In a Friday sermon at the Mosquée Aïcha de Montpellier, French Imam Mohamed Khattabi called to stand alongside Tariq Ramadan, currently in prison awaiting trial for rape. Saying that "if our brother eventually confesses to having done those things, it will be because he was coerced into admission," Imam Khattabi claimed that "their goal is to sow division among us." Lauding Ramadan as a thinker, who "explains Islam very nicely, especially to the youth," Imam Khattabi exclaimed: "This is the symbol they want to murder. This is the symbol they want to erase." The June 8 sermon was posted on the YouTube account of Mosquée Aïcha.
Mohamed Khattabi: "None of you have heard our brother Tariq [Ramadan] speaking [about this]. Nobody has. All that we are hearing is what his lawyer and the press are saying, and you know what position the press has adopted toward our brother Tariq Ramadan since the beginning of this affair. From this pulpit, as Allah is my witness, I would like to reiterate what I've said before, so that it will be clear in every Muslim's head: We do not turn our backs on a Muslim! We do not turn our backs on a Muslim! Anyone who turns his back on brother Tariq today will eventually pay the price.
"You don't know what it means to be incarcerated. I was detained for 24 hours, and I know what it means. Brother Tariq Ramadan has been remanded in custody for over 100 days. Do you know what it means to be in prison for 100 days, without being treated for multiple sclerosis, perhaps in wheelchair, half handicapped... Under these conditions, I would have collaborated with the Devil, and would have admitted all the sins, just so I could have my health and my liberty back.
"Let it be clear that if our brother eventually confesses to having done those things, it will be because he was coerced into admission. It is not that he declared: 'Oh Muslims, I am having extra-marital relations.' No! He was forced to admit to those extra-marital relations, and [according to Islamic law], any coerced confession is null and void.
"They coerced him into confession. This is psychological torture. He had no choice but to confess. And why? Because their goal is to sow division among us. It's very sad for me to hear people giving him advice and asking him: 'Why didn't you marry four wives? You are rich, and you had hundreds of female admirers lining up at your door. You could have chosen whoever you wanted.' What is this nonsense? Are you trying to make a doormat out of him? No, this is not the right approach. Tariq will remain our brother. There is one final thing that I would like to say: If he were an imam, I would have understood this. People pray behind the imam, and we have the right to accuse him [in such a case], because the imam is a guide and a model figure. The imam leads the prayer, and it is a spiritual thing, the relation with God... But Tariq is not an imam. He is not in charge of a mosque. He is not a cleric, as I've said before. Tariq is a thinker, a man who serves Islam, defends Islam, and talks about Islam. He explains Islam very nicely, especially to the youth. This is the symbol they want to murder. This is the symbol they want to erase. Full stop!"