It's not every day that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revokes a visa issued to a Swiss-national scholar scheduled to teach at one of America's premier universities. But this has just happened, and it's a good thing too.
The Swiss scholar is Tariq Ramadan. He is Islamist royalty – his maternal grandfather, Hasan al-Banna, founded the Muslim Brotherhood, probably the single most powerful Islamist institution of the twentieth century, in Egypt in 1928. Tariq is a Swiss citizen because his father, Sa‘id Ramadan, also a leading Islamist, fled from Egypt in 1954 following a crackdown on the brotherhood. Sa‘id reached Geneva in 1958, where Tariq was born in 1962.
Thanks to his pedigree and his talents, Tariq has emerged as a significant force in his own right. Symbolic of this, Time magazine in April named him one of the world's top hundred scientists and thinkers. And so, when Notre Dame University went looking for a Henry R. Luce professor of religion, conflict and peacebuilding, it unsurprisingly settled on Mr. Ramadan.
Its offer was made and accepted by the beginning of 2004; a work visa followed in February. Mr. Ramadan bought a house, found schools for his four children, and dispatched his personal effects to South Bend, Indiana. He was supposed to start teaching a few days ago.
But on July 28, just nine days before the Ramadans were to leave for America, Mr. Ramadan was informed that the Department of Homeland Security had revoked his work visa. A DHS spokesman, Russ Knocke, later explained this had been done in accord with a law that denies entry to aliens who have used a "position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity." The revocation, Mr. Knocke added, was based on "public safety or national security interests."
What's up? The DHS knows much more than I do, but it is not talking. A review of the press, however, gives an idea of what the problem is. Here are some reasons why Mr. Ramadan might have been kept out:
- He has praised the brutal Islamist policies of the Sudanese politician Hassan Al-Turabi. Mr. Turabi in turn called Mr. Ramadan the "future of Islam."
- Mr. Ramadan was banned from entering France in 1996 on suspicion of having links with an Algerian Islamist who had recently initiated a terrorist campaign in Paris.
- Ahmed Brahim, an Algerian indicted for Al-Qaeda activities, had "routine contacts" with Mr. Ramadan, according to a Spanish judge (Baltasar Garzón) in 1999.
- Djamel Beghal, leader of a group accused of planning to attack the American embassy in Paris, stated in his 2001 trial that he had studied with Mr. Ramadan.
- Along with nearly all Islamists, Mr. Ramadan has denied that there is "any certain proof" that Bin Laden was behind 9/11.
- He publicly refers to the Islamist atrocities of 9/11, Bali, and Madrid as "interventions," minimizing them to the point of near-endorsement.
And here are other reasons, dug up by Jean-Charles Brisard, a former French intelligence officer doing work for some of the 9/11 families, as reported in Le Parisien:
- Intelligence agencies suspect that Mr. Ramadan (along with his brother Hani) coordinated a meeting at the Hôtel Penta in Geneva for Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy head of Al-Qaeda, and Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheikh, now in a Minnesota prison.
- Mr. Ramadan's address appears in a register of Al Taqwa Bank, an organization the State Department accuses of supporting Islamist terrorism.
Then there is the intriguing possibility, reported by Olivier Guitta, that Osama bin Laden studied with Tariq's father in Geneva, suggesting that the future terrorist and the future scholar might have known each other.
Ramadan denies all ties to terrorism, but the pattern is clear. As Lee Smith writes in The American Prospect, he is a cold-blooded Islamist whose "cry of death to the West is a quieter and gentler jihad, but it's still jihad."
These reasons explain why Americans should thank DHS for keeping Tariq Ramadan out of America.
But the story is not over: the State Department has in effect encouraged Ramadan to reapply for a different type of visa, making the recent developments probably just round one of a drawn-out match.