Noted European Islamic scholar, Tariq Ramadan, has been persona non grata in this country since 2004, when the Department of Homeland Security cancelled a visa it had issued allowing him to teach at Notre Dame. DHS never gave any specific reason for the cancellation other than this vague explanation reported by the NY Times:
Speaking to reporters in August 2004, a spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security, Russ Knocke, cited the Patriot Act clause as the reason that Mr. Ramadan’s visa was canceled. The clause, adopted when the act was passed in 2001 and amended last May, bars foreigners who “endorse or espouse terrorist activity or persuade others” to support terrorism.
No evidence was ever evinced that Ramadan actually does support terror (and none could be produced because he doesn’t–contrary to the prattling of anti-Muslim ideologues like Daniel Pipes). Ramadan revealed that DHS agents have interviewed him at his Swiss home about his views of the Iraq War:
Interviewed in December in Bern, Switzerland, by agents of the Homeland Security and State Departments, Mr. Ramadan said he was mainly questioned about his views of the war in Iraq.
“I told them what I have said many times publicly, that I think the war was a mistake and illegal,” he said. “Even the United Nations has said that. I think the resistance is legitimate but the means they are using are not.”
And in case any anti-Muslim zealots wish to misconstrue this quotation…it means he’s opposed to the use of terror and violence against the U.S. occupation but he is in favor of other forms of resistance to it. That’s a position that is far too nuanced for this Administration and the Arab haters to understand. To them, any Arab who opposes the war, especially articulate ones like Ramadan, are enemies or potential enemies.
The same DHS spokesperson quoted above from 2004 made a new statement to the Times about possible reasons for Ramadan’s banishment:
Mr. Knocke of the Department of Homeland Security also declined comment on the suit or Mr. Ramadan’s status. But he noted that the criteria for revoking visas included “public safety and national security risks,” among others.
“We have a strong commitment and clear responsibility to restore integrity to our immigration system, which includes preventing people who might present risks from entering the country,” Mr. Knocke said.
The idea that Tariq Ramadan is a “public safety” or “national security risk” is absolutely laughable. He doesn’t belong to Hamas. He doesn’t advocate on behalf of Al Qaeda or militant Islam and he doesn’t support their version of jihad. He’s a professor who teaches religion for God’s sake. Let the guy give his lectures, teach his students and publish a few Opinion pieces while he’s here. Maybe we can learn something from him about Islam. Maybe we can learn not to be as suspicious and even hateful toward its tenets.
I am delighted to read that the ACLU has filed a federal suit to strike down the provision of the Patriot Act used against Ramadan:
The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a lawsuit challenging a provision of the Patriot Act…being used to deny visas to foreign scholars whose political views the government disfavors. The lawsuit charges that the “ideological exclusion” provision is being used to prevent United States citizens and residents from hearing speech that is protected by the First Amendment.
“Barring people from the country because of their ideas skews and impoverishes political debate inside the United States,” said ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer. “The government should not be using the immigration laws as instruments of censorship.”
Good on ya, ACLU. I hope that sometime in the not too distant future, I will have the opportunity to hear Professor Ramadan lecture here in Seattle.