Tariq Ramadan: profile of a Muslim bogeyman in France


Every few years France gets swept up in a controversy over Tariq Ramadan. And since 1995 much of the French establishment has vilified and shunned this Muslim preacher, writer and academic, whom they suspect of advocating radical Islamism and sectarian views. Now the Swiss-born intellectual with Egyptian roots is seeking French nationality in a move that is likely to provoke yet another row. Mathieu Magnaudeix profiles a controversial figure who is almost impossible to classify.

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No sooner has he walked into the lobby of the hotel in Paris's place de la République then Tariq Ramadan has attracted a handful of black and Arab fans who ask for a selfie with him. He goes along with it, a resigned smile on his face. The other hotel clients do not notice him. For the last twenty years this 53-year-old Swiss-born intellectual, though a reviled figure for many, has attracted a loyal following. On February 4th, 2016, he announced on Facebook his intention to apply for French nationality and has since taken the first steps at the French Embassy in London where he lives and is planning to hire a lawyer to support his application.On paper his request should succeed: his wife is French, as are his four children. It was indeed in France that this Swiss preacher emerged at the start of the 1990s, becoming one of the spokesmen of a young Muslim generation in search of an identity and a role. But he has always declined to apply for French citizenship. “I don't play any institutional role and I won't do because I'm not French,” he said in 2003. He gave the same response to Slate.fr just four months ago: “I've never wanted to take French nationality so that it was clear that I didn't want any role representing Muslims.” Speaking to Mediapart Ramadan now says of his application: “I've thought about it for a long time, even before becoming Swiss in 1984. But when I entered the French debate I didn't want to give the impression that I had some ambition.”