U.S. Urged to Lift Ban on Tariq Ramadan

U.S. Is Urged to Lift Ban on Foreign Scholars
By JOHN SCHWARTZ, New York Times, March 18, 2009

Tariq Ramadan, a respected Swiss academic and Muslim scholar, had a job all lined up at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but the Bush administration prevented him from entering the country. Government officials said he had contributed to a charity believed to have connections to terrorism.

A federal judge supported the government’s position in December 2007, and an appeal will be heard next Tuesday by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York.

Now, in a move leading up to that hearing, a coalition of academic and civil liberties groups is calling on the Obama administration to break with the Bush administration’s policies on blocking visas of some foreign scholars, writers and activists.

In a letter being released Wednesday, the coalition says so-called ideological exclusion “compromises the vitality of academic and political debate in the United States at a time when that debate is exceptionally important.”

After Professor Ramadan was denied entry, the American Civil Liberties Union sued on behalf of him and several organizations interested in his case, including the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center. The groups claimed that they had a First Amendment right to hear Professor Ramadan, who had visited the United States dozens of times in the years before his visa was blocked.

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