August 18, 2009 / 6:34 PM / 9 years ago

Dutch sack Muslim scholar over Iran government ties

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch city of Rotterdam and its university have fired Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan as an adviser to the city over his involvement with groups that detractors say hurt his role as an expert on integration issues.

Swiss philosopher Tariq Ramadan speaks during a meeting at the Gregorian University in Rome November 6, 2008. The Dutch city of Rotterdam and its university have fired Ramadan as an adviser to the city over his involvement with groups that detractors say hurt his role as an expert on integration issues. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/Files

Ramadan is a visiting professor of theology at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands’ second-largest city.

Rotterdam’s mayor is Ahmed Aboutaleb, a Muslim who was formerly junior minister for social affairs and who has vowed to ease tensions between the city’s native Dutch and a growing immigrant population.

Ramadan was criticized after media reported last week he was hosting a weekly television show on broadcaster Press TV, which Rotterdam says is financed by the Iran government.

“Although there is no doubt about the personal effort of Tariq Ramadan, both boards (of the city and the university) find this indirect relation with this repressive regime or even to be associated with it, not acceptable,” the city of Rotterdam said

in a statement, published on its website on Tuesday.

Ramadan, an Oxford University professor, is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, an Islamist thinker and activist who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood, which opposed secular and Western ideas.

“When I accepted the offer to host a television show about Islam and current life, I choose the path of critical debate,” Ramadan said in an open letter which was published in the NRC Handelsblad newspaper on Tuesday.

“I challenge my critics to study these programmes and to find the slightest support to the Iranian government,” he added.

Ramadan told Dutch radio he would go to court to fight Rotterdam’s decision.

Last month, a U.S. federal appeals court reversed a lower court ruling barring Ramadan from entering the United States. The U.S. government had revoked his visa several times, saying contributions were given in his name to a group banned by the

United States, the Swiss-based charity, or the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP).

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