Last Friday one of the biggest crowds of the entire Egyptian revolution thronged to Cairo’s Tahrir Square to hear Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Muslim clerics in the world—who on Monday called for the murder of Libya’s Gaddafi. The enthusiastic reception Qaradawi received, along with the barring of secular liberal Wael Ghonim from the same stage, were ominous signs that genuine democracy is not in the offing in Egypt .
With the Muslim Brotherhood almost certain to play a substantial role in the next Egyptian government, the 84-year-old Qaradawi, whom Der Spiegel described last week as “the father figure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood,” looks to become more powerful than ever. Freedom-lovers should not be pleased: Although Qaradawi has been praised by Saudi-funded Islamic scholar John Esposito as a champion of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism, and human rights,” numerous statements he has made demonstrate that he is anything but a “reformist” or a genuine champion of “democracy, pluralism, and human rights,” and he is, in fact, positively Hitlerian in his Jew hatred and bloodlust.
During the uprising against the Mubarak regime, a Muslim website published a chapter from Qaradawi’s book Laws of Jihad, including this passage: “One of the forms of jihad in Islam is jihad against evil and corruption within [the Islamic lands]. This jihad is crucial in order to protect society from collapse, disintegration, and perdition—for Muslim society has unique characteristics, and if these are lost, forgotten or destroyed, there will be no Muslim society.”
In 2002, the Muslim Brotherhood asked him to take over as their leader, but he refused, probably because he saw the position as too small for him: Qaradawi’s renown is not limited to Egypt or even to the Middle East. He is an international figure, reaching 60 million Muslims weekly through his Al-Jazeera TV show, “Sharia and Life,” and touching countless more through his 120 published books (including his very popular Sharia manual, Al-Halal Wal Haram Fil Islam, that is, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam), his website IslamOnline.com (which publishes many of his fatwas), and his positions as president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa and Research.
Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone welcomed Qaradawi to the city in 2004 and praised him repeatedly, despite the fact that during that visit Qaradawi explained to the BBC that suicide attacks against Israelis were not actually suicide at all, but “martyrdom in the name of God.” (Qaradawi has since been banned from Britain, and from the U.S.) That same year, 2,500 Muslim intellectuals denounced terrorism in a petition to the United Nations that labeled Qaradawi one of the “sheikhs of death” who justified murder. In January 2009, during a Friday sermon broadcast on Al Jazeera, he prayed that Allah would kill all the Jews: “Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.” He also declared: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the people [Jews] who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler.”
Qaradawi has predicted that Islam will soon conquer Europe, but that this conquest will come not “by the sword but by preaching and ideology.” He also says that Muslims should obtain nuclear weapons. In 2004, he issued a fatwa calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq , and later expanded this authorization to include the killing of American civilian support personnel. He explained: “All of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers. … The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately.”
Qaradawi has also endorsed Islam’s traditional death penalty for apostasy, and is an advocate of the global caliphate, calling for the establishment of what he calls a “United Muslim Nations” as a counterweight to Western political power worldwide.
Although his perspective is gaining more influence as the Muslim Brotherhood increases its power in Egypt, this goal may not be any closer to fruition. Nonetheless, as Qaradawi’s star continues to rise in Egypt, the violence that he tells his followers is divinely sanctioned in pursuit of that goal is certain only to grow in ferocity.
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