Opinion: Revoking Progressive Muslim Scholar's Visa "Sends Signal of Paranoia"

September 4, 2004

Source: The Boston Globe


On September 4, 2004 The Boston Globe ran an op-ed piece by Pluralism Project director Dr. Diana Eck, responding to the U.S. government revoking the visa of Swiss Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan. Eck writes, "I write as a scholar who believes Ramadan's progressive voice is critical for all of us Muslims and non-Muslims alike...He relentlessly espouses the opposite of terrorism -- the hard work of intercultural, interreligious bridge-building. As a scholar who looks for progressive voices that tackle the challenges of religious pluralism, there are few whose voice is clearer and more important than Ramadan's. Yes, Ramadan's Egyptian grandfather, Hasan al-Banna, founded the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist religio-political organization that has been described as 'fundamentalist.' Is this reason to bar him from the United States? Ramadan has reflected often about the different contexts of his life and that of the colonial Egypt of his grandfather. And, yes, Ramadan has openly criticized his French intellectual colleagues, many of them Jewish, for not speaking out against the policies of Prime Minister Sharon and the US invasion of Iraq. He was then accused of anti-Semitism, though he has inveighed against every kind of anti-Semitism. Just what, then, in the work of Ramadan would warrant signaling the entire Muslim world that America is now off-limits to a renowned scholar, so well-known for his reformist vision that he has been called a 'Muslim Martin Luther'...To bar Ramadan sends a signal of paranoia. The most progressive, engaged, dialogical voices are essential to the robust discussion of issues. How can America encourage 'the voices of moderation and tolerance and pluralism within the Muslim world' when, because of fearful ignorance, we insult and exclude them?"