Federal Judge Wrongly Allows Exclusion of Renowned Muslim Scholar

December 20, 2007 12:00 am

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ACLU Says Tariq Ramadan Banned From U.S. For Political Beliefs

NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union strongly criticized a federal judge’s ruling today that allows the government’s exclusion of renowned Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan from the U.S. The ACLU continues to believe that Ramadan, a leading European academic whose work addresses Muslim identity and the role of Islam in democratic societies, remains banned due to his political viewpoints.

“Today’s decision is both legally wrong and deeply unjust. Professor Ramadan – like many other critics of U.S. foreign policy – is being excluded not because of his actions, but because of his ideas. In our view, the government’s stated reason for excluding him is just a pretext,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. “The court should have subjected the government’s evidence to meaningful scrutiny, but instead it allowed the government to bar Ramadan from the country without any evidence at all. The result of this decision is that foreign scholars will continue to be barred from the United States solely because of their speech. That’s a very sad thing not just for the excluded scholars but for the many U.S. citizens and residents who want to meet with them and hear their views.”

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty of the Southern District of New York ruled that Ramadan could be denied entry into the U.S. based on small donations he made between 1998 and 2002 to a Swiss charity that provides aid to Palestinians. Although the organization operates lawfully in Europe to this day, the Bush administration added the group to a blacklist in 2003 because it allegedly provided “material support” to Hamas. Siding with the executive branch, Judge Crotty ruled that material support laws enacted in 2005 should be applied retroactively to donations made before the Swiss charity was blacklisted by the United States and the material support laws were enacted.

Judge Crotty himself admitted that it was a herculean task for Ramadan to definitively prove he was not aware of the Swiss charity’s alleged ties to Hamas, but he nevertheless required such a showing. He writes, “The [material support] statute imposes a heavy burden: it requires Professor Ramadan to prove a negative, and to do so by clear and convincing proof.” In addition, Judge Crotty’s ruling gave extraordinary deference to the government: “Once the consular official has made this decision” to exclude a foreign scholar, he writes, “it is not the Court’s role . . . to second guess the result.”

Today’s decision comes as a result of a lawsuit filed in January 2006 by the ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center.

The case is AAR v. Chertoff and is in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Attorneys in the case are Jaffer, Melissa Goodman, Lucas Guttentag and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU, Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU, and New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky. The lawsuit was brought against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Today’s decision is available at:

More information on ideological exclusion is online at:

A new ACLU report, The Excluded – Ideological Exclusion and the War on Ideas, addressing the history of ideological exclusion and including profiles of some of its victims, can be found online at:

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