Image: Zaki Badawi
Steve Parsons  /  AP
British Muslim leader Zaki Badawi, center, seen here discussing the implications of the London bombings, says he was denied entry to the United States Wednesday with no explanation provided.
updated 7/14/2005 3:58:40 PM ET 2005-07-14T19:58:40

One of Britain's most senior Muslim leaders said Thursday that he was denied entry to the United States a day earlier, with no explanation given.

Zaki Badawi, head of the Muslim College, told The Associated Press he was denied entry when he arrived in New York on Wednesday. He had been invited to speak at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, N.Y., on "the law and religion in society."

The U.S. Embassy in London did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

No explanation was given for his exclusion, Badawi said in a telephone interview

"The people I was speaking to were very junior people, and they are just executing things they were told," Badawi said. "They were very very embarrassed, and I felt sorry for them."

Badawi said he had visited the United States many times before, the last time in 2003.

On Sunday, Badawi joined other British religious leaders in condemning the bus and subway bombings. He appeared with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Free Churches Moderator David Coffey and Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks.

Badawi was given an honorary knighthood and in 2003 he was among the guests of Queen Elizabeth II at a state banquet for U.S. President George W. Bush.

Badawi said he was detained for about six hours. "America is a lovely country. There is no reason why it should behave like that," Badawi said.

In September, Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, was ejected from the United States without explanation. Islam's flight from London was forced to make an emergency landing in Maine when U.S. authorities discovered he was aboard.

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