US Bans Tariq Ramadan
- Ramadan Responds
On August 25, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC)
raised concerns regarding the last minute decision by the Department
of Homeland Security to revoke Tariq Ramadan's visa, and bar him from
teaching from the University of Notre Dame.
To read ADC's press release please see:
Included below are two op/ed articles, one in the Chicago Tribune and
the other from the Washington Post regarding this issue, and two
editorials by Tariq Ramadan stating his case in both the New York
Times and the Chicago Tribune.
August 28, 2004, Washington Post
The Ban on a Muslim Scholar By Paul Donnelly
Tariq Ramadan, a professor at the College of Geneva and the
University of Fribourg in Switzerland, is the author of a book that
is perhaps the most hopeful work of Muslim theology in the past
thousand years. This month he was to come to America to take the
position of Luce professor of religion, conflict and peacebuilding at
Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace
Studies, when suddenly his visa was revoked. Apparently Notre Dame
didn't realize what a dangerous man it was getting.
Ramadan's grandfather was Hasan Banna, who founded the Muslim
Brotherhood. But Ramadan's own views on the role of his faith,
published in his book, "To Be a European Muslim," directly confront
the alienation of Islam from modernity. Ramadan argues that the "us
vs. them" vision of Islam, exponentially exaggerated by Osama bin
Laden's demented Wahhabism, derives not from the Koran but from a
worldview that is 10 centuries out of date.
When I interviewed Ramadan not long after Sept. 11, 2001, I asked what
alternative he could offer Muslims. The true vision of Islam, he
said, is not a snapshot of the world three centuries after the death
of the prophet, but rather the unchanging Koran itself: "dar ash-
Shahada," the "House of Witness," in which believers and unbelievers
alike compete in doing good deeds to prove the truth.
Notre Dame officials insist that they have reviewed every charge
against the Swiss scholar and agree with the likes of Scotland Yard
and Swiss intelligence, which have found them to be groundless.
Ramadan has been attacked for "anti-Semitism." Why? Because of an
article on French communalism that included this sentence: "French
Jewish intellectuals whom we had thought of until then as
universalist thinkers [have started] to develop analyses increasingly
oriented toward a communitarian concern."
Set this statement beside an essay on anti-Semitism by Ramadan, in
which he writes the following: "Nothing in Islam can legitimize
xenophobia or the rejection of a human being due to his/her religious
creed or ethnicity. One must say unequivocally, with force, that anti-
Semitism is unacceptable and indefensible."
The official reason for revoking Ramadan's visa is the USA Patriot
Act's provisions for those who have prominently espoused or endorsed
terrorist activity. Ramadan has been dogged by rumors for years --
that he knew bin Laden as a boy ("no"), that terrorists attend his
classes ("I don't know who is listening to me when I give a lecture
in front of thousands of people"), that he arranged a meeting with al
Qaeda deputy Ayman Zawahiri and convicted terrorist Omar Abdel Rahman
in Geneva in 1991 (when, Ramadan notes, he was not even in
And this: that he denies al Qaeda was behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Never, never, never," Ramadan says in a determined voice over the
phone. "I said to the Muslims after it happened, don't try to say 'we
don't know who did this.' I said this from the very beginning, from
Sept. 13, just two days later, even though we didn't know then
exactly who did it -- but we know. They were some Muslims."
Tariq Ramadan is a Muslim Martin Luther. That's why Notre Dame, an old
institution with a modern Catholic dedication to theological
scholarship, hired him. Winning the war on terrorism requires
theology the way defeating communism required ideology. The Bush
administration (which wouldn't do the necessary visa checks to keep
real terrorists out of fake flight schools) risks a kind of
Does it really think that Notre Dame University would hire an anti-
Semite and advocate of terrorism?
Paul Donnelly, former head of the Immigration Reform Coalition,
writes about immigration and citizenship. He can be reached at
August 31, Chicago Tribune
A Muslim scholar's exclusion
Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss scholar known for his work on Islamic theology
and the place of Muslims in the modern world, was supposed to start
teaching last week at the University of Notre Dame. But after he got
a visa from the State Department, it was revoked at the behest of the
Department of Homeland Security, which apparently sees him as a
danger. Why is anyone's guess, since the department declines to spell
out the reasons he's been barred.
Some critics regard him as an anti-Semitic apologist for extremism.
Among them is Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum, who
wrote in Sunday's Tribune to accuse Ramadan of connections with Al
Qaeda, denying Osama bin Laden's role in the Sept. 11 attacks and
defending the March terrorist bombing in Madrid.
On today's Commentary page, Ramadan rebuts the charges. He says Swiss
and French authorities cleared him of alleged Al Qaeda contacts.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, he insisted that whoever was to
blame, "Bin Laden or others, it is necessary to find them and that
they be judged." And, he declares, "I have always condemned the
terrorist attacks in New York, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere."
The exchange makes an interesting debate, but unfortunately DHS, the
key player, is not taking part. When contacted by the Tribune, a
spokeswoman declined to specify what grounds it had for demanding
that the visa be canceled. Apparently he was barred under a section
of the USA Patriot Act, which bars entry to foreigners who have used
a "position of prominence . . . to endorse or espouse terrorist
If the U.S. government has grounds to think Ramadan has worked with
Al Qaeda to further its bloody ambitions, he should certainly be
denied entry. But no one has produced tangible evidence that he is
personally involved in such activities, and the law doesn't require
such involvement. If he is being refused permission to teach in this
country purely because of his views, the government has an obligation
to Notre Dame and the American people to acknowledge that--and
to specify which of his opinions endangers public safety.
Nothing that has come to light so far suggests that Ramadan endorses
terrorism. His defenders say that on the contrary, he is known for
urging a more modern understanding of Islam and for firmly denouncing
anti-Semitism. It's not likely that Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc
Institute for International Peace Studies would knowingly grant its
imprimatur to an apostle of violence.
Even if he did endorse terrorism, expressing such an opinion doesn't
pose the sort of danger that the Department of Homeland Security
should worry about. It's not illegal, after all, for Americans to
express sympathy for Al Qaeda--or the Irish Republican Army or any
other violent extremists. Only when such opinions veer into outright
incitement to violence does law enforcement intervene.
As a foreigner seeking entry, Ramadan lacks the protection of the 1st
Amendment, but that doesn't justify keeping him out merely because
someone finds his beliefs obnoxious. When someone expresses such
views, Americans traditionally rely on a better remedy: the vigorous
expression of opposing views.
The government does have a critical obligation to protect Americans
against anyone who can reasonably be suspected of assisting in the
work of fanatical killers. If Homeland Security thinks Ramadan falls
in that category, it should say so--and offer whatever evidence it
can produce. If not, it should let him in.
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune
August 31, Chicago Tribune
Scholar under siege defends his record.
Tariq Ramadan responds point by point to the `unfounded allegations'
of a critic
By Tariq Ramadan
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, without offering an
explanation, has revoked a visa that was granted to me to teach at
the University of Notre Dame. In Sunday's Chicago Tribune on the
Commentary page, Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum,
provided his "explanation" for this action. In what follows I respond
to his unfounded allegations.
- Pipes claims that I have praised the brutal Islamist policies of
the Sudanese politician Hassan al-Turabi.
Nothing of what I said about al-Turabi's policies is remotely
favorable. After visiting Sudan in 1994, I wrote: "Nonetheless, one
must clearly say that the present regime does not offer minimal
guarantees for political pluralism, that opposition parties are
muzzled and that cronyism is the rule. Muslims are called to remain
vigilant, for the opposition of the United States and Israel is not
enough to support the `Islamic' character of a project."
- Pipes notes that I was banned from entering France in 1996 on
suspicion of having links with an Algerian Islamist who had recently
initiated a terrorist campaign in Paris.
Yes, I was indeed banned from entering France between November 1995
and April 1996, but a reason was never given for this ban, and it was
later revealed to be a case of mistaken identity. I challenged the
ban and won the case in 1996. Any assertion that this ban was for
having "links with an Algerian Islamist" is baseless.
- Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian indicted for Al Qaeda activities,
had "routine contacts" with me, according to a Spanish judge in 1999.
I was asked about contacts with this individual last year and I
unequivocally denied ever meeting or speaking to him. This was
investigated by Frederic Chambon, a reporter for the French daily
newspaper Le Monde, who on Dec. 23, 2003, issued reports that
Brahim's daughter was able to confirm from her jailed father that he
did not have contacts with me.
- Djamel Beghal, leader of a group accused of planning to attack the
American Embassy in Paris, stated in his 2001 trial that he had
studied with me.
When Djamel Beghal was first arrested in Dubai, he claimed that in
1994 he was attending my course and wrote my speeches. He changed his
story when he was extradited to Paris and only claimed to have
attended the course in 1994. That, too, was inaccurate since my
courses did not start until 1997.
- Along with many Islamists, says Pipes, I have denied that there
is "any certain proof" that Osama bin Laden was behind Sept. 11, 2001.
Pipes distorts the facts by selective references. My post-Sept. 11
stance is clear. On Sept. 13, 2001, I put out an open letter to
Muslims calling for them to unequivocally condemn these acts and
wrote: "Do not hide yourself behind conspiracy theories: Even if we
don't know who did it, you know as I know that some Muslims can use
Islam to justify killing an American, a Jew or a Christian only
because he/she is an American, a Jew or a Christian; you have to
condemn them and to condemn these attacks." On Sept. 20, when
investigations were still ongoing, I said: "The probability [of bin
Laden's guilt] is large, but some questions remain unanswered. ...
But whoever they are, bin Laden or others, it is necessary to find
them and that they be judged."
- I refer, Pipes claims, to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, Bali
and Madrid as "interventions," minimizing them to the point of near-
The term "interventions" was not mine, but was used by journalists in
the French magazine Le Point (April 22, 2004) following a phone
interview with me. I have always condemned the terrorist attacks in
New York, Bali, Madrid and elsewhere in the strongest terms.
- Intelligence agencies suspect, Pipes charges, that I coordinated a
meeting at the Hotel Penta in Geneva for Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy
head of Al Qaeda, and Omar Abdel Rahman [the blind sheik, now in a
This is nonsense. The Swiss intelligence cleared my name of these
accusations when it publicly confirmed that Ayman al-Zawahiri had
never entered Switzerland. I never met him or Omar Abdel Rahman.
- My address, Pipes avers, appears in a register of Al Taqwa Bank, an
organization the State Department accuses of supporting Islamist
In fact, neither my name nor my address appears in a register of Al
Taqwa Bank. I never met nor talked to its director.
- There is the "intriguing possibility," Pipes speculates, that Osama
bin Laden studied with my father, Said, who founded the Islamic
Center of Geneva (Switzerland) in the early 1960s. My father did not
know bin Laden and I have neither met nor talked to bin Laden. It is
possible, however, that Pipes is confusing Osama with his half-
brother, Yaslem bin Laden, whom I met once for exactly five minutes
after a lecture I gave in Geneva in 2003 and who also is known to be
in contact with high-level American politicians.
Anyone who has read any of my 20 books, 700 articles or listened to
any of my 170 audio-taped lectures will discern a consistent message:
The very moment Muslims and their fellow citizens realize that being
a Muslim and being American or European are not mutually exclusive,
they will enrich their societies. Since Sept. 11, I have lectured at
countless American universities and civic organizations. The French
consul of Chicago invited me in 2002 for a lecture trip in the United
States, and I spoke at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations. I
was invited to speak at the U.S. State Department and spoke at an
event organized by former President Bill Clinton and was invited
again this year by him. I engage in similar activities in Europe and
worked closely with Scotland Yard and many European governments.
If there were any truth to any of the malicious allegations that have
been circulating, does anyone really believe that these international
agencies and groups would not have prosecuted me?
The American public ought to know a few other facts about me. I take
pride in my faith as a Muslim and the West as my home and birthplace
and I make no apologies for taking a critical look at Islam and the
West. In doing so I am being true to my faith and the ethics of my
citizenship. Instead of mere theoretical criticism, I propose
practical solutions to the challenges the world faces. I not only
speak to ordinary citizens of many faiths, religious leaders and
academics but also to politicians, world leaders and organizations.
Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the Muslim majority
world. Becoming full, independent Western citizens, working with
others to address social, economic and political problems, will allow
Western Muslims to assume this role. However, that can only happen if
their governments and other citizens do not cast doubt on their
loyalty every time they criticize government policies. This critical
and constructive loyalty of their Muslim citizens enriches Western
societies, and it is the only way for Western Muslims to be credible
in Arab and Islamic countries to assist in bringing about freedom and
September 1, New York TimesToo Scary for the Classroom?
By Tariq Ramadan
Geneva - Right now, I am supposed to be in South Bend, Ind.,
beginning my term as a professor of Islamic studies at the University
of Notre Dame. After all, my petition for a work/residence visa in
the United States was granted in May, after meticulous clearance
procedures. But nine days before I was to move, I received an urgent
message from the American Embassy: my visa had been revoked. If I
wished to reapply, I was told, I was welcome to do so; but no reasons
for the revocation were given. Classes have now begun at Notre Dame,
while my wife and children and I wait here in a barren apartment.
The State Department's reasoning remains a mystery. For some time I
have been considered a controversial figure in France; but this was
well known by the American government when I received the visa in the
spring. I have been accused of engaging in "double talk" - that is,
of delivering a gentle message in French and English, and a radical,
violent one in Arabic.
My detractors have tried to demonstrate that I have links with
extremists, that I am an anti-Semite and that I despise women.
Repeatedly I have denied these assertions, and asked my critics to
show evidence from my writings and public comments. Their failure to
do so has had little effect: I am repeatedly confronted with magazine
articles and Web postings repeating these accusations as facts and
fabricating new ones. And now the web of lies has spread across the
Atlantic Ocean. The most damaging accusations were in an article in
Vanity Fair claiming that I had written the preface to a volume of
essays that endorsed the stoning of women caught in adultery.
Actually, the book condemned the practice as un-Islamic.
I admit that my intellectual project is inherently controversial. My
goal is to foster communities within the Islamic world that are
seeking a path between their often bitter experience with some
American and European policies on the one hand, and the unacceptable
violence of Islamic extremists on the other. I understand, share and
publicly discuss many of the Muslim criticisms of "Western"
governments, including the deleterious worldwide effects of
unregulated American consumerism.
I find current American policies toward the Middle East misguided and
counterproductive, a position I believe I share with millions of
Americans and Europeans. Yet I have also criticized many so-called
Islamic governments, including that of Saudi Arabia, for their human
rights violations and offenses against human dignity, personal
freedom and pluralism.
My more specific stances have also raised hackles in France. For
example, I strongly oppose France's new law banning female students
from wearing head scarves, although on general human rights grounds
rather than because I am a Muslim. (I condemn the kidnapping of two
French journalists in Iraq and think the French government should not
submit to the blackmail of the kidnappers, who say they will kill the
captives unless the ban is overturned.)
I was also accused of anti-Semitism after I criticized some leading
French intellectuals - including Bernard-Henri Lévy and Alain
Finkielkraut - for abandoning France's noble traditions of
universalism and personal freedom because of their anxiety over
Muslim immigration and their support for Israel.
The fact is, in the more than 20 books, 700 articles and 170 audio
tapes I have produced, one will find no double talk, but a consistent
set of themes, and an insistence that my fellow Muslims unequivocally
condemn radical views and acts of extremism.
Just days after 9/11, I gave an interview calling on Muslims to
condemn the attacks and to acknowledge that the terrorists betrayed
the Islamic message. I have denounced anti-Semitism, criticizing
Muslims who do not differentiate between the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict as a political issue and the unacceptable rejection of
individual Jews because of their religion and heritage. I have called
for a spiritual reformation that will lead to an Islamic feminism. I
reject every kind of mistreatment of women, including domestic
violence, forced marriage and female circumcision.
My opponents also accuse me of being the grandson of Hassan al-Banna,
the founder of the radical Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt. I
plead guilty to this charge. My response is: am I to be judged by the
words and deeds of an ancestor?
Those critics obsessed with my genealogy ought to examine my
intellectual pedigree, which includes advanced study of Descartes,
Kant and Nietzsche, among others. They should examine the time I have
spent working in poverty-stricken areas with the Dalai Lama, Mother
Teresa and the Brazilian human-rights leader Dom Helder Camara, as
well as with countless other Christians and Jews, agnostics and
For 20 years, I have dedicated myself to studying Islamic scripture,
Western and Eastern philosophies and societies, and built an identity
that is truly Western and truly Muslim. I make no apologies for
taking a critical look at both Islam and the West; in doing so I am
being true to my faith and to the ethics of my Swiss citizenship. I
believe Muslims can remain faithful to their religion and be able,
from within pluralistic and democratic societies, to oppose all
I also feel it is vital that Muslims stop blaming others and
indulging in victimization. We are responsible for reforming our
societies. On the other hand, blindly supporting American or European
policies should not be the only acceptable political stance for
Muslims who seek to be considered progressive and moderate.
In the Arab and Islamic world, one hears a great deal of legitimate
criticism of American foreign policy. This is not to be confused with
a rejection of American values. Rather, the misgivings are rooted in
five specific grievances: the feeling that the United States role in
the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is unbalanced; the longstanding
American support of authoritarian regimes in Islamic states and
indifference to genuine democratic movements (particularly those that
have a religious bent); the belief that Washington's policies are
driven by short-term economic and geostrategic interests; the
willingness of some prominent Americans to tolerate Islam-bashing at
home; and the use of military force as the primary means of
Instead of war, the Arab and Muslim worlds seek evidence of a lasting
and substantive commitment by the United States to policies that
would advance public education, equitable trade and mutually
profitable economic and cultural partnerships. For this to occur,
America first has to trust Muslims, genuinely listen to their hopes
and grievances, and allow them to develop their own models of
pluralism and democracy.
Simply sponsoring a few Arabic TV and radio channels will not lead to
real changes in Muslims' perceptions. Instead, America's only chance
of making peace with the Islamic world depends on consistency between
words and actions, and the development of cross-cultural trust over
I believe Western Muslims can make a critical difference in the
Muslim majority world. To do this, we must become full, independent
Western citizens, working with others to address social, economic and
political problems. However, we can succeed only if Westerners do not
cast doubt on our loyalty every time we criticize Western
governments. Not only do our independent voices enrich Western
societies, they are the only way for Western Muslims to be credible
in Arab and Islamic countries so that we can help bring about freedom
and democracy. That is the message I advocate. I do not understand
how it can be judged as a threat to America.
Tariq Ramadan is the author, most recently, of "Western Muslims and
the Future of Islam."
WORLD VIEW NEWS SERVICE
To subscribe to this group, send an email to:
NEWS ARCHIVE IS OPEN TO PUBLIC VIEW