is really saying.
Partly, this is because much of his work is in French. The writer Caroline Fourest has analysed it and her book, Brother Tariq: the Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan has just been translated from French into English.
All who are concerned to halt the spread of radical Islamism should read this book. For it shows without doubt that the poster boy for Islamic reform is in fact one of the most sophisticated proponents of the global jihad.
Ramadan claims he has "no functional connection" with the Muslim Brotherhood. But he was trained at the Leicester Islamic Foundation in England, the controversial institution that propagates the doctrines of the key Islamist ideologues Maulana Maududi and Syed Qutb and which aims to promote "an Islamic social order in Great Britain".
And Ramadan has repeatedly said that his grandfather's views have "inspired" him and "there is nothing in this heritage that I reject".
So what is the heritage of Hassan al-Banna? He did not just promote the most reactionary and oppressive Islamic fundamentalism. He also devised a strategy of "graduated conquest" - pursued by the Muslim Brotherhood around the world - by which not only the countries of the former medieval Islamic caliphate, but all countries where Muslims live, are to be gradually Islamised and then taken over by an Islamic government under sharia law.
This is the "heritage" Ramadan endorses. The only difference is that he has developed a particularly subtle strategy for seducing the West into embracing Islamist thinking without realising what is happening.
On the issue of terror, he is particularly slippery. Professing to oppose terrorism, he denies that his grandfather had anything to do with jihadi violence. Yet al-Banna explicitly supported the armed jihad which he considered to be the highest and "most sacred" form of holy war.
Ramadan claims his grandfather limited this to "legitimate defence" or "resistance in the face of injustice". But this is precisely the weaselly formulation by which Islamists justify the "resistance" of human bomb terrorism in Israel or Iraq.
Behind the honeyed words about reform and tolerance which have entranced his Western fan club, Ramadan has consistently lined himself up with the forces of obscurantism, intolerance, hatred and violence.
The first association he set up in 1994, the Muslim Men and Women of Switzerland, promoted confrontation and stirred up tension. He wrote the preface for a compilation of fatwas by the European Council for Fatwa whose president, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, has said human bomb operations in Israel and Iraq are a religious duty.
Through his stronghold in the Union of Young Muslims in Lyon, he radicalised thousands of young French Muslims. In 1993, he was involved in a successful attempt in Geneva to stop production of a play by Voltaire on the grounds that it insulted Islam.
In a telling exchange with the future French President Nicolas Sarkozy, he refused to condemn stoning to death for adultery, calling merely for a moratorium on this barbaric practice. And all those who oppose him he labels Islamophobes, Jews or Zionists. The desperation to embrace this most devious "reformer" is gravely misplaced. Truly moderate Muslims are undermined and indeed endangered by Ramadan at every turn.
Far from offering a way to modernise Islam, he proposes instead to Islamise modernity. And he is all the more dangerous precisely because his weapon is not a bomb-belt but his tongue. Some may say that, even if his thinking is reactionary, that is no reason to refuse to let him into the country. This naive view ignores the fact that the Islamists' war of civilisation is being conducted principally on the battleground of ideas.
Terrorism merely backs up the Muslim Brotherhood's fundamental strategy of cultural infiltration, incitement, demoralisation and conquest.
As Fourest has written, the strategy of Ramadan is to globalise the Islamic awakening that is part of that strategy. In May 2003, the Appeal Court of Lyon agreed that language employed by preachers such as Ramadan "can influence young Muslims and can serve as a factor inciting them to join up with those engaged in violent acts". Wherever he goes, Ramadan is a pied piper leading the young to jihad by his mesmeric tunes. Through his appeal, he is probably the most dangerous Islamist in the Western world.
Thanks to the short-sightedness of the British Government, brother Tariq has been given a platform to radicalise innumerable young Muslims. Does Australia really want to follow suit?