Access Denied

Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, a prominent critic of U.S. foreign policy, has been denied a visa by the U.S. government even though some rather flimsy-sounding charges against him of supporting terrorism have been dropped. In 2004, Ramadan accepted a tenured position at the University of Notre Dame, rented a house in South Bend, Indiana and enrolled his children in school there, only to be barred from entering the country on the grounds that he allegedly “endorsed or espoused” terrorist activity.

Personally, I don’t see why expressing support for terrorism, as apposed to actually being connected to a terrorist conspiracy or knowingly providing terrorists with funds, should be considered anything other than protected free speech but the point is moot since the government subsequently dropped that charge anyway (indeed Ramadan insists that he abhors terrorism in all its forms).

Ramadan was able to enter the country on a temporary visa to lecture at Harvard that year but did not even get a response to his application for another temporary visa to lecture again the following year. Following an ACLU lawsuit, Ramadan learned that his application has been denied on the grounds that he allegedly provided “material support to a terrorist organisation.” The “material support” in question were donations made by Ramadan to what he and the ACLU say are legitimate French and Swiss charities that provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians. The State Department refuses to discuss any further details. It’s hard to see this case as anything but a politically-motivated effort to muffle dissent, or the administration’s use of vague insinuations to banish its critics as anything but ominous.

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