State Department Defends Academic Freedom: Scholars Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib to get Visas

Under the Bush administration, there had been a series of frankly racist, McCarthyite efforts to exclude progressive Muslim or other academics of colour who dissented from American imperialism and egregious war crimes against Islamic peoples. The State Department has used wisely and judiciously its exemption authority to allow these two Muslim scholars to reapply for travel and work in the United States. “The ACLU of Massachusetts sued in 2007, challenging Habib’s exclusion on behalf of the American Sociological Association, the American Association of University Professors, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights.” This is clearly a positive development in allowing academic freedom, free speech and the exchange of robust ideas to flow more freely on college campuses and at academic conferences. I wrote about the  egregious exclusion of these two major intellectual figures prior to  their recently cleared status in Matthew Morgan, ed., The Impact Of 9/11 and The New Legal Landscape: The Day That Changed Everything (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009) 67-9:

Tariq Ramadan

Tariq Ramadan, a Muslim scholar born in Egypt, was offered in 2004 a tenured position in Islamic Studies as Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peace-Building at the University of Notre Dame. Ramadan had enrolled his children in school, rented a house in South Bend, Indiana, and even shipped his furniture before he was notified that his visa had been revoked because he endorsed “terrorism” and was subject to the “ideological exclusion” provision of the PATRIOT Act. The government later recanted those arbitrary charges when faced with a lawsuit, but concocted a different allegation that his donations, totaling $940 to charitable organizations, actually supported Hamas in Israeli-occupied Palestine. Hamas is designated as a “terrorist” organization by the Department of State despite its victory in the January 2006 Palestinian Authority general legislative elections. Ramadan asserted he was the victim of political persecution when denied his prestigious appointment at Notre Dame: “I am increasingly convinced that the George W. Bush administration has barred me for a much simpler reason: It doesn’t care for my political views. In recent years, I have publicly criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the use of torture, secret C.I.A. prisons and other government actions that undermine fundamental civil liberties…”

The Customs and Border Protection on October 25, 2006 also denied entry to Adam Habib of South Africa when he arrived at New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport to attend several meetings. A political scientist and a Muslim, he earned his Ph.D. from the City University of New York and was deputy vice-chancellor of research, innovation and advancement at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa. He was also prohibited from attending the 2007 American Sociological Association annual meeting in New York. It is indisputable that scholars from various nations, who are neither dissidents nor opponents of their regimes, are being denied entry for ideological reasons or bilateral diplomatic disputes unrelated to a foreign scholar’s legitimate credentials.

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