The Egyptian-born Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was once invited to speak in this country — and the row which developed as a consequence was both entertaining and instructive. Many people said he shouldn’t be given a visa because of his ‘extremism’. Others, such as the mainstream UK Muslim organisations, insisted that this was a libellous description and that Qaradawi was a moderate who had always favoured dialogue with people of other faiths; Ken Livingstone went further and described him as being a ‘leading progressive voice’ within Islam.
So who was right? On the one hand it is true that the Qatar-based Qaradawi has been opposed to jihadi terrorist attacks — unless they take place against Jews and then it’s not, according to him, terrorism. He does not have much time for Jews, once refusing to attend a meeting with them because: ‘Their hands are soiled with blood. They have murderous, violent and oppressive hands. I cannot soil my hands by shaking theirs.’ He has also quoted approvingly from the fraudulent Protocols of the Elders of Zion. He believes apostates in some circumstances should be put to death, and homosexuals subjected to the lash, that women who have been raped must ‘prove their virtue’ in order to escape punishment, and that uppity women can be beaten by their husbands, but only as a last resort. The answer, then, would seem to be that both sides were right. Within the world of Islam, Qaradawi is indeed a moderate and relatively pacific voice. And yet his views, seen from over here, would appear to be those of a bigoted, foaming maniac.
There are two points to draw from this. First, that many people in this country delude themselves about the Islamic world and its fervent hatred for Jewish people, its subjugation of women and gays, its viciousness in dealing with those who renounce the faith etc.