Judge in NY rules government had reason to exclude Muslim scholar

NEW YORK (AP) — The Muslim scholar says he believed he was giving to a group that helped education and orphanages. The U.S. government says the organization aided terrorism, so those contributions were grounds to keep scholar Tariq Ramadan out of the country.

A federal judge ruled Thursday that the government did not violate the Constitution by doing so, saying the government had shown it excluded Ramadan for legitimate reasons. But the American Civil Liberties Union, which brought the case on Ramadan’s behalf, said he was kept out merely for espousing unpopular views.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, said the civil liberties group expects to appeal. There was no immediate comment from government lawyers, though a copy of the decision was forwarded to reporters.

Jaffer said Ramadan “is being excluded not because of his actions, but because of his ideas.

“The result is that foreign scholars will continue to be barred from the country simply because they have said things that the Bush administration disagrees with, and that is a very sad thing,” Jaffer added.

Ramadan, a visiting fellow in Oxford, England, has spoken at Harvard University, Stanford University and elsewhere.

He has opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and said he sympathizes with the resistance there and in the Palestinian territories. He also has said he has no connections to terrorism, opposes Islamic extremism and promotes peaceful solutions.

On Sept. 16, 2005, Ramadan requested a nonimmigrant visa that would permit him to attend speaking engagements. His earlier visa had been revoked in August 2004.

The following September, Ramadan was excluded from the country on the grounds that he aided a terrorist group by making charitable contributions from 1998 to 2002.

Ramadan has said he never intended to assist terrorism when he made $1,336 in contributions to the Association de Secours Palestinien. But U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty in Manhattan said the law requires Ramadan to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that he lacked knowledge of what U.S. authorities say are the group’s illicit activities.

The U.S. government says the group has provided funds to Hamas, which the government has designated a foreign terrorist organization. The United States outlawed contributions to the group in 2003.

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday December 21, 2007.
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