A storm is brewing after leading South African academic and Muslim, Professor Adam Habib, was deported from the US at the weekend.

Habib, executive director of the Human Sciences Research Council’s Democracy and Governance Research Programme, was questioned for more than seven hours at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York.

His visa was then revoked and he was escorted back to a plane by armed guards and deported.

Habib is the third South African Muslim to be deported from the US in the past month.

Local human rights activists, including Muslim groups, have reacted with outrage, calling on the US to justify their actions.

Habib last night told the Daily Dispatch that on his arrival in the US, officials pulled him aside and asked whether he knew any terrorists or if he belonged to any terror organisations.

“They asked me if I was a terrorist and I said no. Then they asked if I had ever been in prison and I said yes, I was politically detained by the apartheid government,” he said.

Habib, who has not been given a reason for his deportation, said he felt his “personal rights” were severely infringed. “You can’t just deny someone access to a country and not give them any reasons why. It’s like you accuse someone, but you don’t tell them what for,” he said.

Habib’s ordeal started on Saturday when he arrived in New York with an HSRC delegation scheduled to meet officials of a number of US institutions, including the National Institute of Health, the Center for Disease Control, the World Bank, Columbia University and some donor agencies. It came “out of the blue. I have a 10-year multiple entry visa issued three years ago. The last time I travelled to the US was in 2004 and I did not have any problems.”

In 2002 and 2003 the Financial Mail described Habib as one of the 300 most influential black opinion makers in South Africa.

Habib said he had visited the US more than 20 times previously for work and personal reasons – without any problems.


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