Friday, April 2, 2010
Habib spotted at Harvard
I had a brief chat to him and his wife Fatima on campus at Harvard University this week, where he had a victorious grin on his face.
He said the welcome he had received this time around on arrival at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia was an extremely inviting one compared with his previous attempt to visit the US in October 2006 when he was put on an plane at JFK International Airport and sent home.
This time around, Habib was among a delegation from the University of Johannesburg, of which he is a deputy vice-chancellor for research, innovation and advancement.
It took secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s personal intervention to secure his entry to the US. The way was paved in January this year after Clinton signed orders enabling his re-entry and also that of another scholar professor Tariq Ramadan of Oxford Univeristy in England.
Not surprisingly, Habib’s topic of debate at a talk he delivered to law students at Harvard one evening this week was: ideological exclusion.
A few days earlier, he told a reporter at the Chronicle of Higher Education at Virginia Tech that the Obama administration needed to do more than simply grant visas, on a case-by-case basis, to scholars who previously were barred because of their political views or associations.
The Obama administration should put an end to Bush administration police which kept scholars out in the first place, he was quoted as saying.
Habib has been a vocal critic of the Iraq war and some US anti-terrorism policies. The American Association of University Professors described his exclusion at the time as “reminiscent of the Cold War, when the US government regularly barred from the country visitors whose views it rejected.”
The Johannesburg University delegation, headed by vice-chancellor Ihron Rensburg, is on a tour of US institutions. They were at Harvard to discuss synergies between the two campuses, particularly around the theme of educational leadership.
The delegation was also due to visit Boston University during their stay in the city.
Also in attendance were Professor Angina Parekh, deputy vice-chancellor (academic affairs), and her partner, former deputy foreign minister Aziz Pahad.
Rensburg , whom amazingly I had not seen face-to-face since my days as an education reporter at The Star in the 1980s when he was a key member of the National Education Crisis Committee, was hosted at a lunch time meeting by Vice-Provost Jorge I Dominguez.
Habib lived in the US for two years while studying for a doctoral degree in political science from the City University of New York.