Workers Hammer No. 245
Anti-Muslim #MeToo witch hunt against Tariq Ramadan
We print below a translation of an article which appeared in le Bolchévik (no 226, December 2018), newspaper of our comrades of the Ligue trotskyste de France.
NOVEMBER 17 — As part of their holy war against Muslims, the rulers of French imperialism have long sought to find a way to silence Tariq Ramadan, an Egyptian-Swiss Muslim theologian and Oxford professor, who was very popular among youth from the banlieues [working-class and minority suburbs]. The anti-sex campaign around #balancetonporc [expose your pig], and #MeToo in the US, gave the French state the perfect excuse. Falsely accused of rape by three women in France and another in Switzerland, Ramadan, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, spent nearly ten months beginning in February 2018 in the dungeons of the bourgeois state, his presumption of innocence trampled underfoot.
On 16 November he was finally released on bail but the charges were not dropped. In order to get out of prison Ramadan had to pay 300,000 euros and surrender his Swiss passport to the authorities; he is forbidden to leave France or to contact certain witnesses and the plaintiffs. He also has to report to the police once a week and to reside in the Paris area. In the present witch-hunting climate, the media did not wait for the slightest evidence before pronouncing him guilty. In fact, it is clear that his relations with his accusers were mutually consensual.
Tariq Ramadan is not guilty of any crime whatsoever. The charges against him have nothing to do with the fight for “equality between women and men” or “against sexual violence” (as President Emmanuel Macron said against the backdrop of the #balancetonporc campaign). They are an integral part of the bourgeoisie’s racist offensive targeting Muslims and oppressed French minorities who are black or of North African origin. From the outset we warned:
“The media lynching of the noted preacher and intellectual Tariq Ramadan is in contrast to the treatment the government reserved for Minister of Ecology Nicolas Hulot, whose presumption of innocence was sacrosanct [when, in February 2018, he was accused of sexual assault].... For six weeks the prosecutor brushed off Ramadan’s supposedly ‘misleading’ alibi.... One of the judges involved, Michel Debacq, was formerly head of the Paris anti-terrorism prosecution unit and had met one of the accusers in 2009.... The rush to throw Tariq Ramadan in jail and keep him there shows that this is simply the latest episode of a politically motivated and racist vendetta.”
— “Communist Party, NPA, LO embrace the anti-sex moral order campaign”, le Bolchévik no 223, March 2018
Moreover, Ramadan’s lawyer, Emmanuel Marsigny, emphasised that the cops “had in particular kept evidence under seal that was exculpatory for Mr. Ramadan” and that the state had even refused him access to the file!
Ramadan has been in the state’s cross-hairs for 20 years because he is a popular ideologue for Islam in France and, from his own religious point of view, an opponent of the state’s draconian measures such as banning the headscarf in public schools in the name of “secularist” fanaticism. With intelligence and often with eloquence, this media star has more than once humiliated chauvinist and racist politicians and ideologues like Manuel Valls, Eric Zemmour and Caroline Fourest on television. Ramadan has drawn the capitalists’ hatred by declaring that Islam authorises resistance to oppression and by denouncing colonialism and “colonial thinking”. Against the anti-Muslim “clash of civilisations” hysteria, which is common coin in the media, Ramadan has insisted that Muslims should be able to integrate into French society as Muslims. But in France, these elementary bourgeois-democratic remarks are enough to make you public enemy number one.
Ramadan is in no way a leftist. He is a preacher (and a sinner, like all of us mortals) whose bourgeois worldview is simply reactionary. But it is as a spokesman for a section of the oppressed Muslim minority that Tariq Ramadan is being prosecuted by the state. As part of the fight to build a multiethnic revolutionary workers party, a Leninist-Trotskyist party that is a tribune of the people, it is the duty of communists to demand that the charges he faces be dropped.
Framed up by the state
For Marxists, the principle that guides sexual relations should be effective consent, in other words, mutual understanding and agreement at the time — no more, no less. Social norms concerning sexuality are coloured by shame, fear and religious customs — not to mention the inequalities of gender, class and race — and all this creates complications. But as long as the participants consent at the time, nobody else, especially the state, has the right to tell them what they can or cannot do — nor how they should do it.
In contrast, the #balancetonporc/#MeToo movement lumps together all kinds of behaviour — advances, suggestive references or unpleasant sexual experiences — with real crimes like coercion and sexual assault. In so doing, these bourgeois feminists trivialise horrible crimes like rape and divert people’s attention from the real oppression and exploitation experienced by the vast majority of women. In this frenzied climate, simple accusations — even without any proof — are enough to ruin the lives of the accused. Just calling into question the accusation of a presumed victim supposedly becomes “re-victimisation”. In racist capitalist society, this puritanism necessarily targets oppressed minorities sooner or later. It is not the credibility of the accusations but solely their number that is being trotted out in order to declare Ramadan guilty.
Between October 2017 and April 2018, at the height of #balancetonporc/#MeToo, four women pressed rape charges against Tariq Ramadan: three in France — Henda Ayari, Paule-Emma Aline (known as “Christelle”) and Mounia Rabbouj (known as “Marie”) — and a Swiss woman known as “Brigitte”. According to Ramadan’s lawyer, the four accusers had been in contact with one another for years. In addition, several years before filing charges, at least Ayari and Aline had also been in contact with the “secularist” zealot Caroline Fourest, who is obsessed with Ramadan. Ayari and Aline had also, according to their own admission, solicited help from Alain Soral, an open fascist, in their campaign against Ramadan. The accusers and Fourest all tried to hide their collusion. Ramadan, who preaches “virtue”, initially denied having had relations with Ayari and Aline, but in October he admitted having slept with the three French accusers, to the media’s morbid satisfaction. But all the evidence shows that these relations were consensual.
Henda Ayari presents herself as a former Salafist turned “secular militant”. She was obviously seeking publicity, having already published two books — I chose to be free (2017) and Never again veiled, never again raped (2018) — that recount the supposed rape. In court, Ayari offered two different dates and places for a single alleged rape; it was shown beyond the slightest doubt that these declarations were lies. Ayari sent Ramadan hundreds of text messages after the alleged rape. Not a single one mentioned that there had supposedly been a rape. In one of these messages she wrote that she hoped he had not forgotten “those good moments that we shared, only once, it is true, but so strong and intense”. And one minute later: “I really hope that you still remember me fondly as I do you even though it was short” (francais.rt.com, 24 October 2018).
Paule-Emma Aline says she converted to Islam in 2008. What is sure is that she is a right-wing activist. In the 2012 legislative elections she was a candidate of Debout la République (Stand Up for the Republic, today Debout la France). That party is headed by Nicolas Dupont-Aignan, who supported Marine Le Pen [of the National Rally, formerly the National Front] in the second round of the 2017 presidential election. According to the Muslim Post (11 April 2018), in 2017 Aline launched the website “Femmes avec Marine” [Women for Marine], today renamed “Femme française”, an openly racist, anti-Muslim site.
Aline alleged that Ramadan raped her very violently on 9 October 2009. She presented no witnesses or the slightest material evidence. A few weeks after the alleged rape, she contacted a friend, Denise, via Skype. Aline didn’t mention any rape. Denise asked her, “What do you think about contacting Fourest?” Aline replied: “I intend to.” Two days later, Aline wrote: “I got a reply from Caroline Fourest.... She doesn’t want to attack him in that way.... But we’re going to take care of destroying his political career in our own way LOL.”
The day after the alleged rape, Aline wrote to Ramadan:
“If I had had a bad time I would have left. I stayed and I gave you more than anyone and I miss your skin. I missed you as soon as I walked out the door. I took a walk in the park nearby early this morning, my head full of images, wondering if you liked me physically and personally.”
—francais.rt.com, 24 October 2018
Mounia Rabbouj is a former escort who had been involved in the “Carlton affair” targeting Dominique Strauss-Kahn [DSK, former head of the International Monetary Fund]. She accused Ramadan of having raped her about ten times between 2013 and 2014, but she continued to see him. Rabbouj’s sister got in touch with Ramadan in 2014 to warn him against her: “As she did with DSK — she sold her story to the reporter for 8000 euros — she will do the same thing to you. She told me so.” On 17 May 2013, the day after one of the alleged rapes, Rabbouj sent Ramadan a video in which she said to him: “Hi there”, “how are you?”, “see you soon”, “I love you.”
We know very little about “Brigitte”. She claims Ramadan raped her in October 2008. “Brigitte” declared that “he showed himself to be a tease sometimes, like calling me a ‘flirt’, and I was seduced.” Saying she had thus been under Ramadan’s “sway”, she explained that she continued to communicate with him “in the hope of understanding what he had done, in the hope that he would apologise,” and she didn’t file a complaint against him until some ten years later (nouvelobs.com, 13 April 2018). It’s no accident that she had been in contact with Paule-Emma Aline for years, a fact both women tried to conceal.
Finally, in March 2018, an American woman who remains unnamed (and about whom little is known) filed a complaint against Ramadan in the US for a sexual assault that supposedly took place in 2013. Neither the French nor the Swiss legal systems is pursuing these charges, at least for now. At the time of the alleged assault, this American woman was working as a “cultural instructor” for the US Department of Defense(!), where she taught Islam and Near Eastern culture to the American military. Feeling that she didn’t know enough about the subject to serve the Pentagon’s needs, she contacted Ramadan, one of the world’s best-known specialists on Islam, to seek his help.
It was during a visit Ramadan made to Washington that the purported assault took place. It should be noted that Ramadan had been prohibited from entering the United States between 2004 and 2010 under the terms of the Patriot Act “because of presumed links to terrorism”. The reason was that over a five-year period he had given 1670 Swiss francs (about £720 in 2004) to a Palestinian NGO considered by the American government to be close to Hamas (le Monde, 20 January 2010). It is reasonable to suppose that Ramadan was well known to the Department of Defense, among others.
The campaign against Ramadan goes well beyond the machinations of his accusers, whatever their motivations may be. It is a frame-up by the state. According to Emmanuel Marsigny, Paule-Emma Aline wrote in some of her text messages in 2010 that she was under pressure from the French security forces and [then-president] Nicolas Sarkozy, to accuse Ramadan. According to her story, Sarkozy allegedly offered to pay for the best lawyer in France for her if she brought charges against Ramadan, because Sarkozy wanted to get rid of him. She also claims that she was subjected to four tax inquiries and that her bank accounts were frozen by the state in order to force her to bring a complaint.
The persecution of Tariq Ramadan definitely has more to do with French arms sales to oil-rich monarchies hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood (Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the organisation’s founder) than with punishing crimes like rape. It must also be noted that Macron has been trying for months to strengthen the state’s control over the French Muslim community, particu-larly by restricting financial flows from abroad — even as Macron performs countless favours for the Catholic church.
Women’s oppression, religious obscurantism and bourgeois hypocrisy
While we defend Ramadan against the state, we are staunch enemies of his perspectives and his programme of religious obscurantism. For instance, he defended the anti-Jewish demagogue Dieudonné, a front man for the fascists, against completely valid accusations of anti-Semitism. For 20 years Ramadan has played a role in promoting the wearing of the Islamic veil, the physical symbol of women’s submission to men and the imposed and permanent affirmation of their subordination. Ramadan wants to modernise the way that “scholars” interpret the sacred books of Islam, in order to convince obscurantist regimes to stop stoning adulterous women and to halt other barbarous practices which he opposes, such as the death penalty. (That’s the origin of his famous proposal for a moratorium on stoning, in opposition to which that great humanitarian Sarkozy and a whole slew of bourgeois and social-democratic Pharisees periodically rip their clothes.)
No matter how you try to “interpret” them, it goes without saying that the ancient holy writings are suffused with anti-woman backwardness (and this goes equally for the Jewish Torah and the entire Christian Bible, which are also sacred to Islam). Ramadan’s anti-woman and anti-gay positions (including opposing the right to abortion and calling homosexuality “a disorder”) are ultimately the same as those of any Catholic priest. But you won’t find the jihadists of “secularism” mounting a raid against the French Conference of Bishops in the name of “republican values”.
The hypocritical bourgeois rulers, who build their careers by publicly humiliating young women wearing the veil, do not care about women’s oppression. Their “secularism” is just a cover for anti-Muslim prejudices that aim to divide the working class and isolate the militant layer of North African-derived workers from their class brothers who are white or of other ethnicities. We are for real secularism, where the state doesn’t interfere with people’s personal beliefs unless they harm others or fundamentally contravene the common good, like female genital mutilation, which is an atrocious crime. We have always fought for the separation of church and state, as well as the separation of mosque and state. But in France, where Islam will never be anything but an ideology of the ghetto that accepts segregation, the main enemy is not the Muslim fundamentalists but the anti-working-class and anti-woman French imperialist state that oppresses the toiling masses in Algeria, in Africa and here. We say no to racist exclusions and laws against the veil! Down with the government’s anti-Muslim offensive!
The hysteria over the Islamic veil in France is a longtime racist campaign that reinforces the isolation and poverty of the women who wear it. The expulsion of these women from public schools and public employment through explicitly anti-Muslim measures (allowed also in the private sector by the 2016 El Khomri law) is a cruel act of racist exclusion and religious bigotry. This entire campaign feeds into the racist lie that the real problem in society is not the racist capitalist system but women who wear the headscarf, Muslims and minorities in general.
The capitalist state, which reserves for itself the right to interfere into every aspect of people’s private lives, is a machine of repression directed against workers, the poor and all the oppressed. Its purpose is solely to perpetuate the domination of the bourgeois class. Calling for state intervention to “protect women” as the pseudo-Trotskyists of Lutte ouvrière [affiliated with Workers’ Fight in Britain] constantly do by supporting (and even calling for) anti-Muslim laws is a grotesque adaptation to the racism of the French bourgeoisie. In fact, LO members played a pivotal role in the vile expulsion of Alma and Lila Lévy from their high school in Aubervilliers in 2003 [for wearing the headscarf]. Thus, LO was a spearhead for the 2004 law banning the headscarf in public schools.
At the same time, the Ligue trotskyste has always opposed the veil even as we oppose state bans on it. The veil is more than a symbol of religious affiliation. It represents a reactionary social programme to confine women within the family and the household in a position of servitude. It represents the extension outside the home of the seclusion imposed on women by reactionary sharia. Ramadan, in his supposedly “enlightened” version of Islam, gives an example:
“It is incumbent on Muslim women today to dress modestly by avoiding clothing that exposes their privacy in order to avoid any harm caused by certain sick people....
“In other words, today if a Muslim woman wears the veil and dresses correctly and is content with her status, that’s good and nobody has the right to blame her. But if she is not content and decides not to wear it while remaining modest, this would not be contrary to Islam as is usually believed.”
— tariqramadan.com, 29 December 2013
In other words, while the veil is not an obligation, it remains incumbent on women to be “modest” and not arouse men’s lust.
The subjugation of women in Muslim countries is not rooted in some reactionary character specific to Islam, as the imperialists claim. In fact, it is rooted in the capitalist system itself. Some sectors of Christianity and Judaism — which, like Islam, have their roots in precapitalist society — adapted to the prevailing conditions of early industrial capitalism and the bourgeois-democratic nation-states. In the Muslim world, capitalism arrived late and came with European colonialism, which allied itself with the local feudal powers. In the colonised countries, as well as among the immigrant concentrations in the imperialist cities, capitalism reinforced the barbarous, anti-woman traditions.
The condition of women in the more advanced capitalist countries, while different, shows the limits of freedom and social progress under capitalism. In France, unlike the countries of Africa, capitalist property developed and profoundly undermined backward feudal social relations. These relations were practically wiped out by the great bourgeois-democratic French Revolution of 1789, which opened the road to the development of an advanced industrial society. The revolution abolished the monarchy and aristocracy, limited the power of the Catholic church and greatly improved the status of women, although many of women’s legal gains were later taken back as the bourgeoisie consolidated its power. By attacking the Muslim girls who wear the headscarf, the French state deforms the aims and values of the French Revolution.
In fact, capitalism laid the basis for the liberation of women by opening the road to their participation in social production and by creating opportunities for the development of social consciousness and for organised struggle against oppression beyond the isolated structure of the nuclear family. But capitalism long ago outlived its progressive historical role and became a barrier to further development of the productive forces and to women’s liberation. The oppression of women, the oldest form of social inequality in human history, arose with the development of private property, and it will persist until class society is abolished. The fundamental social institution oppressing women is the family, whose main social function under capitalism is to rear the next generation of wage slaves. The family must be replaced and women’s household labour must be taken on by collective social institutions in a socialist society.
“The opium of the people”
Religion plays a key role under capitalism by teaching the exploited and oppressed masses obedience to state authorities and the bosses, while instilling the patriarchal “family values” that stifle women, youth and everyone. The past three decades have seen an increase of religiosity, a product of racist segregation, among the French population of North African and West African origin. Internationally, this upsurge of religion was conditioned by the counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, which was a huge defeat for the working class and oppressed of the whole world. The counterrevolution brought with it a resurgence of all kinds of fundamentalism, in the Muslim world and elsewhere (for example, Protestant fundamentalism in the US).
The rise of Islam in France reflects the despair of a horribly oppressed community that sees no way of ending that oppression. It is no surprise that many banlieue youth would be attracted to Tariq Ramadan, finding in his preaching a refuge and the illusion of a rediscovered dignity. As Marx wrote:
“Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and also the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people.
“To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness. The demand to give up illusions about the existing state of affairs is the demand to give up a state of affairs which needs illusions. The criticism of religion is therefore in embryo the criticism of the vale of tears, the halo of which is religion.
“Criticism has torn up the imaginary flowers from the chain not so that man shall wear the unadorned, bleak chain but so that he will shake off the chain and pluck the living flower.”
—“Introduction to Contribution to the critique of Hegel’s philosophy of law” (1844)
Thus, the Marxist struggle against religious obscurantism is inseparable from the fight to abolish the material conditions which in this world create the need to take refuge in heavenly fantasies.
The bourgeois feminism of #balancetonporc/#MeToo is a tool in the hands of the capitalist state, as is demonstrated by the persecution of Tariq Ramadan. For our part, as Marxists and fighters for women’s liberation, we struggle for the revolutionary transformation of society, to eliminate once and for all the conditions of poverty, exploitation and oppression that give rise to religious illusions. In short, we fight for international socialist revolution.