Tuesday 18 August 2009

Tariq Ramadan fired by Rotterdam City Council

The Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad reported today that the city of Rotterdam is severing its ties with Tariq Ramadan, who has been working for the city as a consultant on integration for the last two years. Editor Mark Hoogstad writes that Ramadan 'has lost his credibility as integration advisor because of his weekly programme on the Iranian TV station Press TV, which is financed by the controversial regime in Tehran'.

According to sources at Rotterdam City Hall 'because Ramadan himself has now become a subject of discussion, he can no longer lead a dialogue in the city'. The city's 'college' (the executive body of mayor and councilors) would meet this afternoon at 2pm to sign off on his dismissal. Earlier this year, Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb (see the post of 17 October 2008) had already expressed his dissatisfaction with the existing arrangements around Ramadan's advisory position: 'we can ride it out, but my advice would be: never again'.

Ramadan had been associated with the city of Rotterdam as integration adviser since 2007. His responsibilities consisted of: participation in thirteen dialogues on citizenship in the city and providing a 'substantial contribution' to themes such as religious identity and free choice in marriage. In addition he would convene four master classes on citizen participation and supply the city council with further advice on the implementation of its integration policies. The city also pays for his Chair at Erasmus University, where he has been working as Visiting Professor Identity and Citizenship since January 2007.

Last week, three opposition parties in the Rotterdam legislative body (Leefbaar, VVD en SP) called for his dismissal, while City Council coalition party PvdA (Labour Party) stated that Ramadan's credibility had been compromised because of his involvement with Press TV.

The city council had been taken by surprise by Ramadan's participation in a programme of the Iranian TV station. In the national parliament, CDA (Christian Democrat Party) insisted Ramadan should leave, while in Rotterdam (where the party was still supporting him in Spring), CDA representatives kept silent.

The issue of Ramadan's involvement with Press TV blew up on 15 August, after the Iranian-born legal scholar and Professor of Law at Leiden University, Afshin Ellian ( see also this blog) had called in his column in NRC Handelsblad on Rotterdam 'to get rid of this Islamist'. Ellian had already challenged Ramadan in an earlier article published on 11 April 2009.

Tariq Ramadan defended himself against Ellian's latest allegations in an op-ed piece, published in the 18 August issue of NRC Handelsblad and in an open letter to the newspaper of the same date. The text of that letter is taken from NRC Handelsblad website:

"I have been hosting a show at Press TV since April 2008. I accepted the job after having asked and checked about the channel and the work's conditions. My own conditions (those I put) were to be free to tackle the topics I wanted and not to be pressured on any way. Since the very beginning, no one imposed on to me to tackle one specific issue or to avoid one other issue. I have been free. My programme is called "Islam and Life" and it has been a open window for me to address all sorts of issues (Islamic issues, interpretations, pluralism, violence, radicalisation, arts, etc.). Numerous viewers expressed their continuous content as to the substance of this show. I have invited rabbis, priests, atheists, agnostics, practicing and non practicing Muslims with neither limits nor censorship. This is were I stand as to my involvement and continuous commitment on freedom of expression.

My contract, from the very beginning, is with Press TV limited and the conditions of my involvement were and remain clear : I never spoke or dealt with anyone from the government While the controversy started in the UK, no one attacked me for my political position is clear and the substance of my programmes are representative of my open way to deal with dialogue. No violence no censorship in my work and many mainstream UK journalists are working at Press TV (such as Andrew Gillighan, awarded "best UK journalist in 2008") without facing such attacks.

As to my personal position towards Iran, the Iranian regime and what has happened during the last three months: I wrote and responded many times and clearly to interviews. My position is clear. I said, and I repeat here, that repression against and killing of civilian people cannot be accepted and must be condemned. I support transparent democratic process and I expect from the Iran regime to respect this principle.

I want to be judged on these very facts and not on anything else. I am travelling now (in Mauritius) and shall be back in Europe in three weeks. I will check the facts, make my mind and take a decision when back in Europe : I shall do so as free mind, under no pressure and in a consistent way with my aforementioned principles."

In April 2009, Ramadan had come under fire over his views on homosexuality, leading to a very critical piece by Gay Krant editor Henk Krol in which he called on the 'real Ramadan to finally come out of the closet' and another critical article published a few weeks later. At the time the VVD (Conservative Liberals) left the Rotterdam City Council coalition and joined the opposition in protest of the city's decision to retain Ramadan.

For a further unfolding of events cf. the Tariq Ramadan dossier in NRC Handelsblad.


william said...

Obviously they have never watched the program
Professor Ramadan always and let me stress always presents a moderate view of Islam.
To silence him is to make way for an extreme view.
Please reconsider.

Unknown said...

Moderate Islam is very quiet and ver scarce.