CAIRO: The UK’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) unveiled last week its new Foreign Office’s Advisory Group on Freedom of Religion or Belief, featuring Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood Hassan el-Banna.
The group, chaired by Senior Minister of State Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is a sub-group of the Foreign Secretary’s Human Rights Advisory Group, intended to advise FCO on how to promote and protect the right to freedom of religion and belief worldwide.
The UK government’s decision stirred controversy, not only because it coincided with a long-overdue investigation into the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, but also because Tariq Ramadan, along with Baroness Warsi are rumored to be linked with radical Islamist groups.
In June 2012, Cameron ordered wide investigations over Warsi’s undeclared links to Abid Hussein, a relative by marriage, with whom she is involved in a catering business, according to The Telegraph.
Hussein admitted that he had been involved in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical Islamist party that the Conservatives had pledged to ban, said the Telegraph.
“If British Prime Minister David Cameron is serious about investigating the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, he might want to start with one of his own government offices and a certain Baroness Warsi, who serves as a Senior Minister there,” Walid Shoebat, peace activist and former Muslim Brotherhood member said on his webpage.
Nevertheless, in her personal 2013 film made for the BBC, Warsi said that tackling Islamophobia is one of the UK government’s priorities. However, Warsi belongs to the politically conservative Tory party in Britain, at times fraught with conflict over its perceived anti-immigration policies.
Tariq Ramadan, 51, is a Swiss citizen and a professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies at Oxford University. He was a member of a taskforce set up by Tony Blair after the July 7, 2005 London suicide bombs that killed at least 52 civilians.
Ramadan’s grandfather, Hassan el-Banna, founded the Muslim Brotherhood in 1920s. Ramadan’s father, Said Ramadan, is a Brotherhood member who was exiled from Egypt by the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Further, Tariq Ramadan has been criticized for his “doublespeak,” accused of being moderate when speaking to Western audiences and academics, but giving more extreme speeches to radical Islamists and young Muslims.
His supporters promote him as an example of an Islamic reformer who is at the forefront of developing a European-friendly Islam.
A Foreign Office spokesman said, “Ramadan wrote and taught extensively on Islamic issues, and therefore has plenty of relevant experience to bring to the group.”
Yet Ramadan, also head of the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CLIE,) was banned from the U.S. until Jan 2010 for “providing material support to a terrorist organization.”