Why I Was Banned in the U.S.A

By Ramadan, Tariq | Newsweek, March 29, 2010 | Go to article overview
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Why I Was Banned in the U.S.A


Ramadan, Tariq, Newsweek


Byline: Tariq Ramadan; Ramadan is a professor of Islamic studies at St. Antony's College, Oxford, and author of What I Believe.

When the American embassy called in August 2004, I was just nine days away from starting a job at Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. I had already shipped my possessions from Geneva, Switzerland, where I was living, to Indiana, and enrolled my kids in a school near our new home. Suddenly, however, an embassy official was telling me my visa had been revoked. I was "welcome to reapply," the official said, but no reason was offered for my rejection. Sitting in a barren apartment, I decided the process had become too unpredictable; I didn't want to keep my family in limbo, so I resigned my professorship before it began. I launched a legal battle instead.

It was hardly a fight I had expected. Less than a year earlier, the State Department had invited me to speak in Washington, D.C., and introduced me as a "moderate" Muslim intellectual who denounced terrorism and attacks against civilians. Now it was banning me from U.S. soil under a provision of the Patriot Act that allows for "ideological exclusions." My offense, it seemed, had been to forcefully criticize America's support for Israel and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The U.S. accused me of endorsing terrorism through my words and funding it through donations to a Swiss charity with alleged ties to Gaza. Civil-liberties groups challenged my case in court for almost six years until, in late January, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dropped the allegations against me, effectively ending my ban.

In early April I will make my first public appearance in the U.S., at New York City's Cooper Union, participating in a panel discussion about Muslims.

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