WASHINGTON, Dec 14 (MASNET & News Agencies) - The U.S. State Department said it may end the review of a prominent Islamic scholar's visa application after the academic announced he would decline a U.S. university job due to the government's handling of his case.
Swiss professor and author Tariq Ramadan said in a statement he would not move to the United States and take the job at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, because authorities had yet to respond to his October 4 visa application, reports Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Ramadan, an intellectual influential among Muslims throughout Europe, said he had sent a letter of resignation this week to Notre Dame where he had been due to take up a tenured post as professor of religion, reports Reuters.
"I'm abandoning the idea of moving to the United States," Ramadan told the Associated Press (AP) speaking in Geneva where he has lived in limbo with his wife and four children since their furniture was sent to South Bend. "I want to maintain my dignity."
"I sent a letter of resignation... This has been extremely difficult for my family," said Ramadan.
Ramadan notified the university on Monday, citing the stress on him and his family from the uncertainty of their situation, said R. Scott Appleby, director of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, reports the AP.
The State Department rescinded Ramadan's work permit in late July - days before he was to move to the United States - and it was revoked in August after the Department of Homeland Security cited security concerns but released no specifics, saying the decision was based on "public safety or national security interests" and pointed to federal law applying to aliens who have used a "position of prominence ... to endorse or espouse terrorist activity."
U.S. authorities have not disclosed the reasons behind the decision to revoke his visa, but cited the Patriot Act, an anti-terrorism law adopted by Congress in October 2001.
Ramadan re-applied for the visa in October. Ramadan said U.S. authorities had encouraged him to re-apply. He had heard nothing since being interviewed in October at the U.S. embassy in Berne, he told Reuters.
The move was widely slammed by U.S. academics, who suspect Ramadan has been barred because of his sharp criticisms of Israel, the war in Iraq and U.S. policy in the Mideast.
It sparked protests from at least four U.S. scholars' groups, led a United Nations-sponsored institution to issue an academic freedom alert and inspired appeals on Ramadan's behalf from some Jewish groups, reports the AP.
Ramadan has accused President George W. Bush's administration of trying to silence him, reports Reuters.
"The U.S. administration does not want my voice heard. I consider this an attack on academic freedom," added the 42-year-old, who has a doctorate from the University of Geneva.
"There are questions that need to be asked and answered in visa interviews and the visa process," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said. "We have been willing to go through that process after Mr. Ramadan's initial exclusion."
"We would have to point out, though, that the resignation from the proffered teacher post at Notre Dame would nullify the basis for the pending visa application, and thus that would end the review of his application for a visa," Boucher said.
"The gentleman, Mr. Ramadan, had reapplied for a visa. The case was under review," he said.
However, Ramadan's decision to abandon the post was taken after a Notre Dame official was told by a State Department contact that no decision on the visa was in view, Ramadan said.
Ramadan had been named head of the program in religion, conflict and peace-building at the Joan Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame. It was set up by the billionaire widow of Ray Kroc, founder of the fast-food chain McDonald's, the news agency reports.
He was also named professor in Islamic studies in the university's classics department.
Notre Dame, a Catholic university, said then it was "deeply disappointed and concerned," but was optimistic the issue would be resolved and Ramadan would be allowed to take up his post, reports Reuters.
"We are disappointed," said Appleby. "Faculty and students at Notre Dame and at other U.S. universities were looking forward to engaging him productively on a variety of issues central to our times."
"Such dialogue, we believe, is an essential requirement to a deeper understanding of the complexity of the Muslim world."
Ramadan, the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, has condemned the use of violence in the name of Islam.
The scholar's studies focus on showing how Islamic values are compatible with those of secular European society, and he has gained a popular following among European Muslims, reports the AP.
Ramadan said Tuesday there is nothing in his past to justify the ban and demanded that U.S. authorities give details of its investigation of him in order to clear him of the "untrue and humiliating" claims that he was barred because of ties to terrorism, the news agency reports.
He also thanked Notre Dame and dozens of American organizations for their support, reports Reuters.
"They are the dignity of the United States, carrying high the banner of pluralism and democratic debate while the U.S. administration unfortunately seems to show more signs each day of slipping toward a closed and worrying unilateralism."