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Malloy speaks out on Ramadan

Claire Heininger | Tuesday, August 31, 2004

A week after the Notre Dame community learned that a revoked visa would prohibit Tariq Ramadan from teaching here this fall, University President Father Edward Malloy expressed growing frustration as he, Ramadan and Notre Dame remain in the dark about specific charges against the scholar.”The effort that we’ve been involved in ever since has been to find out why,” Malloy said Monday. “And it says in the regulations that if somebody’s denied a visa, they have a right to know who denied it and what the grounds were.”Ramadan has not received an answer to either question, Malloy said. Neither the Department of Homeland Security, which requested that the Islamic scholar be barred, nor the State Department, which formally rescinded his visa, has provided a rationale or identified the agency that made the final decision. “It isn’t that we haven’t talked to different parts of the government – nobody is willing to step forward and say ‘I was the one,’ or ‘Our agency was the one’ responsible,” Malloy said. “I honestly don’t know who was responsible. It’s hard to say. I’ll gladly admit there could have been good reasons for it, but we don’t know what those reasons are and so we’re doing the best we can in the face of the unknown.”The unknown, as Malloy sees it, remains extensive. Not only did the decision drop “out of the blue” in July, he said, but speculation from both sides has overshadowed the facts in the weeks since.”Those are all legitimate expressions of opinion,” he said, referring to the steady stream of Ramadan’s supporters and enemies who have come forward since the scholar’s situation became public Aug. 25. “But it’s not clear who has the facts.”And while Malloy made clear that “the last thing we want to do is favor somebody who would be a threat to the well-being of the country,” he said proof of such accusations had yet to emerge.Until Ramadan is allowed to hear and address these allegations, Malloy said, his rights have effectively been suspended. “Until he has the chance to do that, then it seems to me the law’s not being fulfilled,” Malloy said. “That seems to be our dilemma right now.”Adding to the dilemma of Ramadan’s defense, Malloy said, is the difficulty of dealing with potentially classified information. Since the visa was revoked under national security-related sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act, restricted information could play a role in the agencies’ decision-making process – a complication with which Malloy expressed frustration.”Somebody can always say, ‘Well I know something you don’t know. If you only knew what I knew,'” he said. “What are you going to say? There’s nothing to say.” When dealing with such a high-profile case, the University and the Kroc Institute must also perform a delicate balancing act, Malloy said.”We’re just trying to be respectful of the prerogatives of the government but also supportive of the professor,” he said. “All you can do if you’re in his situation – or as people trying to assist a faculty member – is be frustrated.”Ramadan may simply be caught in a bureaucratic web, Malloy said, along with others who have lost their visas and are in a similar situation. But the University president expressed hope that the case would be resolved in the near future, both for the benefit of the Ramadan family, who remains at home in Switzerland, and for the University community that stands to benefit from his presence.”This is somebody we’ve hired, we thought was a good hire, we had good reason for it,” Malloy said, while praising the professor as “a legitimate conversation partner” in the dialogue between religious ideologies. “I think it’s an appropriate role for us to play,” he said. “I hope we can be a part of that conversation. I hope it’ll happen, we’ll get government approval … but right now, it’s stalled.”