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US Bans Tariq Ramadan

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    Ramadan Responds On August 25, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) raised concerns regarding the last minute decision by the Department of
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 3, 2004
      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      Studies, when suddenly his visa was revoked.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      worldview that is 10 centuries out of date.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
      unilateral disarmament.

      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
      pauldonnelly@ medialever.com.

      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
      Minnesota prison].

      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
      establishing democracy.

      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."



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