• August 28, 2015

U.S. State Department Ends Ban on 2 Prominent Muslim Scholars


Martin Bureau, AFP/Getty Images

Tariq Ramadan, a European scholar of Islam, was denied visas to enter the United States in 2004 and 2006.

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Martin Bureau, AFP/Getty Images

Tariq Ramadan, a European scholar of Islam, was denied visas to enter the United States in 2004 and 2006.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders effectively reversing the Bush administration's decisions to bar two prominent foreign Muslim scholars, Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan, from entry into the United States.

The orders, signed last week but not made public until today, clear the way for Mr. Habib, a South African political commentator, and Mr. Ramadan, a European scholar of Islam, to apply anew for entry visas without having the past reasons for their exclusion held against them.

Consistent with the secrecy surrounding the Bush administration's decision to keep out Mr. Habib, the order pertaining to him says only that he will no longer be excluded for "any or all acts supporting the denial of his 2007 visa application," without specifying exactly why he had ever been kept out. Mr. Habib, a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and of U.S. anti-terrorism policies, was told in 2007 that he had been denied a visa for having "engaged in terrorist activities," but he was not informed of the charges against him or the evidence.

Secretary Clinton's order pertaining to Mr. Ramadan says that he will not be excluded for donations he made before 2003 to two charities that the U.S. Treasury subsequently designated as terrorist organizations for their alleged links to the Palestinian militant group Hamas: the French-based Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens and the Swiss-based Association de Secours Palestinien. The State Department denied Mr. Ramadan a visa to take a tenured position at the University of Notre Dame in 2004 and a visa to attend academic conferences in the United States in 2006.

An End to 'Shameful Episodes'

Both orders, issued by Secretary Clinton in consultation with the secretary of homeland security, Janet Napolitano, and the attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., were cheered today by organizations that had gone to court to fight the denial of visas to the two scholars.

"The decision to end the exclusion of Professors Habib and Ramadan is a welcome sign that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders," Jameel Jaffer, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's National Security Project, said in a statement issued by that group.

Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, issued a statement calling such exclusions of scholars "one of the more shameful episodes in recent American history."

The ACLU and the AAUP had teamed up in filing lawsuits on behalf of both scholars. The lawsuit challenging Mr. Habib's exclusion was joined by the American Sociological Association, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights, while the lawsuit filed on behalf of Mr. Ramadan was joined by the American Academy of Religion and the Pen American Center.

Secretary Clinton's orders did not tackle the broader question of whether the Obama administration planned to end "ideological exclusion," the controversial practice, adopted by the federal government after the 2001 terrorist attacks, of denying visas to intellectuals based on their viewpoints. Nevertheless, Mr. Nelson of the AAUP expressed hope that the orders meant "such ideological exclusions are now entirely in our past."


1. mart7624 - January 20, 2010 at 03:46 pm

tariq ramadan is an islamist who regularly condemns democracy, the United States, and Israel. The ideas the ACLU is so intent on defending are of the totalitarian vareity. Homeland Security knew what it was doing; the Departmetn of State doesn't.

2. davi2665 - January 20, 2010 at 04:11 pm

The decision is predictable and lamentable idiocy.

3. 11159995 - January 20, 2010 at 04:19 pm

This decision is long overdue. As a former president of the Association of American University Presses, I advocated for changing the policy of "ideological exclusion" in this op-ed: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/09/30/EDGBSAN0B.DTL. I hope this is the first step toward getting rid of that policy altogether. The two previous commentators evidently have a weak grasp on what American democracy is all about.--Sandy Thatcher, Penn State University Press

4. arthurblum - January 20, 2010 at 04:19 pm

Why does the story of the Trojan Horse come to mind?

5. rbrunson - January 21, 2010 at 05:16 am

Wonderful! Two more terrorists on American soil. They can now join those already a part of the administration.

6. rufojr - January 21, 2010 at 07:31 am

Obviously, there is more to the story than you are reporting. I believe that the U.S. Government had good reason to enact the ban at the time. I do hope that they will be closely watched while here doing whatever they plan to do. Supporting known terrorist organizations in America is completely unacceptable no matter who you are and where you come from. Get your head out of the sand and pay attention to what is going on in the world.

7. haohtt - January 21, 2010 at 09:45 am

As with this article, the article written and referenced by Sandy Thatcher above takes the point of view that academic freedom demands that we not engage in "ideological exclusion" while avoiding any mention of the actual ideology exposed by these particluar scholars. If these scholars expose an ideology that encourages terrorism, suicide (homicide) bombings, the destruction of Israel and the imposition of sharia law, then, perhaps this "exclusion" is not such a bad thing. The classic example of yelling "fire" in a crowded movie theatre not falling under freedom of speech applies here. Terrorism is not part of academic freedom.

8. iskander - January 21, 2010 at 10:08 am

FYI Tareq Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan El-Banaa the founder of Islamic Brotherhood and its military wing Jamah Islameyah.

9. james0123 - January 21, 2010 at 10:19 am

if the USA and the world had started to more closely investigate what was going on with Sirhan-Sirhan in 1968, we believe that a greater understanding of all things ISLAM could have been the result, and more rational adjustments might have been made. We realize now that it may be too late, but we think that allowing these to express their opinions can open up dialogues which have so far remained closed. This is likely to lead to some exlosive situations, but that's the price to pay for ignorance.

10. james0123 - January 21, 2010 at 10:23 am

oh and that greater understanding of all things ISLAM might have prevented Munich 1972 and/or Beirut Barracks and/or Achille Lauro and/or WTC 1993 and/or Nine-eleven and/or...

11. bonbibi - January 21, 2010 at 01:23 pm

I read the comments above and wondered who all these people are. The readership is primarily professionals at universities and colleges, right. First, I was less than impressed and struck by the number of comments that reflected the racializing and stereotyping that often is attached to Islam and Muslims.
Most of the comments about Ramadan are just based on the racialized and unfounded attacks on him. Have any of you ever even bothered to read his work?
Second, yes, his grandfather was Hasan al-Banna. So because of bloodline we should condemn him? So much for opening minds. If faculty and professionals at our fine American institutions are narrow-minded and bigoted, how can we expect our students to be fair and thoughtful contributers to society?
I also think it is the greatest cowardice to write such comments without having the nerve to sign off with your name attached.
Sufia Mendez Uddin, Associate Professor
Connecticut College

12. johntoradze - January 21, 2010 at 01:42 pm

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13. senecan - January 21, 2010 at 03:55 pm

At least some of the "facts" in post #12 are either wrong or tendentious interpretations. Defining "taqqiya" as "the requirement to lie to infidels to defeat them" is misleading at best, and certainly incomplete; Ramadan's PhD dissertation was on Nietzsche. Ramadan may be a bad person, but nobody should accept that based on the propaganda in johntoradze's post.

14. div411 - January 21, 2010 at 04:53 pm

This guy Ramadan spoke in November to a meeting, held in Montreal, of the group AMERICAN ACADEMY OF RELIGION. He'd been invited the year before, when the meeting had been held in the US, but had been barred by the State Department. He proved to be what his critics say: an antisemitic fascist. A shame he was allowed in by Canada.

15. rambo - January 21, 2010 at 09:37 pm

to Sufia Mendez Uddin, Associate Professor, Connecticut College,
Do you know of any Muslims who support Israel? Do you talk with Jewish students at Connecticut College? Can you name a Middle East country with NO catholic churches or synagogues?
go to jidahwatch.org and see how Cowards Muslims are. Killing more women than American women for going to schools. Did you protest? What? Narrow-minded and bigoted? Almost every Saudi is narrow-minded and bigoted because they will not believed 2/3 of the 9/11 hijackers are Saudi citizens as well as Sunni, not Shiites.

16. johntoradze - January 22, 2010 at 02:47 pm

Post #13 is false. If it was written by a muslim it is an example of taqqiya. Since I don't know that, it could also be an example of naive misinformation.

A. Tariq Ramadan's thesis was not "About Nietzche" as claimed.

According to historian and biographer Curtis Cate, Tariq Ramadan's thesis on Hassan Al-Bana was rejected by Fribourg University because it was so unequivocally favorable to him. Ramadan eventually received his doctorate from the Faculty of Letters of the University of Geneva. Caroline Fourest points out that Ramadan never received a doctorate in theology, though he passes himself off as a bona fide "theologian." http://www.worldandi.com/subscribers/feature_detail.asp?num=24580 .

B. Taqqiya
The taqiyya doctrine is based on this sura from Qur'an 3:28: "Let not the believers take for friends or helpers unbelievers rather than believers. If any do that, in nothing will there be help from Allah; except by way of precaution, that ye may guard yourselves from them."

Dissimulation as sanctified hypocrisy. It is considered a part of Islamic strategy to lie and deceive unbelievers by any means. Thus exercising of taqqiyah is very pious behavior. Veiling the truth: Adjustment, deception up to the open lie. -Taqqiya is attached, if it is helpful to the well-being of the religion -Islam (Khomeini). Sunnis will deceptively say that is only a Shiites doctrine.

C. Taqqiya is related to hudna.
A particularly famous early hudna was the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah between Muhammad and the Quraysh tribe.

According to Umdat as-Salik, a medieval summary of Shafi'i jurisprudence, hudnas with a non-Muslim enemy should be limited to 10 years: "if Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud" ('Umdat as-Salik, o9.16).
(The "prophet" broke the truce when he was stronger and destroyed the Quraysh.)

17. signoraf - January 22, 2010 at 03:12 pm

I think the point is being overlooked. The US is a nation built upon ideals and laws that encourage and promote individuality and freedom in all forms. To prevent people from coming to the US based upon their beliefs is anti-American. I don't have to like their beliefs nor do I have to listen to them. But I should not prevent them from having the freedom of speech we enjoy. At some point we have to treat people of all cultures as we believe we should be treated. I am not a supporter of shouting fire in a crowd but the other extreme is just as dangerous to a democracy. When does it stop?

It is time for the US to live up to the principles under which we were founded and to apply those same principles equally and fairly across the board regardless of who the person is. Isn't this why Gitmo is so repulsive to so many around the world? As Americans we expect a speedy trial and shout from the roof tops if an American is arrested overseas and denied a public and speedy trial.

Time to get our priorities straight.

18. andrewsmith - January 23, 2010 at 03:44 am

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19. rambo - January 23, 2010 at 09:38 am

Tariq Ramadan May Return to U.S.A.; Notre Dame Says No Intention to Re-Hire

20. james0123 - January 23, 2010 at 09:44 pm

the point brought up earlier is that we can learn from people we don't agree with, and that different and very large dots had begun to accumulate as early as 1968. It seems as is there has still been no attempt to connect them. There is a point at which history is will be blotted out by all of those dots.

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