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State Department Ends Unconstitutional Exclusion of Scholar
from United States; A Victory for Academic Freedom

South African Professor Adam Habib to Be Allowed to Reapply for U.S. Visa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - January 20, 2010
CONTACT: Lee Herring, (202) 247-9859,

WASHINGTON, DC — In a major victory for academic freedom and civil liberties, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has signed orders that effectively end the exclusion of a prominent scholar who was barred from the United States by the Bush administration, and who the American Sociological Association (ASA) had invited to participate in the 2007 ASA Annual Meeting in New York. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) challenged the denial of a visa to Professor Adam Habib of the University of Johannesburg in a complaint filed on behalf of ASA and other organizations in the U.S. District Court in Boston in October 2007.

“ASA has waited patiently and been persistent in our goal for this long-awaited decision from the U.S. Department of State to allow the admission of this internationally known South African scholar for purposes of scholarly exchange,” said ASA Executive Officer Sally T. Hillsman in response to the announcement.

During the Bush administration, the U.S. government denied visas to dozens of foreign artists, scholars and writers — all critics of U.S. foreign policy and many of whom are Muslim — without explanation or on vague or unspecified national security grounds. In a speech in Cairo in June 2009, President Obama addressed the relationship between the United States and Muslims around the world, calling for “a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground.”

ASA and the ACLU welcomed the State Department’s orders as an important step toward achieving that goal. “The decision to end the exclusion of [Professor Habib] is a welcome sign that the Obama administration is committed to facilitating, rather than obstructing, the exchange of ideas across international borders,” said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project.

“Given the orders issued by Secretary Clinton, we hope and expect that Professor Habib . . . will soon be able to come to the United States to meet and talk with American audiences,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “The Obama administration should now conduct a broader review of visas denied under the Bush administration, reverse the exclusions of others who were barred because of their political beliefs and retire the practice of ideological exclusion for good.”

The orders signed by Secretary Clinton state that, in the future, Professors Habib will not be denied a visa on the same grounds that it was in 2006 and 2007. To enter the United States, however, Habib will need to apply for a visa, a process likely to take several weeks. The ACLU expects that, given Secretary Clinton’s orders, the visa application likely will be granted expeditiously.

Professor Adam Habib is a respected political analyst and Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research, Innovation and Advancement at the University of Johannesburg, as well as a Muslim who has been a vocal critic of the war in Iraq and some U.S. terrorism-related policies. Habib is a graduate of the City University of New York Graduate Center. Until he was deported back to South Africa upon his arrival in 2006 at Kennedy Airport with a valid visa and then denied a visa renewal, Habib was a frequent visitor to the United States to address and consult with academics, government agencies, and the non-profit sector.

"My family and I are thrilled by Secretary Clinton’s decision, and we are thankful to the many organizations that put pressure on the Obama administration to stop excluding people from the United States on the basis of their political views,” said Habib. “This is not only a personal victory but also a victory for democracy around the world, and we hope this signals a move by the administration to begin restoring the liberties and freedoms that have been so badly eroded in recent times."

Attorneys in the Habib case, American Sociological Association v. Clinton, are Goodman, Jaffer and Rabinovitz of the national ACLU and Sarah Wunsch and John Reinstein of the ACLU of Massachusetts.

ASA has exhibited a longstanding commitment to international scholarly exchange (see  For a detailed history of the Habib case, see the page-one article in the November 2007 ASA Footnotes newsletter and the Executive Officer’s column in the same issue (p. 2)

More information about both cases is available online at


About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.