Tariq Ramadan is a known name to many for two chief reasons: first, he is the grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna and has long served as a leading Islamist 'public intellectual' in the West; and, second, more odiously, he is accused by multiple women of sexual assault and currently awaits trial.
For many of those drawn to Ramadan for the first reason, the second reason has now swiftly dulled the Swiss Islamist's allure. And yet a few still continue to stand by Ramadan, praising his commitment to the cause of Islamic reform all while discreetly disseminating Islamist ideas. He is seen by some as the victim of an 'Islamophobic' judicial system and by others as a hypocrite who has finally been exposed.
But both his supporters and his detractors must have been equally surprised upon learning of Ramadan's curious decision this month to embrace a new artistic career.
On April 6 2021, Ramadan released his first song, rather fittingly titled "Mais qu'est ce que vous croyez?" [What are you thinking]. Apparently, a complete album is to follow in May.
In this video, Ramadan denounces the West: "You have lied and stolen for centuries. You say you came to civilize us. You disdained our languages, our cultures, our religions, humiliated our memories, defiled our traditions."
Understandably, many might be confused by the exact meaning of these lyrics, given that Ramadan grew up comfortably in Switzerland and was never involved in struggles for independence from colonial powers.
And yet, he announces: "From the heart of Africa, of Asia, and from the awakened south, voices rise, winds of humanity."
Ramadan then repeats the chorus "Wait! What do you think? That we are going to stay and sit here, watching you? Watching you pillage our lands, our wealth, our ores. Let you write history and colonize it?"; and appears more threatening: "either you share, or we will serve ourselves," "tomorrow, fraternity and diversity will be the only guarantees for your safety."
He warns that "your order and your borders will not defeat our youth or our life", and later concludes "beyond colors and religions, we are good news, a feeling of freedom."
The French Muslim publication, Saphir News, posted Ramadan's video and confirmed to readers that they "weren't dreaming."
French Muslims do not appear convinced. One commentator pointed out that Ramadan's self-admitted affairs constitute a crime according to Islam and that he has become a caricature of himself. Another wrote that Ramadan should be discreet and sincerely repent. Several accused him of having used Islam for his own gain and of damaging the image of Muslims in France. The leader of oumma.com, the main site for French-speaking Muslims, said that "Ramadan does not represent anything anymore" but isn't able to come to terms with it.
For decades, Ramadan gained influence and popularity among French Muslims, offering himself as a charismatic intellectual, regularly publishing books and always willing to be interviewed. He claimed to have intensively studied Islamic sciences; although critics argue that in reality, few theologians took him seriously.
In the face of legal troubles, this is not the first time Ramadan has attempted to reinvent himself. Last year, Ramadan announced the opening of the Chifa center, which would teach "feminism and ethics." Critics were quick to point out that rape suspects make unlikely didactic feminists.
While his new musical career seems just as unlikely to succeed, it has at least resulted in another rare consensus between both his ex-supporters and his anti-Islamist critics: Ramadan seems determined to embarrass himself.