The Faculty of Religious Studies of the University of Leiden has officially offered me a Chair in Islamic Studies, a " professorship on the Sultan of Oman Chair for Oriental Studies, for the study of Islam in the Western World". Even before it had been made official, the appointment was revealed in the press. In addition to many positive reactions, usual criticism has been expressed but it has not been - in any way - a factor in my decision.
I take this opportunity to salute the University of Leiden administration, which without hesitation completed the process of designating the academic best qualified – according to them - to occupy the Chair. Fully aware of the potential criticism their choice might entail, they based their decision entirely upon the academic criteria of competence and experience. I thank them for their courage, and for their expression of confidence. Academic recognition by one of Europe's most prestigious universities in the field of Islamic Studies has dealt a sharp blow to the rumor campaign directed against me by a handful of unscrupulous politicians and journalists.
I take this opportunity to praise the attitude of the Dutch government, particularly that of the Minister of Education, Mr. Ronald Plasterk, who defended the University's decision as a matter of academic freedom, affirming that the government had no cause to intervene. I wish only that the current American administration had adopted such a fair and dignified attitude of respect for the principle of free speech for university professors.
The fact is that premature announcement of the appointment has placed me in a delicate position. I have devoted several weeks to evaluating all aspects of the issue; I have consulted colleagues at the universities with which I am today affiliated. The prestige of the Islamic Studies program at the University of Leiden, and the scope and nature of the proposed teaching and research program were as attractive as they were compelling. These factors I had to weigh against family concerns, other major academic projects, and other extremely serious proposals already under consideration. After thorough reflection, I have decided, with regret, to turn down the appointment to the University of Leiden Islamic Studies Chair.
The decision has been a difficult one, and may seem surprising. I must stress that it has been taken in full respect for the expectations of the academic authorities of the University of Leiden, and of those with whom I am collaborating today, in a spirit of clarity and transparency. Furthermore, it has been taken for purely professional reasons. I have so informed the Dean of the Faculty, Professor Willem B. Drees, whom I personally thank for his cooperation and long-standing support; my thanks to the members of the selection committee as well.
Though I am unable to accept the University of Leiden's generous appointment, I fully intend to pursue and deepen my intellectual, academic and civic commitment to the promotion of scholarship, mutual respect and dialogue among men of good will, among societies, cultures and civilizations.
Source: Tariq Ramadan (English)
See also: Leiden: Tariq Ramadan to be chair of Islamology