US Groups Sue Gov’t for Denying Muslim Scholar Visa

CAIRO, January 26, 2006 (IslamOnline.net) – Two American civil rights groups have sued the Bush administration for denying a famed Muslim scholar visa, the New York Times reported on Thursday, January 26.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, January 25, on behalf Tariq Ramadan and three national organizations of academics.

The American Academy of Religion, the country’s leading organization of scholars of religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center are challenging the administration’s ban on the Muslim scholar from entering the country to speak to their members.

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The ban decision was based on a clause of the controversial Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law rushed through Congress days after the 9/11 attacks, that bars foreigners who endorse terrorism from entering to the US.

Ramadan has publicly condemned the Sept. 11 attacks and is against the taking of innocent life.

Named by Time magazine as one of the 21st century’s great innovators, Ramadan is currently a visiting professor at St Antony’s College at Britain’s Oxford University.

In August 2005, Ramadan accepted an invitation by British Prime Minister Tony Blair to join a taskforce on the roots of extremism after the London terrorist attacks.

He has rejected terrorism as “anti-Islam.”

Moderate Voice

In a telephone interview from Oxford University, Ramadan said he had never had an explanation why his visa was revoked, especially that he had been a frequent traveler to the US for many years.

“It’s clear there is nothing in my record supporting terrorism.”

The plaintiffs maintain that Ramadan has never expressed support for terrorism.

“While Professor Ramadan has been a frequent critic of American policy in the Muslim world, he has never endorsed, espoused, or otherwise encouraged terrorist activity,” the suit said.

“He has been a consistent critic of terrorism and those who use it.”

Many see Ramadan as a moderate voice in the Muslim world who could make a valuable contribution to the debate about Islam.

The father of four is known for his calls on Muslims in the West to avoid standing on a defensive line and to present Islam as a universal message.

Ramadan currently lives in Geneva.

He studied philosophy and French literature, having two doctorates, one in Philosophy, and the other in Islam.

Ramadan also studied Arabic and Islam in Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt.

He held the position of lecturer of Religion and Philosophy at the University of Fribourg and the College de Saussure, Geneva.

Stifling Debate

The case charges that the Patriotic Act clause has been used by the Bush administration to stifle academic debate in the United States, reported Reuters.

“The concern is that the government is using the ideological exclusion provision and other immigration laws to manipulate and censor political and academic debate inside the United States,” said Jaffer.

He said the provision was used too broadly and prevented Americans from hearing speech protected by the First Amendment.

Barbara DeConcini, the executive director of the American Academy of Religion, agreed, said the American daily.

She said the Patriot Act clause “is being used much more broadly to censor and manipulate academic and political debate.”

Ramadan, 43, is an outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s policies in the Middle East.

The Muslim scholar filed a new visa application on September 16, 2005, after receiving about 40 invitations for speaking engagements in the US, said the New York Times.

Interviewed in December in Bern, Switzerland, by agents of the Homeland Security and State Departments, 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.”

Ramadan said the US ban had damaged him professionally, and the disruption had been jarring to his wife and children.

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IslamOnline.net, Qatar
Jan. 26, 2006
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