NEW YORK - The U.S. government has rejected a prominent Muslim scholar's application to enter the country on the grounds that he donated several hundred dollars to French and Swiss groups that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians, a civil rights group announced Monday.
Tariq Ramadan learned that his visa application was rejected last week, three months after a judge ordered the government to decide whether he can enter the country to speak before groups that had invited him, the American Civil Liberties Union said.
The Bush administration contends the French and Swiss groups, which the ACLU said are legitimate charities, gave funds to Hamas and invoked a law allowing it to exclude individuals whom it believes have supported terrorism.
Ramadan, who teaches at Oxford University, said in a statement that he was disappointed by the government's decision but was glad that the State Department had abandoned its initial allegation that he endorsed terrorism.
"I think it's clear from the history of this case that the U.S. government's real fear is of my ideas," he said. "I am excluded not because the government truly believes me to be a national security threat, but because of my criticisms of American foreign policies in the Middle East; because of my opposition to the invasion of Iraq; and because of my criticism of some of the Bush administration's policies with respect to civil liberties."
A message left for comment with the State Department was not immediately returned.
Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU lawyer, said the civil rights group would decide whether to pursue the issue through the courts once it speaks with organizations it represents that filed a lawsuit challenging the government's exclusion of Ramadan.