Dutch City removes Tariq Ramadan from post

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THE HAGUE: The Dutch city of Rotterdam said Tuesday that Muslim intellectual Tariq Ramadan would no longer serve as an adviser for hosting a program on a television channel it claims is backed by Tehran.

Rotterdam s Erasmus University has simultaneously dropped him as a guest lecturer on citizenship and identity, said a joint media statement.

The reason is Tariq Ramadan s involvement with the Iranian television channel Press TV, which is incompatible with his functions. Ramadan has been an advisor to the mayor of Rotterdam on issues of multi-culturalism since 2007.

Press TV is a channel that is financed by the Iranian government, said the statement. We find (his) indirect relationship with this repressive regime, or even the appearance of such, to be unacceptable.

Ramadan said he would take the council to court.

I am going to sue the municipality. It is a question of honor and dignity, he told public broadcaster NOS.

Ramadan said he took offence to being labeled a supporter of the Iranian government.

To put me in a position where I am supporting the regime is just unacceptable, he said, adding that his television program was of a religious, philosophical nature.

The dismissal was more about the political climate in the Netherlands than anything else , said Ramadan ? referring to the rise of far-right parties in Rotterdam and elsewhere.

In response to his removal, Ramadan posted “An Open Letter to my Detractors in The Netherlands on his website. In the text Ramadan made clear that he was critical of the Iranian government.

“I have never supported either dictatorship or injustice in any Muslim majority society, or anywhere else for that matter.

Ramadan also insisted that he had only undertaken the position on the condition that he would have full freedom to discuss any issue during his appearances. He clarified that during his appearances he had discussed religious and philosophical issues not Iranian politics.

Ramadan also questioned why his detractors choose his involvement with an Iranian TV program to make a statement about the situation in Iran. He wondered why they did not call for complete political and economic ban of all Dutch interaction with “Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Israel or China?

In the letter Ramadan framed his removal from office in the context of rising Islamophobic sentiment in the Netherlands “when they single out a ‘visible Muslim intellectual’ for attack their real agenda is the politics of Muslim-baiting and fear. When it comes to seeking votes, all options are on the table, even the most dishonest and the most scurrilous he argued.

A Swiss citizen of Egyptian origin, Ramadan is considered one of Europe s leading Muslim thinkers.

He is known for promoting a modernized form of Islam and for his opposition to the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.

Ramadan, whose grandfather was a founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, has been barred from entering US territory since 2004.

In July, Dutch elections to the EU parliament saw the anti-immigrant Freedom Party win four of Holland’s 25 seats.

The city of Rotterdam in particular has become a battleground over Dutch immigrant issues. Rotterdam is home to Europe’s biggest port and home to many of the Netherlands’ 800,000 immigrants.

These tensions have intensified since the appointment of Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Dutch-Moroccan as mayor. Aboutaleb is the first immigrant mayor of a major European city. Aboutaleb began serving in January and has been called Europe’s answer to Barack Obama. His appointment and Ramadan’s involvement with the city have angered far-right Dutch nationalists.

The news of Ramadan’s sacking followed a series of controversies that have centered on the Muslim intellectual this year.

In April, Ramadan was cleared of allegedly making anti-homosexual comments and as result was allowed to maintain his position with the city of Rotterdam.

In July, a federal appeals court in New York overturned the 2004 ban on Ramadan’s entry into the United States. At the time Ramadan had been banned because of a charity contribution to a Palestinian organization later linked to Hamas. Ramadan has always maintained it was unreasonable for him to know in advance the ultimate destination of his donation was Hamas.

Ramadan’s breakout book “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam makes only a single passing reference to Iran as a locality in a rising movement of what he terms “Islamic feminism ? a theme Ramadan mentioned again in his letter Tuesday when he stated, “For the past 25 years, while observing that compared to the Arab countries Iran has made substantial headway in women’s rights and democratic norms, I have been critical of the lack of freedom of expression there. ? AFP with additional reporting by Daily News Egypt’s Joseph Hammond.

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