Daily Herald: Muslim scholar, once banned in U.S., to speak in Oakbrook Terrace

A prominent Muslim scholar banned from travel to the U.S. since 2004 speaks Saturday in Oakbrook Terrace – one of his first appearances since his visa was granted.

Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss-born professor at Oxford University, is “one of the most important and relevant voices for Western Muslims,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Chicago.

Ramadan is the keynote speaker for CAIR-Chicago’s annual banquet. About 1,500 people are expected to attend the event at the Drury Lane Banquet Hall. This year’s theme is “Unapologetic Activism: Our Legacy, Our Promise.”

Ramadan’s visa was yanked six years ago, just as he was about to take a position at Notre Dame University. He was accused of supporting terrorism by giving money to a charitable organization linked to the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. “At the time of this donation, the organization was not flagged as such,” Rehab said. “It was essentially the Bush administration punishing him for being an outspoken critic” of U.S. foreign policies.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reversed the travel ban earlier this year.

Ramadan – a charismatic, controversial figure named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by TIME magazine – is expected to speak Saturday on the challenges facing Muslims in the West. “He is a fresh voice in terms of forging a Western Muslim identity that is comfortable with both its cultural faith and national identities,” Rehab said.

Ramadan’s first lecture on this trip was Thursday in New York City at Cooper Union College. He also met with representatives of the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported him during the travel ban.

He is slated to sign copies of his latest book, “What I Believe” (Oxford University Press, $12.95) during a pre-banquet reception at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Drury Lane. Tickets to the event are $75 in advance at wwww.cairchicago.org, $100 at the door, if available.

CAIR-Chicago will honor several people at the dinner, including U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, a Minnesota Democrat who is the first Muslim elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Leaders of CAIR-Chicago say they would not be surprised if Ramadan’s high-profile appearance attracts protesters, but “we are prepared,” Rehab said.