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Second Circuit overturns Muslim scholar visa denial

[JURIST] The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Friday in favor of three organizations that had challenged the denial of a visa to a controversial Swiss Muslim scholar, reviving their claim. Tariq Ramadan [ACLU materials; JURIST news archive] had been invited to teach at the University of Notre Dame in 2004, but the government denied his visa, citing Ramadan's contributions to a charity, the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP), which provided some financial support to Hamas [JURIST news archive]. The government claimed this rendered him inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act [USCIS backgrounder] for having "engaged in a terrorist activity" by providing "material support" to a "terrorist organization." The Second Circuit vacated a district court decision [opinion, PDF] that granted summary judgment to the defendants, the director of Homeland Security and the secretary of state. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which filed suit on behalf of plaintiffs, welcomed [press release] Friday's decision, saying:

We're very pleased with the appeals court's decision. The court properly found that the exclusion of foreign scholars like Ramadan implicates the First Amendment rights of Americans, that the judiciary has a role in policing the government's exclusion of foreign scholars, and that in this case the government simply has not offered a constitutionally adequate justification for its actions.

The case was remanded back to the district court for further proceedings, but the ACLU expressed hope that the Obama administration would end Ramadan's exclusion without further litigation.

The ACLU filed the lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in 2006 on behalf of American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center [organization websites]. The government had originally excluded Ramadan for endorsing terrorism, but changed their position after the suit was filed. The ACLU challenged the exclusion on First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] grounds.

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