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Houston Chronicle – Dec. 23, 2005

Islamic scholar denied entry into U.S.

A Canadian Islamic teacher scheduled to speak at an upcoming Houston conference has been barred entry to the United States.

Yahya Ibrahim arrived at the Detroit airport Monday, where an immigration inspector denied him entry. Ibrahim, who was traveling from Australia, could not be reached for comment.

He was scheduled to speak at the Texas Dawah Convention, an annual event for Muslims expected to attract 4,000 participants from across the country. The government confirmed that Ibrahim was denied entry, but refused to say why.

"We don't release specific details of the reason for denial," said John Mohan, spokesman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Washington. Mohan confirmed that Canadian citizens are not required to carry visas to enter the United States, but he said they can still be denied entry.

"Suffice it to say the burden of proof is always on the alien," Mohan said. He would not specify what it is immigrants must prove.

Conference organizers have asked for a better explanation.

"The message (Ibrahim) promotes is the message of peace and moderation," said convention director Waleed Dasyouni. "Turning him away sends the wrong message."

Officials with the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the scholar told them he was detained for five hours and given no reason for being refused entry. Kaleem Siddiqui, a spokesman for the council's Houston office, said the organization was contacting congressmen and other authorities for an explanation.