For decades foreign scholars have visited the United States to meet with their counterparts in this country, to present a paper at an academic conference, or to take up an appointment at an American college or university. These visits have been immeasurably beneficial to this country in advancing knowledge in all academic fields and in strengthening ties with other nations.
Under the current administration these visits have continued, but as evidenced by a series of visa decisions over the past three years, the administration's commitment to the free exchange of ideas has been alarmingly weak.
In August 2004, the administration revoked a visa that had earlier been issued to Professor Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen and a renowned scholar of the Muslim world, to begin an appointment as a tenured professor at the University of Notre Dame. Ramadan had previously been able to travel freely to the United States, and currently he has an appointment at the University of Oxford and is serving as an advisor on anti-terrorism policies to the British government.
In responding to a lawsuit filed by the American Association of University Professors and other organizations in behalf of Ramadan, government lawyers said that Ramadan had not been denied entry because of his views about terrorism, contrary to what the government initially stated, but refused to specify why or to act on the visa. And then, in response to a federal court's ruling that was skeptical that a sound legal basis exists for the administration's continuing to deny entry to Ramadan, the government told Ramadan that it declined to renew his visa application because he had donated some $900 to two Palestinian relief organizations that in turn gave money to Hamas, a designated terrorist organization. Ramadan had previously disclosed these donations to U.S. consular officials.
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Jonathan Knight directs the program in academic freedom and tenure for the American Association of University Professors