Visa Ban Lifted, Renowned Professors Enter U.S
Washington, D.C. (March 25, 2010) – Muslim American Society Freedom applauds the decision by the U.S. Department of State to end the exclusions of two respected foreign professors from the United States of America. Professor Tarik Ramadan and Professor Adam Habib were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.
In separate lawsuits the ACLU challenged the denial of the professor’s visas. After months of negotiations Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed orders eliminating the exclusions on Professor Ramadan, and most recently Professor Adam Habib, and lifted the ban on their entry to the United States. Both men have been granted 10 year visas, and will arrive in the U.S. this week to participate in various events and discussions with academicians, members of Congress and the public.
MASF Immigration Justice Director, Ms. Khalilah Sabra, says, “The State Department should retire the practice of ideological exclusion for good. MASF congratulates the ACLU and their team of attorneys who worked on these cases. Using ideological exclusion to deny foreign scholars, artists and politicians is of serious concern to the civil rights community. We hope that the current administration will end the practice of ideological exclusion.
”We are thrilled that Americans will no longer be deprived of the opportunity to engage Professors Habib and Ramadan in face-to-face dialogue and debate,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The Obama administration’s decision to restore Professors Habib and Ramadan’s ability to speak in the United States demonstrates a commendable commitment to a free and robust global exchange of ideas. It is also a promising sign that the Obama administration will review other Bush-era cases where people were barred because of their political views and will end the unlawful and un-American practice of ideological exclusion for good.”
Professor Adam Habib is a respected political analyst and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg. “It is wonderful for my wife Fatima and me to be back in the United States and to be able once again to engage with our many professional colleagues and friends here,” said Habib. “Secretary Clinton’s decision to end my exclusion is an important one for the advancement of free speech, human rights, and accountable government in the U.S. and globally. It is important that she follow through on this initial step and bring to an end the practice of ideological exclusion.”
Professor Tariq Ramadan is Chair of Contemporary Islamic Studies at St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. In 2004, he accepted a tenured position at the University of Notre Dame, but the U.S. government revoked his visa just days before he was to begin teaching there. “I am very happy that my nearly six-year exclusion from the United States is finally over,” said Ramadan. “I want to thank all the institutions and individuals who have supported me and worked to end the unconstitutional practice of ideological exclusion over the years. I look forward to my upcoming visit to the United States and the opportunity to once again engage in open, critical, and constructive dialogue with American scholars and intellectuals.”
Habib, who arrives this week, will participate in several university visits including a discussion of ideological exclusion on March 31 at Harvard Law School co-sponsored by the ACLU of Massachusetts. Ramadan, who will arrive in the beginning of April, will participate in several events including a panel discussion in New York on April 8 entitled “Secularism, Islam & Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West,” co-sponsored by the ACLU, American Association of University Professors, PEN American Center and Slate.
During the previous administration, the U.S. government denied visas to dozens of foreign artists, scholars and writers; all critics of foreign U.S. policy, without explanation or on vague national security grounds. The Muslim American Society urges our government to issue agency-wide guidance making clear that:
(1) All applicants for admission to the United States will be evaluated on the basis of their actions, not their political beliefs and associations; and
(2) With respect to foreign scholars, writers, artists, and activists who are deemed inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act, the State Department will exercise its discretion to waive inadmissibility except where articulable national security interests unrelated to the applicant’s political beliefs or associations make waiver inappropriate.
Between 2001 and 2008, dozens of prominent intellectuals were prevented from assuming teaching posts at U.S. universities, fulfilling speaking engagements with U.S. audiences, and attending U.S. academic conferences. While the government plainly has an interest in excluding foreign nationals who present a threat to national security, no legitimate interest is served by the exclusion of foreign nationals on ideological grounds. To the contrary, ideological exclusion impoverishes academic and political debate inside the United States, suggesting to the world that our country is more interested in silencing than engaging its critics, and undermines our ability to support political dissent in politically repressive nations. Ideological exclusion also deprives U.S. citizens of their First Amendment right to “hear, speak, and debate with” foreign scholars face-to-face. MAS Freedom Executive Director, Mahdi Bray, stated, “MAS Freedom applauds the reversal of ideological exclusion in the case of these two academicians. However, we request the American public to assist us in advocating for free speech by opposing legislation like HR 2278. If HR 2278 is enacted into law, it can have a chilling effect on international free speech within the Muslim and Arab media and the American public’s right to know. We must continue to be ever vigilant concerning free speech which is enshrined in both US and International law.” ο