A PROFESSOR at Oxford University accused of rape said he will devote his energies to his defence after agreeing to take a leave of absence.
Tariq Ramadan, professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies, has been accused of rape by two women in France.
The scholar, a senior research fellow at St Antony's College, has also been accused of sexual misconduct by four Swiss women.
Prof Ramadan denies the allegations but has praised the university for its approach to the situation.
The 55-year-old's teaching, supervising and examining duties will be reassigned and he will not be present at the university or college.
A statement issued by the university on Tuesday said the institution had consistently acknowledged the gravity of the allegations against Prof Ramadan while "emphasising the importance of fairness and the principles of justice and due process".
It added: "An agreed leave of absence implies no presumption or acceptance of guilt and allows Prof Ramadan to address the extremely serious allegations made against him, all of which he categorically denies, while meeting our principal concern – addressing heightened and understandable distress, and putting first the wellbeing of our students and staff."
The professor posted the statement from his Facebook account, saying he 'saluted' the position taken by Oxford University.
He added: "The university has defended the principle of presumption of innocence without minimising the gravity of the allegations against me.
"The university has always considered it imperative to respond to students' questions and to ensure their security.
"Contrary to reports in the French-language press, I have taken leave of absence upon mutual agreement with Oxford University, which will permit me to devote my energies to my defence while respecting students' need for a calm academic environment."
Born in Switzerland in 1962, the grandson of Hassan al Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Prof Ramadan studied philosophy, literature and social sciences at the University of Geneva and Arabic and Islamic studies for his PhD.
He is a scholarly European Muslim, whose books, grounded in Islam's textual sources, show him to be a skilled interpreter of Islamic history.
A controversial figure, Prof Ramadan was previously ejected from the United States as an extremist, judged to have provided material support to terrorist organisations.
He has received global praise for his academic work, including being ranked as one of the 100 most important innovators of the 21st century by Time magazine.
According to St Antony's College website, Prof Ramadan is the president of the think tank European Muslim Network in Brussels and a member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.