First it was folk singer Yusuf Islam, better known as Cat Stevens, who was denied entry into the United States, and now we have internationally renowned British Muslim scholar Dr. Zaki Badawi, who this week was also denied entry and sent back to the UK. Popular Muslims aren't popular in America.
Badawi is the head of the Muslim College in London and is the former imam of London's most famous mosque, Regent's Park Mosque. On July 14, Badawi flew to New York City to give a talk at the prestigious Chautauqua Institute. Unfortunately he never made it to his lecture, as he was stuck in a small room and forced to answer the secret service's invasive questions for six long hours, only to be put on a plane and flown back to the UK.
The US government's refusal to allow popular Muslims from Britain entry into the country borders on xenophobic. As Badawi told the Associated Press, "The people I was speaking to were very junior people and they are just executing things they were told. They were very, very embarrassed and I felt sorry for them. America is a lovely country. There is no reason why it should behave like that."
The US Customs and Border Protection says that Prof. Badawi had been refused entry to United States because they had acquired information which labeled him "inadmissible". Perhaps simply being of the Islamic faith and from a foreign country (even if it's an ally) is "inadmissible" these days.
Could it also be that Badawi was refused entry because he has been critical of US and British foreign policy, writing: "The war between Iraq and Iran was an oil war. So was the second Gulf War ... The presence of a conflict under these circumstances is not a function of the fact that these states are Muslims. These areas are rich [with oil]."
In February of 2003, Badawi admitted that he believed many Muslims would see a war against Iraq as a war against Islam, noting: "It would provide recruits for extremists." He also added that Bush's imminent war would undermine the UN's authority: "I think in the Security Council the US can get its way any time. When Mussolini invaded Abyssinia [in 1935] he ended the credibility of the League of Nations. Mr. Bush could do the same."
Badawi's criticisms of the US and Britain doesn't make him a terrorist, however. Following the London bombings, Badawi openly criticized the attacks alongside other prominent UK religious leaders, including Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams.
But no matter how egregious US human rights violations may be, US "national security" always trumps rationality. So don't expect the US government to apologize for shipping Zaki Badawi back to London anytime soon.
Joshua Frank is author of the highly anticipated new book Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, which has just been released by Common Courage Press. You can order a copy or two or ten for a discounted rate at: www.brickburner.org. Read an excellent review of Left Out! by Adam Engel.
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