In 2004, Tariq Ramadan was denied a US visa because he was accused of funneling money to Hamas, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
Of course, what actually happened was that Mr. Ramadan gave money to an organization that may have dispersed money to Hamas before Hamas was considered a terrorist organization in 2003. Likewise, Mr. Ramadan was not visiting America to raise money and sneak it to terrorists. He was offered a professorship at the University of Notre Dame (he now teaches at Oxford).
As one of the leading scholars on Islam and its relationship in the West, Mr. Ramadan is not welcome in a whole host of countries, including Saudi Arabia and his ancestral Egypt. His family has a history of rabble-rousing; Hassan al-Banna is his grandfather. Yet Mr. Ramadan was not born into a Muslim Brotherhood sleeper cell, he was raised and educated in Switzerland. Despite his academic and cultural achievements, he was still considered unfit for American consumption until this past week, when he was finally allowed entry.
We can assume that an esteemed Muslim scholar who argues for non-violence and integration with the West would be a valuable asset to our global academic community. So why was he blacklisted?
So if, for example, me, I’m banned from this country, I’ve been banned from this country because I speak my mind, I get the message: in fact, I’m not one of you. You are putting me outside, saying, “No, you’re banned from us.” So this is exactly what is happening with people like this. We push, we push, we push. We kill in Iraq. We kill in Afghanistan. And when we need a critical discussion here, by saying, “No, we don’t agree,” it should be open, and we should not be suspected. It’s not working. So you get everything except this sense of belonging.
And if you don’t get this sense of belonging, which is the psychological integration to your society, meaning if I want to change the policies in Iraq, I should be a citizen in this country to vote and to be critical and to reach out—this is where I belong, this is my country—if I don’t get this sense, I’m going to end up like this, exactly like, in the same way, Mohammad Sidique Khan. After—just before the bombing in London, he was saying, “You are killing our brothers there. We are going to kill you.” You and us, our brother and you. But he was born and raised in Britain. Exactly like him, he was here.
So it’s very—it’s a deep question here. It’s a deep dimension, that we have to understand that critical discussion is important. To feel at home here is important. And then, with this kind of understanding, I will challenge this understanding of Islam, of course, by saying, you know, we cannot be loyal to the United States of America and this very black-and-white attitude, dogmatic mind. I can understand that it is coming out of frustrations, but I disagree.
But I would like the politicians in the States and in the West to understand, if you carry on this atmosphere, this nurturing this perception that Islam is a threat, that the Muslims are a problem, not a potential contribution, you will end up having this kind of, you know, gap between us and them. And you ask yourself sometime, is it not what some populists want?