“Our whole ambition is to die on the path to Allah… I am sure we will conquer” said Ken Livingstone’s favourite Muslim cleric, Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, as he touched down in Gaza on Wednesday for a three day solidarity visit. Before he left on Friday he told a Muslim Brotherhood rally that Israel had no right to exist. The rally was the scene of mass chanting of "liberate Palestine … from the sons of monkeys and pigs".
If all that was depressingly predictable, less so, was the range of voices opposed to Qaradawi's cult of death.
Yes, Israel, of course. After all, Qaradawi’s Jew-hatred is undiluted and canonical. Listen to him (from Fatawa on Palestine):
We believe that the battle between us and the Jews is coming … Such a battle is not driven by nationalistic causes or patriotic belonging; it is rather driven by religious incentives. This battle is not going to happen between Arabs and Zionists, or between Jews and Palestinians, or between Jews or anybody else. It is between Muslims and Jews as is clearly stated in the hadith. This battle will occur between the collective body of Muslims and the collective body of Jews i.e. all Muslims and all Jews. (p. 77)Qaradawi does not deny the Holocaust, he celebrates it.
Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by Hitler. By means of all the things he did to them – even though they exaggerated this issue – he managed to put them in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.No camouflaging anti-Semitism as “anti-Zionism” there!
But it isn’t just Israel that failed to extend a welcome to a man who remains one of the most important religious authorities in the Sunni world. Mahmoud Al Habash, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of religious affairs – apparently forgetting that Fatah is supposed to be on the verge of a ‘reconciliation’ with Hamas – complained that “Any visit that acknowledges the legitimacy of Hamas in Gaza, is considered harmful and against the interest of the Palestinian people.”
As for Gaza itself, the local beleaguered journalists boycotted the visit in protest at recent vicious Hamas assaults on their colleagues.
Perhaps most importantly, the Egyptian government was furious with Hamas for inviting Qaradawi. Why? There are both religious and political reasons at stake. First, as Eli Avidar writes in the Israeli newspaper Ma’ariv, there remains fury at Qaradawi for elevating the Hassan Nasrallah the Shiite leader of Hezbollah:
With his own two hands, this radical cleric turned Nasrallah into the hero of the Arab world when he praised him for causing Israel’?s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000. One of the repercussions of Nasrallah’?s popularity was a massive conversion of Sunnis to Shia in Egypt. When Qaradawi woke up in 2008 and said that it was a mistake to interpret his support for the leader of Hezbollah as permission to convert to Shia, it was already too late. Now there are some three million Shiites in Egypt, many of whom are members of the Muslim Brotherhood.Second, and more pressing, Cairo understands that the visit is really about Hamas sticking a thumb in Morsi’s eye. Furious with Morsi for failing to support its ‘resistance’ activities in the Sinai, for flooding its smuggling tunnels with raw sewage, and for refusing to play the role of Islamist big brother, Hamas’s patience has finally snapped. As Avidar puts it in Ma’ariv: "For Hamas, to invite Sheikh Qaradawi to Gaza was to use its doomsday weapon. It sought to use the leading cleric in the Sunni world to stir up public opinion in Egypt about the situation in Gaza." This is a dangerous game because a near-bankrupt Egypt is desperate not to antagonise the West. Look out for Cairo teaching the little brother in Gaza a lesson or two in the near future.
Perhaps we can learn in the UK from all this opposition to Qaradawi as an extremist and divisive Islamist, a danger to the civil peace wherever he goes.
We have slept while Islamists such as Qaradawi have built a network of ideological institutions in the West, and an internet, television and publishing empire beyond the dreams of most political movements. Swathes of the liberal-Left have done more than sleep. They have acted as cheerleaders for the Islamists. When Ken Livingstone justified his public embrace of Qaradawi in 2005, he told us the cleric was "a progressive figure” who was “moving that religion in the correct direction”.
In fact, Qaradawi is utterly reactionary. He has sanctioned the murder of pregnant Jewish women to prevent the creation of “Zionist soldiers”, supported female circumcision ("whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world"), urged the throwing of homosexuals from rooftops as a punishment for their sin ("Should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements"), advocated wife-beating ("though only lightly"), and, of course, cheered on suicide bombings ("the martyr operation is the greatest of all sorts of jihad in the cause of Allah.")
The far-away voices of opposition to Qaradawi's Gaza trip should help us oppose his kind of bigotry here at home.