CHICAGO, September 1 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – Over a dozen US academics on Wednesday, September 1, joined a chorus protesting against a revocation of a visa for Tariq Ramadan, as a leading American newspaper dismissed the move as a punishment for the prominent Muslim intellectual's views on Iraq invasion and Israeli policies.
In a letter, the Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy (CSID) asked US Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge to issue a work permit for the Swiss national.
"Although Dr Ramadan has voiced criticism of some US and Israeli policies in Palestine, the war in Iraq, and US support for authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, such opinions constitute no reason to deny him a visa," the center's board of directors said in the letter carried by Agence Franc-Presse (AFP).
The Washington-based organization brings together some of the foremost US scholars on Islam, including professors from Georgetown University in Washington and Cornell University in New York state, in the interests of promoting a better understanding of Islam and democracy.
The 41-year-old scholar was scheduled to take a teaching post at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, last week, but was barred at the last minute when the US State Department revoked his visa.
US authorities have refused to comment in detail on Ramadan's case, but the move has been widely criticized by US academics, who suspect that Ramadan had been barred because of his criticism of US foreign policy.
Against ‘Academic Freedom'
The concerns were echoed by the American Association of University Professors, a Washington-based advocacy group for academic freedom, in a letter posted on its website Monday, August 30.
In the letter to Ridge and US Secretary of State Colin Powell, the association rebuked authorities for a decision that it said appeared to be at odds "with our society's respect for academic freedom."
"Foreign scholars offered appointments at an American institution of higher learning should not be barred by our government from entering the United States because of their political beliefs or associations or their writings," said Robert O'Neil, the head of the association's special committee on academic freedom.
O'Neil concluded by urging the State Department to reinstate the visa that it yanked on the advice of Homeland Security officials.
Newspapers Step In
A leading American paper joined the foray with editorial and letters to the editors being published to urge the US administration to change its visa revocation.
"If he is being refused permission to teach in this country purely because of his views, the government has an obligation to Notre Dame and the American people to acknowledge that -- and to specify which of his opinions endangers public safety," the Chicago Tribune said an editorial on Tuesday.
In another piece in the International Herald Tribune on Tuesday, Ramadan issued a point-by-point rebuttal of what he described as the malicious allegations, linking him to Al-Qaeda figures.
He pointed out that he had been invited to speak at the US State Department in the past and said he made no apology for "taking a critical look at Islam and the West."
Professors at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA, added a voice of solidarity to those calling for canceling the revocation of Ramadan's work visa.
In a letter to the editor of the Guardian on Wednesday, Fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the university said the revocation of Ramadan's work visa bears the imprint of those influential supporters of Israel's rightwing government in the Pentagon.
"To cancel the 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," he wrote.
Walshe said 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."
"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," the British professor said.
He accused that this tactic is being widely used by neoconservatives, for example Daniel Pipes, whose campus watch website encourages students to report professors who contest Israel's policies.
The decision on Ramadan - rated by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world - came a few weeks after the Board of Deputies of British Jews has launched a vile campaign against prominent moderate Muslim scholar Yusuf Al-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.
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.
Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies appointed him as Henry Luce professor of religion, conflict and peace-building earlier this year after a thorough vetting procedure.
Many see Ramadan as a moderate voice in the Muslim world who could make a valuable contribution to the US debate about Islam.