Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf al-Qaradawi's celebratory speech in Egypt's Tahrir square one week after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak made waves in the Muslim world. While the speech endorsed the conquest of Jerusalem's mosque and a complete victory in Palestine, it was hailed for opposite reasons by a leading, Muslim-American interfaith leader and in the most recent al-Qaida magazine.
"A message to our brothers in Palestine: I harbor the hope that just like Allah allowed me to witness the triumph of Egypt, He will allow me to witness the conquest of the al-Aqsa mosque [in Jerusalem], and will enable me to preach in the al-Aqsa Mosque," Qaradawi said to crowds in Tahrir Square on February 18th. "Allow us to enter the al-Aqsa Mosque without fear. Accomplish this complete victory for us. Oh, sons of Palestine, rest assured that you will be victorious."
Qaradawi, the self-proclaimed "Mufti of martyrdom operations," has endorsed the conquest of Israel and the murder of its Jewish population on numerous occasions. In 1995, he praised Hamas and Islamic Jihad to an American audience, telling them that "the movement of the jihad brings us back to our faith." In 2004, Qaradawi endorsed female suicide bombings, calling that form of terrorism "the greatest of all sorts of jihad in the cause of Allah." On Jan. 9, 2009, Qaradawi gave a speech calling for Allah to eliminate the Jews, saying, "kill them down to the very last one."
For Sayyid Syeed, the national director of the Islamic Society of North America's Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances, Qaradawi's historic speech was "something different."
"Fortunately, the rhetoric of the revolution in Tahrir Square is free of extremism, and is reflective of Islamic inclusiveness and youthful fervor for cooperation and partnership. Even when Sheik Qaradawi gave his historic sermon in Tahrir Square, there was something different about his language," Sayyid wrote in an op-ed in the Jewish Daily Forward. "He talked briefly about wanting to see the Palestinian people achieve victory and the conquest of Al-Aqsa, but he did so without speaking of inflicting death or destruction. This might be one of the few speeches in his life in which he did not explicitly mention Israel and Jews."
"One might have hoped for greater moderation in Qaradawi's speech, but even these subtle changes are noteworthy and stem from the changed environment with which he has been forced to grapple."
On the opposite side of the ideological spectrum, al-Qaida took a completely different message from Qaradawi's words.
"Now that Hosni is gone, we heard the Imam of the Friday prayers praying: 'O Allah we ask you to allow us to meet in al-Aqsa,' and the millions in Tahrir square roared with one voice: 'Amin,'" Yahya Ibrahim wrote in the introductory article the latest issue of al-Qaida's Inspire Magazine. "The biggest barrier between the mujahideen and the freeing of al-Aqsa were the tyrant rulers. Now that the friends of America and Israel are being mopped out one after the other, our aspirations are great that the path between us and al-Aqsa is clearing up."