On January 30, 2009 excerpts of a speech by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi were aired on Al-Jazeera. In the speech, Qaradawi made vicious remarks about Jews, inciting Muslims to put Jews in "their place" as Hitler had done, in revenge for Israeli actions in Gaza several weeks prior:
"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."
Such vitriol is nothing new for Qaradawi. At a "Gaza Victory Rally" in Doha, Qatar two days earlier, which was attended by Hamas Political Chief Khalid Mishaal, he gave a speech saying that "martyrdom is the greatest wish of a Muslim," and that the "resistance must continue." Qaradawi concluded by praying for the opportunity before his death to kill a Jew, "The only thing I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. I will shoot Allah's enemies, the Jews, and they will throw a bomb at me, and thus, I will seal my life with martyrdom. Praise be to Allah."
Qaradawi, based in Qatar, is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and is a popular cleric throughout the Sunni Muslim world. The Muslim Brotherhood is an 80-year-old Egyptian religious movement that seeks the global spread of Islam and establishment of a Shariah, or religious law, in nations with Muslim populations. The MB is the ideological underpinning for all modern Islamic terrorist groups, including Hamas and Al Qaeda.
American Muslim groups and mainstream American media outlets often paint Qaradawi as a "moderate" who represents mainstream Islam. This dangerous mischaracterization ignores Qaradawi's speeches, sermons, and writings, which have called for the killing of American and British troops in Iraq, the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel, the execution of homosexuals, and have shown support for domestic violence against women.
He is currently banned from entering the U.S. or Britain because of his hate-filled rhetoric calling for violence, in the face of the West's so-called "war against Islam." In September 2004, Qaradawi proclaimed that it was a religious obligation for Muslims to fight U.S. and British troops in Iraq. The communiqué, signed by Qaradawi and 93 other clerics, said that "the Jihad – waging Iraqi people's resistance to the foreign occupation … is a Shari'a duty incumbent upon anyone belonging to the Muslim nation, within and outside Iraq, who is capable of carrying it out," and that it was "forbidden for any Muslim to offer support to the occupiers."
Additionally, he also has ties to terrorist financing. On November 12, 2008 the U.S. Treasury Department designated the Union of Good (also known as the Charity Coalition), a worldwide collection of charities which listed Qaradawi as the President, under Executive Order 13224 as a terrorist entity as a result of its fund-raising activities on behalf of Hamas and Hamas-controlled organizations in the West Bank and Gaza.
Despite the ban on his physical entry into the U.S, Qaradawi's Islamist news organization, Islamonline.net (IOL), announced on December 27, 2008, that it had opened an office in Washington D.C. IOL serves as Qaradawi's mouthpiece to the West to spread "the "message of Islam to the world," and posts many of his controversial fatwas, such as those that support the use of women in suicide bombings, punishment or execution for homosexuals, divorce for women who do not wear the hijab, and death for apostates from Islam.
Those who downplay Qaradawi's extremism include some of the usual apologists, like the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Dr. John Esposito, who ignore his radicalism, and instead, present him as "moderate." On numerous occasions, CAIR has embraced the radical cleric, describing him as a "renowned Muslim scholar," even after acknowledging his support for "martyr operations" against Israeli targets.
In an interview on MSNBC on July 26, 2005, CAIR legal director Arsalan Iftikhar, referred to Qaradawi as "one of the most famous Muslim scholars in Cairo" who had said "unequivocally" that suicide bombings and acts of terrorism "are completely outside the bounds of Islam." This is a gross lie, as Qaradawi expressed, prior to 2005, support for suicide bombings and the killing of Israeli civilians. Similarly, in 2006 CAIR National Director Nihad Awad called him a "prominent and known scholar." Perhaps this treatment should come as no surprise, considering Qaradawi himself confirmed his favorable attitude toward CAIR in a November 2002 interview on Al-Jazeera, referring to the organization as "our brothers there [in America]."
Likewise, Esposito, director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, places Qaradawi among "a cross section of Muslim thinkers, religious leaders and mainstream Islamic movements from Egypt to Indonesia, Europe to America" that engage in a "reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights."
Shockingly, mainstream American media outlets such as the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and the Christian Science Monitor have also painted Qaradawi with a "moderate" brush despite his verbal attacks.
When Qaradawi referred to Shiite Muslims in September 2008 as "heretics" seeking to infiltrate Sunni societies and inflaming sectarian tensions throughout the Middle East, the Associated Press chose to characterize the Sheikh as someone "widely respected throughout the Middle East … [who] has also participated in numerous Muslim and interfaith reconciliation dialogues." The Los Angeles Times did the same, calling him a "prominent moderate cleric," despite his inflammatory remarks.
In the run up to the Iraq War in 2003, the Christian Science Monitor referred to Qaradawi as a "moderate Egyptian cleric," while the Washington Post described him as a "popular Islamic cleric who is often seen as a moderate voice in the Arab world," despite his pronouncements at the time calling those who died resisting the occupation in Iraq "martyrs."
Perhaps the most egregious example is a February 2003 article in the Washington Post that refers to Qaradawi as a "maverick" and as being "seen as a voice of moderation." The article even goes so far as to call him a "reformer" that was "seeking to create a new, moderate current in Muslim thinking."
Qaradawi's consistent calls for – and praise of - violence are never mentioned in these stories to place his moderate reputation into proper context. To continue to call him a "moderate" is an injustice, especially to those Muslims whose true moderate voices are closed out of the debate.
The fact that Qardawi's radicalism has been overlooked time and again, regardless of the evidence showing otherwise, is alarming. The quest to find moderate Muslim leaders with whom to deal does not mean we should settle on someone, who although popular, preaches and sustains views that are not only inimical to U.S. interests, but which pose a very real physical threat to us as well. In the interest of calling a spade a spade, Qaradawi should be labeled exactly as he is – a radical Islamist.