Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has signed orders effectively ending the exclusion of Swiss Scholar Tariq Ramadan from the United States, calling the move "a step towards restoring the First Amendment right of American citizens to seek a full range of information and ideas."
In a statement released today, PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah commended the Obama administration for granting a visa waiver to Tariq Ramadan, saying the action "sends an important signal about our country's commitment to preserving a free and open exchange of information and ideas with the rest of the world."
"At a time when a number of countries seem intent on limiting the access of their own citizens to the international conversation, it is especially crucial for the United States of America to take a strong and clear stand against censorship at the border," Appiah added in the statement.
The action by Secretary Clinton should resolve a lawsuit that PEN and the ACLU, the American Association of University Professors, and the American Academy of Religions filed in January 2006 challenging Ramadan's exclusion from the U.S.
In August 2004, a Department of Homeland Security official cited a Patriot Act provision barring those who "endorse or espouse terrorism" as the basis for revoking Ramadan's visa, a move that effectively stopped him from assuming a tenured position he had been offered at the University of Notre Dame. One of the most prominent scholars of Islam in Europe, Ramadan has consistently condemned terrorism in his public statements and extensive writings, and he traveled to the United States frequently before and after September 11, 2001, even participating in a conference on "Islam and America in a Global World" that former President Bill Clinton hosted in 2002.
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