Yusuf Qaradawi advisory board member of Islamic 'think tank' which includes Georgetown U's Esposito gives advice on suicide bombing and hostage taking
August 22, 2006
Twisted mind of the "Agony Sheikh"
On a popular Islamic website he runs, Sheik Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and his colleagues host an advice column under the jaunty title 'Fatwa Corner', where all manner of thorny religious dilemmas are given an airing.
Questions seeking his advice range from whether it is permissible to put down a sick cat to asking for guidance on sending a teenager to a mixed summer camp.
But other subjects upon which the 'Agony Sheik' sits in judgment often have a considerably more chilling edge, such as: 'Is it lawful, under Islam, to take hostages?'
The answer, in his view, is yes.
But then this is the character claiming to be a man of peace who has heaped praise on Palestinian suicide bombers, called for the execution of homosexuals and backed a war on the Jews.
The opinions of Dr Al-Qaradawi in the Muslim world and beyond are well-aired, whether from his website or his weekly programme on the Arabic television channel Al-Jazeera. Much more worryingly, they are also extremely influential.
But the first thing you need to understand about the Professor of Sunni Studies at the University of Qatar is that he seems to vary his opinions to suit the audience receiving them.
On the one hand he can condemn 9/11 yet on the other he can back suicide bombing – even where the victims are women and children – as 'heroic martyrdom'.
One U.S. think tank, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described him in 2001 as a 'Jekyll and Hyde figure'.
The contradiction, it explained, lay in the fact that Al- Qaradawi wanted to maintain his status not only in the eyes of Islamist fanatics, but also moderate Arab countries, where his scholarship still commands great respect.
Hypocrisy might be acceptable in the Gulf states, where unelected rulers are forced to tread the fine line between placating the West and quelling the near-revolutionary fervour of fundamentalist groups.
But beneath such ambiguities no one, least of all London mayor Ken Livingstone, should doubt the fanaticism of his venomously gaybashing and anti-Semitic views.
For if there are indeed two sides to Al-Qaradawi, then Mr Hyde certainly appears to have gained the upper hand – although it must be said in his defence that the Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella organisation representing some 400 different bodies, describes him as 'a voice of reason and understanding'.
On homosexuality, Al-Qaradawi is clear. It is a 'sexual perversion' for which the penalty should be death.
The only matter left for debate is whether participants should be thrown from a high cliff or flogged to death.