NEW YORK, Sep 21 (IPS) - Tariq Ramadan, a world-renowned Islamic scholar,
sits in an empty apartment in Switzerland, unable to take up his new post
at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana due to the last minute
revocation of his work visa by the U..S. State Department.
His visa was revoked under a section of the USA Patriot Act that bars entry
to foreigners who have used a "position of prominence...to endorse or
espouse terrorist activity", a spokesman for the Department of Homeland
Security, Russ Knocke, told the Associated Press.
But neither he nor anyone else in the government has been specific on how
exactly Ramadan has done so.
The abrupt move surprised and dismayed university officials who recruited
Ramadan to teach Islamic philosophy and ethics this fall. He had already
applied for and been granted a work visa this past May.
"We stand behind Tariq fully, and are proud of the appointment," Scott
Appleby, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace
Studies at Notre Dame, said in a radio interview. "We look forward to a
reversal of the decision or some kind of communication, more solidly about
the rationale behind the decision."
The U.S. State Department's revocation, acting at the behest of the
Department of Homeland Security, surprised his colleagues because Ramadan's
work focuses on building bridges between Islam and the Western world. His
books include "To Be a European Muslim" and "Western Muslims and the Future
of Islam." Time magazine named him one of 100 Most Influential People in 2003.
"The question now is really this one: we are dealing here with academic
freedom," Ramadan told the radio programme "Democracy Now!".
"I have a voice, which is a strong voice, but once again, I'm against all
kinds of violence. I'm trying to build bridges between Muslims and the
Islamic world and the west to try to promote this living together...I think
that really for all of the citizens in America, it's really a very
important question. Is this the way we are trying to deal with the Islamic
world, and if we have a kind of pressure we can just ban someone?"
Raised in Geneva, Ramadan works to confront the alienation he perceives
between Islam and modernity, frequently warning of the dangers of religious
isolationism. He is extremely popular in Europe, especially among Muslim
youth. Last year, 50,000 tapes of his lectures were sold in France alone.
On campus and off, many are rallying in support of the scholar.
"This decision is jeopardising academic freedom," said Habia Mbarak,
president of the national Muslim Student's Association (MSA). "His voice is
in America's interest to promote.