Staff editorial: Maintaining liberty

Illustration Illustration

Illustration Illustration

By Editorial Board

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, it made sense to be more cautious toward individuals entering our country from overseas. But these past few years, caution gradually has been replaced by paranoia as more legitimate travelers are turned away.

The State Department and Department of Homeland Security recently revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan. Ramadan, a Swiss-born Muslim scholar, was ready to move to South Bend, Ind., with his wife and children, to take up a post at Notre Dame University.

Ramadan’s visa was approved in February, but last month the U.S. government abruptly revoked it. Rather than providing evidence to support the decision, neither the State Department nor the Department of Homeland Security would comment on the case.

Ramadan is a well-known religious scholar who wears many hats. While he has been criticized for allegedly teaching both moderate and radical versions of Islam, there is no current evidence linking him to terrorism. The media have speculated that because he is the grandson of an Islamic radical leader, he is seen as a threat to national security.

But, while a trust must exist between a government and its citizens, government officials still must be held accountable for their actions. By not providing evidence against Ramadan, the United States opens itself to accusations of racial profiling, discrimination and censorship.

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Ramadan’s request to enter the United States should be seen as a test of our country’s values. Is freedom of speech and expression so fragile that we are willing to deny entry to a foreigner based on ideas rather than actions?

Therein lies the dilemma. It would be too easy to deny the visa, too easy to be overly cautious and too easy to slam the doors of our country shut to yet another Muslim. However, if we are to be champions of freedom and individual liberty to others, we must practice what we preach, even when it is thought to be somewhat inconvenient.

The U.S. government is not the thought police. It should provide concrete reasons for denying Ramadan’s visa. If it is unable to do so, his entry should be reconsidered.