Outraged Muslims launched a letter-writing campaign this week to demand
that U.S. officials overturn a decision to deny a visa to renowned Islamic
scholar Tariq Ramadan.
Some Jewish leaders, meanwhile, applauded the decision, saying Ramadan is a
Muslim extremist who should be barred from the United States.
Ramadan, a resident of Switzerland, was to begin teaching this week at the
Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of
Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind. But a visa issued to him in February by the
State Department was revoked July 28 on orders from the Department of
For many Muslims, the decision is further evidence that the Bush
administration makes no distinction between Muslim moderates and
extremists. Middle East and Islamic scholars consider Ramadan a moderate.
"It is a troubling situation because we hear that the Bush administration
wants to build bridges with moderates and mainstream Muslims. But we see
that this action flies in the face of this sentiment," said Ibrahim Hooper,
a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, an advocacy
group based in Washington.
The council has started a campaign to encourage Muslims to write to
government officials and demand that Ramadan be allowed to assume his
teaching post, Hooper said.
For some Jewish leaders, however, the government's decision confirms their
own concerns about Ramadan.
"We are concerned about his extremist views concerning Judaism and
Christianity," said Yehudit Barksy, director of the division of Middle East
and International Terrorism at the American Jewish Committee in New York.
"The U.S. made the right decision."
Ramadan, contacted Wednesday at his home, said he believed the visa
revocation was politically motivated.
"So far I do not know why I have been banned or prevented from entering
this country, knowing that for 20 years I have been working to promote
freedom and democracy," he said. "The point is, I don't know who is behind
this. But at least I want an answer...