Saturday, April 27, 2013

Inter-faith dialogue in Doha, minus Yusuf al-Qaradawi

More unsurprising news,  from the blogger Elder of Ziyon:
Today is the start of the tenth annual Doha Conference for Interfaith Dialogue:
At the 10th Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue, we will celebrate the tenth anniversary of establishing the annual conference on interfaith dialogue in Qatar by presenting to the world the work of interfaith at its best. Therefore, we are inviting organizations, institutions, universities and NGOs working in the field of interfaith dialogue to present their successful projects in this domain, and to display their best achievements during the event. The Doha International Award on Interfaith dialogue will be granted for the first time to a person or institution which will present the best practice in the field of interfaith dialogue.
[....]  But this time, popular Islamic terror supporter, preacher and TV personality Sheikh Yusef Qaradawi couldn't even go along with the charade that he can stand talking to Jews as equals.

Qaradawi rejected participating in the conference when he found out that Jews would be there as well.

Qatar media quoted Sheikh Qaradawi as saying that "after the announcement of the expansion of the conference to be a dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews, I decided not to participate in it so as not to sit with Jews on a single platform, as long as the Jews are usurping Palestine and Al-Aqsa Mosque and destroying homes of God, and as long as the question of Palestine [has] not been resolved."

He didn't say "Zionists." I don't know what rabbis actually participate in these things but it is a safe bet that they are not from Israel. Qaradawi is simply proving that he hates Jews.

So far, I have not seen any criticism of Qaradawi for his public display of antisemitism.
=> Some of you might be asking yourselves, who is this Qaradawi person, and why is Elder of Ziyon saying such mean things about him?

Well, the first point to make is that Qaradawi is definitely not a marginal or insignificant crank.  (One may or may not think he's a crank, but he's definitely not marginal or insignificant.)  On the contrary, he's one of the most widely famous, respected, and influential Sunni Muslim clerics in the Arab world (and its diaspora) today.  As the prominent Arabist scholar Marc Lynch, a frequent defender of Qaradawi against allegedly defamatory criticisms, put it in 2010:
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is in the news these days, denounced on a daily basis on Saudi, Palestinian and Egyptian op-ed pages, forums and TV over his stances on Gaza, on Hamas and Abu Mazen, on Yemen, and more. Following those controversies is an excellent window into what divides and arouses passion in Arab politics today. Hate him or love him, the man has a keen sense of Arab opinion -- whether he's following or leading it -- and has a proven track record of driving the debate. The fury of his adversaries on the other side of the so-called "new Arab cold war" is a pretty direct function of the fact that his opinions, aired on al-Jazeera and spread through multiple online and real-world networks, matter.
After living in Qatar for decades to avoid being imprisoned by the Mubarak regime in Egypt, when Mubarak fell Qaradawi was invited back to Egypt for a triumphant return visit, during which which he addressed a crowd in Tahrir square estimated to number up to a million people. Nor is his popularity restricted to the Middle East.  When Qaradawi was invited to visit London in 2005, Mayor Ken Livingstone described him as a man "who preaches moderation and tolerance", and assessments of that sort are not uncommon.  (Juan Cole, on the other hand, has characterized Qaradawi as "an old time Muslim Brotherhood cleric" who "still worships the false idol of terror."  Can't please everyone.)

With respect to the nature and degree of Qaradawi's alleged "moderation" and commitment to "tolerance", opinions can differ.  For example, Qaradawi advocates criminalization of homosexuality, but insists that homosexuals should be punished by duly constituted legal authorities, not simply killed in vigilante attacks.  In a Middle Eastern context, I suppose, that could count as moderate.  Qaradawi has condemned Al Qaeda and the 9/11 attacks, and on those grounds is often described as a critic of terrorism.  But he has strongly and consistently justified the terrorist murder of Israeli civilians, explicitly including women and children.  I suppose if you're living in London or Paris or New York, that overall position may sound reassuringly nuanced and "moderate" (especially if you're not Jewish).  On almost any subject, it's easy to find radical Islamists whose positions are more intolerant and extremist than Qaradawi's, and on those grounds one can always find justifications for seeing him as relatively moderate, if one is determined to do so.

=> When it comes to the Jews, however, even Qaradawi's most determined apologists find it difficult to whitewash or obscure the fact that he is blatantly and undeniably anti-semitic. (He's not an isolated figure in that respect, either.)  So unless they share his intensely anti-semitic views and are willing to say so in public—something that is not considered respectable in most western circles nowadays—they generally try to avoid the topic.

You may be wondering why I would say something so impolite and judgmental about such a learned, respected, and influential cleric and public figure,  Perhaps he's just critical of Israeli policies, or at most anti-Zionist, and calling him anti-semitic is a bit exaggerated?  Well, here are some characteristic statements by Qaradawi on the Jewish problem (which is to say, his problem with Jews).  What do you think?

Excerpts from speeches aired on Al-Jazeera TV on January 28 and 30, 2009:
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.
January 28, 2009:
To conclude my speech, I’d like to say that the only thing I hope for is that as my life approaches its end, Allah will give me an opportunity to go to the land of Jihad and resistance, even if in a wheelchair. 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. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the Worlds. Allah’s mercy and blessings upon you.
(By the way, you don't have to know Arabic to recognize that "Yahud" means "Jews", not "Zionists".)

Perhaps some will find these views harmless or understandable. I guess I would have to disagree. But at all events, they help to explain Qaradawi's perspective on the limits of inter-faith dialogue.

—Jeff Weintraub

=> UPDATE 5/9/2013: Yusuf al-Qaradawi's peace plan for resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict:
A prominent Islamic scholar making a landmark visit to the Gaza Strip declared Thursday that Israel has no right to exist and voiced his support for rocket fire on Israel, giving a boost of legitimacy to the militant Islamist Hamas rulers of the Palestinian territory.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is the latest of a few high profile figures visit Gaza, boosting the Hamas effort to break its international isolation. [....] Al-Qaradawi issued the strongest anti-Israel declarations of any of the visitors to date.

"This land has never once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation," said al-Qaradawi, a Qatar-based cleric made famous by his popular TV show and widely respected in the Muslim world.

"The rockets made in Gaza are more powerful than the (Israeli) occupation's rockets," he added. [....]
According to reports from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (not exactly a Zionist propaganda outlet) the "vast majority" of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel "constituted indiscriminate attacks" against civilians, and thus "violate international humanitarian law." Qaradawi's jurisprudence leads him to a different conclusion.