Those in the West who have convinced themselves that the Muslim Brotherhood is a moderate organization might want to take a serious look at Yussuf al-Qaradawi, one of their “spiritual leaders” and Al Jazeera television host that they have twice tried to recruit as their leader. Tariq Ramadan, the famous Western educated and false-moderate grandson of Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder, also gushes with uncritical reverence for al-Qaradawi.
If you don’t know who this guy is, you can start with Lee Smith’s latest column in Tablet.
While the parallels between Iran in 1979 and Egypt in 2011 can be overdrawn, it is foolish to pretend that they are not there. Cairo doesn’t have to literally become a Sunni version of Tehran to do terrible damage to U.S. interests and prestige in the Middle East—and to the hopes and dreams of its own people. And the Egyptians already have their own prospective Khomeini: Yussuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatar-based Muslim Brotherhood preacher who exiled himself from Egypt in 1961.
Assertions that the Muslim Brotherhood and its leadership are too disorganized and uncharismatic to gain a hold on power in Egypt unaccountably ignore the world’s most popular and authoritative Sunni cleric—an Egyptian by birth and member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood whose son currently lives in Egypt. Where the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led the Iranian revolution, made radio broadcasts in exile from Paris, Qaradawi hosts one of the region’s most famous talk-shows on Al Jazeera, Sharia and Life. Qaradawi has cultivated among some American analysts a reputation for moderation with his fatwas, permitting masturbation and condemning Sept. 11 (while supporting suicide bombers in Israel). But in the Middle East his popularity resides in his stringent criticism of Arab regimes. His public support for violence, combined with the fact that he is a principal shareholder in and adviser to the al-Qaida-associated Bank al-Taqwa in Switzerland, led to him being banned from entering the United States in 1999 and from Great Britain in 2008.
As a media personality with a presence on TV and the Internet—and who is far out of reach of Egyptian internal security and free from Egyptian censors—Qaradawi is perfectly positioned to play the role of Muslim Brotherhood publicist or even kingmaker over the coming months. Nor is there any particular reason to think that Qaradawi’s willingness to embrace facets of modernity while promoting violence and hatred makes him less than dangerous to the dream of a future liberal society in Egypt and to Western interests in the region. The idea that Qaradawi is a moderate because he favors a relatively liberal interpretation of the status of women within Islam, for example, disregards his belief that homosexuality is a crime that should be punished by death and his embrace of the Holocaust as a divine punishment of the Jews that will hopefully be repeated soon.
Here, for example, is Qaradawi speaking about the Holocaust to the audience of his popular Al Jazeera television show on January 30, 2009:
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.