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Cleric in the UK

by: Leslie Bunder - Last updated: 2004-07-08

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi

London mayor Ken Livingstone has met with Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi despite calls to ban the Islamic cleric from the UK for his support of suicide bombings and making anti-Jewish and anti-gay comments.

The mayor was hosting an event as part of al-Qaradawi's current tour of the UK in which he is giving a series of lectures, and said of the cleric: "I welcome you as an honoured guest".

Sharing a stage with the mayor, Egyptian-born al-Qaradawi who is based in Qatar offered: "I was told that my visit has caused a row and I do not understand why. It is not the first time I have visited London, it is not the 10th time or the 100th time. For over a third of a century I have been visiting London. London is an open city, so why is there this row when I visit London today?"

According to leading Arab TV news station Aljazeera,  Qaradawi was jailed three times in Egypt and stripped of his citizenship by President Jamal Abd al-Nasir for his involvement in the Muslim Brotherhood group. He fled to Qatar and has been a citizen since the 1970s.

The Board of Deputies has condemned the government for allowing Qaradawi into the country. Neville Nagler, director general said: "Qaradawi makes no secret of his support for Palestinian terrorist attacks against civilians and for the killing of Jews.  His hostility towards interfaith dialogue with Jews makes it clear that he has nothing whatsoever to contribute to better communal relations in the UK.

In a statement, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) blamed the "zionist lobby" for a "character assassination" of Al-Qaradawi. it said: "The MCB believes that the smear campaign against Dr Al-Qaradawi is being orchestrated by the Zionist lobby who are evidently angered by Dr Al- Qaradawi's staunch opposition to Israeli State brutality against the Palestinian people."