On Tuesday 12th October, supporters of the leading progressive Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan will converge on the American embassies in London, Paris, Brussels and Berne to demand that the Bush administration’s sudden and unexplained ban on him entering the United States be immediately reversed.
Delegations consisting of politicians, civil rights campaigners, trade unionists, students and prominent academics will present an international petition in each of the four European capitals calling for the scholar’s visa to be reinstated and the Bush administration’s assault on academic freedom and civil liberties to end. Signatories to the petition include the American linguist, Noam Chomsky, French feminist Christine Delphy, British MP Jeremy Corbyn, Chairman of the Jerusalem-based Alternative Information Center Michael Warschawski and French Social Scientist Francois Burgat.
The campaign follows the US Department for Homeland Security’s extraordinary decision in late July to revoke Ramadan’s work and residence visa, just two months after it had originally been approved by the same body. Professor Ramadan was due to take up an American University professorship teaching Islamic philosophy and ethics at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, a role he is currently performing by video-link from Switzerland. He has still not received any official explanation for his banning, although it was carried out under a new section of U.S. immigration law under the Patriot Act that enables the government to remove the visa of anyone it considers helping to endorse terrorism.
Speaking from his Swiss home, Mr Ramadan said: "My visa was revoked without explanation. Certain groups have exploited this decision to once again pour suspicion on my intellectual credibility. Any detailed examination of my work will prove the sincerity of my political and religious beliefs. I urge the American administration to re-investigate my case and I have no doubt that following a thorough and fair enquiry, my visa will be fully reinstated. Otherwise, it will be clear to everyone that it is freedom of academic expression that is the only thing under threat in the United States.”
Jeremy Corbyn MP, who will be among the delegation in London, said: “Now even well-respected scholars like Tariq Ramadan are being victimised, denying their basic freedom to pursue a chosen career path and in the process threatening all our intellectual and political freedoms. These are very sad times indeed.”
Corbyn will be joined by the London-based American citizen and Red Pepper writer, Mike Marqusee: “The US government's decision to bar Tariq Ramadan from the country is a betrayal of the American people. It is precisely Muslim voices like Tariq Ramadan’s that people in the US urgently need to hear. And it is arrogant, bigoted, baseless decisions of this kind that are profoundly damaging the reputation of the US around the world."
Tariq Ramadan will be one of the main speakers at the forthcoming European Social Forum in London, 15-17 October.
For ALL press enquiries, contact Asad Rehman at email@example.com on +44.(0)79562 10332
To view the petition online, go to www.oumma.com or www.redpepper.org.uk
For background information on Tariq Ramadan see www.tariqramadan.com
Notes for Journalists
1. Tariq Ramadan is 42 years old and was born in Switzerland where he continues to reside. His father, Said Ramadan, was driven into exile from Egypt by Gamal Abdel Nasser in 1954.
2. He is currently Professor of Islamic Studies at Notre Dame University (Classic Department) and Luce Professor at the Kroc Institute (Religion Conflict and Peacebuilding) in the United States. He is unable to take up his post in person because of the ban on him entering the United States.
3. He grew up and studied in Geneva. He holds an MA in Philosophy and French literature and a PhD in Arabic and Islamic Studies from the University of Geneva. He has also received one-on-one intensive training in classic Islamic scholarship from Al-Azhar University scholars in Cairo, Egypt.
4. Professor Ramadan is the author of a dozen books and hundreds of articles, mainly on the role and situation of Muslims living in Europe and the West. These include: “Western Muslims and the Future of Islam” (2003); “Globalisation: Muslim Resistances” (2003); “Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity” (2004); and “Muslims in France: The Way Towards Coexistence” (1999).
5. The main objective of Ramadan’s scholarship is to show that a fresh reading of Islamic texts offers a new understanding of universal Islamic principles, which can open the door to Muslim integration into Western societies. He believes that not only is it possible for Islamic culture and Western culture to live in harmony but that this is already taking place at the grassroots level. Ramadan’s goal is to create an independent Western Islam, anchored not in the traditions of Islamic countries but in the cultural reality of the West. He offers a striking vision of a new Muslim identity, one that rejects once for all idea that Islam must be defined in opposition to the West.