Wednesday, August 25, 2004


Among the freedoms lost—academic freedom (updated)

The Network of Activist Scholars of Politics and International Relations (NASPIR) is a primarily British undertaking that welcomes anyone to participate. From an email today at their Yahoo group site:
Professor Tariq Ramadan prohibited from entering the United States: petition in defense of academic freedom

In February 2004, the renowned Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan was appointed Henry B. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame (South Bend, USA). A visa of residence and work (H1) was originally granted to him on 5 May. On 2 August the American Embassy in Berne (Switzerland) informed Professor Ramadan that the US Homeland Security Department had decided to revoke this visa. No explanation was given.

This arbitrary decision currently leaves Professor Ramadan unable to fulfill his academic duties to provide tuition on "Islamic ethics" as timetabled for the fall semester 2004-2005. If the situation remains unchanged it will also prevent him from participating in a number of high profile conferences, which include: the University of Stanford on 12 - 14 September, by invitation of the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies; a visit to New York on 27 September by invitation of former President Bill Clinton; and an engagement in Florida on 19-21 November at the invitation of William S. Cohen, the former US Secretary of Defense.

The decision to revoke Professor Ramadan's visa threatens to set a dangerous precedent for the restriction of academic freedom and freedom of speech in the USA. By this action, the US administration has not only targeted the wrong individual in the name of its 'war against terrorism'. It is also silencing the voice of a scholar who has a long and proud record of denouncing extremism, narrow literalism and anti-Semitism within Muslim communities and societies. [emphasis added]

If you are an academic you may sign a petition stating

We, the undersigned, condemn the decision to revoke the visa of Professor Tariq Ramadan as a breach of human rights and academic freedom. We demand that this decision is overturned without delay.

To sign the petition, email with the following details:

Academic Title - Name - Department - University

Agence-France Presse reports some speculation as to the reasons for the visa flip-flop.
Ramadan`s appointment caused something of a stir in fringe Jewish circles this side of the Atlantic -- the author has been accused of anti-Semitism by Jewish groups in France -- and some see the hand of his critics in the latest development.

Several US academics told the Tribune they suspected that Jewish groups that have waged a campaign against scholars and public intellectuals whose views on Islam and the Middle East conflict with their own, might have had a role in Ramadan`s visa being rescinded.

"At the heart of it, people refuse to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists," John Esposito, an expert on Islam at Washington`s Georgetown University, told the daily.

The author of several books, including "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam," Ramadan has called for greater assimilation of European Muslims and has been an outspoken critic of the Muslim community`s inclination towards insularity.

But he has also been accused of anti-Semitism by French Jews, stung by his criticism of what he called their "blind support for Israel," while others have reportedly claimed he has ties to Al-Qaeda.

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