Opinion: "Shutting Out a Voice for Islam"

February 2, 2006

Source: The Boston Globe


On February 2, 2006 the The Boston Globe ran an opinion piece by Diana Eck, professor of comparative religion at Harvard University, president of the American Academy of Religion, and director of the Pluralism Project. "Why is the American Academy of Religion, with more than 10,000 members who teach religion in colleges and universities, suing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff? It takes a matter of grave concern for an academy of scholars who study everything from the Bible to Buddhists to join the American Civil Liberties Union in bringing a case against the US government. The concern is this: Our colleague, Tariq Ramadan, an Islamic scholar and theologian, has been barred from entering the United States to participate in the discussion of one of the most important topics of today: contemporary Islam in the West. For 18 months, the government has withheld his visa on the basis of the 'ideological exclusion' provision of the Patriot Act, interpreted so broadly as to be a danger to the enterprise of debate and exchange in a free society... The government has invoked a provision of the Patriot Act that allows it to deny a visa to anyone who 'endorses' or 'espouses' terrorism. It is chilling to see that this provision has been interpreted to ban a prominent intellectual who has been a consistent public critic of Islamic extremism and terrorism... The study and analysis of religion is indisputably important in the world in which we live today. Religious and theological studies are integral to the curriculum of more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and seminaries across the country. Our community of colleagues is global. Denying us face-to-face access to scholars and theologians who contribute to critical reflection on the religious currents of our world is an intolerable impoverishment of the academic enterprise."