Banned Muslim scholar asks again for permission to enter U.S.

 A Muslim scholar suing the U.S. government over its refusal to give him a travel visa asked a court Wednesday to allow him to enter the country temporarily while the case is awaiting trial.


Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who teaches at the University of Oxford in England, had his U.S. visa revoked in 2004, shortly before he was scheduled to move to Indiana to accept a position at the University of Notre Dame.

Ramadan, said the State Department excluded the professor under a provision of the Patriot Act that allows the government to bar entry to any prominent foreigner who has used his status to endorse or espouse terrorism.


Ramadan is a critic of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and has said he sympathizes with nonviolent Palestinian resistance against Israel, but claims he is a moderate who opposes terrorism and does not support Islamic extremism.


In court papers filed Wednesday, the ACLU asked a judge to issue a preliminary ruling that the government was wrong to bar entry to Ramadan based on the Patriot Act’s “ideological exclusion” provision.


The groups also asked a judge to allow the professor to come to the U.S. for several speaking engagements, including one in late April to attend a “World Voices” festival sponsored by the PEN American Center, a literary and anti-censorship group.


“The government doesn’t have the authority to exclude people from the country, invited scholars, simply because it doesn’t like what they have to say,” said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer.


A spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, which is representing the State Department and Homeland Security officials in the suit, declined to comment on the ACLU’s motions.


U.S. officials have yet to publicly detail their reasons for revoking Ramadan’s visa.


The professor has long drawn extra attention because he is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, who founded the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic fundamentalist group in Egypt


Editorial Comment

What we may call here the “Tariq Ramadan ordeal” might as well be called the “Muslim Brotherhood ordeal”.

This is a Muslim scholar who was considered by Time magazine as one of the most important 100 thinkers in the world. His discourse is always so moderate that his views are sometimes rejected by some Muslims as too conciliatory. Nevertheless, his correctly obtained visa was revoked by U.S. authorities despite his contract with the University of Notre Dame and the support he received from it and other quarters. But dogmatic decisions by an administration that makes no difference between a few extremist elements and the peaceful, law-abiding overwhelming majority of Muslims at home and abroad has led to that arbitrary decision and to similar arbitrary decisions that led abroad to war in Iraq, among other things.

His moderation was acknowledged by the Blair government when it included him in a team of 13 wise men to advise it on how to deal with extremism and fanaticism.

The same is true of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). Its approach and methods have invariably been peaceful, moderate and open-minded. Totalitarian regimes, however, fearful of a trustworthy rival that enjoys the confidence and support of people as a result of its long-standing devotion to the interests of its people, based on honesty and transparence, have led those despotic regimes to stick the “extremist” label to the MB. The fact of the matter is that it is the MB which has suffered a lot from the atrocities and human rights violations perpetrated by those regimes. Over the past decade alone, some 20,000 MB members have been detained for various periods by the Egyptian regime, using the limitless powers it enjoys under the emergency law. The MB is deprived of the right to have its own political party so as to be easily accused at any moment of being “illegitimate”, although it obtained 20 per cent of the seats in Egypt’s parliament despite all sorts of police brutalities against it and its supporters, resulting, e.g., in the killing of 14 voters just trying to exercise their right to vote for MB members, and the injuring of hundreds more.

Khaled Salam