Tariq Ramadan may know more about Muslim immigration to Western societies than anyone in the United States.
A Swiss citizen who made Time magazine's list of the most influential people in the world, Ramdan has written several books calling on Muslims to find a middle ground between accepting American and European hegemony and buying into Islamic fundamentalist extremism. The University of Notre Dame hired him as a tenured professor this fall at their Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies.
But nine days before he was set to move his family to South Bend, Ind., the Department of Homeland Security decided he didn't belong here.
They revoked the visa he received in May under a section of immigration law dealing with "public-safety or national-security risks" without any explanation.
Although most consider Ramadan a reformist, his criticism of both the war in Iraq and continuing U.S. support of Israel has generated controversy among neoconservatives, who label him an anti-Semite with terrorist ties - with no evidence of either claim.
But his greatest crime is being the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood - a radical Islam movement in Egypt during the 1920s. Despite his denial of any ties to the group and pleading to not be judged by the actions of his ancestors, the association lingers.
After surviving the rigorous State Department visa screening process earlier this year, Ramadan also got approval from a 10-member Notre Dame committee that "thoroughly analyzed" his writings to clear him of allegations of extremism.
Many educators and politicians outraged by the decision have demanded that Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge make public any evidence of Ramadan's threat.
"Denying qualified scholars entry into the United States because of their political beliefs strikes at the core of academic freedom," said a letter by the Middle East Studies Association of North America.
We deserve an answer.
If Ramadan was kept out of the classroom because his views didn't align with those currently in power, basic academic freedom is indeed in peril. Not only were his students robbed of being exposed to his unique perspective, but such policies could lead to further censorship of professors with controversial views.
The Department of Homeland Security's action is just one in a multi-pronged attempt to weed out voices of dissent in American higher education: While Ridge's department targets individuals, Congress is busy creating a system that could censor entire college curricula.
Part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act would set up an advisory board to oversee federally funded international studies programs. UT receives about $2 million a year through the act to fund its Latin American, Middle Eastern, Asian, Russian and Eastern European centers.
Although the board would only "study, monitor, apprise and evaluate a sample of activities" to ensure "diverse perspectives," it could prove damaging if the board's recommendations to the Secretary of Education affected schools' funding.
When the House considered the bill last fall, UT Liberal Arts Dean Richard Lariviere called it "an attempt by a political faction to interfere with the free exchange of ideas." UT Federal Relations Vice Chancellor Bill Shute also expressed concern, saying that he would work to make sure the board could not influence class syllabi and reading lists.
The House passed a slightly altered bill - taking into consideration some complaints by higher education - by a wide majority in October. It has been slowed down by the election season, but should come up for debate in the Senate as early as January.
This is an issue students and administrators should continue to watch to ensure that the board's power is minimal - or that it doesn't exist at all.
Students should not be learning in a vaccum - political ideologies and radical views play vital roles in the national and political landscape. As such, open dialogue should be nurtured, not stifled.