Scholar deplores US ban

September 29, 2006

Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan has attacked the US Government for being "afraid of ideas" after it denied him a visa despite dropping earlier allegations that he had "endorsed" terrorism, writes Phil Baty.

Professor Ramadan, a research fellow at Oxford University's Centre for Middle East Studies, was prevented from taking up a post at Notre Dame University in Indiana in 2004 after the US Government revoked his work visa.

At the time, the Government had invoked provisions in the Patriot Act, which can prevent entry to those who have "endorsed or espoused terrorism".

The decision to reject Professor Ramadan's visa was challenged in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and the American Association of University Professors. This week, the US Government provided a new explanation for denying him a visa.

Although it dropped allegations that he had endorsed terrorism, the US State Department said it had rejected his new application for a visa as he had donated about €600 (£400) to French and Swiss organisations that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians, and said that it believed that these organisations had in turn made donations to Hamas, the Palestinian resistance movement.

Professor Ramadan wrote on his personal website this week: "I am glad that the State Department has abandoned its allegation that I endorse terrorism.

While the State Department has found a new reason to deny my visa application, I think it clear from the history of this case that the US Government's real fear is of my ideas.

"I am excluded not because the Government truly believes me to be a national security threat but because of my criticisms of American foreign policies... I am saddened... that the United States Government has become afraid of ideas and that it reacts to its critics not by engaging them but by suppressing, stigmatising and excluding them."

  • Next week Tariq Ramadan writes in The Times Higher

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