Blog of Rights

Excluded Scholars Visit NYC

By Suzanne Ito, ACLU at 4:37pm

The ideological exclusion provision is a law enacted as part of the Patriot Act that allows the U.S. government to deny entry to noncitizens who have "endorsed or espoused terrorism."

Today, The New Yorker's George Packer wrote: "In the struggle for world opinion after September 11th, [ideological exclusion] made America look intolerant and narrow-minded and afraid." The ACLU challenged this law twice on behalf of American organizations that had invited two prominent Muslim scholars, professors Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib, to speak in the U.S. Our lawsuits assert these groups' First Amendment right to hear constitutionally protected speech is violated by the ideological exclusion provision. Neither Ramadan nor Habib have been found to "endorse or espouse" terrorism.

Tomorrow afternoon, Habib, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg, will give a public talk at the City University of New York Graduate Center. Last Wednesday, he spoke at Harvard Law School. Habib said: "When the United States as a superpower violates civil liberties, it has a ripple effect across the globe. This case was very important because it opens the space for us to talk and engage as human beings…This is a case about principles."

On Thursday, Ramadan will speak at a panel discussion at Cooper Union. Ramadan will join Packer, copanelists Joan Wallach Scott and Dahlia Mogahed, and moderator Jacob Weisberg in a discussion called "Secularism, Islam, & Democracy: Muslims in Europe and the West." (Event details are here; ACLU members get a discount on tickets! And if you can’t make it in person, check the ACLU’s website for a link to a live-stream of the panel.)

Packer wrote today of Ramadan: "[S]hutting out this serious and widely influential intellectual was a self-defeating mistake." We can only hope our government will learn from the past and retire ideological exclusion once and for all.

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