State Department Ends Unconstitutional Exclusion Of Blacklisted Scholars From U.S.

January 20, 2010 10:25 am

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Professors Adam Habib And Tariq Ramadan Likely To Be Readmitted To United States, Says ACLU

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WASHINGTON – In a major victory for civil liberties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signed orders that effectively end the exclusion of two prominent scholars who were barred from the United States by the Bush administration. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged the denial of visas to Professors Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg and Tariq Ramadan of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, in separate lawsuits filed on behalf of American organizations that had invited the scholars to speak to audiences inside the United States.

“The orders ending the exclusion of Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan are long overdue and tremendously important,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project. “For several years, the United States government was more interested in stigmatizing and silencing its foreign critics than in engaging them. The decision to end the exclusion of Professors Habib and Ramadan is a welcome sign that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders.”

During the Bush administration, the U.S. government denied visas to dozens of foreign artists, scholars and writers – all critics of U.S. policy overseas and many of whom are Muslim – without explanation or on vague national security grounds. In a speech in Cairo in June 2009, President Obama addressed the relationship between the United States and Muslims around the world, calling for “a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.” The ACLU welcomed the State Department’s orders as an important step toward achieving that goal.

“Given the orders issued by Secretary Clinton, we hope and expect that Professor Habib and Professor Ramadan will soon be able to come to the United States to meet and talk with American audiences,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The Obama administration should now conduct a broader review of visas denied under the Bush administration, reverse the exclusions of others who were barred because of their political beliefs and retire the practice of ideological exclusion for good.”

The orders signed by Secretary Clinton state that, in the future, Professors Habib and Ramadan will not be denied visas on the same grounds that they were denied them in 2006 and 2007. To enter the United States, however, the scholars will need to apply for visas – a process likely to take several weeks. The ACLU expects that, given Secretary Clinton’s orders, the visa applications will be granted expeditiously.

Professor Adam Habib is a respected political analyst and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg, as well as a Muslim who has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and some U.S. terrorism-related policies. The ACLU and the ACLU of Massachusetts filed a lawsuit in 2007 challenging his exclusion on behalf of the American Sociological Association, the American Association of University Professors, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights.

“My family and I are thrilled by Secretary Clinton’s decision, and we are thankful to the many organizations that put pressure on the Obama administration to stop excluding people from the United States on the basis of their political views,” said Habib. “This is not only a personal victory but also a victory for democracy around the world, and we hope this signals a move by the administration to begin restoring the liberties and freedoms that have been so badly eroded in recent times.”

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. The ACLU and the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in 2006 challenging his exclusion on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and the PEN American Center.

“I am very pleased with the decision to end my exclusion from the United States after almost six years,” said Ramadan. “I want to thank all the institutions and individuals who have supported me and worked to end unconstitutional ideological exclusion over the years. I am very happy and hopeful that I will be able to visit the United States very soon and to once again engage in an open, critical and constructive dialogue with American scholars and intellectuals.”

The ACLU will be in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York this afternoon for a status conference in Ramadan’s case, Academy of Religion v. Napolitano. Attorneys in that case are Jaffer, Goodman, Judy Rabinovitz and Lucas Guttentag the national ACLU, Arthur Eisenberg of the NYCLU and New York immigration lawyer Claudia Slovinsky. At the conference, the parties will address the implications of Secretary Clinton’s order for the long-running lawsuit.

Attorneys in the Habib case, American Sociological Association v. Clinton, are Goodman, Jaffer and Rabinovitz of the national ACLU and Sarah Wunsch and John Reinstein of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

More information about both cases is available online at:

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