Tariq Ramadan: Win for Excluded Muslim Scholar

Historians in the News

A federal judge on Friday gave the U.S. government 90 days to act on the visa application of a renowned Muslim scholar who has been kept out of the United States for two years, much to the distress of academic groups trying to bring him here.

The order by Judge Paul A. Crotty did not address all of the issues raised in a lawsuit by those groups challenging the way the government is deciding who may and may not enter the county. But in forcing the government to make a decision about the scholar, Judge Crotty rejected — sometimes in mocking tones — many government arguments that would have given federal officials broad power to exclude people from the United States without giving any reason. Judge Crotty based his decision largely on the First Amendment rights of American scholars to not only express their own views, but to invite others to meet with them and share their views.

The scholar at the center of the controversy is Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who is one of the most prominent European thinkers about Islam. He is known for encouraging Muslims to consider a “third path” between isolating themselves from Western society or fully assimilating within it. He has repeatedly criticized both Muslim terrorist groups and U.S. policies in the Middle East, and especially the invasion of Iraq.

Ramadan has visited the United States many times — primarily to participate in scholarly meetings — and he was poised to move with his family to Indiana two years ago to accept a position at the University of Notre Dame when his visa was revoked just days before his departure. He was told he could apply for another visa and Notre Dame did so on his behalf, only to have that request languish without any explanation. When that visa failed to materialize, Ramadan had to tell Notre Dame that he could not accept the position, prompting the State Department to assert in the legal case that it wasn’t denying Ramadan a visa to teach at Notre Dame because he had withdrawn his acceptance of the position there....

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