Actors and Writers Read Works from Luminaries Censored at the Border

April 27, 2006 12:00 am

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ACLU and PEN Highlight Foreign Scholars Barred from United States

> Censorship at the Border
> An Evening Without…
> Photos From the Event

NEW YORK — Prominent authors and actors convene tonight in lower Manhattan to read from the works of writers and scholars who were banned from the United States because of their political opinions.

Tonight’s event, “An Evening Without… ,” is sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union and PEN American Center to highlight the problem of ideological exclusion, and what the groups say is censorship at the border.

“The government has resurrected Cold War policies to exclude foreign writers and scholars from the country simply because of their political beliefs,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero. “Barring people from the country because of their political views impoverishes academic and political debate here in America. It deprives us of access to information and ideas we have a right to hear.”

Readers at the event are writer/director Todd Solondz, Tony Award winning actor Liev Schreiber, Academy Award-nominated actress Debra Winger, novelist Martin Amis, novelist Russell Banks, poet/novelist Gioconda Belli, poet Naomi Shihab Nye, author/historian Barbara Goldsmith and author/poet Eloy Urroz. The event is part of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature and will take place at The Bowery Poetry Club at 10:00 p.m.

The ACLU’s Romero will read a statement by Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan, a leading voice for second and third generation European Muslims and currently a visiting professor at the University of Oxford in England. Ramadan accepted a teaching position at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but had to abandon the post when the Bush administration revoked his visa. After PEN and the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging Professor Ramadan’s exclusion, the administration retracted its allegation that Ramadan had endorsed terrorism, but it still refuses to allow him to enter the country.

Other readings tonight will feature selections from writers who were excluded during the Cold War. Among the featured luminaries are Colombian novelist and Nobel laureate Gabriel García Márquez, Italian playwright and Nobel laureate Dario Fo, Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, English writer Graham Greene, Chilean poet and Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda, and Mexican author Carlos Fuentes.

“PEN has long been active in challenging barriers that prevented important international writers and intellectuals from visiting the United States, and we continually invite writers from around the world to meet our members and American audiences,” said Larry Siems, Director of PEN’s Freedom to Write and International Programs. “Tariq Ramadan’s exclusion has raised fears here and overseas that the U.S. is once again barring individuals it feels may be critical of U.S. positions and policies.”

PEN invited Ramadan to participate on a panel discussion during the World Voices festival on the debate over free speech and respect for religious beliefs, but the State Department continues to stonewall on his visa application. Instead, Ramadan taped a speech to be aired during the discussion. That event, Idols and Insults: Writing, Religion, and Freedom of Expression, will be held at 1:00 p.m. on Saturday at The New School Tishman Auditorium.

For more information on ideological exclusion and “An Evening Without…” go to

For more information on the PEN World Voices festival go to

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