A lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union asked a federal judge yesterday to declare unconstitutional a part of the Patriot Act that he says allowed a prominent Muslim scholar to be denied a visa.

The lawyer, Jameel Jaffer, told Judge Paul A. Crotty of Federal District Court in Manhattan that the provision, allowing the federal government to deny visas to people who “endorse or espouse terrorist activity,” was a primary reason that the scholar, Tariq Ramadan, was denied a work visa to enter the United States in 2004.

“What concerns us about this provision is it could be used to exclude people who have done nothing more than disagree with U.S. foreign policy,” Mr. Jaffer said outside court.

Mr. Ramadan was trying to enter the United States from his home in Switzerland after being hired to teach Islamic ethics at the University of Notre Dame.

The government has said that Mr. Ramadan was not denied a visa because of the provision in the Patriot Act, but because of contributions he had made to charities considered by the United States to have connections to terrorism.

The A.C.L.U. and Mr. Jaffer are acting on behalf of Mr. Ramadan and the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center. The groups say their First Amendment rights have been violated because they cannot meet with Mr. Ramadan.

According to Mr. Jaffer, the State Department said during a news conference in August 2004 that the refusal to allow Mr. Ramadan to enter the country was on the basis of the “endorse or espouse” provision.

Mr. Ramadan had visited the United States 24 times before he was denied the visa. He lectured at Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton — and the State Department. (MORE)


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