NEW YORK (Reuters) - A U.S. federal judge on Thursday upheld a government decision to refuse a prominent Swiss Muslim entry into the United States, saying the question of denying visas was best left to the authorities.
The United States had revoked the visa of Tariq Ramadan, an academic at Britain’s Oxford University and a vocal critic of the U.S. invasion of Iraq and its support of Israel.
The State Department initially gave no reason, but later said Ramadan had been barred under a provision of the USA Patriot Act that bars anyone who endorses terrorism.
In October the American Civil Liberties Union denied this and argued Ramadan’s exclusion was therefore unlawful.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Crotty sided with U.S. government lawyers who argued the courts did not have the power to review visa denials.
“The government has provided a facially legitimate and bona fide reason for Professor Ramadan’s exclusion,” Crotty said.
“The court recognizes the limits on its authority in this case. The question of admissibility of aliens is a political question, a question which is best left to the legislative and executive branches,” he said.
Ramadan said he was told he had been barred because he gave 1,670 Swiss Francs ($1,946) to the Association de Secours Palestinien (ASP) from 1998 to 2002.
Washington banned ASP in 2003, saying it supports terrorism and had contributed funds to Hamas.
ACLU lawyer Jameel Jaffer said the ruling was “both legally wrong and deeply unjust” and that the ACLU would appeal. “Professor Ramadan is being excluded not because of his actions, but because of his ideas,” he said.
The ACLU says Ramadan’s case showed how the United States was denying entry to foreign scholars whose views it found objectionable.
Ramadan has often condemned terrorism and Islamist violence. He said he gave money to ASP because he thought it provided humanitarian aid in the West Bank and Gaza.
He is the grandson of Hasan al-Banna, an important Islamist thinker and activist who in 1928 founded the Muslim brotherhood, which opposed secular and western ideas.
Editing by Michelle Nichols and Alan Elsner