Groups Decry Tariq Ramadan's Visa Denial



Scholars and critics worldwide are demanding that the U.S.
government explain why it revoked the work visa of a Muslim scholar hired
at the University of Notre Dame, saying the action threatens academic
freedoms.

But few answers are forthcoming from the Department of Homeland Security,
which cited security concerns when it barred Tariq Ramadan from entering
the country.

That silence has sparked protests from at least four U.S. scholars' groups,
led a United Nations-sponsored institution to issue an academic freedom
alert and inspired appeals from Jewish organizations.

Robert O'Neil, who is chairman of an academic freedom committee for the
American Association of University Professors, said Ramadan's case could
have a chilling effect on an academic community already facing security
measures stemming from the 2001 terrorist attacks.

"It does suggest ... foreign scholars may be scrutinized more carefully
and may be denied entry on the basis of something less than overt terrorist
activity or association,'' said O'Neil, whose group has written Secretary
of State Colin Powell and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to protest
the decision.

The State Department issued Ramadan a work visa in May but revoked it in
July. The action came just weeks before the scholar was scheduled to begin
a tenured position as professor of religion, conflict and peace-building at
Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.

Russ Knocke, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said last month
that the visa was revoked based on "public safety or national security
interests.'' Knocke has not responded to recent requests for interviews
from The Associated Press.

Many who have rallied in Ramadan's support believe the scholar's
controversial profile, including sharp criticism of Israel, the war in Iraq
and U.S. policy in the Middle East, was the real reason for the revocation.

"We fear that pressures were applied to reverse the granting of the visa
by people who disagree with Dr. Ramadan's views as a scholar,'' two groups,
the Middle East Studies Association of North America and the American
Academy of Religion, stated in a joint letter to Powell and Ridge.

Scholars at Risk, which normally focuses on rescuing professors who face
persecution in their homelands, also has taken up Ramadan's cause because
of its ramifications for academic freedom..

 


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