Oh Allah. Take this oppressive, Jewish, Zionist band of people…do not spare a single one of them. Oh Allah, count their numbers, and kill them, down to the very last one.
So said Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi in a sermon on Al-Jazeera TV in January 2009. As the Anti-Defamation League notes in a helpful overview of Qaradawi’s life and dubious achievements, he has a “long record of inciting violence against Jews and Israel”—and, one should add, against others as well.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi was born in Egypt in 1926 and joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a student in 1942. He graduated from Al-Azhar University in 1953. From 1949 to 1961 he was arrested several times for his activities in the Brotherhood, and in 1961 he moved to Qatar where he lives to this day.
By now Qaradawi is one of the most influential theologians of the Sunni Muslim world. His weekly sermon on Al-Jazeera, “Sharia and Life,” has a worldwide audience of about 60 million. In 1999 he founded the website IslamOnline, which, as the ADL describes it, “contains articles and religious rulings which support violence against non-Muslims, as well as anti-Semitic, anti-Israel and anti-American content.” And Qaradawi’s more than 40 books have been translated into many languages and disseminated throughout the world.
Qaradawi also has a vast institutional empire. Despite having been banned from the U.S. since 1999, he is chairman—in absentia—of the Michigan-based Islamic American University; founder and president of the Qatar-based International Association of Muslim Scholars; chairman and president of the Dublin-based European Council for Fatwa and Research; and president of the Saudi-based Union of Good, a “charity” organization that funnels money to Hamas and has been on the U.S. State Department’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations since 2008.
In Qaradawi’s case, the line between “theologian” and “homicidal maniac”—or perhaps “genocidal maniac”—is a thin one.
In a sermon on Al-Jazeera TV on January 28, 2009, he expressed a desire—he was then 82 years old—to participate as a “martyr” in Palestinian terror attacks against Israelis. As he put it:
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.
In case this wasn’t clear enough, Qaradawi expanded on the point in another Al-Jazeera sermon two days later:
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…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.
At a time when Palestinian women were carrying out suicide bombings in Israel, the learned sheikh was asked if this was proper. His ruling, as posted on IslamOnline on November 6, 2006:
When the enemy assaults a given Muslim territory, it becomes incumbent upon all its residents to fight against them to the extent that a woman should go out even without the consent of her husband…. I think the committed Muslim women in Palestine have the right to participate and have their own role in jihad and to attain martyrdom.
The sheikh’s homicidal mania is not, however, restricted to Jews and has also been directed at Americans, apostates from Islam, and homosexuals.
At the convention of the Egyptian Journalists’ Union in Cairo on August 31, 2004, Qaradawi issued a fatwa stating:
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.
Also that year, in an interview to the Egyptian daily Al-Ahram, Qaradawi laid down the death penalty for Muslims who leave the religion. And in 2003 on IslamOnline, he stipulated the death penalty for those engaging in homosexual acts.
True, those two rulings have sources in classic Islamic texts. But these days not all Muslim polities, and certainly not all Muslims, practice such barbarism. The tens of millions, though, who turn to Qaradawi for guidance will always get the most barbaric reading possible.
Murderous aggression toward all those one hates or fears is not, of course, a rare phenomenon and is a hallmark of neo-Nazis, skinheads, and the like. But when it comes dressed up in the robes of a preacher with a mass following it is, clearly, much more menacing.
And, again, Qaradawi cannot simply be written off as a product of Islam. Early in December 2001, a wave of suicide bombings in Israel killed 26. Two leading Muslim clerics, one of them the head of Egypt’s Al-Azhar University and the other the imam at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, condemned the attacks. True, those responses came in a post-9/11 era when Arab governments and elites were concerned about their worldwide image.
Even so, Qaradawi would have none of it. “I am astonished,” he declared, “that some sheikhs deliver fatwas that betray the mujahideen, instead of supporting them and urging them to sacrifice and martyrdom.” And regarding the imam in Mecca specifically, he asserted: “It is unfortunate to hear that the grand imam has said it was not permissible to kill civilians in any country or state, even in Israel.”
Israel will have to keep dealing with a hostile environment for a long time to come. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, preacher of hate, is a significant reason for it.