Islamic Scholar’s Suit for a Visa Is Rejected
Saying the government had acted properly and for “bona fide” reasons, a federal judge threw out a lawsuit on Thursday that was brought last year by an Islamic scholar who claimed that a portion of the Patriot Act had been used to deny him a work visa to enter the United States.
The judge, Paul A. Crotty of Federal District Court in Manhattan, said the Patriot Act had not, in fact, been used to deny the visa to the scholar, Tariq Ramadan, who was trying to enter the United States from his home in Switzerland in 2004 after being hired to teach an Islamic ethics course at the University of Notre Dame.
Judge Crotty said the government’s decision was made because, in a four-year period, Mr. Ramadan had given $1,336 to a Swiss charity later designated as a terrorist group.
Mr. Ramadan, a respected academic and a grandson of Hassan al-Banna, founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, a once-militant group, sought to portray himself in the suit as a victim of the Patriot Act and as a standard-bearer for academic freedom. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on his behalf as well as on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center.
The suit claimed that a portion of the Patriot Act denying visas to people who “endorse or espouse terrorist activity” was unconstitutional and that the free speech rights of the academic groups had been violated because they could not meet with Mr. Ramadan in the United States.
The government originally said Mr. Ramadan was denied the visa under the Patriot Act but later said it was because of his contributions. Mr. Ramadan maintained that from 1998 to 2002, when he made the donations to the charity, Association de Secours Palestinien, he did not know that it supported terrorism — specifically the Palestinian group Hamas. He also argued that the charity was not officially designated a terrorist group by the United States until 2003, after his donations had stopped.
Judge Crotty nonetheless ruled that he had not provided “clear and convincing” evidence that he was unaware of the charity’s links to terrorism.
In his 32-page ruling, Judge Crotty said American consular officials could bar foreigners from entering the country, without judicial review, if they could prove that there were legitimate and bona fide reasons for doing so. The judge did not address the Patriot Act issue because his ruling was based on the contributions.
Jameel Jaffer, Mr. Ramadan’s lawyer, said the decision was “legally wrong” and “deeply unfair.” He said he anticipated an appeal.