London Mayor Defended 'Theologian of Terror'

Sherrie Gossett | Staff Writer | Thursday, July 7, 2005

London Mayor Defended 'Theologian of Terror'

( - London Mayor Ken Livingstone's previous support of a Muslim cleric who advocates suicide bombings may cause him some embarrassment as he now must speak for the city in the wake of Thursday's terrorist bombings.

Livingstone condemned the Thursday attacks as "mass murder," and added that "this was not a terrorist attack against the mighty or the powerful, it is not aimed at presidents or prime ministers, it was aimed at ordinary working-class Londoners."

Yet Livingstone has in the past labeled Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi a "man of peace" and a "moderate," despite the fact that Al-Qaradawi has supported suicide bombings and the targeting of American allies.

Livingstone invited Al-Qaradawi to London's City Hall last year as an honored guest, and the mayor appeared in a video shown at a solidarity conference for the sheikh on Feb. 17 of this year in Doha, Qatar. Livingstone has publicly defended the sheikh against critics in the media and various grassroots organizations.

The Anti-Defamation League has labeled Al-Qaradawi the "Theologian of Terror," while the website has dubbed him the "Dr. Goebbels of modern Egypt," for Al-Qaradawi's anti-homosexual rhetoric.

Al-Qaradawi is a prominent member of the Muslim Brotherhood and his fatwas , or theological rulings are said to influence millions of followers who consider him an authoritative scholar on Islamic issues.

Those fatwas are widely distributed through, a website for which Al-Qaradawi serves as an advisor, and via a popular weekly religious program on the Arab television network Al-Jazeera, which the sheikh co-hosts.

Al-Qaradawi's theological justification for suicide bombings is entitled, "Hamas Operations Are Jihad and Those Who [Carry it Out and] Are Killed are Considered Martyrs" and appears on a website linked to the Hamas terror organization.

The Middle East Research Institute has translated Al-Qaradawi's sermons directed at the U.S. and United Kingdom. During one sermon, on March 7, 2003, delivered at the Umar Bin-al-Khattab mosque in Doha, Al-Qaradawi stated: "O God, destroy the Zionist, the American, and the British aggressors. O God, shake the ground under them and protect us from them."

Following Al-Qaradawi's arrival in London on July 7, 2004, BBC TV2 aired an interview in which he said Islam justifies suicide bombings in Iraq against the U.S. military and in Israel against women and children. That interview first appeared on the Doha, Qatar Television Service, was translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) and reported by the Middle East Research Institute.

In his weekly television program on Al-Jazeera, titled "Religion and Life" (or "Sharia and Life"), Al-Qaradawi explained that there are two types of jihad, one that takes place when an Islamic state invades another country in order to "spread the word of Islam" and a second "repulsing jihad," which "takes place when your land is being invaded and conquered," according to the Middle East Research Institute.

"[In that case you must] repulse [the invader] to the best of your ability. If you kill him he will end up in hell, and if he kills you, you become a martyr (shahid)," Al-Qaradawi reportedly said. He elaborated by saying that a person committing such an act "is not a suicide [bomber]. He kills the enemy while taking self-risk ... He wants to scare his enemies, and the religious authorities have permitted this,"

At other times Al-Qaradawi has denounced terrorist attacks.

Islam Today reported that the cleric denounced al Qaeda's attack on a Jewish synagogue in Tunisia in April 2002, because "in Islam it is not permissible to attack places of worship such as churches and synagogues or attack men of religion, even in a state of war."

Al-Qaradawi was also quick to criticize the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but a month later stated, "You might arrest Bin Laden but a thousand Osama Bin Ladens will follow him. He is not a human being but a phenomenon of resistance of those oppressed by the stronger, by means they cannot even think about."

Reven Paz, a Meyerhoff fellow at The Washington Institute, speculated that the reason for Al-Qaradawi's "metamorphosing positions" relates to his desire to preserve his current status as an Islamic authority in the eyes of both radical Islamic groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, and moderate Arab states.

In July of last year, following public and media criticism of Al-Qaradawi in Great Britain, Livingstone apologized to the cleric on behalf of his constituents. "I want to apologize to the Sheikh for the outbreak of xenophobia and hysteria in some sections of the tabloid press, which demonstrated an underlying ignorance of Islam," the mayor said.

Livingstone then invited the sheikh to return to London in October of 2004 to participate in a three-day European Social Forum at Alexander Palace, adding that it would be an "honor" to host Al-Qaradawi.

One member of Parliament urged the government to deny Al-Qaradawi a visa. Homosexual and women's rights groups, as well as a coalition representing Sikhs, Hindus and Jews tried to pressure Livingstone to distance himself from Al-Qaradawi.

But the mayor insisted that a dialogue with this "man of peace" was essential for progress in Middle Eastern relations. "I believe that the only people who would be aided if I were to refuse a dialogue with so prominent a Muslim leader as Dr Al-Qaradawi would be those like al Qaeda who argue that a dialogue between the Muslim communities and the European Left is impossible."

Livingstone also released a dossier aimed at showing Al-Qaradawi was a respected scholar throughout the Muslim world and had previously condemned terrorist attacks. "Dr al-Qaradawi has shared platforms with, or met, such prominent figures as former-U.S. president Bill Clinton, the French foreign minister, the Italian foreign minister and the Spanish royal family to promote understanding between Islam and the West," the mayor stated.

In January of this year, Livingstone further defended Al-Qaradawi in an interview with the BBC. "When you get a progressive figure who [moves] that religion in the correct direction, you engage and you develop it," Livingstone said.