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Ramadan reapplies for visa

Claire Heininger | Thursday, October 7, 2004

Acting on the State Department’s suggestion and the University’s encouragement, Tariq Ramadan has reapplied for a work visa to teach at Notre Dame.The prominent Muslim scholar, who was barred from the United States July 28 by the Department of Homeland Security for unspecified national security concerns, filed his request with the U.S. Embassy in Switzerland on Monday, University spokesman Matt Storin said.Government officials had stated on several occasions that Ramadan was free to reapply, Storin said.The move sets in motion the State Department’s review process, which will likely take anywhere between several weeks and two months, but could draw out much longer, Storin said. Prior to the July decision, Ramadan had initially been approved for a visa after a two-month government background check.Ramadan told the Associated Press Wednesday that Notre Dame is “very optimistic” about his chances for approval – a position that Storin confirmed but clarified.Since the University is not aware of anything in Ramadan’s background that would raise suspicion, the administration has “always had a degree of optimism,” Storin said. “I don’t know if I’d say ‘very optimistic.'”The rationale for the revocation remains unknown. On Aug. 24, when it became clear Ramadan would not be permitted to fulfill his chaired, tenured appointment in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, Homeland Security spokesman Dean Boyd would not comment on the specifics of the decision to bar the scholar. Instead, he listed a potential national security threat or a public safety risk as typical circumstances for revoking a non-citizen’s visa.Despite frequent communication between the University and the government since, no concrete reasons have been revealed to Ramadan or to Notre Dame.These circumstances make it difficult for the University to react to statements like the one made by a senior government official in the New York Times Wednesday, Storin said. The official, who requested anonymity because he consulted classified information, told the Times that the State Department’s recommendation to revoke the visa was not based on Ramadan’s beliefs, but on “his actions.””We still don’t know anything specific they’re referring to,” Storin said, adding that answering an anonymous source brings in further complications.Ramadan’s beliefs, however, have sparked international, national and campus debate. Recognized throughout Europe as a leading voice in the discourse between Islam and Western society, he often drew scrutiny along with praise. While critics have accused the scholar of promoting militant Islam and anti-Semitism, supporters maintain he has always taken a moderate, respectful stance.For his own part, Ramadan expressed hope for a second chance.”I know my file is empty and I know I have nothing to hide,” he told the Associated Press. “So if there is justice in the United States, it will be easy.”