Homeland Security Takes Charge of American Academia

A possible scalp has been gained for the new McCarthyites, as Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan is refused a visa to teach at Notre Dame under the Patriot Act. The Chicago Sun-Times:

Kelly Shannon, a spokeswoman for the State Department’s consular affairs section, said Monday that Ramadan initially received a visa after being cleared by Homeland Security. But Homeland Security later reversed its decision, ordering the State Department to revoke the visa.

According to Ramadan’s supporters:

“Professor Ramadan is a distinguished scholar and a voice for moderation in the Muslim world,” the university said. “We know of no reason his entry should be prevented.”…

Notre Dame officials felt Ramadan’s perspective would be valuable to the conversation in the U.S. about Islam. Departing from traditional Islamic thinking, Ramadan has written that there are multiple interpretations of the Koran and that Muslims should engage in ijtihad, a perpetual process of interpreting the holy texts of Islam so that the faith evolves and is compatible with modern times…

“At the heart of it, people refuse to distinguish moderate Muslims from extremists,” said [John] Esposito, who describes Ramadan as “an established academic… with a strong record.”…

[Scott Appleby, director of Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute:] “unsubstantiated charges intended to defame a Muslim intellectual is troublingly reminiscent of some of the darkest moments in U.S history.”

The Sun-Times assesses the problem:

It is Ramadan’s pedigree, rather than his writings, that has particularly exposed him to criticism. His grandfather is Hassan al-Banna, who in 1928 founded the Muslim Brotherhood, a conservative religious and political organization that has influenced Islamic groups and movements across the world…Some Jewish groups in France have called Ramadan an anti-Semite, and pro-Israel activists in the United States have contended he is connected to Al Qaeda. However, investigations in other countries have never substantiated links between Ramadan and Al Qaeda.

Then, the inevitable appearance of Daniel Pipes:

“I worry that he is engaged in a complex game of appearing as a moderate but has connections to Al Qaeda,” said Pipes, who said he read about those connections in the French media.

After all, just look at Ramadan’s reign of terror in Switzerland…

Graham Fuller, former vice chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA, believes that lobbies such as Pipes’s “Campus Watch” are behind the decision:

“They succeed by presenting this as a security matter. There is no way Homeland Security would initiate this on its own,” said Fuller, who is an expert on political Islam.

Ramadan has been the subject of several profiles over the past few years, in Time, Salon, and Open Democracy. Even Pipes himself has given one of Ramadan’s books a positive review. The only controversy with any substance to it concerns comments Ramadan made in 2003, reported as an attack on French Jewish intellectuals. I was unable to find Ramadan’s original comments, but Open Democracy provides the most context:

In 2003, he activated a waterfall of accusation from French thinkers after pointed accusations that their pro–war sentiments over Iraq served “Israeli interests”. He had charged that their selection of France’s Muslim community for a special warning to society as a whole revealed that their claim to a secular, universalist outlook had been abandoned in favour of a particularist loyalty.

But was his selection of prominent targets – Pierre–Andre Taguieff, Alain Finkielkraut, Alexandre Adler, Bernard–Henry Levi [sic], Andre Glucksmann, Pascal Bruckner, Bernard Kouchner – designed to insinuate that the real problem was that most were of Jewish origin?

Is that it? In argument against apologists for Israel and critics of French Muslims (and Ramadan himself apparently holds moderate views on Israel), Ramadan gave as good as he got but because most of those with whom he disagreed are Jewish he must be anti-Semitic. Never mind that that the figures named by Ramadan may indeed have put a “particularist loyalty” first – I tend to find most people, Jewish or not, do, as it happens.

Ramadan’s visa refusal comes just a few weeks after completely uncontroversial Finnish theologian Veli-Matti Karkkainen was denied a visa for teaching at Fuller on the grounds that Fuller is inter-denominational.

UPDATE (9 September): More on Ramadan today.

4 Responses

  1. […] and UPI “editor at large” Arnaud de Borchgrave uses Moon’s organ to weigh in on the Tariq Ramadan affair (link snagged from Christianity Today): Tariq Ramadan is radioactive. Speak to any Christian in the […]

  2. […] say that the refusal of the US authorities to grant Swiss scholar Tariq Ramadan a work visa shows that there must be some secret evidence that he’s a terrorist supporter […]

  3. […] I posted at the time, even smearmeister Daniel Pipes could only come up with a very lame “worry” that […]

  4. […] On several occasions, this blog has taken aim against Islamophobia – the absurd decision to ban Tariq Ramadan from the USA on the word of Daniel Pipes; the inflammatory and racist rhetoric to be found at […]

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