The Swiss Islamic activist Tariq Ramadan was invited by Griffith University to be the keynote speaker at its conference which opened in Brisbane on March 3, 2008.
The fact that Australia is allowing Ramadan to enter the country at all will raise eyebrows in security circles elsewhere. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood: the spiritual backers of al-Qaida and Hamas and whose goal is to Islamise the world.
While it is, of course, unfair to tar someone with his grandfather's views, there is ample reason to think that in the case of Tariq Ramadan the apple has not fallen far from the tree.
Ramadan has been banned from entering the US because of his alleged association with extremists. The Geneva Islamic Centre, with which he is closely associated, has been linked to terrorists of the Algerian FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) and the GIA (Armed Islamic Group). A Spanish police report claimed that Ahmed Brahim, an al-Qaida leader jailed in Spain, was "in frequent contact" with Ramadan, a claim he has denied.
Yet the Swiss activist has not only been allowed into Britain but is ensconced at St Anthony's College, Oxford as a research fellow and is much lionised by the British establishment, appearing at security seminars on Islamism and even serving as an adviser to the British Government on tackling Islamic extremism.
So how to explain this wild divergence of views about Tariq Ramadan? And does Australia have cause to be concerned?
Ramadan's message is highly seductive to a Western world terrified by Islamic radicalism. For Ramadan preaches the comforting message of an unthreatening Islam that can accommodate itself to modernity and to the West. He does so in a charismatic style combining high intellect, a winsome French accent and impossibly hip glamour. To the desperate British establishment, the picture he paints so beguilingly of a way out of the Islamist nightmare has made him into the rock star of the counter-terrorism circuit.
But closer scrutiny of what he actually says - and perhaps even more importantly, does not say - suggests the talented Mr Ramadan is an Islamist wolf in moderniser's clothing. To the Islamic world he says one thing; to credulous Western audiences quite another in language that is slippery, opaque, manipulative and disingenuous.
His reputation as a Muslim reformer owes everything to the wishful thinking of those who want so much to believe in him that they fail to grasp what he is really saying.
Partly, this is because much of his work is in French. The writer Caroline Fourest has analysed it and her book, Brother Tariq: the Doublespeak of Tariq Ramadan has just been translated from French into English.
All who are concerned to halt the spread of radical Islamism should read this book. For it shows without doubt that the poster boy for Islamic reform is in fact one of the most sophisticated proponents of the global jihad.
Ramadan claims he has "no functional connection" with the Muslim Brotherhood. But he was trained at the Leicester Islamic Foundation in England, the controversial institution that propagates the doctrines of the key Islamist ideologues Maulana Maududi and Syed Qutb and which aims to promote "an Islamic social order in Great Britain".
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