Maverick Muslim ‘televangelist’ Yusuf Qaradawi has provoked fury in many quarters of Egypt with his recent fatwas and statements on that country. Qaradawi is an Egyptian member of the Muslim Brotherhood who took refuge in Qatar and became a Qatari citizen during the period when the Brotherhood was banned in his country of birth. He emerged into international prominence when he was given a television show on the Aljazeera Arabic satellite channel, in which he preached a somewhat reformist form of Islam.
But Qaradawi is close Muhammad Morsi, the deposed president of Egypt who is also a major leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
In a letter to a number of international bodies, Qaradawi called for the Arab League, the UN, and the African Union, among others, to “take a stance” toward the deposing of Morsi and “to come to Egypt and see what is happening” there. He also said, “I call on Muslim throughout the world in every place, in Indonesia, Malysia, Nigeria . . . India, Somalia, Iraq, Iran . . . and in every country of the world, I call upon them to be shuhada’ [witnesses or martyrs].” Many observers interpreted this last statement as a call for volunteers to go fight in Egypt as jihadis seeking martyrdom. The problem is that the word shahid in Arabic can mean both witness or martyr, since martyrdom is considered a form of witnessing. [I’ve reviewed the evidence a day later and am convinced he meant witnesses, a Quranic diction, and the charges against him are spurious.]
I’m not sure that he meant fighters should go to Egypt, and suspect… he rather intended to say that everyone should pay attention to and witness to events like the Sunday massacre. His statement, however, is ambiguous and he should clarify it. He also slammed the Saudi royal family for supporting the new government.
Egyptians and many others are certainly taking the letter as a call to vigilanteism against Egypt, and they are furious. Muhammad Fathi writing in the Youth edition of al-Ahram, Egypt’s newspaper of record, slammed Qaradawi for being more loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood than to Egypt, for urging foreign interference in his own country, and for giving fatwas or legal opinions widely viewed as outside the mainstream and idiosyncratic. (Qaradawi has a huge following because of his television show, by Sheikh al-Tayyib has an institutional position that dwarfs that of Qaradawi. The same contradiction exists in Christianity, where televangelists not rooted in a church hierarchy often take positions that a church official of a large denomination would never dream of).
Middle East Online rounded up a number of reactions from Egyptians:
– Tareq al-Khuli, a founder of the left-liberal April 6 youth movement, criticized Qaradawi’s statements as “an open call for civil war” and worried that they “invite other nationalities from among the jihadis to make war in Egypt, as is happening in Syria, to cause massacres in the country.”
– May Wahba, a young woman who is a founding member of the Rebellion/ Tamarrud Movement that went to the streets in the millions to depose Morsi said, “God will hold Qaradawi to account for his calls for foreign intervention in Egyptian affairs.” (Rebellion members tend to believe that the US was supporting the Muslim Brotherhood and she appears to fear that Qaradawi in going to the international community was trying to arrange for an American counter-coup in favor of the Muslim religious Right).
–Dalia Ziyadeh, executive director of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies, condemned Qaradawi for “inciting violence against Egyptians” and called for legal action to be taken against him, saying “these statements affirm that the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters are terrorists and call for violence.”
(It looks to me like the Middle East Online rather enjoyed asking activist young Egyptian women what they thought about Qaradawi, and it appears it got an earful.)
Qaradawi condemned the Rebellion / Tamarrud Movement of Egyptian youth against Morsi, and rejected the July 3 coup by Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He reprimanded al-Sisi for calling for massive demonstrations on last Friday, July 26, to delegate to him power to deal with “terrorism” (i.e. the more militant sections of the Muslim Brotherhood).
Qaradawi condemned the rector of al-Azhar Seminary, Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayyib, for having supported the revolution/ coup against Morsi. Al-Tayyib is the highest-ranking institutional leader of Sunni Islam.
Understandably, Qaradawi was extremely distressed by the dozens of deaths on Sunday morning when Muslim Brothers trying to take and block the 6 October overpass were pushed back with excessive force by the Egyptian police, who used live ammunition and excessive force.
MENA reported that
” Members of Al-Azhar Senior Scholars Authority called for holding an emergency meeting to reply to chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yusuf Qaradawi’s insult to Azhar Grand Imam Ahmad al-Tayyib . . . who is keen on protecting the homeland’s stability away from any personal or partisan interests.”
Qaradawi’s third son, Abdel Rahman Yusuf, lives in Egypt and is a supporter of Mohamed Elbaradei, the new vice president for foreign affairs in the Adly Mansour government. He wrote a poignant open letter to his father trying to explain that Egyptian youth were just not about to put up with Morsi’s dictatorial ways after having suffered through the rule of Hosni Mubarak.
Qaradawi was not known as a radical. He had urged Muslims to go fight al-Qaeda in Afghanistan after September 11, 2001, and permitted them to serve in the US military.