(This entry picks up where "Tariq Ramadan, the Chicago Tribune, and Me" leaves off.)
I was surprised to learn today that Tariq Ramadan has abandoned his attempt to teach at the University of Notre Dame. Given that the State Department was openly rooting for him to try again, given that the Department of Homeland Security questions were excluded from his immigration interview in Basel, given that the higher education and related lobbies were pulling for him to be allowed in, it seemed only a matter of time until he would be permitted entry to the United States to take up the university position.
That he has formally resigned from Notre Dame suggests just how solid the DHS evidence against him is. And this, by the way, does not surprise me. A senior DHS official looked me hard in the eyes a few weeks ago and assured me, "The evidence we have is damning."
Ramadan's exclusion marks a signal victory for the effort to keep the enemy out of the United States, for few in the Islamist ranks will deploy the highly respectable and high-powered support that Ramadan has enjoyed. If this man can be kept out, then anyone can be.
That said, it is not a perfect victory, for it depended on Ramadan's connections to terrorism; in the future, I hope that being an Islamist will in of itself – without necessarily having ties to violence – be grounds for keeping aliens out of the United States, much as being a communist was grounds for exclusion in an earlier era. (December 14, 2004)
Dec. 15, 2004 update: The Washington Post provides new information on Ramadan's case based on an interview with State Department spokeswoman Angela Aggeler. Aggeler called his visa denial a "prudential revocation" based on regulations that bar terrorists and their associates as well those who incite others to violence. Ramadan did reapply a second time for a visa and his application was under review until yesterday. The Department of Homeland Security would have made the final decision.
Dec. 21, 2004 update: Perhaps the full Tariq Ramadan story is about to become known. In a sensational article today, Sylvain Besson of Geneva's Temps newspaper provides a preview of the indictment against Djamel Beghal, 36, one of six persons to be tried of attempting a terrorist attack against the U.S. embassy in Paris. Besson describes Beghal as an active part of the international Islamist terror network, an itinerant preacher dedicated to living as the Prophet did and to acts of violence against infidels.
The part salient to Ramadan concerns Beghal's having become a practicing Muslim in 1994:
A cette époque, selon l'acte d'accusation, «il se chargeait notamment de préparer les discours de Tarik Ramadan». L'intellectuel genevois, qui n'a jamais admis avoir rencontré ou se souvenir de Djamel Beghal, n'a pas répondu aux messages laissés par Le Temps à son domicile.
Translated into English:
At that time, according to the indictment, "he took charge of preparing the lectures of Tariq Ramadan." The Genevan intellectual [i.e., Ramadan], who has never admitted meeting or recalling Djamel Beghal, has not replied to messages left by Le Temps at his home.
If this is true, it's little wonder that Ramadan was not let into the United States.
Dec. 22, 2004 update: Olivier Guitta provides a fine update today on the Ramadan issue, "Tariq Ramadan is not a victim," at The American Thinker.
Jan. 20, 2005 update: Ramadan published today a maudlin open letter to George W. Bush that includes this passage:
I do know, as does Homeland Security and the State Department, that my file is empty. The Patriot Act was put forward as an excuse and I was asked to reapply. Since then, there has been total silence. Why was this decision taken? What are you afraid of? Is it perhaps that academic freedom of expression has become a danger for you? Or is it perhaps the fact that it would have fortified criticism against you, no matter how constructive, especially coming from a Muslim intellectual? What are you doing to your country, Mr. President?
Comment: Does Ramadan think that this sort of posturing will improve his chances to get in the United States?
Feb. 3, 2005 update: A press release from the Office of Information Technologies at Notre Dame explains how Ramadan taught a class at the university during the fall 2004 semester:
In September, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies used the videoconferencing system to enable Tariq Ramadan, the Islamic scholar hired by Notre Dame whose visa was revoked by the U.S. State Department, to interact with his class on campus from CERN in Switzerland. "This was a wonderful example of distance learning," says Julie Titone, director of communications for the Kroc Institute. "The students asked excellent questions, and the professor in Geneva gave thoughtful responses. There was lots of give-and-take," she adds. Although Ramadan elected to resign his professorship because of the visa problems, "the videoconference gave at least one group of American students some exposure to his ideas," Titone concludes.
Jan. 25, 2006 update: Over a year later, Ramadan has changed his mind and is now trying again to enter the United States, this time with the help of the far-left American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU is using Ramadan as its "symbolic plaintiff" in a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of section 411(a)(1)(A)(iii) of the USA Patriot Act, the section that excludes aliens who endorse terrorist activity, , known as the ideological exclusion provision.
Ramadan himself, along with three American organizations (the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and PEN American Center) claim that (1) he "does not endorse, espouse, or persuade others to support terrorism, and he has never done so" and (2) that "the government's unlawful actions stifle intellectual exchange about Islam and the Muslim world."
Comments: (1) The implications of the ACLU suit are staggering – that anyone, no matter what his views, has the right to enter the United States. The authorities are legally obligated, in other words, to open the country to the enemy.
(2) It is ironic to note that Salman Rushdie is president of the PEN American Center; the ACLU press release quotes him saying that "The exclusion of Professor Ramadan illustrates that the Patriot Act and other post-9/11 laws and policies may be serving to increase American isolation at a time when international dialogue is more critical than ever." One would think that Rushdie, who now lives in the New York area, would – of all people – not welcome Islamists into the United States.
Mar. 15, 2006 update: In addition to the constitutional challenge, Ramadan is also taking practical steps to visit the United States. Today the ACLU filed papers on his behalf asking a judge to issue a preliminary ruling that the federal government wrongly excluded Ramadan, so that he can enter the country to give some talks in April. The ACLU staffer handling the case, Jameel Jaffer, declared that "The government doesn't have the authority to exclude people from the country, invited scholars, simply because it doesn't like what they have to say." To which, counterterrorism specialist Bruce Tefft succinctly replies: "Actually, as a sovereign state, the United States government has the authority to exclude anyone it wants to."
Apr. 4, 2006 update: In an "urgent" proposal for $46,500 in funding to bring ten "Muslim Democratic Leaders" for a Center for the Study of Islam and Democracy conference in Washington in early May, the CSID lists Tariq Ramadan as one such leaders. The drumbeat of pressure continues. Also interesting: CSID lists Ramadan under "Egypt," not "Switzerland."
Apr. 14, 2006 update: The court case noted in the Mar. 15, 2006 update above is now underway and it is leaving observers puzzled.
Papers the government presented at a hearing in federal court in New York revealed that, contrary to officials' statements, a clause in the USA Patriot Act that bans any foreigner who "endorses or espouses terrorist activity" was not the reason Mr. Ramadan's United States visa was revoked. The government also said it did not intend to bar Mr. Ramadan in the future based on that clause.
But the government also said that Mr. Ramadan's case had been and remained a national security matter, and that statements he made in recent interviews with American consular officials in Switzerland had raised new "serious questions" about whether he should be allowed to come to the United States.
Apr. 19, 2006 update: Since Tariq Ramadan was excluded from the United States in August 2004, it's been my belief that this rubs against the grain of the establishment, including the State Department, which would keep pushing and eventually succeed in getting him admitted. That has not yet happened, but one small sign of this intent comes from Rome where, Rachel Ehrenfeld reports, Ramadan has been invited to speak at a conference sponsored by the American Embassy. Not only do the invitations bear the Great Seal of the United States but the U.S. ambassador, Ronald P. Spogli, is scheduled to speak. The conference will take place on May 4-5, 2006, and is titled "Immigration and Integration: Islam in Europe and Islam in the U.S."
Apr. 21, 2006 update: A press release issued by the Centre for American Studies states that "unfortunately, because of the delicate and demanding political situation at the moment we have been asked by many people to postpone the conference." Brava, Rachel Ehrenfeld.
July 11, 2006 update: Ramadan has alternately blamed me for his not getting into the United States (saying that I "spearheaded" the campaign against him) and absolved me of this particular crime ("I never said nor suggested that Mr. Pipes is behind the decision to revoke my visa"); for details see "Tariq Ramadan, the Chicago Tribune, and Me."
Now, the confused would-be professor is back to blaming me for his exclusion, in an interview with an German Islamist website:
Ich sollte Professor für Islamische Studien an der Notre Dame Universität werden. Es war ein dauerhafter Job und ich wollte dort bleiben. Neun Tage bevor ich in die Staaten ging wurde ich davon abgehalten. Es fing an mit Daniel Pipes, der mich auf eine Watchliste" der Universitätscampusse setzte. Wenn man kritisch mit der israelischen Politik umgeht und die Palästinenser unterstützt, gibt es ein so genanntes Campus Watch", welches die Professoren erwähnt, die zu unterstützend für Palästinenser wirken.
I was supposed to become professor of Islamic studies at Notre Dame University. It was a tenure job and I wanted to stay there. Nine days before I was supposed to go to the States was I prevented from doing so. It concerned Daniel Pipes, who put me on a "Watchlist" for the university campuses. If one is critical of Israeli policy and supports the Palestinians, there's this so-called "Campus Watch," which names those professors who support the Palestinians too much.
Comment: Ramadan is fantasizing. Campus Watch has no "Watchlist" and it made no effort to keep him out of the United States.
Aug. 24, 2006 update: From the moment Ramadan was excluded from the United States two years ago, I assumed that he eventually would be let in – the forces pulling for him to do so are just too massive to resist. He got a large step closer today when the U.S. government decided not to appeal a June ruling by U.S. District Judge Paul A. Crotty to require it to decide within three months whether Ramadan may or may not enter the country. It now must decide this matter by Sept. 21. The American Civil Liberties Union, which sued on Ramadan's behalf, indicated its pleasure with the government's decision not to appeal.
Sep. 10, 2006 update: In a weblog posting today, "Tariq Ramadan new links to terror," the terrorism financing specialist Jean-Charles Brisard documents the latest on our hero's ties to violence.
Sep. 25, 2006 update: DHS has – to my surprise – again turned Ramadan down for a visa to the United States. I was notified of this by a contact at the department, who enclosed a statement by Ramadan, titled "A Closed Door" and dated today, explaining what happened. Ramadan tells about receiving a letter from the American embassy, presumably the one in Bern, on September 21, 2006, refusing his visa application. Why so? According to Ramadan, the State Department "cites my having donated about 600 Euros to two humanitarian organizations (in fact a French organisation and its Swiss chapter) serving the Palestinian people. … The U.S. government apparently believes that the organizations to which I gave small amounts of money have in turn given money to Hamas." Ramadan goes on to conlude that, however disappointed he is in the government's decision, at the same, time, he is "glad that the State Department has abandoned its allegation that I endorse terrorism."
A State Department spokeswoman, Janelle Hironimus, begged to differ. The denial of a temporary business and tourism visa, she said, was "based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization." She also noted the U.S. "welcomes the exchange of culture and ideas with the Islamic world" and noted that more than 450 religious scholars and leaders, the vast majority of them Muslim, had visited the United States as guests of the taxpayer in the past three years.
Bill West in his weblog notes the contradiction between Ramadan's take and that of the State Department, then goes on:
It is possible the US Government gave the most "publicly releasable" reason in its denial letter. Especially for visa adjudication purposes under US immigration law, contributing money to a charity determined to be a funding funnel for Hamas could constitute support for terrorism no matter how Ramadan and his supporters might try to spin it. And for visa denial purposes, proof need not be anything close to criminal standards nor even court-use standards...it's all administrative action with virtually no due process rights accorded the foreign-based alien. … And this may be only one item of evidence the Government has against him. If so, it is merely what they chose to publicly release in the official denial document because in these visa adjudication proceedings all it takes is one such basis.
Sep. 26, 2006 update: More from the State Department: spokesman Kurtis Cooper added that the consular officer deciding on Ramadan's visa decided he was inadmissible "based solely on his actions, which constituted providing material support to a terrorist organization." Cooper would not identify the groups that received the donations that led to the visa denial but the New York Sun reporter who got this quote, Josh Gerstein, narrowed the list to the "Comité de Bienfaisance et Secours aux Palestiniens," based in Paris, and the "Association de Secours Palestinien," based in Basel, Switzerland, both blacklisted by U.S. authorities in August 2003.
In addition, Johanne Gurfinkiel, secretary-general of a Swiss group, "Coordination Intercommunautaire Contre L'Antisemitisme et la Diffamation," noted circumstantial evidence of further ties between Ramadan and the Paris-based group; a publishing house used by Ramadan happened to be in the same building in Lyon as the fund-raising committee linked to Hamas. "We were just wondering what they were doing together at the same address, nearly."
Feb. 11, 2007 update: Claude Covassi, a former Swiss intelligence agent, confirms that Ayman az-Zawahiri visited Tariq Ramadan in 1991.
Feb. 16, 2007 update: Although Ramadan acknowledges (in an article titled "What the West Can Learn From Islam") having made donations "totaling approximately $900 to a Swiss Palestinian-support group that is now on the American blacklist," which the American Embassy in Switzerland asserts he "should reasonably have known" that the group had ties with Hamas, he denies this is the real reason for his exclusion from the United States. Rather,
I believe the administration refuses me entry into the United States because of my criticism of its Middle East policy and America's unconditional support for Israel, which has led it to acquiesce in flouting Palestinian rights.
Comments: (1) He won't give this up, won't acknowledge that he did something forbidden by U.S. policy, must turn himself into martyr for free speech. (2) This bit of autobiography comes at the beginning of a portentous piece (note again the title) that informs Westerners that
Millions of Western citizens of the Muslim faith have brought a new outlook toward the world and toward Western policy. Their presence in our midst is a source of strength.
In effect, he is telling Americans, "We Muslims are here, now adapt to us and to our views."
Dec. 21, 2007 update: Yet another judge has turned down Tariq Ramadan or his sponsors' wish to bring him into the United States. Yesterday it was Paul Crotty's turn to rule that his exclusion is lawful, based on his financial donations, denying an American Civil Liberties Union effort to have this decision reversed, arguing that Ramadan did not realize the charities he supported were implicated with terrorism. Crotty called this a "facially legitimate and bona fide reason" but the director of the ACLU's National Security Project, Jameel Jaffer, says that "the government's stated reason for excluding him is just a pretext." The ACLU intends to appeal.
Jan. 23, 2008 update: Ramadan, who initially seemed resigned to his exclusion from the United States, now acts as though obsessed with getting in, getting turned down again and again, but continuing to try. "The US government's actions in my case seem, at least to me, to have been arbitrary and myopic," he is quoted by Agence France Presse in "Muslim scholar appeals US visa refusal," adding: "But I am encouraged by the unwavering support I have received from ordinary Americans, civic groups and particularly from scholars, academic organizations, and the ACLU."
Indeed, his changed attitude reflects how others have taken up his cudgels. Two examples:
Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, says, referring to the December 2007 decision against Ramadan, that "The district court's decision, if upheld, could further limit the ability of US citizens and organizations to exercise their rights to hear from foreign scholars on issues of consequence."
Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU National Security Project, pronounces that the Bush administration "has barred Professor Ramadan from the US for more than three years now. First by alleging without basis that he endorsed terrorism, then saying that it would take years to consider his visa application, and now pointing to charitable donations that were entirely legal at the time they were made. … In Professor Ramadan's case and many others, the government is using immigration laws to stigmatize and exclude its critics and to censor and control the ideas that Americans can hear."
Apr. 28, 2008 update: Ramadan has filed a federal suit in the Southern District of New York, joined by the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center, and aided by the American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union, against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. An ACLU press release summarizes the lawsuit's argument: "The government's stated reason for excluding Professor Ramadan is transparently pretextual. … The government has no legal basis for denying Americans the opportunity to meet with Professor Ramadan, hear his views, and engage him in debate. It's raw censorship."
To this, Ramadan himself added: "Although the U.S. government's actions in my case have been arbitrary and misguided, I am heartened by the unflagging support I've received from Americans who are committed to fairness and the open exchange of ideas. … I am hopeful that one day I will once again be able to enter the U.S. to meet with Americans and continue my work with American scholars."
Mar. 18, 2009 update: In advance of his appeal to be heard on Mar. 24 by a three judge appeals panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York, Ramadan has not only spurred an open letter on his behalf to the Obama administration but also a money-couldn't buy you better puff piece by John Schwartz in The New York Times, "U.S. Is Urged to Lift Antiterror Ban on Foreign Scholars."
Mar. 24, 2009 update: Will wonders never cease? The Obama administration went to court today and argued to keep the ban on keeping Ramadan out of the country. Prosecutor David Jones told the Second Circuit Appeals Court that the government position in his case has not changed. When a judge asked him, "There's now a different secretary of state. Are we entitled to know the position of the current secretary of state? Has it been reviewed at a senior level of government?" Jones replied, "I don't know exactly how high it went."
In reply, Jameel Jaffer of the American Civil Liberties Union said that the "government had "failed to identify ... legitimate and bona fide reasons for the exclusion."
July 17, 2009 update: A three-judge panel making up the Second Circuit Appeals Court today unanimously reversed the lower court ruling that had barred Ramadan from the United States. The 52-page ruling, written by Judge Jon O. Newman and joined by Judges Wilfred Feinberg and Reena Raggi, held that the U.S. government must "confront Ramadan with the allegation against him and afford him the subsequent opportunity to demonstrate by clear and convincing evidence that he did not know, and reasonably should not have known, that the recipient of his contributions was a terrorist organization."
Comments: (1) Beyond making a terrible mistake about Ramadan, this ruling gives aliens unheard-of and dangerous rights to enter the United States. (2) As the Obama administration was on the other side of this decision, one hopes it will appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court.
Jan. 20, 2010 update: From today's Associated Press:
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders enabling the re-entry of professors Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University in England and Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg in South Africa once they obtain required admittance documents, department spokesman Darby Holladay said.
Clinton "has chosen to exercise her exemption authority for the benefit of Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib," Holladay said. "We'll let that action speak for itself." In a prepared statement, Holladay noted the change in U.S. posture since both professors, who are frequently invited to the United States to lecture, were denied admittance after making statements counter to U.S. foreign policy. Both the president and the secretary of state have made it clear that the U.S. government is pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
Comments: (1) I always expected this outcome, that Ramadan would be allowed in, because so many forces were aligned in his favor. That the exclusion lasted over five years was impressive.
(2) Note that this change was ordered from the very top, specifically invoking Obama.
(3) Note also the sleaziness of the State Department spokesman, ascribing Ramadan's exclusion to his "making statements counter to U.S. foreign policy." No, the reason was explicitly his having provided funds to a terrorist-related organization. Why the gratuitous lie, State Department?
(4) The Obama administration puts this case into the context of "pursuing a new relationship with Muslim communities based on mutual interest and mutual respect." But it's always been a terrorism case, with no connection to issues of Islam. What amateurs.
(5) Note the term "mutual respect," the hackneyed phrase repeatedly applied to the U.S. government and Muslims – so much so that I have devoted a whole blog to Obama's use of these words.
(6) So, fellow Americans, how many of you feel safer with the prospect of Tariq Ramadan present in person to talk to our Islamists?