US Bush-era ban lifted on two Muslim scholars

The US State Department said Wednesday it has lifted an effective Bush-era ban on Muslim scholars.

US Bush-era ban lifted on two Muslim scholars

The US State Department said Wednesday it has lifted an effective Bush-era ban on Muslim scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan, a critic of the Iraq invasion, in a move rights groups hailed as a victory for civil liberties.

State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton signed documents allowing the South Africa-based Habib of Johannesburg University and Britain-based Ramadan of Oxford University to apply for US visas like other prospective visitors.

"The secretary of state signed an exemption for Tariq Ramadan and Adam Habib," under the Immigration and Nationality Act, Crowley told reporters.

"The next time professor Ramadan or Professor Habib applies for a visa, he will not be found inadmissible on the basis of the facts that led to denial when they last applied," Crowley said.

"We do not think that either one of them represents a threat to the United States," he said.

However, he said the pair will still be subject to the "other standards" that apply to anyone seeking a visa for the United States.

Ramadan, speaking in London, said the decision showed what he called a new "U.S. willingness" to permit critical debate while the American Civil Liberties Union said it was an important move.

"Silencing foreign critics"

"The orders ending the exclusion of Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan are long overdue and tremendously important," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, saying this was "a major victory for civil liberties."

"For several years, the United States government was more interested in stigmatizing and silencing its foreign critics than in engaging them. The decision ... is a welcome sign the Obama administration is committed to facilitating rather than obstructing the exchange of ideas across international borders."

Ramadan, who has Swiss citizenship, told Reuters that as a result of the decision he would apply soon for a visa to visit the United States.

Civil liberties campaigners have championed the cases of Ramadan and Habib as part of a pattern of scholars and writers being excluded due to unwarranted or unspecified U.S. national security grounds.

In an interview, Ramadan told Reuters he remained barred from several Arab countries including Egypt and Saudi Arabia and he had little hope these bans would be lifted any time soon.

Ramadan said he was unpopular with some Arab governments because he had criticized them for what he described as failing to support the Palestinian people and seeking to place the responsibility for the Palestinians' situation on the West.


Agencies

Last Mod: 22 Ocak 2010, 11:21
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