TORONTO, August 25 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – The US administration came under fire for barring prominent European Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan from entering the country to take a post at the renowned Notre Dam University.
Ramadan, rated by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, was granted a visa in May only to have it revoked on August 2 by the US State Department on the recommendation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
This decision, announced on Tuesday, August 24, came just nine days before his intended departure, with his family for the United States on August 11. His children were already registered in their respective US schools, and their furniture and belongings had also arrived in the United States .
Ramadan's office told Islamonline.net that he went through a rigorous background check before he was granted the work visa, calling the decision "arbitrary".
"The US administration's original decision to grant professor Ramadan a visa was taken in full knowledge of the facts, and presumably with meticulous consideration of his profile and case on both intellectual and security grounds," one of the office officials said.
Russ Knocke, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, told Reuters on Tuesday, that the work visa was taken back because of a section in federal law applying to aliens who have used a "position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity."
He said the revocation was based on "public safety or national security interests".
But the Notre Dam University dismissed the DHS claims, saying Ramadan is "a distinguished scholar and a voice for moderation in the Muslim world."
The university, located in Indiana , said in a statement to the Reuters news agency that it was "deeply disappointed and concerned" about the treatment of Ramadan, appointed by the school as a tenured professor of religion.
The university spokesman, Matthew Storin, strongly disagreed with the Homeland security's position.
"We absolutely don't agree with that," he said. "If we did, we would not have hired him," Storin told The Associated Press. Ramadan had earlier attended conferences sponsored by the State Department.
Meanwhile, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) said the DHS decision to revoke a visa previously granted to Tariq Ramadan sends the wrong message to the Islamic world about America 's willingness to listen to what Muslims have to say.
"The best way to improve deteriorating relations with the Muslim world is by listening to mainstream Islamic political and religious voices, not by censoring respected scholars whose views are apparently feared by those who seek a monopoly on intellectual debate," said CAIR Executive Director Nihad Awad.
Professor Ramadan, a citizen of Switzerland , was expected to teach Islamic philosophy and ethics in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He was appointed to hold the Luce Chair in Religion, Conflict and Peace building, a full-time, tenured position.
Ramadan has become a popular figure in Europe and highly influential among Muslims throughout the Western world. He often writes and lectures about how Muslims can remain true to their religion and culture in the modern world.
The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday that the decision to revoke Ramadan's visa "could have been influenced by some Jewish groups that have waged a campaign against scholars and public intellectuals whose views on Islam and the Middle East conflict with their own."
Ramadan is known for his calls on Muslims in the West is to avoid standing on a defensive line and to present Islam as a universal message. He had told IOL in an earlier interview that secularism was not a problem for Muslims living in Europe .
The Tuesday decision came a few weeks after the Board of Deputies of British Jews has launched a vile campaign against prominent moderate Muslim scholar Youssef Qaradawi's visit and presented an alleged "dossier" for his prosecution.
However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) had concluded that there was no legal ground to prosecute Sheikh Qaradawi, and the London mayor Ken Livingstone apologized to the Muslim scholar for the fuss.
Meanwhile, the office of Ramadan said they remains hopeful that the American administration will rescind this decision and allow him not only to continue his work at the University of Notre Dame, but also his active engagement and contribution to the vital inter-faith and dialogue of civilizations which has "characterized his contribution to creating a peaceful and pluralistic society for us all to live in".
They said they feared the US government's decision would prevent the scholar from participating in a number of high profile conferences that he is scheduled to attend.
The events include a visit to the University of Stanford on September 12 at invitation of the France-Stanford Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, a visit to New York on September 27 at the invitation of former President Bill Clinton; and an engagement in Florida in November at the invitation of William S. Cohen, the former US Secretary of Defense.