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Freedom of speech at home first

By The Brandeis Hoot

Section: Arts

October 26, 2007

As mentioned briefly on the previous page, President Bush proposed this week to establish a “freedom fund” for Cubans, as long as the current government agreed to protect freedom of speech, press, association and political parties.

The freedom fund seems to be another example of how the administration shifts the importance of basic freedoms to service its own interests. Only a day after Bush proposed the “freedom fund,” the American Civil Liberties Union contested the refusal of the government to grant a travel visa to Muslim academic Tariq Ramadan.

Ramadan was banned on the grounds that between 1998 and 2002, he donated to a charity which provides aid to Palestinians and was on a list of terrorist organizations compiled by the U.S. in 2003.

This ban has forced Ramadan, who teaches at Oxford University, to decline multiple invitations to teach and lecture in the U.S. However, it is at times like these, when controversy swirls around the U.S. relations with the Middle East and the pace of news and events relating to this overwhelm the average citizen, that academics, like Ramadan, are needed.

Muslim academics could offer an important insight into this controversy and help us to create a better-informed and understanding dialogue. It seems illogical to impose our conception of freedom of speech on other nations, while belittling it domestically.

It is understandable that the government would wish to keep terrorist sympathizers out of the country, but is it worth the sacrifice of a well-balanced, fair dialogue?
Whether or not restrictions should be placed on Ramadans visit is debatable, but to completely ban him from the country is to eliminate viewpoint.

In an age where people are all to eager to make quick generalizations, this could be detrimental to our collective American mindset. The ban on Ramadan not only signals to Americans that an Islamic viewpoint is on to be fear, but also conveys our ignorance to the world.

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