A Muslim feminist activist has given a detailed public testimony on Monday of allegations accusing prominent Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan of sexually assaulting her in Paris.
Henda Ayari originally made the allegations against the leading Oxford professor on October 20, but has now come forward in an interview with French newspaper Le Parisien to give a lengthy account of the alleged assault.
In Monday's testimony, Ayari alleged that during the attack Tariq Ramadan "choked me so hard that I thought I was going to die".
It marks a further escalation in the allegations surrounding Ramadan, now facing investigations in France for the alleged rape of two women. Since Ayari's original allegation, two more women have come forward to lodge sexual assault complaints against Ramadan. Ayari claims the attack on her took place in 2012, on the sidelines of a congress of the Union of Islamic Organisations of France (UOIF). An unnamed woman on Friday accused Ramadan of raping her in a hotel room in 2009. While on Saturday, the most recent complainant told Le Parisien Ramadan had harassed her in 2014 and sexually blackmailed her.
In the interview with Le Parisien, Ayari attested that to her Tariq Ramadan believes that "either you wear a veil or you get raped". She claimed that Ramadan "manipulated her", kissed her and, afterwards, "literally jumped" on top of her. Ayari said her resistance was met with violence, and spoke of her trauma after the incident, and how Ramadan sought to stay in touch with her. Allegedly the scholar told Ayari she did not know "how to take care of a man", and that "we'll have to learn". Ayari alleges that Ramadan wanted her to "be his sex slave", and that he would pay for her journeys to Paris. After she refused to meet him again, she said he threatened to attack her children.
Ayari had previously written on Facebook that she had already described this assault in her book "I Chose to be Free". But it is only now that her alleged aggressor, who went by the moniker "Zoubeyr" in the 2016 book, has been named.
Tariq Ramadan, whose grandfather founded Egypt's Islamist movement the Muslim Brotherhood, had denied the accusations in a Facebook post Saturday as a "campaign of slander clearly orchestrated by my longtime adversaries". Ramadan declared in the same post that he had filed a suit for slander, and that another would "soon follow, within a few days".
Following the allegations there have been strong condemnation on social media, and calls for Oxford University to remove Professor Ramadan from his post as professor of contemporary Islamic Studies at St Antony's College. On Monday former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls took to Twitter to condemn Ramadan, declaring that he had for many years "denounced the duplicity of Tariq Ramadan ... today the truth is clear thanks to courageous women". On October 21, Imam Tawhidi – a prominent voice on Islamic matters – called upon the university to "suspend Tariq Ramadan from teaching immediately" and "fire him once proven guilty of raping".
When asked to comment on the allegations involving the professor, Oxford University told FRANCE 24 that their position had not changed since Ayari's original allegation, that they were "aware of these reports and are taking them extremely seriously" but that they were "not in a position to comment further at this time".
Ayari told Le Parisien that she was encouraged to speak out against Ramadan by the global "#Me Too" campaign. She said it was "the #BalanceTonPorc campaign that pushed me to reveal his name"; a reference to France's version of the hashtag #MeToo, which translates as "Expose your pig". Ayari said that after seeing the example of other women, she decided she "must also denounce what happened to me". The series of allegations against Ramadan have followed those made by millions of women, who have shared accounts of sexual harassment and assault following the Harvey Weinstein allegations.
Tariq Ramadan is no stranger to controversy and is something of a household name in France. His many confrontations with politicians, particularly former President Nicolas Sarkozy, have seen him at the centre of media attention. In 2003, he clashed with the then French interior minister on the topic of stoning, refusing to condemn it outright, instead insisting on a "moratorium" on the practice. In 2012 Ramadan publicly condemned Sarkozy as having lied about the scholar's personal political allegiances in the Presidential elections taking place that year.