A prominent European Muslim scholar who last year was refused a visa to travel to the United States to take up a teaching post at the University of Notre Dame will begin a visiting fellowship this fall at the University of Oxford.
Tariq Ramadan, a professor of Islamic studies and philosophy who is based in Paris and holds Swiss citizenship, resigned his tenured faculty appointment at Notre Dame's Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies after his visa was revoked at the request of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The United States government offered no explanation for its action, citing only the terms of the USA Patriot Act, and the move was widely criticized by civil-liberties groups and many academics as an infringement of academic freedom (The Chronicle, September 10, 2004).
Mr. Ramadan had resigned a permanent professorship at the University of Fribourg, in Switzerland, in order to accept the post at Notre Dame. He is currently a senior research fellow with the Lokahi Foundation, a new organization here that promotes interfaith dialogue at the scholarly and grass-roots levels.
Mr. Ramadan's Oxford appointment is at St. Antony's College, a relatively new graduate institution with an international focus. Mr. Ramadan said on Tuesday that his primary affiliation there would be with two of the college's units -- the European Studies Center and the Middle East Center -- and that he would be researching a book on a reformist approach to Islamic law and jurisprudence. He will also teach courses related to European Islam and European Muslims, one of his main areas of interest.
St. Antony's released a brief statement on Mr. Ramadan's appointment, noting that he was "a regular visitor to Britain and other states" of the European Union. "St. Antony's College," the statement said, "is a forum for free academic exchange on the issues of our times and opposes all manifestations of hate speech and intimidation designed to curb academic freedoms."
The news that Mr. Ramadan would teach in Britain came just days after the government here published a new list of behaviors that will lead to people's exclusion from the country. The revised list was formulated in response to the July 7 terrorist attacks on London's transportation system (The Chronicle, August 29).
Mr. Ramadan is the grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the Egyptian founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic revivalist group that has been outlawed in several Middle Eastern countries. Mr. Ramadan is not a member of the group, but he has been branded an extremist by some critics, despite his unequivocal condemnation of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States and the London bombings this summer.
People are eager to vilify him, Mr. Ramadan said, for several reasons. "The first one is that I am the grandson of, so it's easy to say he is following in the footsteps of," he said. "Another reason is that some of these extremists on the right wing don't want to make a difference between Muslims and Muslims. For them, Islam is the threat. To speak about Islam, and to say that you want people to remain Muslim and at the same time be European, as I do, is the exact opposite ideology of people who want to promote fractures and build walls between people."
Mr. Ramadan said that British-government officials have welcomed him here. "Nothing has been said against my presence," he said. "Quite the opposite. They consider that working with me is something that can help them respond to this challenge of how to deal with extremism." Prime Minister Tony Blair has even appointed Mr. Ramadan to a committee, set up in response to the recent London attacks, that will examine ways of rooting out extremism in Britain.
Although Mr. Ramadan has never been told why his visa to work in the United States was revoked, he said that he had recently gotten signals from American officials that an application for a visitor's visa might now be approved. He has received more than 20 invitations from universities and think tanks in the United States since the beginning of the year, and as a result, he said, he will reapply next week for a visitor's visa. He has no interest, however, in reapplying for a work visa. "I have no intention of going to work there now," he said. "That story is over."