Tariq Ramadan Update: Time for the #MyZubair Movement

Tariq Ramadan takes part in a conference on the theme "Live together", on March 26, 2016 in Bordeaux. / AFP PHOTO / MEHDI FEDOUACH

Henda Ayari – the French woman who recently revealed she was sexually assaulted by Tariq Ramadan – at first couldn’t call her rapist by his real name. In her memoir, she wrote an entire chapter about the attack, but used the pseudonym “Zubair” for the man who violated her. Only after the #MeToo movement began did Ayari get the courage to reveal Ramadan’s name.

The most prominent Islamist ideologue in the West, Ramadan has not taken being outed quietly. He filed a lawsuit against Ayari for defamation and slander. But Ayari’s public revelation about Ramadan – including a formal complaint to French authorities – has prompted other women to work up the courage to share the painful ways they were apparently assaulted by Ramadan.

Henda Ayari accused Mr Ramadan of having beaten and raped her in a Paris hotel


First, a woman came forward with claims of having been raped and beaten by Ramadan in a Hotel room in 2009. The woman, whose identity remains undisclosed, is a convert to Islam and physically handicapped. Then several former female students he taught at a Swiss high school came forward saying they too were sexually abused by Ramadan when they were minors.

Then Majda Bernoussi revealed she had kept a daily journal during her tumultuous relationship with Ramadan. Extracts of this journal were unveiled in French magazine Le Point. While Ms Bernoussi was herself not raped or beaten in the five year relationship, which lasted from 2009 to 2014, she claims to have been threatened by his fans when she tried to denounce him for his “predatory” behavior towards women.

Ms Bernoussi made contact with Mr Ramadan on the Internet after returning from a pilgrimage to Mecca, attracted by his reputation as a holy man. “He was very cooperative during this first exchange,” she said, adding that she was not in the least concerned. “How could this emblematic figure of Islam, respected worldwide, hurt me?”

They started to exchange text messages, “at first very modest”. But soon, “his fake neutrality gave way to tender words, then love,” she said. Lingering doubts over his marital status plagued her, and she asked him to clarify his position several times, but without success.

His messages became more and more daring, she said, including statements such as: “I want you, you are mine”, despite having still not met in person.

“I felt less and less peaceful,” Ms Bernoussi said. Still, a date was set to meet, in Lille in July 2009.

The women who have come forward about Ramadan have revealed the smooth-talking Islamist theoretician as an abusive misogynist and a theological hypocrite. Their claims have already had consequences: On November 7, Ramadan was put on a leave of absence by Oxford University.

This story is much bigger than just Tariq Ramadan. There are Islamist leaders in Muslim communities all over the country who are preying on vulnerable young women. I have shared some of these stories already.

It is now time for women who have been victimized to come forward. Just as the “#MeToo” movement started with Harvey Weinstein, we need a #MyZubair movement.

I am in the process of talking to several women I know to get them to come forward with their stories. They are hurt and scared, but inshallah some of them will find the strength to share their stories so we can break the wall of silence inside our communities.

Watch this space.

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1 Comment

  1. Why you are make a bad connection between islam and sexual abuse…ok for a second I will trust your words but can you tell me that..only muslims cause sexual abuse what about Christian they are so kind with wonen you belive in numbers so convince me give me numbers about sexual abuse who cause and where…
    Spare me don’t blame islam for individual mistake blame the person himself. ..if a french woman make a terroristic act so I blame france…no be fare honest and blame the

    I think if a disaster showed up on the moon you will blame Islam making it guilty for that problem.

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