A Moroccan cleric who says Israel's destruction is a duty for "the entire Muslim Ummah" has been elected to head an influential global Muslim scholars group linked to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Ahmed al-Raissouni will lead the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), which has a long history of supporting terrorism. More than 1,500 members of the IUMS's General Assembly elected al-Raissouni Wednesday during a meeting in Istanbul.
The delegates came from all over the Islamic world and from the United States, Turkey's pro-regime newspaper Yeni Safak reported.
Al-Raissouni made his comments about destroying Israel in 2006 after a Hamas electoral victory. He also signed a declaration in 2015 calling for the overthrow of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.
"Striking an alliance with the Zionist aggressors [and] protecting and defending them, while showing hostility to the Palestinian resistance, conspiring against it and besieging it by destroying Sinai and deporting its people – all these constitute treason against the faith and the homeland and contempt for the way of the Prophet," the 2015 declaration said.
Al-Raissouni succeeds IUMS founder Yusuf Qaradawi, 93, who stepped down last weekend. Qaradawi has been the Muslim Brotherhood's most influential religious scholar for decades. He is best known for his endorsement of Palestinian suicide bombings and for encouraging Muslims to move to Europe and America to Islamize them – fulfilling an Islamic prophecy about the conquest of Rome.
Egypt, The United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Bahrain classify the IUMS as a terrorist organization due to its alleged role in trying to destabilize those countries. It counts Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as a member and calls for Israel's destruction. During the Iraq War, the IUMS approved a fatwa sanctioning killing American soldiers.
Some IUMS members, including Libyan Sheikh Ali al-Salabi and Yemeni Sheikh Abdel Majeed al-Zindani are Muslim Brotherhood members who have supported al-Qaida. Al-Salabi attended the current Istanbul conference.
Qaradawi praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last weekend, saying that the West plotted against Turkey and would have succeeded without his leadership. Qaradawi predicted in 2014 that Istanbul, the former Ottoman capital, would become the capital of a new Caliphate.
"We pray for Turkey to be the administrative center of the Islamic world again," Qaradawi said Saturday.
That praise for Erdogan, "while bashing others in the region, most specifically Saudis, suggest Erdogan [is] building his Islamist credentials with endorsement of top [Brotherhood] clerics who came to [the] convention in Istanbul," Abdullah Bozkurt, former editor of the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, told the Investigative Project on Terrorism.
Ali Erbas, head of Turkey's Department of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), and Istanbul Mayor Mevlüt Uysal flanked Qaradawi as he gave his speech. This signifies Erdogan's desire to push the Brotherhood's cause further, Bozkurt said. It also shows the Diyanet with its 140,000 state employees firmly backs the Brotherhood's ideology.