US blacklists academic for donating to Palestinian charity

A revealing transcript of an interview with Tariq Ramadan, Professor of Islamic Studies and Philosophy at Oxford University on why he can't get a teaching job in the US.

Submitted by AnarchoProle on September 29, 2006

AMY GOODMAN: Our next guest is a professor at the university in England at Oxford. He’s considered one of the most prominent Muslim intellectuals in Europe. Time magazine described him as one of the 100 most likely innovators of the 21st century. His name is Tariq Ramadan. Two years ago, the University of Notre Dame in Ohio offered him a teaching position, but the U.S. government blocked Ramadan from entering the country. After the government refused to state why they rejected his visa, Ramadan sued. In June, a federal judge ordered the government to provide a “legitimate and bona fide reason” why Ramadan could not enter the U.S.

Earlier this week, the Bush administration said Professor Ramadan’s visa was rejected because he once gave money to a French-based Palestinian charity. U.S. claims the organization has ties to Hamas, even though it’s a legal charity in France. Tariq Ramadan joins us on the line right now from Oxford. Welcome Democracy Now!

TARIQ RAMADAN: Hello. Thank you for your invitation.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Your response to, once again, this latest rejection of your visa to come into the United States and the explanation that you gave money to a French charity that supports Hamas.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes. Look, you know, I have been waiting for two years, and, you know, I heard so many allegations, that I met a terrorist, that I was teaching to terrorists. So at the end it’s good that I have a ledger just clearing me from all these allegations and saying this had not -- you know, it’s not in my record and that my record is clear. The only thing which is now the reason of my denial is that I gave money to a French organization, which is not suspected in France and connected to many, you know, cities in France and connected even with the mayor of Lille.

But much more than that, which is really incredible, is that I gave money to this organization between December ’98 and July 2002, meaning one year before this organization was blacklisted in the States. And I received today a letter telling me, ‘You should reasonably have known that this organization was connected to Hamas,’ so meaning by that I should have known it before the United States administration itself knew it, which is nonsense. It’s just incredible. It’s not a reason. I’m denied because of other reasons, and mainly what I’m saying about the U.S. administration and the current U.S. administration.

AMY GOODMAN: What are you saying?

TARIQ RAMADAN: You know, I’m very critical. Of course, I’m critical about, you know, the American policy in the Middle East. The unilateral support to Israel is, for me, problematic. It’s not helping a peace process.

The war in Iraq, you know, I was one of the first -- you know, one thing which is really important to know is that during my interviews at the U.S. embassy in Switzerland, mainly the discussion was about my position on Iraq and my position on Palestine. And I was saying resistance is legitimate, even though I’m against the means they are using. I always condemn terrorists, and I always condemn the fact that we can kill innocent people. I said that this is not Islamic. This is not right. This is against human dignity and human rights. But resistance is legitimate, where -- while this invasion was illegal, and not only because Tariq Ramadan is saying it, because the United Nations say that this was illegal.

So, my position on this is clear, as my position on the domestic policies, with these new security laws that we have in the States today, you know, the use of torture, these secret prisons that we have and the so-called extraordinary renditions. I think that these should be criticized. And at the end, it’s not only in the name of my Islamic belief, it’s on the name of my and our universal values. And this criticism are helping, in my view, the United States to come closer to its stated ideals and that they are betraying today with the policy they are promoting throughout the world.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ramadan, you’re in Britain now. The Prime Minister Tony Blair certainly supported President Bush in the invasion of Iraq. What is the difference in how they have treated you -- you’re teaching at Oxford -- and the position of the U.S.?

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes. For the time being, you know, my position are known in Britain, and it’s known that I am very critical towards the current British administration, as well, saying that this involvement, you know, in the Iraqi war, I’m really critical, and also this following policy behind the United States is something that I am very critical to. And it’s known.

Now, the difference is that here still, for the time being, and I hope that the British are not going to follow in the footsteps of the U.S. administration or the current U.S. administration, but I hope it will be exactly the other way around, that the United States of America will take example on what is going on here. At least we can debate, that we can express ourselves. And I am in a commission where we are speaking about, you know, tackling extremism and radicalization and dealing with many Muslim organizations, governmental organizations.

And I think that, you know, the very moment you are preventing people from speaking, you are nurturing radicalization. And if it’s not understood in the States, if when you disagree with someone, you ban him from entering, I think it’s the end of the real democratic project. And I really think that it’s not dangerous for me, by -- at the end of the day, I’m here, I can speak. I speak to you. It’s dangerous for you, for American citizens. Your future is at stake here if you are going towards a situation where when Muslims disagree with what is said in America, he can be banned, or if a citizen is against American policy he is suspected of being against America. I really think that this is not the future of democratic society.

AMY GOODMAN: Here, we’ve just passed the fifth anniversary of the September 11th attacks. In Britain, you had 7/7 a year ago, the attacks on the London trains and bus, and then, most recently, the roundup of people accused of being involved in a plot, a future plot to attack planes flying to the United States. Has there been a civil rights crackdown as a result of these, and what has been the response of the Muslim community in England?

TARIQ RAMADAN: I think that what is now at stake, it’s really the security policy in Britain. It’s really a problematic, because we have new laws, and in the name of this war on terror, we have the feeling that our civil rights are undermined, and this is why many Muslim organizations -- but it’s not only, by the way, which is really important here in U.K., which is maybe new. It started with the war in Iraq, where you have citizens, British, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, and no religion at all background, they were coming together to say no to this war. So now we have a process where you have citizens saying, “No, we don’t have to accept this kind of, you know, new laws, which are undermining our civil rights.” So it’s a problematic. It’s a discussion. It’s a debate. And we have, you know, new laws as to the people suspected of being involved or promoting extremist speeches.

All this is around, but the only thing which is different from the States is at least you have a civil debate, you have citizens involved in this. And you have also, within the government, people who are not supporting the current policy we have towards this. So it’s an issue, and in fact, it’s an issue all over Europe, because the future of the democratic society is at stake when we have, in the name of this war on terror, new laws which can just target some people or prevent them from their rights -- or accepting, which is much more worrying, something which is ‘okay, we can deal with torture, because we have a so dangerous enemy that we can accept it.’ And I think when you start discussing about this all in this way, it’s really worrying.

And we also have to understand that we should be partner in this, so Muslims and non-Muslims together in the name of our common principles. We cannot accept this. It should be something that we have to discuss within our democratic society and not accept new laws promoted by government, who are just now proposing as a policy, ‘I protect my people. Security policy is the only answer.’ We need social policies. We need urban policies. We need educative policies. This is what we need, much more than criminalizing the people and criminalizing the immigrants, for example.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Ramadan, what has been the response in the United States, for example in the academic community, to your being barred from coming in to take up your position that you were offered at Notre Dame? And what will you do now? You’ve sued the U.S. government.

TARIQ RAMADAN: Yes. Look, first I have to say that I never confuse the current U.S. administration and the people in the American population and the American academic community. Really, what I got for the last two years was tremendously supportive by, you know, academics, professors. First, the University of Notre Dame was very great and so far always supportive. And all the civil organizations supporting and the American Association of University Professors, the American Academy of Religion, PEN, and ACLU, you know, among others, they were very, very supportive, and I got so many invitations from your universities in the States, so I really, really thank all these people. And this shows that America is not only what we hear coming from its government, but much more a very dynamic society.

And I’m still connected. I will continue to struggle. The only point is, you know, I wanted my name to be clear of all this accusation. And it’s done now, because the only reason is ‘You supported, you donated money to an organization one year before we considered it as being a suspected organization.’ So there is no reason, no serious reason. There is nothing in my record. But I will continue to struggle, because I think that you cannot just give such a reason and prevent something from coming as caller, to come to the United States and to speak to people. I think it’s not only against my rights, but it’s against your rights, because what I want is to build with the American population, with the American society the future of our pluralistic societies in the West. So if I am prevented from coming speaking to you in person, it means that you are prevented, yourself, from the respect of your civil rights and to listen to someone who has something to say. So it’s not only my struggle. It’s the struggle of all the citizens promoting freedom and promoting human rights and promoting the right to dissent, because the real loyalty to a country is not a blind loyalty, it’s a critical loyalty, even for the American Muslims, even for the European Muslims. This should be understood.

AMY GOODMAN: Tariq Ramadan, I want to thank you very much for joining us