The US government’s refusal to issue a visa to the self-styled Muslim "scholar", Tariq Ramadan, continues to provoke howls of outrage from equally self-styled defenders of civil liberties – like, of course, the ACLU. (On Ramadan and his visa difficulties, see here on Trans-Int.) This even though controlling the entry of foreigners to the national territory obviously constitutes one of the defining prerogatives of a sovereign state and – other than in the fevered imaginations of ACLU "experts" – equally obviously does not affect the rights and liberties of citizens. What, however, would these same persons and organizations say if the government denied America’s own citizens the liberty to travel abroad?
German authorities, notably, do this.
Thus, the German neo-Nazi Horst Mahler has recently had his passport withdrawn by German authorities and on purely discretionary grounds (i.e. independently of any legal proceedings or penalty against him). Under, paragraph 7.1.1 of the German Passport Law, a citizen may be denied a passport if he is judged by the authorities to endanger – i.e. with passport in hand – "important interests of the Federal Republic of Germany". Mahler was expected to participate in the so-called "Holocaust Conference" that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced will take place in Tehran sometime this year and that is supposed to challenge the "official version" of the history of the Holocaust.
German authorities are presumably concerned that Mahler’s participation would cause embarrassment to Germany. The foreign public is apparently not supposed to be given the occasion to learn that, despite its official legal repression and the on-going trial against high-profile imported "suspect" Ernst Zündel, Holocaust denial continues to exist in Germany today. This would presumably be contrary to an "important German interest". Germany’s massive and growing commercial relations with Iran (discussed by Matthias Küntzel on Trans-Int here) represents another "important interest" that could be "endangered" should Mahler’s participation provoke the scrutiny of the foreign media.
(Note: Incidentally, Tariq Ramadan and Horst Mahler had remarkably similar, "skeptical", reactions to the 9/11 attacks on the United States. See my earlier Trans-Int article, "Tariq Ramadan: Non-Violent Man of Peace", for the details and links.)
- April 17th, 2006