A lecture hosted as part of Imperial College's charity week has been postponed after the speaker was accused of rape.
Oxford Professor Tariq Ramadan was billed to appear in a talk entitled 'What could the future hold for Islam in Europe?' on Monday, 24th of October. However, it was indefinitely postponed at the last minute after a Facebook post emerged accusing Ramadan of rape.
Henda Ayari, leader of the French feminist campaign group Les Libératrices, said that she had remained quiet after the alleged attack due to threats against her and her children made by Ramadan. She added: "I can't keep this secret any more. It's too heavy to wear. It's time for me to tell the truth." Two other women have since come forward, also accusing Ramadan of rape and sexual assault.
The event, run by Imperial College Charity Week and Imperial College Islamic Society was part of a fundraiser on behalf of the international aid and development charity Islamic Relief, which provides humanitarian aid around the world. The Facebook event had attracted the interest of more than 400 people before it was removed. The limited run of tickets went on sale two weeks before the event, and before the accusations surfaced. Those who managed to buy tickets online have been fully refunded, with the Union apologising for the inconvenience.
In a statement, a Union representative told Felix: "We support the decision of the Islamic Society to cancel the event featuring Tariq Ramadan after these allegations were made against him. We will work with the society as it looks to offer alternative events for its members."
Ayari first reported the alleged rape in a book but did not identify Ramadan as her assailant. She claimed that Ramadan assaulted her in his hotel room in 2012 and "choked me so hard I thought I was going to die". Ayari further accused Ramadan of blaming the incident on her, as Ayari – then an adherent to the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Sunni Islam – was not wearing a veil at the time of the attack.
Ramadan has dismissed the accusations as a "campaign of slander clearly orchestrated by my long-term adversaries."
Ramadan's lawyer, Yassine Bouzrou, told BuzzFeedNews: "Mr Tariq Ramadan categorically rejects all these false allegations." A complaint for slander and defamation has been filed against Ayari.
The accusations against Ramadan have emerged against the background of an outpouring of harassment and sexual assault allegations from Westminster and Hollywood, as well as the the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc ('reveal your pig') campaigns on social media.
Ramadan was born in Geneva, and has been teaching at Oxford University since 2005. He is currently the Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies in the Faculty of Oriental Studies of St. Anthony's College, Oxford.
Imperial College Islamic Society runs the Imperial component of Charity Week annually in the last week of October. Last year's campaign raised more than £1 million. Events this year included a discussion of the mental health and wellbeing of refugees and a 15km adventure trail, along with street collections and black tie dinner.
Neither Imperial College Charity Week nor Imperial College Islamic Society responded to requests for comment. Islamic Relief declined to comment, saying that it would be "inappropriate" to do so as it had not organised the event.