Tuesday, December 14, 2004

the marketplace of ideas is now officially closed

he's being followed by a moonshadow

The State Department withdrew the visa it had issued for Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan last August by citing the Patriot Act, just days before he was to arrive in the U.S. for a teaching position at Notre Dame. Ramadan is widely known throughout Europe and the Third World. While highly regarded by many, Ramadan has his critics, who accuse him of taking moderate positions when speaking in English and more extreme ones when using Arabic. I cannot speak to these criticisms, since I don't speak Arabic. It should be noted, however, that even this accusation centers on his ideas and statements, and does not suggest any kind of terror-related activity. The scholastic community at Catholic Notre Dame, which knows a lot more about him than I do, continues to support Mr. Ramadan and has expressed its outrage at this action.

After waiting several months for a final decision on his visa, Ramadan was finally forced today to withdraw from the position, as reported by Reuters. Thus we see another striking victory for an Administration that can't seem to catch real terrorists but protected us earlier this year from that other Islamic threat to our ideas, Cat Stevens. Sure, when he's in the Western eye he's the good Cat Stevens, the one who wrote "Peace Train" and "Wild World" and other great songs. But when you're not looking he's the bad Cat Stevens, the one who wrote those really annoying songs like "Moonshadow", "Longer Boats", and "I Want to Live in a Wigwam." You just can't trust these guys. When you let your guard down they might try to insert some poison ideas or irritating music into what Sterling Hayden in Dr. Strangelove called "our precious bodily fluids."

I thought the Patriot Act was supposed to protect us from terrorism, not thoughts. If Mr. Ramadan expresses his ideas duplicitously, as some critics suggest, we should have brought him into this country and let him fight it out with his opponents. It's called the marketplace of ideas. Remember? We used to say we believed in it, back when it was the USSR that liked to suppress free speech. And we used to say we'd win a fair fight over ideas, too. Don't we believe that Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity could get the best of some Islamic professor who lives in Europe somewhere?

So Notre Dame, home of the Gipper and Knute Rockne, will have to do without Tariq Ramadan. Here's a quote from Coach Rockne: "One man practicing sportsmanship is better than fifty preaching it." And here's another: "Win or lose, do it fairly." Oh, but I guess the Coach's philosophy is like the "marketplace of ideas" concept: out of style.