Saturday, March 21, 2009

Should USA Refuse Visas Based on Ideology?

(PEN/IFEX) - The following is an 18 March 2009 PEN American Center press release:

PEN Presses for End to Ideological Exclusion

New York, March 18, 2009 - One week before an Appeals Court hears its challenge to the exclusion of Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan from the U.S., PEN joined 59 other organizations in sending a letter to members of the Obama administration urging an end to the practice of refusing visas to foreign writers, intellectuals, and activists based on their ideas and political views.

The letter calls on Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitanoto abandon ideological exclusion, which was prevalent during the Cold War and which was revived by the Bush administration after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Insisting that practice violates the First Amendment rights of U.S. citizens to engage with a full range of information and ideas, the letter also notes the damage excluding such writers as Gabriel García Marquez, Mahmoud Darwish, Pablo Neruda, and Doris Lessing did to America's reputation during the Cold War.

PEN and its partners urge the government to revisit several recent cases in particular, including that of historian and Basque PEN member Iñaki Egaña; Haluk Gerger, a Turkish journalist and sociologist; Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan human rights activist; Adam Habib, a South African political commentator; and Tariq Ramadan, whose case will be argued on Tuesday, March
24 before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York.

To read the full text of the letter, visit:

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Similar appeals can be sent to:

Hon. Eric H. Holder Jr.
Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of StateU.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20520

Hon. Janet Napolitano
Secretary of Homeland Security
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528

Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

Updates the Ramadan case:

For further information, contact Larry Siems, Freedom-To-Write Program Director, PEN American Center at 588 Broadway, Suite 303, New York, NY10012 U.S.A., tel: +1 212 334 1660, fax: +1 212 334 2181,, Internet:

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