At the beginning of August, the Homeland Security Department (HSD) of the United States revoked the work and residence visa to the United States for our colleague Tariq Ramadan. The European-born and Geneva-based teacher had been hired by Notre Dame University where, two weeks later, he was supposed to have taken up a post as Professor of Islamic Studies and as Luce Professor, directing the "Religion, Conflict and Peacebuilding" program.
The revocation of Mr. Ramadan's visa and thus his right to teach in the United States constitutes a breach in fundamental civil liberties, a breach legalized under the Patriot Act. This legislation, adopted on October 26, 2001 in the context of the reaction to the September 11, 2001 attacks, has gone beyond its legitimate objective of fighting terrorism. It is increasingly used to silence dissident voices, or simply critics, on sensitive questions such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, issues related to Islam or more generally to American foreign policy in the world.
The Patriot Act authorizes the control and censure of writings and publications and the surveillance of universities, both American and foreign. It permits the revocation of visas for teachers and students coming from countries judged to be "sensitive." This most recent use (or, more accurately, abuse) of this legislation contributes to a process that in the long run can substantially set back the right to freedom of thought and expression in universities and among researchers on both sides of the Atlantic and as such seriously affects relations between universities in Europe and the United States. A large number of American civic and professional organizations (American Civil Liberties Union, Center for Public Integrity, Pen Club American Center, American Academy of Religion, Middle East Studies Association, American Association of University Professors etc.) have denounced this abuse.
Faithful to the American spirit of exchange and openness, the American Association of University Professors, based in Washington, has strongly criticized the decision made by the Homeland Security Department with respect to T. Ramadan, stating that "foreign university professors to whom are offered the possibility of coming to work in an American institution of higher education should not be impeded by our government from entering the United States because of their political convictions, their associations, or their writings."
The university professors who have signed this statement are particularly committed to the fundamental freedoms and the policies that welcome foreign scientists and university professors. This permitted, in the past, many European intellectuals, persecuted for their political, religious or philosophical beliefs, to find "asylum" in American universities and to pursue in security their scientific activities.
The signers of this statement, citizens of the United States, or of Europe, are particularly attached to this "American spirit." America's noble record in modern history is today threatened. Therefore, we respectfully ask that the authorities of the United States reconsider their refusal to allow Tariq Ramadan to teach at Notre Dame, one of America's prominent universities.
Asma Afsaruddin, Notre Dame University
Mumtaz Ahmad, Hampton University
Lisa Anderson, Columbia University
Ali Banuazizi, Boston College
Joel Beinin, Stanford University
Laurie A. Brand, University of Southern California
L. Carl Brown, Princeton University
Richard Bulliet, Columbia University
Charles E. Butterworth, University of Maryland
Ahmad Dallal, Georgetown University
Fred M. Donner, University of Chicago
Dale F. Eickelman, Dartmouth College
Khaled Abou El Fadl, UCLA
John L. Esposito, Georgetown University
Richard A. Falk, Princeton University
Fawaz Gerges, Sarah Lawrence College
Dru Gladney, University of Hawaii
William A. Graham, Harvard University
Peter Gran, Temple University
Robert Hefner, Boston University
Nicholas S. Hopkins, American University in Cairo
Michael Hudson, Georgetown University
Sherman Jackson, University of Michigan
Nikki Keddie, UCLA
Mark Levine, UC Irvine
Peter Mandaville, George Mason University
Richard C. Martin, Emory University
Jane Dammen McAuliffe, Georgetown University
Aminah Beverly McCloud, DePaul University
C. M. Naim, University of Chicago
Augustus Richard Norton, Boston University
Sulayman Nyang, Howard University
William B. Quandt, University of Virginia
Abdulaziz A. Sachedina, University of Virginia
Nazif Shahrani, Indiana University
Amira Sonbol, Georgetown University
Tamara Sonn, College of William & Mary
Antony T. Sullivan Near East Support Service
Mark Tessler, University of Michigan
John O. Voll, Georgetown University
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