But the struggle for the protection of rights and civil liberties in the West is not a finished chapter in our history. The constitutions of Western democracies and the rights they enshrine do not protect themselves. The preservation of these liberties requires a vigilant, critical, and courageous citizenry that can be neither complacent in times of security nor compromising in times of fear and insecurity – citizens who understand that the violation of the basic rights of one is a violation of the rights of all. Loyalty to country and constitution demands that we speak up against injustice, uphold our ideals, and hold our leaders accountable.
For years, I worked tirelessly in academic and public circles to dismantle the barriers erected by those who see Islam and the West as mutually exclusive, to build bridges of mutual understanding and respect. Since 2001, I have also intensified my work to remind my fellow Western citizens of the fragility of our societies and the precariousness of our civil liberties as we are thrust into this so-called war on terrorism. Since the end of 2004, I have done this primarily in Europe through my academic work, debates, and public lectures and by working closely with European politicians, governmental agencies, and civic institutions. But I have been prevented from doing this work on American soil.
In the summer of 2004, I was poised to start a dual professorship at Notre Dame University and eager for a more concentrated academic and public engagement than was previously allowed by my numerous but brief visits to the United States.
But that was not to happen. My visa was canceled at the last minute at the behest of the Department of Homeland Security, supposedly under a provision of the Patriot Act. This revocation not only cost me my academic post, it deprived me and Americans of a much needed mutually enriching dialogue and debate. It also fueled fantastical allegations of terrorism support and of shadowy associations that tarnished my reputation and cast a cloud of suspicion over my character and work.
- Tariq Ramadan