A French official has admitted knowing Oxford professor Tariq Ramadan was “violent and aggressive” sexually, but denied hearing anything about rape.
Bernard Godard, who was considered the “Monsieur Islam” of the French Ministry of the Interior between 1997 and 2014, was well acquainted with Mr Ramadan, a prominent Islamic scholar and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
When asked whether he had any knowledge of the rape and sexual assault that Mr Ramadan is now being accused of, Mr Godard insisted he had “never heard of rapes” and that he was “stunned”.
"That he had many mistresses, that he consulted sites, that girls were brought to the hotel at the end of his lectures, that he invited them to undress, that some resisted and that he could become violent and aggressive, yes, but I have never heard of rapes, I am stunned," he told French magazine L’Obs.
The claim puts the French authorities in a tricky position as it suggests they were aware of Mr Ramadan’s abusive behaviour towards women but failed to act.
During his time as the expert of Islam at the Ministry of the Interior, Mr Godard advised Jean-Louis Debré, Jean-Pierre Chevenement, Daniel Valliant, Nicolas Sarkozy, Francois Baroin, Michele Alliot-Marie, Brice Hortefeux, Calude Gueant and Manuel Valls successively.
Mr Ramadan, who is professor of contemporary Islamic studies at Oxford University, has been accused of rape and sexual assault by three women in the past 10 days.
One of them, French writer Henda Ayari, says Mr Ramadan raped her in a Paris hotel room in 2012. Ms Ayari, 41, who lodged a rape complaint against the 55-year-old Swiss national on October 20, claimed that for Mr Ramadan, "either you wear a veil or you get raped".
"He choked me so hard that I thought I was going to die," she told Le Parisien on Monday.
Mr Ramadan is also accused of raping another woman in a hotel room in 2009. The unnamed 42-year-old, who is reported to have disability in her legs, said on Friday that the professor had subjected her to a terrifying and violent sexual assault.
A third complainant, identified as Yasmina, told Le Parisien in an interview on Saturday that Mr Ramadan sexually harassed her in 2014 and blackmailed her for sexual favours.
Mr Ramadan has denied the accusations and has filed counter-charges for libel.
On Saturday, he wrote in a Facebook post that a new suit would follow "within a few days, in response to the campaign of lies launched by my adversaries".
"These accusations are simply false, and betray all the ideals I have long strived for and believed in," he wrote.
A Belgian woman, known as Sarah, is also thinking of filing a complaint, according to the RTBF radio network. In a testimony about her relationship with Mr Ramadan, she said she was scared for her life. “It can be very, very violent, grabbing you very violently, expecting from you any sexual practice and demanding it aggressively enough, and then it comes down again, but these moments are very difficult to live."
The allegations come in the wake of the "Me Too" campaign against sexual assault which has been sweeping the world, following accusations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
A spokesman from Oxford University told The National: “We are aware of these reports and are taking them extremely seriously.”
The spokesman refused to comment on whether Mr Ramadan’s position at the university was at risk as a result of the allegations.
The Swiss scholar became at professor at St Anthony’s college, which is part of the prestigious British university, in 2009. His appointment was tinged with controversy given Qatar is a major patron of the establishment, and in 2013, Mr Ramadan was forced to deny that he was using his role to promote the ideas of the emirate.
In an interview with Liberation, he said: “My Oxford Chair is a permanent chair, which Qatar has financed, but whose management is under the exclusive authority of Oxford.”
He added: “My salary is that of a full-time professor at Oxford, established and paid by Oxford.”
The spokesman from Oxford confirmed that Mr Ramadan is paid by the university for his work.