Tariq Ramadan Barred Again

Tariq Ramadan Barred Again
By Matthew Rothschild

September 27, 2006

I wrote about the case of Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan on June 26 (“Tariq Ramadan Wins One”), who had been offered a tenured professorship at Notre Dame only to be denied entry into the United States. At that point, it looked like the government might have to grant him a visa, since Federal Judge Paul Crotty said the Bush Administration could not exclude people “solely because the Executive disagrees with the content of the alien’s speech.”

But the Bush Administration squashed his visa anyway.

On September 21, Ramadan received a letter from the U.S. government with the bad news.

“The U.S. government’s real fear is of my ideas,” says the Muslim scholar, who now teaches at Oxford but is not allowed into the United States.

“The State Department cites my having donated about 600 Euros to two humanitarian organizations (in fact, a French organization and its Swiss chapter) serving the Palestinian people,” Ramadan said in a statement.

“I donated to these organizations for the same reason that countless Europeans—and Americans, for that matter—donate to Palestinian causes: not to provide funding for terrorism, but because I wanted to provide humanitarian aid to people who are desperately in need of it.”

Ramadan, who notified the State Department of his donations, believes they are a pretext. “The U.S. government’s real fear is of my ideas,” he writes, citing his criticism of U.S. policy in the Middle East, the Iraq War, and Bush’s hostility to civil liberties. “I am saddened to be excluded from the United States. I am saddened, too, however, that the United States government has become afraid of ideas and that it reacts to its critics not by engaging them but by suppressing, stigmatizing, and excluding them.”

Jameel Jaffer, who was lead counsel for the ACLU on this case, agrees: “The government is using the immigration laws to silence an articulate critic and to censor political debate inside the United States.”

Ramadan did find a silver lining, however. “After two years of investigation, the State Department cites no evidence of ‘suspicious relationships,’ of meetings with terrorists, or encouraging or advocating terrorism, of so-called ‘doublespeak,” he writes. This “puts an end to the rumors and baseless allegations that have circulated since my original visa was revoked. . . . I am glad that the State Department has abandoned its allegation that I endorse terrorism.”

Ramadan currently teaches at Oxford.