Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

More Restrictions on the Academic Life-And Probably Not the Last Ones

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

More Restrictions on the Academic Life-And Probably Not the Last Ones

Article excerpt

An amusing "news item" is making the rounds via e-mail. It seems a teacher had to be detained at an airport, due to his carrying a protractor and compass-weapons of math instruction-as well as his probable membership in the notorious algebra network, as shown by his use of code words "x" and "y," and by a propensity to go off on a tangent. Part of the humor, unfortunately, is based on a grim reality. It is getting really crazy out there.

Cases in point include the situations of Dr. Tariq Ramadan and Dr. Hashem Pesaran. Dr. Pesaran, a Fellow of the British Academy, is arguably one of the world's foremost economists. Born in Iran, he received his BSc in economics at the University of Salford (U.K.), and his Ph.D. at Cambridge. He is a professor of economics at Cambridge University and a professorial fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has been lecturing at Cambridge University in the U.K., and at the University of Southern California (USC). The author of several books, Dr. Pesaran has published over 100 articles in scientific journals, and is an expert in the economics of oil and the Middle Bast.

Recently, Professor Pesaran has been caught up in the academic clampdown on Middle Eastern academicians. His habit of alternating between the campuses of USC and Cambridge has come to a standstill, because the Homeland security folks at the Department of Immigration canceled his visa just a couple of days before he was to resume his duties in California. Dr. Pesaran, who has written on the effects of immigration on labor markets, finds himself as the target of an anti-immigration mindset which has been permeating American society for the last few years. Ironically, one of his books is titled The Limits of Rational Expectations. At any rate, the USC Economics Department is reported as being "furious."

Another last-minute cancellation-or, more accurately, revocation, because his visa had been approved earlier-was imposed on Dr. Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen. Professor Ramadan had been scheduled to accept a position as Henry R. Luce Professor of Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding and to teach a course in Islamic ethics at the University of Notre Dame. Did Dr. Ramadan pose any risk to public safety, or threaten national security? Officials at Notre Dame do not think so, and members of the Department of Homeland Security won't say what they told State Department officials. A spokesman for the State Department provided no useful insights for this situation, either.

Evidently, Professor Ramadan has offended the director of the pro-Israel advocacy group, Middle East Forum. According to Dr. Daniel Pipes, appointed by President George W. Bush to the U.S. Institute of Peace, "groups" in France had asked American officials to "review Dr. Ramadan's status." Are we now to listen to "old Europe"?

Are we now to listen to old Europe'?

Dr. Ramadan is the author of Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. A reformer, he has written extensively on the dialogue between Islam and Christianity, and has combated anti-Semitism among Muslims. Paul Donnelly in The Washington Post reports Ramadan "argues that the 'us vs. them' vision of Islam, exponentially exaggerated by Osama bin Laden...derives not from the Qur'an but from a worldview that is 10 centuries out of date."

It is too bad this scholar has enrolled his children in school already, and shipped his furniture to Indiana.

Beyond these injustices being done to Professor Ramadan-which have been addressed in a letter released recently by the American Association of University Professors-are the dangers being visited on American universities' "noble role in modern history. …

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