Why I am Banned in the USA

For more than two years now, the U.S. government has barred me from entering the United States to pursue an academic career. The reasons have changed over time, and have evolved from defamatory to absurd, but the effect has remained the same: I've been kept out.

First, I was told that I could not enter the country because I had endorsed terrorism and violated the USA Patriot Act. It took a lawsuit for the government eventually to abandon this baseless accusation. Later, I reapplied for a visa, twice, only to hear nothing for more than a year. Finally, just 10 days ago, after a federal judge forced the State Department to reconsider my application, U.S. authorities offered a new rationale for turning me away: Between 1998 and 2002, I had contributed small sums of money to a French charity supporting humanitarian work in the Palestinian territories.

I am increasingly convinced that the Bush administration has barred me for a much simpler reason: It doesn't care for my political views. In recent years, I have publicly criticized U.S. policy in the Middle East, the war in Iraq, the use of torture, secret CIA prisons and other government actions that undermine fundamental civil liberties. And for many years, through my research and writing and speeches, I have called upon Muslims to better understand the principles of their own faith, and have sought to show that one can be Muslim and Western at the same time.

My experience reveals how U.S. authorities seek to suppress dissenting voices and -- by excluding people such as me from their country -- manipulate political debate in America. Unfortunately, the U.S. government's paranoia has evolved far beyond a fear of particular individuals and taken on a much more insidious form: the fear of ideas.

In January 2004, I was offered a job at the University of Notre Dame, as a professor of Islamic studies and as Luce professor of religion, conflict and peace-building. I accepted the tenured position enthusiastically and looked forward to joining the academic community in the United States. After the government granted me a work visa, I rented a home in South Bend, Ind., enrolled my children in school there and shipped all of my household belongings. Then, in July, the government notified me that my visa had been revoked. It did not offer a specific explanation, but pointed to a provision of the Patriot Act that applies to people who have "endorsed or espoused" terrorist activity.

The revocation shocked me. I had consistently opposed terrorism in all of its forms, and still do. And, before 2004, I had visited the United States frequently to lecture, attend conferences and meet with other scholars. I had been an invited speaker at conferences or lectures sponsored by Harvard University, Stanford, Princeton and the William Jefferson Clinton Presidential Foundation. None of these institutions seemed to consider me a threat to national security.

The U.S. government invited me to apply for a new visa and, with Notre Dame's help, I did so in October 2004. But after three months passed without a response, I felt I had little choice but to give up my new position and resume my life in Europe. Even so, I never abandoned the effort to clear my name. At the urging of American academic and civic groups, I reapplied for a visa one last time in September 2005, hoping that the government would retract its accusation. Once again, I encountered only silence.

Finally, in January, the American Civil Liberties Union, the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center filed a lawsuit on my behalf, challenging the government's actions. In court, the government's lawyers admitted that they could establish no connection between me and any terrorist group; the government had merely taken a "prudential" measure by revoking my visa. Even then, the government maintained that the process of reconsidering my visa could take years. The federal court -- which issued a ruling recognizing that I have been a vocal critic of terrorism -- rejected the indefinite delay. In June, it ordered the government to grant me a visa or explain why it would not do so.

On Sept. 21, the long-awaited explanation arrived. The letter from the U.S. Embassy informed me that my visa application had been denied, and it put an end to the rumors that had circulated since my original visa was revoked. After a lengthy investigation, the State Department cited no evidence of suspicious relationships, no meetings with terrorists, no encouraging or advocacy of terrorism. Instead, the department cited my donation of $940 to two humanitarian organizations (a French group and its Swiss chapter) serving the Palestinian people. I should note that the investigation did not reveal these contributions. As the department acknowledges, I had brought this information to their attention myself, two years earlier, when I had reapplied for a visa.

In its letter, the U.S. Embassy claims that I "reasonably should have known" that the charities in question provided money to Hamas. But my donations were made between December 1998 and July 2002, and the United States did not blacklist the charities until 2003. How should I reasonably have known of their activities before the U.S. government itself knew? I donated to these organizations for the same reason that countless Europeans -- and Americans, for that matter -- donate to Palestinian causes: not to help fund terrorism, but because I wanted to provide humanitarian aid to people who desperately need it. Yet after two years of investigation, this was the only explanation offered for the denial of my visa. I still find it hard to believe.

What words do I utter and what views do I hold that are dangerous to American ears, so dangerous, in fact, that I should not be allowed to express them on U.S. soil?

I have called upon Western societies to be more open toward Muslims and to regard them as a source of richness, not just of violence or conflict. I have called upon Muslims in the West to reconcile and embrace both their Islamic and Western identities. I have called for the creation of a "New We" based on common citizenship within which Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Muslims and people with no religion can build a pluralistic society. And yes, I believe we all have a right to dissent, to criticize governments and protest undemocratic decisions. It is certainly legitimate for European Muslims and American Muslims to criticize their governments if they find them unjust -- and I will continue to do so.

At the same time, I do not stop short of criticizing regimes from Muslim countries. Indeed, the United States is not the only country that rejects me; I am also barred from Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and even my native Egypt. Last month, after a few sentences in a speech by Pope Benedict XVI elicited protests and violence, I published an article noting how some governments in the Muslim world manipulate these imagined crises to suit their political agendas. "When the people are deprived of their basic rights and of their freedom of expression," I argued, "it costs nothing to allow them to vent their anger over Danish cartoons or the words of the Pontiff." I was immediately accused of appeasing the enemies of Islam, of being more Western than Muslim.

Today, I live and work in London. From my posts at Oxford University and the Lokahi Foundation, I try to promote cultural understanding and to prevent radicalization within Muslim communities here. Along with many British citizens, I have criticized the country's new security laws and its support for the war in Iraq. Yet I have never been asked to remain silent as a condition to live or work here. I can express myself freely.

I fear that the United States has grown fearful of ideas. I have learned firsthand that the Bush administration reacts to its critics not by engaging them, but by stigmatizing and excluding them. Will foreign scholars be permitted to enter the United States only if they promise to mute their criticisms of U.S. policy? It saddens me to think of the effect this will have on the free exchange of ideas, on political debate within America, and on our ability to bridge differences across cultures.

Tariq Ramadan, a fellow at Oxford University, is author of "Western Muslims and the Future of Islam." He can be reached at [email protected]

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Older Comments:
Im different from the ideas that the each country going to go.i dont thing into a war right.
i dont know what the president also the goverment of usa going to do of other coutry like irac muslims.i wish the go in peace.and also pray to god for forgivenes.and i dont know what is your oppinium.plice e-mail me

Hudd, I know, there is plenty of hypocrisy in US.
And I am not going to defend stupidities of US Govt. As sombody has opined, US is becoming a Friendly Fascist state. Of course, Ramadhan was denied visa for 'ideological' reasons; but then US is within its soverign rights to deny entry into US for any reason (and without giving any explantion). I fail to understand, why Ramadhan got involved in a lawsuit against US for denying him visa. If I were Ramadhan, I will stay in Switzerland. By the way, nobody in US asks whether a person a muslim or not. From my beard and looks, I look like a muslim, but I have not found any problem in US; and I end up travelling to very small towns where people are most likely to be the most ignorant and 'discrimination' is likely to be the greatest.

So, relax. US is not a paradise; but it is not as bad as you think. Muslims have oil; so they get the tretment. If Hindus had oil, US will treat them the same way. It is control of critical resources which US needs for survival. If Canada did not ship oil to US, guess, what will US do to Canada (and it is essentially and Anglo and Christian country).

You don't need to explain yourself,Romesh,I was just teasing you,man.It's sheer assuption that Mr Ramadhan would have wanted to become permanent resident of USA.I knew people that went to other countries on a contract and prefered to buy a house there than rent.At the end of the contract they resold their house and gained on it.Rightfully,US can refuse visa to the Pope himself if they wanted.The discussion is about fairness though.Is it fair to deny entry to somebody on basis of his religion,personal believes(unless they were anti-social,like white supremacy,anti-semitism,Islamophobia,etc) or even sexual orientation?There,Romesh,we discuss an issue on ethics and morality,remember,justice is blind,if something is valid for a WASP(white anglo-saxon protestant)must be the same for a black,native,indian,arab,hispanic,etc.Otherwise we have no democracy but demagoguery.But what do you expect from a government that sent Maher Arrar,a Syrian born Canadian to Syria where he was tortured for one year!If you heard his case.This is the issue,the stigmatization of Muslims by US and stereotyping them as potential terrorists and enamies of America and the free world,which is disgusting and biased if not racist.From 1.3 billion Muslims how many are the terrorists?Half?Then the world would be blown to smitherings!If we said 1% that would be:13 000 000!So tell me how many of the Muslims do you think or reckon as terrorists?Because obviously it's not 1%,not 0.1%, and not likely 0.001%!On the other hand,how many Islamophobic idiots are there in USA?Out of 300 000 000? 10%? 20%? More like 30%?What about 40%?Maybe 50%?You tell me since you present yourself as an all-knowing guru!However,bottom line,it's not nice and dignifying for US to act like a Gestapo state suppressing freedoms and rights of citizens of the free world.If you can't see this,Romesh, don't even bother to answer me,our discussion would be futile.Thank you.

Note to Hudd:

Sorry, Hudd, I came to USA directly on immigrant visa and was given my Green Card in about 4 days (that is right, 4 days, the time needed to prepare and mail the card) after arrival.

Ramadhan would have to apply for immigrant visa (Green Card) after his arrival on scholar's visa. These days, as you know the politics in USA, green cards are not that easy to get, even for top flight scientists.

Dear Bloggers!
I, H.A., am/is forced to support my Grandpa Moonlight (aka Romesh Chander), who explicitly sites (regarding Tariq Ramadan)
" ...Physical presence is an old concept. In these days of media, one can be anywhere and still be everywhere..."

As you can see Grandpa Moonlight is absolutely correct. In these days of light and color, You do not PHYSICALLY have to be on the MOON to get MOONLIGHT. You can be on Earth (as you all are aware) to get moonlight. So he is absolutely correct.

H.A. (aka Kicking Bird)

My point exactly,Romesh Chander,Mr Ramadhan deserves more than a Mexican illigal who eventually is granted amnesty and allowed to live in US.Your insinuations are insipid and quite bipolar in nature,to suggest that I wouldn't appreciate Mr Ramadhan?Do you appreciate him,you as an atheist?I don't know US laws? I was born there,silly,guess why I left.Remember not long ago you were struggling on a visitor's visa yourself,now you play the big boy!..keep on lolling!

Comment on Hudd's post:

Well, obviously, you, living in Canada is unaware of US laws. Ramadan was not coming to US as an immigrant (i.e. Green Card to be given to him on his arrival); he was coming on a temporary visa for scholars. And that temporary visa was 'withdrawn' before his arrival.

It is rather unfortunate that you are comparing a scholar like Ramadan to a mexican labourer jumping off the fence on the Mexican border; he deserves better respect than that.

Well,Romesh Chander,wouldn't Mr Ramadhan be entitled to permenent residency like anybody else?I understand he comes from an independent and free nation,Switzerland,isn't this refusal also an affront to Switzerland as well?This kind of thing happens all the time with people that have not by far the qualifications of Mr Ramadhan.Last month,Canada accepted a delegation of hundreds from the African Commission on the Darfur issue knowing that a portion of them would apply for resident status in Canada.I mean,come on Romesh,in a free world if somebody wants to reside any place he should be able to.Mr Ramadhan was not about to become an illegal in the USA,he wouldn't have gone there over the Rio Grande without papers and melting in the black labour undergroud.He had an honourable contract with a reputable US college.If he wanted to achieve permanent residency though due process with all the legalities involved,denying him that would be racist and discriminatory.He is highly educated and cannot be expected to opine like an illiterate sweat-worker that is happy for US throwing him a bone in exchange of hard labour making the rich richer.Of course he's critical of US government,are you not Romesh?I believe he's critical of his own government as well,that of Switzerland.What's the big idea?The opposite party to the leading party is critical to the present government of USA.I believe these are part of so called democracy,freedom of speech,freedom of opinion and freedom of belief.Are you in favour to eradicate our freedoms?Or only to deny them to Muslims or any other future group that an American coming government would decide on?Romesh,please,maybe you dislike Muslims,but that doesn't entitle anybody to adulterate the constitution.If that be the case,why call it constitution?Call it Murphy's Law!Jesus Christ,Romesh!How easy is to condemn somebody only on the fact that he was Muslim!I remember,there was a guy that US seeked to deport,John Lennon,whom they finally killed.

Romesh......DOES IT MAKE A DIFFERENCE, REALLY? iF HE WERE TO PURCHASE A BIG HOUSE OR RENT A ROOM? Is that some kind of proof that he supports terrorism? you areon a different page!

Ironic, isn't it? They preach Freedom of Speech but it seems to only be an illusion.

Mr. Joseph Anthony,

When you post your comment and your view is in disagreement with the author then come out openly and disclose yourself that you disagree. Do not disguise yourself in neutral and then disagree.

Comment on Brave's post:

Seems to me that you have not been keeping track of the story caefully. Before Tariq Ramadan's visa was 'withdrawn', he had made arrangements to buy a big house in Notre Dame's area and all of his furniture to be shipped from Switzerland. If he wanted to stay here only temporarily, then why would he buy a big house in US and get his furniture shipped from overseas?. He could have stored his furnitre there, rented a house here; when assignment (for 3 years) was over, he would have gone back to Switzerland; it would have been lot easier and cheaper. All he needed was to ship his books and clothing shipped to US and family flown here.

Obviously, he was planning to stay in US permanently and NOT temporarirly as assumed by everybody.

Comment on post by ALI:

You write that Tariq Ramadan has been banned from US because he is a muslim. Well, if that was the case, then US will not allow any muslim to come to US, intellectual or a labourer; and on the top of that, US would have kicked muslims out of the country. Could anybody tell me how many thousands opf muslims have been kicked out of US or banned from coming into US? No that I know of any.

because you are muslim nothing else,us government is against islam..
do you know that americans hate islam,
do u know the meaning of the word america.
so thats why?

because u r muslim nothing else, american government is against islam
do u know the meaning of the ward america.

Wow,Shan,Nazi Germany would have been proud of you.They said the same thing about the Jews.One thing you didn't learn by immigrating to USA is that USA is supposed to be the country of the free.Lately it is not and this is why the Muslims and non-immigrants fight against.Namely,the corruption of the American freedoms and the adulturation of the Constitutional values.The US Constitution borrowed a lot from the late Ottoman Empire's Shariah,therefore is so attractive to Muslims,but when they come to US they realize that those freedoms and values are on paper only,like in their own Muslim countries.So they ran away from their Muslim countries to escape corruption and dictatorship and found themselves in a similar spot in USA.For people that didn't come to USA from starving countries like yourself,riches and wealth means nothing.Freedom and justice on the other hand is all that matters.It's understandable in your case,you were naked,hungry and ascared refugee from a hunger zone and uncle Sam fed you and dressed you,in your perception,therefore like your close relative the canis domesticus,find yourself licking the hand that feeds you.For Muslims is God that gives substinance to US and its citizens regardless of their origin,faith,religion or political orientation.In other words,if you work you need to be paid accordingly,and not discriminated on basis of racial,ethnic,sex or religious backgroud,savvy?A Muslim is paid according to what he's job is,and as much as anybody else in that job.If he was paid more,much more,then maybe he owed something to the government,otherwise he is like any US citizen that has a grievance with his government.If you don't,Shan,that's your choice,but in a free America,you cannot send anybody home before you yourself decided to return.And even then,you moraly can't.If this concept is too high for you,I suggest you take some courses in American history and study the constitution,perchance you will understand what the American standards were.

MashAllah, Br. Tariq is good writer. We including Br. Tariq must understand, from Quran Sunnah perspective Islamic in as slaves of Allah (swt) He is using him to delay his entry to unite people of all faiths to build a case and see the ridiculeness and hypocrisy of Zionists Pro-Israeli Jews who are are holding USA by the throat or who are abusing USA like tamed animal for their Satanic evil worldly benefits and Israel. Ironically even against USA itself. In the meanwhile silencing the truth and disconcerning vioces to play the war game and so called demorcacy at home and dictatorship abroad.

The other fact which perhaps wisely so he does not mentions that Zionists do not want to hear and to stop promotion of Islam and most importantly he is nephew of Hassan El Bannaa of Aqwan e Muslameen.
All such persons are such persons.

Thank you,

Mohammad Ataullah.

You know what, rules are rules. Really if you read the posts from below, if you disagree with this country, then why come here? It irks me (and I am an immigrant) when you people from muslim countries come here and start saying how horrible the goverment is and how horrible the place is. If that is the case GET OUT and DON'T COME BACK. I for one am very thankful for this country even if I don't agree with a lot of its policies. I am thankful that I can feed my family, live my life in freedom (a lot more freedom than your own countries that you come from). Like the gentleman from palestine said (and God bless him) he came from a war torn country, and he is appreciative of this place. I think people like this dude Tariq, need to be banned and need to be kept out. I for one will be the first to vote him OUT.

Tariq can be more effectrve in US by keeping the controversey on fire and staying out of USA. He can write anything he wants in US; his writings can be only an email away. He can speak anything in and anywhere US and at any time; telephone is dirt cheap.

Physical presence is an old concept. In these days of media, one can be anywhere and still be everywhere.

Muslims throughout the world have vented their outrage through violence because of perceived slights too many times. In doing so. they have insulted their Islam more than have Westerners. Where is their outrage for terrorism? Because of their frequent, violent fits, the West no longer trusts or respects Islam. Muslims have shown that Islam is incompatible to Democratic and Western ways. Why do they keep coming to Western countries if they oppose Western ideas? Maybe, the answer is to take them over with Islam! Unless Muslims stop the violence, they will never be trusted! Joseph Anthony

Dear Davie & Nadda Hamam,
I would think your confusion could be cleared if you try to develop the ability to distinguish between government and the nation. I am an American. That does not mean I must agree with every single thing and every single policy our government makes. Undoubtedly, this is the best country on the face of this earth at this time. Being the best country does not mean it is the ideal country. There are still some flaws and areas in which we could improve. Since this is the best country, here is our only hope to make it even better and as citizens it is our responsibility to point out wherever we see we make a mistake. Criticizing the government does not mean criticizing the nation. Yes it is true that any government has the discretion to reject visa to any applicant but in a "democratic" country it is the governments responsibility to justify its decisions to the public. Mr. Ramadan has proven that he could be an asset to the nation and the country. The administration has not proven otherwise, instead given lame excuses which only tend to prove that they fear he is a threat to their policies. You have now to decide which side you are on, the nation and the country's side or the administration and the government's side because they are not the same.

Jeff Russell

I see that you would be unhappy about being turned down so many times here at the US. It is however at the discretion of any government to ban anyone from their country for any reason it wants. I mean come on, if I wanted to go to a country for whatever reason and they refused should I be crying about it? Get over it and live where you can. The only reason you wanted to come to the US was so that you could be honored by having a big shot position in a well known college and yet criticize the government of the country you work in. Should I be allowed to work in some other country in a prestigous position there and then bash on the government? Come on. Get real. Then I'm going to cry about it when the country doesn't want me there and they can't give me a straight answer for rfusing me there? Only in the US can somebody with such opposing views to a government be allowed to have free speach and criticize. I'm glad you were not allowed to stay. Stay over there in London and continue to dillute their country's government until one day muslim utopia. Isn't that what you want? That's certainly not what we want, but it's only a matter of time before that will see it's end.

also see: http://www.islamicamagazine.com/issue-12/why-tariq-ramadan.html

You are banned because they believe that Islam is a true and final religion for all mankind and do not want the people to find what is true Islam and what it says about people of holy book and about the Prophets like Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (pbut) .

They have different agendas to divide and keep hatred among "THE PEOPLE OF HOLY BOOK" i.e,Jews, Christians,and muslims for their actions and advantages.

Find out yourself reading Quran and Hadith which is translated in other languages too.Post quotes or references that shows any violence or any hatred for other religions. Some scholars can explain or arrange an open house, dialogue, debates,get together parties at your local Islamic Center and clear your doubts.

Islam is a religion of mercy, peace and religion for all mankind, but through politicians,media extremists in all religions they want to spread all wrong info. so that they have some excuse for their actions, wars, and gain control of their political parties in power.

Muslims, Christians and Jews come from same ADAM or ABRAHAM and they worshipped the same GOD-ALLAH, Who also sent Moses ,Jesus and Muhammad as messengers to spread the word of GOD-ALLAH.

Yes-you are being deprived of your right to enter USA -but this slight is very small compared to what is happening to the oppressed people of the earth. Yes we should stive to maintain our own personal liberties- but your article does not rouse me whatsover. Muslims are being oppressed all over the world-because -as Muslims we allow this. I do not curry favour with those who pretend that Jihad is bombing America and the West. Each Muslim needs to understand his region and strive to be like our prophet(pbuh). Then we can show our superiority. One of the attibutes of ALLAH-is that he is the most merciful. So many Muslims practice Islam by the letter. Islam is the only true religion. When you become a Muslim-ALLAH has graced you. Yes- the answer is for the ummah- to understand our position on this earth. Let us be patient-and ALLAH rewards the patient.
Assalaam Alaikum wa Rahmatulahi wa Barakatuhi


Nadda Hamam.I'm bewildered!For somebody born in USA to have such slavish servitude and selfless submission to the system or government is deplorable.Nadda,we are Muslims,before enything else and we contemplate the world from an Islamic focus.Otherwise we would be just American or Canadian. But guess what, Americans and Canadians are not in slavedom to their governments.Criticism and the freedom to criticize is the main ingredient to progress and positive change.The world is the paradise of the kufar and the inferno of the Muslims.Any Muslim that found paradise in the world,he found kufr.No matter how rich a Muslim would be,if he was content,he was a kafer.When Ali eben Abi Talib,RA,was khalipha and one guest asked him,"why do you wear suf(woolen clothes) when you could wear silk and gold?"In fact he was khalipha,the leader of the umah(Muslim world).Suf or woolen clothes were the clothes of the beggars,cotton was the thing appreciated.Ali's,RA,answer was:"If there was one man only in the khaliphat wearing suf,I'd be the second."For a Muslim God is the supreme authority and the prophets are infallible.Anybody or anything else is fodder for criticism.USA or Canada is not a country raised to the level of Paradise,their governments are not equal to the authority of God and their presidents are not at the level of prophets,i.d.,infallibile.Thus I don't see what you don't understand?You are not a slave in USA and your parents weren't brought as slaves!If you believed in Allah(God),then you know that the earth and lands do not belong to nations,but to God and He is the one who dispenses and disposes. God said in the Quran:"Did I not spread the earth wide and open for you to find shelter and substinance in it?"Did God mention USA?Screw USA and screw Canada!And yet!Let anybody invade Canada and has me and my family as their deadliest enamy!But to lick the hand that strikes you or kiss the ass of the one that messes you up with your taxes and life in general?No way Jose!

For all their posturing on free speech, democracy, fairness and justice, Americans and the English are the worst violaters of these principles. Now Condi "Auntie Tom" Rice, is heading to the Middle East to sponser and encourage hate and violence between Arab states and Iran. She feels the US has done a great job in encouraging Shia and Sunnis to cut each other's throats in Iraq so why not on a grander scale, and cause a worldwide conflagration amongst Muslims. Her creed is, as is US/Bush policy (as overheard by a journalist recently), to 'let these Muslims kill each other and let God sort them out'. I hope Muslims are acutely aware of US and UK designs and that any Muslim country "Auntie Tom" visits, has the good sense to throw her out on her rear.

Salaam Alaikum,
I am a regular at islamicity.com I like to read the articles, and I often print them out and share them at work. I work at a private Islamic school in North Carolina. After reading your article however, I am somewhat confussed. I understand that American often makes decisions that are irrational and/or ignorant and I agree with you that the reasons you stated in your article are not valid reasons for refusing you a visa. I also have some questions. If you disagree with American politics so much why is it so important for you to becaome a resident? You have obviously tried very hard to gain access to a country that you obviously wouldn't be happy in. Are you very unhappy where you live now that America for all its worse is better? I am not trying to put you down, I just don't understand. My parents came here before I was born. They left a war torn Palestine to have a family in a safer environment. Even if they do not agree with many things in America they do not publically criticise them either. That's all really. Nothing to much. But if you could please help me understand better I would appreciate it. Thank you.

May Allah bless Tariq Ramadan for his work, ameen. Soon Bush will be out of the White House and we have to pray for someone better.

I agree with you. Americans or any other non muslims like to label Muslims especially from Middle East or Asia as 'terrorists' This is so unfair and prejudice against us Muslims.

US will suffer for the lack of listening to different ideas. That is why US is in big mess now in Afghanistan and Iraq because it failed to listen to different opinions.