MLA Pushes for End to Ideological Denials of Visas

May 28, 2010

Scholarly groups cheered when U.S. officials lifted visa denials -- widely seen as ideologically motivated -- that prevented the scholars Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan from coming to academic meetings in the United States. But some have feared that others may still be being excluded. Sidonie Smith, president of the Modern Language Association, recently sent a letter to Hillary Rodham Clinton, the secretary of state, calling for the end to all such visa denials. "[I]n the interest of open inquiry and scholarly collaboration, the MLA urges you to cease the practice of denying entry visas to academics and scholars on ideological grounds," the letter says. "Former MLA President Stephen Greenblatt succinctly stated the MLA’s position in these matters: 'Truth-seeking depends upon dialogue. The advancement of knowledge depends upon more people around the table, not fewer. Excluding scholars because of the passports they carry or because of their skin color, religion, or political party corrupts the integrity of intellectual work.'"

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