U.S. revokes work visa for Muslim scholar who was to teach at Notre Dame

Tuesday, August 24th 2004, 7:42 pm
By: News On 6

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) _ Acting at the request of the Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. government has revoked the work visa of a Muslim scholar who had been scheduled to teach at the University of Notre Dame this fall.

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen who has been criticized for alleged links to Islamic militants and for remarks branded anti-Semitic, was supposed to begin teaching on Tuesday, the first day of the fall semester.

``This is unjustified,'' Ramadan said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. He charged the revocation was ``coming from political pressure.''

Russ Knocke, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman, said the work visa had been revoked because of a section in federal law applying to aliens who have used a ``position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity.''

He said the revocation was based on ``public safety or national security interests'' and would not elaborate.

``We absolutely don't agree with that,'' Notre Dame spokesman Matt Storin said. ``If we did, we would not have hired him.''

Storin described Ramadan as a distinguished scholar and a voice for moderation in the Muslim world.

Ramadan said he went through a rigorous two-month background check before he was granted the work visa, adding if he had any ties to Islamic militants, the visa would not have been granted.

Ramadan said he opposes all forms of violence.

``What I'm saying as a Muslim is that when I criticize a policy, for example the Saudi policy or the Egyptian policy, I am not Islamophobic,'' he said. ``And when I am criticizing the policy of the state of Israel, of (Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, I'm not an anti-Semite. It's just a political criticism.''

Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the revocation indicates an unwillingness of Americans to listen to Muslims.

``It's really a slap in the face to Muslims who are trying to build bridges between the Muslim world and the West,'' Hooper said.

Ramadan has been teaching at the College of Geneva and the University of Fribourg, both in Switzerland, and has gained a popular following among European Muslims, showing how Islamic values are compatible with those of secular European society.

However, terrorism expert Yehudit Barsky of the American Jewish Committee charged that Ramadan has tried to bring legitimacy to Islamic militants.

``We really had hoped the university had exercised more caution in bringing him over here,'' she said in a recent interview.