Tariq Ramadan: ACLU Challenges Patriot Act Provision Used to Bar Swiss Islamic Scholar from United States

Historians in the News

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on Wednesday challenging a provision of the USA Patriot Act that was used to deny a visa to at least one prominent foreign scholar, Tariq Ramadan. The provision allowed the federal government to bar him, the ACLU asserts, solely because the Bush administration disapproved of his political views.

In August 2004, Mr. Ramadan, an influential professor of Islamic studies and philosophy whose home is in Geneva, Switzerland, was informed that the United States had revoked his visa, a step that prevented him from taking a tenured teaching position at the University of Notre Dame (The Chronicle, September 10, 2004).

Neither he nor Notre Dame was given an explanation. But a representative of the Department of Homeland Security said at the time the visa had been withdrawn on the basis of a provision of the Patriot Act that allows the government to deny a visa to anyone whom the government believes "endorses or espouses terrorist activity" or "persuades others" to do so.

In its complaint, filed in the federal district court in Manhattan, the ACLU said the government is using the provision broadly to deny entry to people whose political views it disfavors. "The government's use of the statute to exclude Professor Ramadan is illustrative of the statute's malleability and reach," the complaint states.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center, and it also names Mr. Ramadan as a plaintiff. After his United States visa was revoked, Mr. Ramadan accepted a position as a visiting fellow at St. Antony's College of the University of Oxford.

"This concerns us directly," said Barbara DeConcini, executive director of the American Academy of Religion. "We had invited Professor Ramadan to give a plenary talk at our annual meeting," in November 2004, which he was unable to attend. The group has again invited him to its annual conference, scheduled for next November. ...

Read entire article at Chronicle of Higher Education

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