Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Tariq Ramadan, Muslim Scholar, Denied U.S. Visa

Why did the U.S. revoke his visa, really? Well, he doesn't agree with U.S. policy in the Middle East. That's the biggie. And that's why we're all pissed at George.

Why is it bad that his visa was revoked? Well, outside the immediate financial/emotion damage/stress incurred by himself and his wife and children (all their sh*t is in South Bend, already), there's the issue of academic freedom. Will the U.S. only allow scholars to emigrate to the U.S. who agree with U.S. policy in the Middle East? Aside from the fact that we're supposed to be a nation of ideas, and that free speech and all that are guaranteed in the Constitution, we only hurt our own national interests by not allowing this guy to come and exchange ideas with our experts. The free-flow of information is supposed to make us all a little bit better informed. With that, we at least have a chance of making the right foreign policy decisions. We do that, and we make ourselves more secure. We don't do that, and we make ourselves less secure.

So, yes, this is about academic freedom, and it's about the vibrancy of our democracy, but it's also about our national security. And considering that Ramadan is a moderate Muslim - espousing the mixing of Muslim values with those of Western culture (e.g. independence of women) - he represents the best of what we hope to achieve internationally. To win the 'war of ideas', we need to have an idea of what this Islam stuff is all about. We have experts in country, no doubt, but why turn away one of the best? Especially if he brings the special expertise of having thought long, hard, deep thoughts about how to successfully merge Islam with Western culture? It's just another Kremlinesque - and idiotic - move by the Bushies.

[NOTE: Speaking of the Kremlin, Putin's power grab struck me as funny. It's the same thing Bush has done since 9/11 - albeit, in much more sophisticated ways (outrageously partisan political appointments, recess judicial appointments, the Patriot Act, intimidation of the press corps, etc.).

It works like this. First, a big terrorist event. Next, the government attempts to grab power, and the people, in general, allow it to happen because they believe their government wants to protect them from terrorists. Anyone who protests the upcoming war or the power grab is labeled a traitor or appeaser (see quotes below from Ashcroft and Göring on this technique). The government succeeds in taking more more power. Government abuses power. Government sometimes becomes uncontrollable, fascist even (see Reichstag Fire).

Göring quote:

Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Ashcroft quote:
To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America's enemies, and pause to America's friends.

Here, Ashcroft is condemning as traitors people who oppose the Patriot Act. The 'phantoms of lost liberties' phrase was a worldwide hit as soon as the religious extremist uttered the words. By using the word 'phantoms', Ashcroft suggests that worries about losing liberties via the Patriot Act are unfounded, ridiculous, not real, they're just apparitions - ghosts in the wind. The 'lost liberties' are the ones being stripped from U.S. citizens by the Patriot Act - like, privacy, for starters. This is already one of the most infamous quotes of King George's reign. It really doesn't get any more plain than this - protest George's policies/wars/power grabs, then you are providing aid to the enemy - thus, you are a traitor.

Think the above scenario is unlikely in America? Well, Bush got his wars, one of which could be justified on some level (Afghanistan), and he got his power grab (above, with Patriot Act, etc.). So what's left? Well, more wars. More power grabs. Less liberty for you and me. Fun stuff.

Oddly enough, there are people who are concerned about Russia moving away from democracy. Unfortunately, our experts only recognize Kremlinesque power grabs either a) when those said experts are not in power themselves, or b) when it's happening in another country. Kinda makes one wonder - if terror attacks are so good for the ruling party, then why not, you know, just have a little terror attack? Or maybe a big one? What better way to get all the power you want, and get all your policies implemented? Well, now you're talking.

You can certainly imagine how a President and his cabal could come to some tortured explanation for sacrificing a few thousand of their citizens for 'the greater good'. It happens in war all the time (see Churchill's decision to allow Coventry to be sacrificed(pdf) during WWII, though there still seems to be some debate about how much Churchill knew, when he knew it, and what, if anything, he did about it.) And an article arguing, among other things, that Churchill instigated the bombing of English cities - i.e. Coventry - to draw the U.S. into the war. He hoped Americans would be moved by the horrible pictures.

Now you'll start to see why all these people (and me) think there's been a coverup by the Bush administration on the 9/11 terror attacks. Did Bush himself know? Yes, he knew there was going to be something - the August 6 PDB said so - but I don't think he knew how big and bad it would be. I think many other people in his administration, the CIA, FBI, and other agencies knew.]

Ramadan was supposed to teach at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. It's part of the University of Notre Dame.

This article gives us a brief rundown of what happened:

So what happened with the visa? The Department of Homeland Security, apparently acting under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, requested the State Department to reverse an earlier decision to grant the visa. This is done to those who have used a "position of prominence within any country to endorse or espouse terrorist activity." There is virtually no evidence that is public suggesting that Ramadan has ever espoused terrorism. As immigration expert Paul Donnelly wrote in the Washington Post a few days after the imbroglio erupted, "Notre Dame officials insist that they have reviewed every charge against the Swiss scholar and agree with the likes of Scotland Yard and Swiss intelligence, which have found them to be groundless."

Letter to the Editor of the WaPost from 'a senior research fellow at the University of Illinois at Chicago's Great Cities Institute'.

An Editorial in the WaPost critical of the State Department's decision - calls for more info.

Jewish Council on Urban Affairs critical of decision.

NPR's All Things Considered has an audio report on the revocation of Ramadan's visa.

Democracy Now! has two segments with Tariq.

Ramadan answers to criticms from Bush appointee Daniel 'kill-all-the-Muslims' Pipes here. Not sure why he took the time.

Ramadan as the Muslim MLK?

Ramadan's open letter published in Toronto's Globe and Mail.

The Chronicle on Higher Education has an article. They deserve a shout-out just because it's their territory.

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