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US Court Appeal May Overturn Ban on Foreign Scholar

posted by Christopher Howard — Mar 18, 2009

On Tuesday, March 23, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit will reconsider the case of a Swiss professor and Muslim scholar, Tariq Ramadan, who was banned from entering the country in 2004, reports John Schwartz of the New York Times. Based on a provision for ideological exclusion in the USA Patriot Act, Ramadan was declined a visa by the US government to travel to America and take a position at the University of Notre Dame.

The American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN American Center all support the American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging a 2007 ruling that upheld the government’s decision. Arguing for Americans’ First Amendment rights to hear Ramadan, this coalition is also calling on the new presidential administration to end ideological exclusion.

The Patriot Act allows the US to deny a visa to anyone whom it believes has endorsed or espoused terrorist activity or persuaded others to endorse or espouse terrorist activity. The ACLU, however, claims the government used the provision more broadly to deny entry to scholars, writers, and activists whose political views it disfavored. After the ACLU initially filed suit, Schwartz reports, the government asserted that Ramadan made contributions from 1998 to 2002 to a charity in Switzerland, called the Association de Secours Palestinien, which the Treasury Department had deemed a Hamas-affiliated terrorist organization.