The University of Notre Dame would welcome a controversial Muslim scholar to its campus should he get permission to enter the United States, according to a professor at the school.
Scott Appleby, a professor of history and director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, says Tariq Ramadan remains wrongly banished because of his views.
Ramadan resigned a teaching post at the university two years ago when the U.S. barred him from coming to South Bend.
"We continue to think he is an important voice that needs to be heard," Appleby said.
Ramadan, whom Time Magazine named one of the world's most important innovators of the 21st century, received a visa in 2004, but it was revoked on advice from the Department of Homeland Security.
Officials gave no reason for the revocation, which came shortly before Ramadan was to begin teaching at Notre Dame as the Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding.
In an interview from England, Ramadan told The New York Times in Tuesday's edition that he received a letter from the government effectively clearing him of any suspected link to terrorism, but he still cannot get a visa because of contributions he made to a Palestinian aid organization.
Appleby describes him as a charismatic teacher who is popular with Muslims, but critics say Ramadan is anti-Semitic with links to al-Qaida.
The Times said the State Department confirmed it denied Ramadan a visa but said it was because of his actions, not his views. The department said it was for "providing material support to a terrorist organization."
Ramadan has criticized the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
"He (also) is critical of U.S. foreign policy toward Palestine and in the larger Arab and Muslim worlds," Appleby says.
But Appleby says it is important for U.S. residents to hear differing viewpoints.
John Esposito, a Georgetown University professor and an acquaintance of Ramadan's, said the scholar had been advised by friends not to come to the U.S. in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, but he decided to take the Notre Dame job because of the open society in this country.
Esposito said Ramadan was deeply disappointed and surprised by his exclusion.
The government's actions are "an embarrassment," Esposito said, and it sends the wrong message at the wrong time.
"It sends a very bad signal because we keep talking about the need to reach out to the vast majority of Muslims and to moderate Muslims . . . and Tariq Ramadan has a significant following both in Europe and America."
James Skillen, president of the Maryland-based Center for Public Justice, said that depending on what if any evidence U.S. officials have against Ramadan, their ban on his entry into the U.S. could verge on interfering with academic freedom.
The American Civil Liberties Union sued the U.S. government in January on behalf of Ramadan, saying the government had improperly denied visas to scholars critical of the Bush administration.