Judge Orders U.S. to Decide if Muslim Scholar Can Enter
A federal judge in New York yesterday ordered the Bush administration to decide by September whether to grant an entry visa to a prominent Muslim scholar. The scholar has been barred from entering the United States for nearly two years, first because of supposed ties to terrorism, then for unspecified national security reasons.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit on behalf of three academic groups, including the PEN American Center, which had invited the scholar, Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss citizen, to speak at its meetings.
In a 34-page ruling, Judge Paul A. Crotty of United States District Court in Manhattan said that while the United States must come to a decision on admitting Mr. Ramadan, the academic groups had not met the legal burden for other demands.
The groups had sought an order to stop the government from barring Mr. Ramadan under provisions of the Patriot Act and a finding that the government had abridged the free-speech rights of the groups, which also include the American Academy of Religion and the American Association of University Professors.
Judge Crotty, noting the government's shifting reasons for Mr. Ramadan's exclusion, said, "While the Government may exclude Ramadan if he poses a legitimate threat to national security, it may not invoke 'national security' as a protective shroud to justify the exclusion of aliens on the basis of their political beliefs."
Jameel Jaffer, deputy director of the A.C.L.U.'s national security program, said that "we're very happy with the decision that we got."
Mr. Jaffer added that the decision was significant, "one, because it clearly rejects the government's contention that Professor Ramadan endorsed terrorism and two, it makes clear that the government cannot use the immigration laws as a means of manipulating political debate inside the United States."
The suit was filed against the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Bridget Kelly, a spokeswoman for the United States attorney for the Southern District, said the government's lawyers were reviewing the ruling and would have no immediate comment.
Mr. Ramadan is a scholar of Arab descent who is now a visiting fellow at Oxford University. He has published more than 20 books, 700 articles, and 170 audiotapes focusing on Islam and the Western world.
He is also the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, a founder in 1928 of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian group that opposes Hosni Mubarak, the president of Egypt and an ally of the United States. A group that has been known for violence, the brotherhood recently elected members to Egypt's parliament.
Mr. Ramadan's troubles began in July 2004 when his work visa, known as H-1B, was revoked and he was later unable to accept a tenured professorship at the University of Notre Dame.