The department of homeland security's de facto veto of the University of Notre Dame's appointment of the Islamic scholar Tariq Ramadan to a chair in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies is offensive, not least as a denial of academic freedom (An oft-repeated 'truth', August 31). This revocation of Ramadan's work visa bears the imprint of those influential supporters of Israel's rightwing government in the Pentagon. These pro-Sharon neocons have been at the centre of the Bush administration's foreign policy.
A close scrutiny of Ramadan's work reveals an erudite, provocative scholar; one committed to the further evolution of Islam's understanding of its revelation and religious practice. Moreover, he is concerned to facilitate the discussions that must ensue if Judaism, Christianity and Islam are to build mutual respect en route to developing some common ground.
We must examine the tactics of Ramadan's accusers. While they offer no evidence that he is a threat to US security, he is readily charged with being anti-semitic - a tactic widely used by pro-Sharon elements in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and those in the Pentagon who would intimidate and silence critics of the current government of Israel. This tactic is being widely used by neoconservatives, for example Daniel Pipes, whose campuswatch website encourages students to report professors who contest Israel's policies.
In short, criticism of Israel is now glibly equated with anti-semitism. (Ramadan's offence, inter alia, was to have rebuked French Jewish intellectuals for their silence on Israel's murderous tactics in the occupied territories.) What is more, it is not only Muslim leaders and other non-Jewish opponents of Israel's continued control and settlement of the territories who are targeted in this manner. Jews in the peace movements who protest Sharon's policies also find themselves smeared as anti-semitic, "self-hating Jews".
Prof Peter Walshe
Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA