By revoking Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan's visa to stop him from teaching
at the University of Notre Dame [Nation in Brief, Aug. 25], the U.S.
government has dealt a blow to academic freedom.
It strikes fear into some hearts that experts on American and European
Muslims may influence academic and public debate, publishing widely and
mentoring new experts. The fearful prefer no change in the status quo.
At recent meetings of the American Sociological Association, scholars asked
why U.S. sociologists know so little about Muslims. I answered that
academia had shown little interest in hiring professors with such
expertise; it wasn't considered important. It is shocking how badly the
United States trails the rest of the world in its knowledge of Muslims. The
appointment of Mr. Ramadan by Notre Dame's Kroc Institute was a bold step
toward catching up. As a senior researcher in this field, I was looking
forward to exchanging ideas with him. His message that Muslims in the West
must "[f]ind common values and build with fellow citizens a society based
on diversity and equality" needs to be heard.
This is sad for academics, Muslims in this country and the entire American
public. The U.S. government should reinstate Mr. Ramadan's visa, uphold its
principles of freedom and allow this country to become an enlightened
participant in a diverse world.
The writer is a senior research fellow at the University of Illinois at
Chicago's Great Cities Institute