TWO WEEKS ago on C-Span, I heard Condoleezza Rice say, “We must expand
dramatically our efforts to support and encourage the voices of moderation
and tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim world.” Yet, such a person,
Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, slated to teach at Notre Dame this
fall, was denied entry to the United States by the Department of Homeland

His visa, issued in February, has been revoked without explanation, except
for the statement that it is permissible to bar those who have used a
“position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist

With 30,000 Muslims gathering in Chicago this weekend for the Islamic
Society of North America, this controversy will be high on the agenda.
Ramadan was to speak at the meeting. Muslim Americans deserve to hear
something more substantive from our government than accusations levied by
the likes of commentator Daniel Pipes.

I write as a scholar who believes Ramadan’s progressive voice is critical
for all of us Muslims and non-Muslims alike. I have read the books of
Ramadan, including “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam,” and “Islam,
the West, and the Challenges of Modernity,” and I heard Ramadan speak at
the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Barcelona in July. He
relentlessly espouses the opposite of terrorism — the hard work of
intercultural, interreligious bridge-building. As a scholar who looks for
progressive voices that tackle the challenges of religious pluralism, there
are few whose voice is clearer and more important than Ramadan’s.

Yes, Ramadan’s Egyptian grandfather, Hasan al-Banna, founded the Muslim
Brotherhood, an Islamist religio-political organization that has been
described as “fundamentalist.” Is this reason to bar him from the United
States? Ramadan has reflected often about the different contexts of his
life and that of the colonial Egypt of his grandfather. And, yes, Ramadan
has openly criticized his French intellectual colleagues, many of them
Jewish, for not speaking out against the policies of Prime Minister Sharon
and the US invasion of Iraq. He was then accused of anti-Semitism, though
he has inveighed against every kind of anti-Semitism.

Just what, then, in the work of Ramadan would warrant signaling the entire
Muslim world that America is now off-limits to a renowned scholar, so
well-known for his reformist vision that he has been called a “Muslim
Martin Luther…


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