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US government overturns previous order denying entry to 2 Muslim scholars

[JURIST] US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton [official profile] signed an order Wednesday authorizing two previously excluded Muslim scholars who strongly criticized US foreign policy to enter the country. During the Bush administration, the US government barred professors Tariq Ramadan [academic profile; JURIST news archive] of Oxford University and Adam Habib [academic profile] of the University of Johannesburg from entering the country, claiming both had ties to terrorism. Clinton said Wednesday that neither posed a security threat [AFP report]. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website], which represented both professors in separate lawsuits seeking to have the men admitted into the US, released a statement [press release] approving the decision. ACLU Security Project Director Jameel Jaffer applauded the decision as "a welcome sign that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders." Ramadan stated [press release], "I am very happy and hopeful that I will be able to visit the United States very soon and to once again engage in an open, critical and constructive dialogue with American scholars and intellectuals." Habib called the decision [press release] "a victory for democracy around the world." A status conference for Ramadan's case was held Wednesday afternoon in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] to determine how the case should proceed in light of Clinton's order. Both professors must still go through the standard visa application process before they can enter the US.

In July, the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled [JURIST report] that the district court had improperly granted summary judgment to the government in its decision to deny Ramadan's visa application. The government alleged that Ramadan, who had been invited to teach at Notre Dame, provided material support to a terrorist organization by donating to a charity with some financial ties to Hamas [JURIST news archive]. The ACLU filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in 2006 on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors, and the PEN American Center [organization websites]. The ACLU challenged the exclusion on First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] grounds. In 2008, the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts ruled [JURIST report] that the court could review the US Consulate in South Africa's decision to deny Habib's visa application.

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