Muslim scholar again denied visa by U.S.

“Trinity Wall Street,”: the famous Episcopal church downtown, has put together a big name lineup for its 38th National Theological Conference, Jan. 21-23, on “Religion and Violence: Untangling the Roots of Conflict.”

They’ll have James Cone, the preeminent black theologian, James Carroll, the former Catholic priest and current church critic, and Susannah Heschel, a scholar on Jewish-Christian relations.

It’s a pretty liberal group, as you would expect at Trinity Wall Street.

But one featured speaker, the Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, will have to appear by teleconference — since he has again been denied a visa by the U.S. government.

images3.jpegRamadan (that’s him), if you’re not familiar with him, is practically a celebrity in Europe. He is a Swiss Muslim who advocates the development of a “European Islam” that can co-exist peacefully with other faiths. He doesn’t believe in a “class of civilizations” between the Muslim world and the West.

Liberals and progressives in Europe love him. Others, though, have their doubts, insisting that Ramadan does not condemn violence when speaking to young Muslims.

In 2004, Ramadan was offered a tenured job at Notre Dame University. But the U.S. State Department revoked his visa and the government later said that Ramadan gave money to two Islamic charities that support Hamas.

This morning, Trinity Wall Street announced that Ramadan was denied a visa to take part in the church’s conference.

So he’ll take part via teleconference. What will he say about “untangling the roots of conflict” when the international conflict over how he is perceived is not likely to fade any time soon?

The Rev. James H. Cooper, rector of Trinity Church, said this about the conference:

In nearly four decades of exploring the intersection of faith and culture, Trinity Institute has never addressed a topic with such high stakes. Every day religious violence affects people around the world, threatening our very survival. This year’s conference will not only consider the roots of religious conflict, but also ask how we can manifest religion’s true vocation as a force for peace both locally and globally.

Gary Stern

Gary Stern covered education in the Lower Hudson Valley for several years during the early 1990s. Now's he back on the beat. He believes that schools are one of the main reasons that people live around here and that educational issues -- from curriculum to financing -- are among the most challenging things that journalists can write about. He continues to be amazed by the complexity of educational jargon. Gary got his B.A. at SUNY Buffalo and his M.A. from the University of Missouri Journalism School (where his master's thesis was about the best ways to cover education). He lives in White Plains with his wife and two sons, who attend public schools.