François Burgat : The Islamologist and the sustaining Qatar



In his book Tariq Ramadan, History of an imposture, published by Flammarion, our colleague Ian Hamel devotes to the Islamologist François Burgat a very edifying chapter on the relationships of the author of Understanding political Islam with the Muslim Brotherhood and their Qatari sponsors.

Good leaves:

By Ian Hamel

In 2004, before meeting Hassan al-Banna’s family and the leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, I immersed myself in L’Islamisme en face, signed by François Burgat, a researcher at the CNRS. At that time, with my modest knowledge of the subject, this reading, I must admit, almost made me sympathetic to the Brotherhood. Doctor of Public Law, professor at the University of Constantine in Algeria, a researcher at the CEDEJ in Cairo (where he had met Tariq Ramadan in 1992-1993), Director of the French Centre for Archaeology and Social Sciences in Sana’a, Yemen, François Burgat, a perfect Arabic speaker, presented an impressive business card.

Since then, I’ve changed my mind pretty quickly. Especially when he introduced me to the Sudanese Hassan al-Turabi, nicknamed the “Black Pope of terrorism”, as “a very clever, highly cultured, polyglot and above all, a moderate man, whatever those upset by his intelligence and his ability to communicate may think (1) ”.

According to François Burgat, the most bloodthirsty jihadists would be innocent victims of the selfishness and iniquity of the West. Haoues Seniguer, a lecturer at Sciences Po Lyon, notes that his “’good’ version of Islam would be that of the Islamists, who would interpret it as it should be, in accordance with what would be its deepest essence: an integral, normative, “identity-based” and therefore politically oppositional Islam”. Forgetting that Islam is “a secular religion that long went without Islamism (2)”.

Burgat badmouths Kepel and Roy

Oumma.com bluntly denounces “François Burgat’s shameless lies”. The latter accused the first site of French-speaking Islam of aligning itself with the editorial line of the Algerian authorities. Which is inaccurate to say the least, Oumma.com has always condemned dictatorships in the Muslim world. More significantly, François Burgat reproaches the site for “the most virulent Qatar and Al-Jazeera bashings”. The response of Oumma.com: “Amazing! The man of the left, who is part of the braying crowd, is therefore indignant that one should attack the ultimate slave theocracy, where money flows like water, a criterion which, it is true, would make any absolute monarchy seem charming (3).”

Is François Burgat sincere, or did he choose a niche in order to distinguish himself from the two best-known French-speaking Islamologists, Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy? Two colleagues who, apparently, put him in the shade, if we are to believe the rather nonacademic tone he uses to “badmouth” them in his book Face to Face With Political Islam, in which, he asserts that Gilles Kepel’s writings “finally borrow a register that has always seemed closer to that of self-fulfilling prophecies or pyromaniac firefighters than that of the patient deconstruction that the social sciences can bring about”. As for Olivier Roy, his approach “had [in his view] wrongly reduced the Islamist reality to a literal appropriation of the actors’ slogans (4)”.

Since Tariq Ramadan’s legal troubles, François Burgat, aged 72, Emeritus Research Director at the CNRS, has not really used an academic tone to systematically drag his opponents in the mud. On social networks, he prefers to use the vocabulary of the neighbourhood “rascals”. “From the gutter to the #NouvelObs, have the last barriers fallen?” he wrote on Facebook in December 2018. And on Twitter, he adds #beuark to my name and to that of Le Point on March 12, 2018. François Burgat goes so far as to claim on April 28, 2019, on Twitter that I accept, “to butter up not only the Emirati people but also (let’s hope it was VERY well paid) Abdelfatah Sissi, for whom he did the election campaign! :-)Beuark!” Except, small detail, that I do not cover this region journalistically. Under these conditions, it is difficult for me to campaign for the Egyptian dictator, for whom I have no sympathy.

To try to understand François Burgat’s blind defence of Tariq Ramadan, as well as his seemingly immoderate love for the gas emirate, we must dive into the impressive file of more than fifty pages devoted to him by the former Muslim Brother Mohamed Louizi. It shows that the political scientist is a regular customer of the Doha palaces, which have practically become his favourite canteens. In March 2016, he is the guest of honour at the Cile, directed by Tariq Ramadan, at the same time as the Saudi theologian Salman bin Fahd al-Odah, signatory of a call for armed jihad in Syria, and Mohamed el-Moctar el-Shinqiti, “Mauritanian Muslim Jihadist Brother”.

On 23 and 24 February 2010, François Burgat was already in Qatar “when the Muslim Brotherhood, from the Islamist International, gathered at a political mass to parley around the theme ‘Islamist movements… choices and policies’, organised by the study centre attached to the Qatari channel Al-Jazeera”, writes Mohamed Louizi. François Burgat shares the same platform as Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of Ennahda, the Tunisian Islamist party. Another photo shows François Burgat, still in Doha, in July 2017 with a delegation from the NGO AFD International, “very close to the Moroccan group al-Adl Wal’ihsân (Justice and Spirituality) (5)”.

For Mohamed Louizi, François Burgat would not only be an academic who fell in love with his object of study (the Islamists), “He is a fellow traveller of the Brotherhood and one can even wonder if he is not himself a Muslim Brother,” he says. In October 2016, during the trial linked to the private Muslim high school Averroès in Lille, Mohamed Louizi was confronted with François Burgat, who testified alongside the leaders of the UOIF, namely Amar Lasfar, then imam of Lille and at the origin of the creation of this high school. “He held the speech of a militant, explaining that the Muslim Brotherhood was an excellent thing for the West, which had to deal with them (6),” says the author of Pourquoi j’ai quitté les Frères musulmans.

In addition, François Burgat chairs the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS) in Paris, a subsidiary of the ACRPS Doha Institute, headed by Azmi Bishara, an Israeli Arab who has been exiled in Qatar for the past ten years and an unofficial adviser to the Emir of Qatar. For months, the former researcher has been constantly denigrating Qatar Papers, the book by Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, and their documentary directed by Jérôme Sesquin “Qatar, war of influence on Islam in Europe”, broadcast on Arte. In an interview, he explains that the Muslim Brotherhood “has indisputably risen to the forefront of Arab opposition”. And that the fury against the Brotherhood and against Doha is due to the fact that “Qatar is indeed, with Turkey, one of the only states in the region not to criminalise them. The crime of the Brotherhood is to be everywhere at the head of the ballot boxes of the Arab Spring (7).”

On October 18, 2019, leading a conference at the ACRPS entitled “La France face à la radicalisation”, François Burgat denounced “the process of criminalisation of the Muslim population” in France. Under these conditions, “it is necessary to make a big splash at the polls. We must strike where it hurts […] We must mobilise on the electoral field,” recalling that Muslims are still 6 million. Without any nuance, the researcher calls for the constitution of community lists. In front of a room conquered by his ideas, François Burgat went so far as to reverse the responsibilities in the “process that produced radicalisation”. In fact, it is the French “power”, by its behaviour and its hatred of Muslims, which would push a future Mickaël Harpon (named after the killer of the Paris police prefecture) to commit assassinations…

However, François Burgat published on the Muslim Post website a series of articles related to the Ramadan case, in which he seems to want to distance himself from his friend for 30 years. After stating that “we have not often agreed, far from it”, he claims that he has “never sought to deny or even euphemistically dismiss the obvious contradictions between Tariq Ramadan’s extramarital life and what his ‘core business’ required in terms of individual ethics. Indeed, I immediately considered that the battles I was waging at his side (with others) might have… to go without him (8).” Brave, but not reckless. All the more so as Tariq Ramadan is no longer really in the emirate’s good books.

 

1. Ian Hamel, The Truth About Tariq Ramadan, op. cit., p. 168.

2. Haoues Seniguer, “Pour François Burgat, les islamistes ont toujours raison”, https://mondafrique.com/francois-burgat-islamistes-ont-toujours-raison/, August 21, 2017.

3. “Réponse aux mensonges éhontés de François Burgat,” https://oumma.com/reponse-aux-mensonges-ehontes-de-francois-burgat/, June 11, 2013.

4. François Burgat, Face to Face With Political Islam, op. cit., pp. 254-272.

5. Mohamed Louizi, “Les jalons de François Burgat sur la route des Frères”, http://mohamedlouizi.eu/2017/12/31/les-jalons-de-francois-burgat-sur-la-routedes-freres/, December 31, 2017.

6. Interview with the author, November 2018.

7. Baudouins Loos, “François Burgat : Des insinuations fantaisistes visent le Qatar… et les musulmans d’Europe”, http://blog.lesoir.be/baudouinloos/2019/09/10/francois-burgat-des-insinuations-fantaisistes-visent-le-qatar-et-les-musulmansdeurope/, September 10, 2019.

8. François Burgat, “Le piège d’une ‘affaire’”, https://lemuslimpost.com/francois-burgat-quoi-tariq-ramadan-nom-2.html, January 21, 2019.