[Marxism] Tariq Ramadan: The U.S. blacklisted me. Let's talk.

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Oct 31 04:45:25 MDT 2007

from the October 31, 2007 edition - 
The U.S. blacklisted me. Let's talk.
The US shouldn't exclude academics who are critical of its policies.
By Tariq Ramadan

Living in a democratic society that grants an individual's right to
life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the cherished
privilege and pride of Western citizenry and the dream longed for by
the rest of the world.

Countless have fought and died to secure these rights in the West,
and millions the world over are dying for them today - dying to be
free to worship, free to associate, free to speak, free to
participate in the governance of their own countries.

But the struggle for the protection of rights and civil liberties in
the West is not a finished chapter in our history. The constitutions
of Western democracies and the rights they enshrine do not protect
themselves. The preservation of these liberties requires a vigilant,
critical, and courageous citizenry that can be neither complacent in
times of security nor compromising in times of fear and insecurity -
citizens who understand that the violation of the basic rights of one
is a violation of the rights of all. Loyalty to country and
constitution demands that we speak up against injustice, uphold our
ideals, and hold our leaders accountable.

For years, I worked tirelessly in academic and public circles to
dismantle the barriers erected by those who see Islam and the West as
mutually exclusive, to build bridges of mutual understanding and
respect. Since 2001, I have also intensified my work to remind my
fellow Western citizens of the fragility of our societies and the
precariousness of our civil liberties as we are thrust into this
so-called war on terrorism. Since the end of 2004, I have done this
primarily in Europe through my academic work, debates, and public
lectures and by working closely with European politicians,
governmental agencies, and civic institutions. But I have been
prevented from doing this work on American soil.

In the summer of 2004, I was poised to start a dual professorship at
Notre Dame University and eager for a more concentrated academic and
public engagement than was previously allowed by my numerous but
brief visits to the United States.

But that was not to happen. My visa was canceled at the last minute
at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, supposedly
under a provision of the Patriot Act. This revocation not only cost
me my academic post, it deprived me and Americans of a much needed
mutually enriching dialogue and debate. It also fueled fantastical
allegations of terrorism support and of shadowy associations that
tarnished my reputation and cast a cloud of suspicion over my
character and work.

After American organizations sued, the government abandoned its
initial reason for excluding me but came up with a new one - that,
between 1998 and 2002, I had contributed small amounts of money to a
Swiss charity supporting humanitarian work in the Palestinian
territories. The government is relying on a "material support" law
that didn't exist until 2005 - long after I made the donations - and
it is holding me accountable for donating to a charity that still
operates lawfully in Europe today. And while the US government has
blacklisted the charity, it didn't do so until 2003 - a year after I
made my last donation. Many US organizations believe that I am being
barred from the country not because of my actions but because of my
ideas. The conclusion seems inescapable.

The US government's shifting arguments in my case might be absurd -
even comical - if the stakes were not so high. But, in the name of
defending the country against terrorism, the government seems to be
trampling over the rights that make democracies worth defending. In a
time when we are inundated with the daily rhetoric of ideologues,
exclusivists, and merchants of fear, we are in dire need of engaged
academics and public intellectuals who can write and speak
authoritatively on the topics of the day and who also provide visible
public models for ethics of citizenship. Yet, publicized as my case
might be, it is not the only example of this administration's
exclusion of academics critical of its domestic and foreign policies.

Bleak as this picture might seem at times, I remain hopeful. I am
encouraged by the unwavering support I have received from ordinary
Americans, civic groups, and particularly from scholars, academic
organizations, and the American Civil Liberties Union, which argued
my case in federal court last week. I am heartened by the emerging
debate in the US about what has been happening to our countries and
ideals in the past six years.

I am hopeful that justice will prevail and I will be allowed to enter
this country so that I may contribute to the debate and be enriched
by dialogue. It is much more important than a personal vindication
for me; it is a matter of protecting of collective ideals and
academic freedom, a cornerstone of democracy.

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