Academic Apartheid By the Back Door

March 6, 2007 § 8 Comments

The Lancet | Education & Society | 10 February 2007-16 February 2007
By Izhar Khan
Ward 25/26, Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

There is increasing anecdotal evidence that UK researchers with Muslim-sounding names are being denied the opportunity to present their work in the USA. One of our clinical research fellows, who I help supervise, recently had a paper accepted by the American Society of Nephrology as a poster presentation at its annual meeting in Philadelphia, PA. The research fellow applied to the US embassy in London for a visa in September, 2006, with a letter of endorsement from his supervisor. He was interviewed and informed by the US embassy that because of his name his documents would have to be sent to Washington, and he was given verbal reassurance that a decision would be made before the meeting in November.

The research fellow was encouraged by this and booked a flight to the USA. However, he was not issued a visa despite repeated requests to the embassy by him and by his supervisor. To date his visa application has not been approved. The individual feels insulted and humiliated by the way he has been treated by the US embassy in London.

This was not an isolated incidence. Two other Muslim researchers from the University of Aberdeen have not been issued with visas for entry to the USA and prevented from presenting their work at international conferences. The scientific community must take serious note of this.

Khan, Izhar. The USA should allow the free exchange of scientific ideas. “The Lancet”. 10 February 2007. Volume 369. Issue 9560. 438.

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§ 8 Responses to Academic Apartheid By the Back Door

  • ggwfung says:

    that’s right, blanked out CV’s, no-names. Like orchestras auditioning players behind a screen.

    ggw

  • Dr X says:

    Well, it is sad that it comes to this, however the problem may be with the consulate failing to explain what is happening to this unfortunate fellow.

    The author refers to him as a UK researcher, but he is not a citizen resident of the UK. If he was, no visa would be required. He’d hop on a plane and fill out a brief form the same as anyone else entering the U.S. under the Visa waiver program. His name has nothing to do with whether or not a visa is required in the first place.

    Countries that are not in the Visa Waiver Program require visas of U.S. citizens and the U.S. requires Visas of citizens of those countries for entry.

    A quick check of the state department website explains that there may be significant delays in processing visa applications for scientific conferences and that those wishing to travel to for scientific exchange should apply as early as possible. If the US consolate in London told this man that it would be no problem two months prior to the conference, they are providing information that is inconsistent with what the state department is telling travelers who require visas for scientific conferences. Just waiting for the interview could have eaten up a month of the two months advance this man had from the time of his application to the time of the conference.

    From the U.S. State Department;

    “Due to increased security measures, many applicants must now appear for a personal interview at the U.S. consulate. Applicants should take this into consideration and start the process as early as possible since some consulates may have long waiting times for interviews (several weeks to a month).

    “Scientists and students will most likely experience delays due to a security review process known as ‘Visa Mantis’ which is required for applicants with a background in one of the sensitive technologies on the Technology Alert List. The Visa Mantis review is not a new procedure. However, the number of applications being reviewed overall has increased significantly, leading to delays in the processing of applications.

    “Nationals from countries on the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism (North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Sudan, Iran, and Libya) must go through a special security clearance process that will usually take several months.”

    As far as blind processing of visas goes, it won’t happen. The point of a visa application is to investigate the specific individual and the purpose of their visit before authorizing travel to the U.S. This would be the same in any country.

    I suspect that the Bush administration is no more concerned about the convenience or inconvenience of those applying for visas than they are about U.S. citizens needing help from the U.S. Government (e.g., the Walter Reed scandal in the news this past couple of weeks). Again, this is unfortunate and the Bush administration never seems to have a sense of urgency about anyone’s plight.

  • Hakim says:

    Dr. X,

    Once again thank you for an insightful reply to a very important topic. You concluded that,

    “Again, this is unfortunate and the Bush administration never seems to have a sense of urgency about anyone’s plight.”

    Which is true, with the exception of their own (plight). So it really boils down to a matter of self preservation being applied as legislation and governance, how nice!

  • samaha says:

    At our Islamic school, we have an Arabic teacher that was in the US on a work visa and was working in the US when we hired him. All we needed was a transfer of the work visa from his previous place of employment to our school. The process was started last spring I believe and we applied for a rush transfer which should have taken 2 weeks. We recieved our check back with a letter stating that the rush program is not in affect any longer and that our applicant would be going through a lengthier process.

    To this day there is no transfered work visa. This means that our new Arabic teacher is teaching as a volunteer as he can not recieve pay until he is approved. Forget about the fact that he is allready here in the US, that he is allready in Illinios at our school. This all really seems more like harrasment than national security.

  • Sharique says:

    Well it was expected, isn’t it? US has strict rules regarding researchers who come for academic purposes. I know many in India, non-Muslims, who have been denied visas.

    I really don’t know if you can club this with Islamophobia. May be his area of research will help us understand the situation better.

  • gess says:

    The correspondence by Izhar Khan shouldn’t be considered as an isolated case, otherwise it would occur very strange to print it on a prestigious medical journal.

    I don’t know if there has been a misunderstanding between me and Hakim (Chief Editor), but this correspondence is one part of what I have posted.

    Here is what Editorial of the Lancet had to say:

    Volume 369, Issue 9560 , 10 February 2007-16 February 2007, Page 438

    Last week, eight Muslim and Islamic scholars sent a petition to the South African Government calling for a UN investigation to be started into the treatment of Muslims travelling from South Africa to the USA. The men claim to have experienced discrimination, because of their appearance, at the hands of airport and immigration officials either en route to the USA or on US soil.

    Their case is not an isolated one. Since the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the USA, there has been an upsurge in anti-Muslim travel incidents. This trend is a concern for those involved in protecting human rights and for the scientific community. In today’s Correspondence we publish anecdotal evidence that suggests that UK researchers with Muslim-sounding names are being denied the opportunity to travel to scientific conferences in the USA.

    In the letter, Izhar Khan from the University of Aberdeen details the experience of one of his Muslim research fellows who has not been issued with a visa to travel to a nephrology meeting in the USA. Khan notes that two other Muslim researchers from the university have had a similar experience. When The Lancet asked the US embassy in London about their processes for issuing visas for conferences they said: “There is no special process for applications from persons with Muslim names…All persons with common names, regardless of nation of origin, may be subject to administrative processing as there is a greater likelihood that their name will match the name of someone listed in our database who is ineligible for a visa.”

    Whether these researchers have been subject to extra “administrative processing” is unclear. Either way, they have been denied the opportunity to present their scientific work to an international audience. US scientific and medical societies that host international conferences should raise the issue with Congress and the US State Department and demand that immigration laws do not interfere with the free exchange of ideas. If Muslim voices are prevented from speaking at international conferences, then the whole scientific community will lose out.

    It’s very important to emphasis this has nothing to do with “victimhood”, and many solution relies on the Muslims themselves. To my knowledge, there excists no Muslim scienties professional body in the West, and many problems the Muslims face in the West resembles the situation Black Africans had after slavery abolition, and here I thinking of men like Du Bois and Booker T. Washington who established the foundation of significance movements, which to this day many Black Americans benefit from.

  • Gurbux Kaur says:

    Nice blog I have some one in mind that would be interested. Thank you.

  • […] Comments amad on The UmmahGurbux Kaur on Academic Apartheid By the Back Doorgess on Academic Apartheid By the Back DoorAbdur Rahman’s Corner on Can We Raise ‘Good Muslim’ […]

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