CONTROVERSIAL Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, who was refused entry into the US over alleged links to terror networks, is due to deliver a lecture on Islam at a conference sponsored by the Queensland Government on Monday.
Professor Ramadan - whose grandfather Hassan al-Banna founded one of the world's most radical Islamist movements, the Muslim Brotherhood, in 1928 - will be introduced by federal Labor Parliamentary Secretary for Multicultural Affairs Laurie Ferguson at the Griffith University event, which has drawn $50,000 worth of sponsorship from the Bligh Government.
Muslim and Jewish leaders yesterday expressed concern about Professor Ramadan's second visit to Australia from Europe since 2004, with a former Howard government adviser on Islam, Ameer Ali, urging national security authorities to keep him under close surveillance.
But Mr Ferguson dismissed the US Government's decision to block Professor Ramadan's entry into the country in 2004 - where he was due to take up a lecturing post at Notre Dame University in Indiana - as an "over the top" measure.
Dr Ali said it was a common problem among Arabic scholars such as Professor Ramadan to alter their messages for different audiences.
"It appears that these people speak in different languages to different audiences and they don't convey the same message," he said.
"If he's allowed to go and mix with the local community, then they (authorities) have to monitor what he is saying."
Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council executive director Colin Rubenstein also attacked the Swiss-born Professor Ramadan, who lives in Europe, for pandering to Islamic extremists.
"Tariq Ramadan is a problematic figure skilled at projecting moderation to Western audiences, while engaging in apologetics for various forms of Islamist extremism, including terrorist attacks and conspiracy theories about 9/11," he said.
However, Mr Ferguson defended the right of Professor Ramadan, an Oxford University professor of Islamic studies who was named one of the 21st century's great innovators by Time magazine, to speak at the conference in Brisbane.
"You have people with fairly minimal criminal records who aren't allowed in the US," he told The Weekend Australian yesterday.
"I think in some areas America's criteria is a bit over the top ... but there's probably areas where America has got it right and Australia has got it wrong."
Asked if he thought Australia had got it wrong in this instance, he said: "No, I don't."
The US Government found Professor Ramadan donated $940 to two humanitarian foundations in France and Switzerland, which gave money to Palestinian terrorist group Hamas. The academic, who lectured in the US during the Clinton administration and has advised the British Labour Government and Scotland Yard, defended his donations in The Washington Post in 2006.
"My donations were made between December 1998 and July 2002, and the United States did not blacklist the charities until 2003," he wrote. "How should I reasonably have known of their activities before the US Government itself knew?"
Professor Ramadan was refused entry into France in 1995 after he was accused of having links to an Algerian Islamist, but the ban was lifted the following year. He was also banned by Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Egypt "after he suggested a moratorium on Sharia law, in particular corporal punishment, stonings and beheadings", according to the Guardian newspaper.
He has been accused of playing down terrorist campaigns, including the September 11 attacks and the 2005 London bombings, as "interventions". Security sources have told The Weekend Australian Professor Ramadan will remain under close surveillance.
His visit comes a year after Canadian-born Muslim cleric Bilal Philips was refused entry into Australia to headline a Melbourne conference on Islam after the US Government named him an "un-indicted co-conspirator" in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing in New York, which killed six and injured 1000.