ACLU Presenting Oral Arguments Today In Case Of Prominent Muslim Scholar Barred From U.S.

March 24, 2009 12:00 am

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Tariq Ramadan Among Many Writers And Scholars Denied Entry On Basis Of Political Views

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union is in a federal appeals court today to present arguments in the case of a Swiss professor and leading scholar of the Muslim world who was denied entry to the United States based on his political views. The ACLU is arguing that the government’s exclusion of Professor Tariq Ramadan is illegal and was motivated not by anything he did but by his vocal criticism of U.S. foreign policy.

“By denying visas to prominent foreign scholars and writers simply because they were critical of United States foreign policy, the Bush administration used immigration laws to skew and stifle political debate inside the U.S.,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, who will argue the case for the plaintiffs. “While the government has an interest in excluding people who present a threat to the country, it doesn’t have any legitimate interest in excluding foreign nationals simply because of their political views. The Bush administration was wrong to revive this Cold War practice, and the Obama administration should not defend it.”

Ramadan was invited to teach at the University of Notre Dame in 2004 but the U.S. government revoked his visa, citing a statute that applies to those who have “endorsed or espoused” terrorism. In January 2006, the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging Professor Ramadan’s exclusion from the U.S. on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center. After the ACLU filed suit, the government abandoned its claim that Ramadan had endorsed terrorism, but it continues to exclude him because he made small donations to a Swiss charity that the government alleges has given money to Hamas.

“Barring people from the United States on the basis of their political views is censorship and this practice sends the message that the United States is more interested in silencing its foreign critics than engaging them in thoughtful debate,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project.

Jaffer is arguing the case, now called Academy of Religion v. Napolitano, before Judges Wilfred Feinberg, Jon O. Newman and Reena Raggi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Attorneys on the case are Jaffer, Goodman, Lucas Guttentag and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU, Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU, and New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky. The lawsuit was originally brought against then-Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

More information about the Ramadan case and the ACLU’s separate lawsuit concerning the exclusion of South African scholar Adam Habib is available online at:

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