• September 2, 2015

Back in the U.S., South African Scholar Urges End to Policy That Had Kept Him Out

Back in the U.S., South African Scholar Urges End to Policy That Had Kept Him Out 1

U. of Johannesburg

Adam Habib, a scholar at South Africa's U. of Johannesburg, was until recently banned from the United States on political grounds.

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close Back in the U.S., South African Scholar Urges End to Policy That Had Kept Him Out 1

U. of Johannesburg

Adam Habib, a scholar at South Africa's U. of Johannesburg, was until recently banned from the United States on political grounds.

After more than three years of being denied entry to the United States for political reasons, the South African scholar and political commentator Adam Habib seemed delighted on Tuesday to be able to plant his feet on sacred ground for America's civil libertarians: the campus of Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia.

In an interview with The Chronicle, Mr. Habib, who is in the United States on a 19-day tour that will take him to several college campuses, expressed gratitude for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's recent reversal of the Bush administration's decision to block him from entering the country. But, Mr. Habib argued, the Obama administration needs to do more than simply grant visas, on a case-by-case basis, to scholars who previously were barred because of their political views or associations. The Obama administration, he said, should put an end to the Bush-administration policy, which kept such scholars out in the first place, known as ideological exclusion.

"It is absolutely incumbent on the Obama administration to follow through on these tentative steps" and "withdraw all of the practices of ideological exclusion that emerged during this period," Mr. Habib said. Noting how President Obama was himself shaped by living abroad as a child, Mr. Habib said, "It would be a failing of his own history, his own awakening, of his own historical roots, for him not to follow through on these tentative steps."

With higher education increasingly becoming globalized in ways that enable scholars around the world to form partnerships and exchange ideas, "ideological exclusions are not simply a political problem—they fundamentally undermine the task of higher education itself," Mr. Habib said.

Mysterious Charges

The South African scholar is in the United States as part of a delegation from the University of Johannesburg, where he serves as deputy vice chancellor of research, innovation, and advancement. Among the institutions he plans to visit over the next several days are the Graduate School of the City University of New York, where earned his doctorate in philosophy, and Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton Universities.

Mr. Habib is one of two prominent Muslim scholars who were allowed to obtain 10-year U.S. visas, after years of exclusion, under an order issued by Secretary Clinton in January. The other, Tariq Ramadan, chairman of the department of contemporary Islamic studies at St. Antony's College of the University of Oxford, is expected to return to the United States for his own tour in early April.

Mr. Habib, a vocal critic of the Iraq war and some U.S. antiterrorism policies, had been told that the Bush administration's decision to bar him had been based on his role in "terrorist activities." He never learned the charges against him or the evidence behind them, however. Secretary Clinton's order did little to clear up the mystery surrounding his exclusion; it said only that he would no longer be excluded for "any or all acts supporting the denial of his 2007 visa application," without stating what those alleged acts were.

The American Association of University Professors, the American Sociological Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union had banded together with other groups in 2007 to file a lawsuit challenging Mr. Habib's exclusion. The publicity surrounding his case appears to have helped him continue to travel around the world, he said on Tuesday, rattling off a long list of nations in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America that he visited despite being labeled a terrorist by the United States. Among other scholars who were similarly barred, "I know other people who were not as lucky, who were severely impacted by these labels" and hindered in their travel plans, Mr. Habib said.

In his previous effort to enter the United States, in October 2006, Mr. Habib was stopped by federal agents at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and put on an airplane home. This time around, he said, he was greeted by federal agents who quickly ushered him and the rest of his delegation through Washington Dulles International Airport, in Virginia.

"We were treated very well," he said. "They were clearly expecting us."


1. 10286628 - March 24, 2010 at 05:02 pm

Hmm. Is this the CHE? If the man has a doctorate, why is he not Dr. Habib? Do you folks at the Chronicle actually know who your readers are?

2. 11159995 - March 24, 2010 at 08:28 pm

I fully agree with Adam Habib's call for the Obama Administration to repudiate the policy of "ideological esclusion" once and for all. As president of the other AAUP (university presses, which joined in the suit mentioned above) in 2007/8, I wrote an op-ed denouncing that policy as an affront to freedom of expression in this country and a short-sighted strategy for U.S. foreign policy: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/09/30/EDGBSAN0B.DTL. --Sandy Thatcher

3. princeton67 - March 24, 2010 at 08:34 pm

Another legacy of the self-righteous Bush administration annuled.

4. johntoradze - March 25, 2010 at 01:09 pm

Sorry, Habib and Ramadan are nothing but spokesmen for radical islam's war to rollout sharia law across the western world. As such, they deserve no more acceptance in polite company than the KKK or the Nazi party. (Both of these are groups or governments, by the way, that radical islam allied itself with.) Most of those who oppose their exclusion have absolutely no idea what these men have to say or what they stand for.

Their values are these:

- Replacement of democracy with one-man theocratic rule
- That tax be paid by non-muslims to support muslim government
- That no non-muslim be allowed court action against a muslim, nor to bear witness in court against a muslim
- That islam and mohammed cannot be criticized by anyone, and if it is, the critic should be silenced by assassination. (Yes, virginia, mohammed blessed assassinations of his critics.)

There are many more details, such as support of slavery, (yes, bringing back sharia slave law is a current debate in Saudi Arabia) complete abrogation of women's rights, (e.g. no rape charge without 4 male muslim witnesses who testify) the obligation for muslims to lie to non-muslims for advantage.

5. higherandhigher - March 25, 2010 at 11:19 pm

The Chronicle's style is such that only physicians (and maybe other healthcare providers) are referred to as Dr. I do not know why this is the style they use, but they are very consistent in applying it. Perhaps they do this because otherwise almost everyone would be Dr. so and so and they wish to be able to indicate gender/note medical doctors with the Dr. title.

I do find this style irritating, but it is the Chronicle's choice.

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