The former Swiss schoolmaster Tariq Ramadan is the latest minor intellectual celebrity whom Western academics have embraced in a pattern of misplaced enthusiasm stretching from Antonio Negri to Michel Foucault. After a few televised run-ins with the then French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, had conferred notoriety on Ramadan, liberal American Catholics offered him a chair at Notre Dame, which the American authorities frustrated by refusing him a visa. Faute de mieux Ramadan settled for a visiting research fellowship at St Antony’s College, Oxford, for while he is banned from Egypt and France ‘as a public order menace’ England is more indulgent, grasping at any passing straw in its quest to avoid the Islamist menace. One can see this from Mayor Livingstone’s enthusiasm for Ramadan’s anti-Semitic spiritual mentor Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, recently prohibited from entering this country even for medical treatment.
Ramadan undoubtedly looks the part of ‘the intellectual’. With his elegant hands, open-necked white shirts and carefully trimmed beard, he is physically (and rhetorically) worlds apart from such lumpen demagogues as Abu ‘the Claw’ Hamza, currently of HMP Belmarsh, or Omar Bakri Mohammed, the expatriated Tottenham-based ‘ayatollah’ last seen begging