With the Muslim Brotherhood almost certain to play a substantial role in the next Egyptian government, looming in the background is the man that Der Spiegel described this week as “the father figure of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood”: Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi has been praised by Saudi-funded Islamic scholar John Esposito as a champion of a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism and human rights.” But numerous statements of Qaradawi demonstrate that he anything but a “reformist” or a genuine champion of “democracy, pluralism and human rights” – and is, in fact, positively Hitlerian in his Jew-hatred and bloodlust.
Qaradawi, 84, is based in Qatar, but was born in Egypt, and still wields considerable influence there. During the uprising against the Mubarak regime, a Muslim website published a chapter from Qaradawi’s book Laws of Jihad, including this passage: “One of the forms of jihad in Islam is jihad against evil and corruption within [the Islamic lands]. This jihad is crucial in order to protect society from collapse, disintegration, and perdition – for Muslim society has unique characteristics, and if these are lost, forgotten or destroyed, there will be no Muslim society.”
In 2002, the Muslim Brotherhood asked him to take over as their leader, but he refused, probably because he saw the position as too small for him: Qaradawi’s renown is not limited to Egypt or even to the Middle East. He is an international figure, reaching sixty million Muslims weekly through his Al-Jazeera TV show, “Sharia and Life,” and touching countless more through his 120 published books (including his famous popular Sharia manual, Al Halal wal Haram fil Islam – that is, The Lawful and the Prohibited in Islam), his website IslamOnline.com (which publishes many of his fatwas) and positions as president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars and the European Council for Fatwa and Research.
Qaradawi also enjoys a reputation as a moderate beyond just Esposito: the former Ground Zero mosque imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is himself widely assumed to be a “moderate” despite evidence to the contrary, has hailed Qaradawi as a “very very well known Islamic jurist, highly regarded all over the Muslim world.” And another Muslim leader whose moderate bona fides have been questioned, the vaunted “Muslim Martin Luther” Tariq Ramadan, wrote a foreword to one of his books in 1998, and former London Mayor Ken Livingstone welcomed him to the city in 2004 and praised him repeatedly, despite the fact that during that visit Qaradawi explained to the BBC that suicide attacks against Israelis were not actually suicide at all, but “martyrdom in the name of God.” (Qaradawi has since been banned from Britain, as well as from the U.S.)
And the things that Qaradawi tells the millions of Muslims that he reaches are anything but moderate. In January 2009, during a Friday sermon broadcast on Al-Jazeera, he prayed that Allah would kill all the Jews: “Oh Allah, take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people. Oh Allah, do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.” He also declared: “Throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler.”
Qaradawi has predicted that Islam will soon conquer Europe, but that this conquest will come not “by the sword but by preaching and ideology.” He also says that Muslims should obtain nuclear weapons, explaining: “The Koran referred to this, saying: ‘Prepare against them what force and steeds of war you can, to strike terror in the hearts of the enemies of Allah and of your own enemies, and others besides them, whom you do not know, but Allah knows.’ ‘Prepare against them what force and steeds of war you can.’” That’s Qur’an 8:60.
In 2001, Qaradawi issued a fatwa approving suicide bombings against Israel. In 2003, with male jihadists being caught too often before they could strike, Qaradawi expanded the fatwa to approve suicide bombings by women. In 2004, he issued a fatwa calling for the killing of American troops in Iraq, and later expanded this authorization to include the killing of American civilian support personnel. He explained: “All of the Americans in Iraq are combatants, there is no difference between civilians and soldiers, and one should fight them, since the American civilians came to Iraq in order to serve the occupation. The abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation so as to cause them to leave Iraq immediately.”
Yet despite his approval of violence against Israelis and Americans, he has endorsed fanciful conspiracy theories rather than acknowledge the reality of Islamic jihad violence in other contexts. When jihadists bombed a church in Alexandria, Egypt on New Year’s Eve, Qaradawi joined Hosni Mubarak as well as many Islamic spokesmen worldwide in blaming shadowy outsiders: “I fear that there may be a foreign hand behind this action, for it does not make sense for an Egyptian or a Muslim to be behind it. Perhaps a foreign hand is attempting to ignite sectarian strife.” Others directly identified this “foreign hand” as that of Israel and/or America.
Qaradawi has also endorsed Islam’s traditional death penalty for apostasy: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi`i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.” He has also written approvingly of the Qur’an’s mandate for wife-beating (4:34), explaining that “blows are not effective with every woman, but they are helpful with some.”
Qaradawi is an advocate of the global caliphate, calling for the establishment of what he calls a “United Muslim Nations” as a counterweight to Western political power worldwide. Although his perspective is gaining more influence then ever as the Muslim Brotherhood increases its power in Egypt, this goal may not be any closer to fruition than it was before. Nonetheless, as Qaradawi’s star continues to rise in Egypt and all over the Islamic world, the murder and mayhem that he tells his followers is divinely sanctioned in pursuit of that goal is certain only to grow in virulence.