LONDON — British Muslims reacted Thursday, February 7, with dismay to the government’s decision to deny prominent Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi a medical visa, insisting he is no hate preacher but rather a moderation icon.
“Yusuf Al Qaradawi enjoys unparalleled respect and influence throughout the Muslim world,” said Mohammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). “I am afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture.”
The British Muslim Initiative (BMI) lauded Qaradawi, chairman of the European Council for Fatwa and Research and a trustee of the Oxford University Center for Islamic Studies, as an “eminent” scholar. It regretted the government’s decision as “an unwarranted insult” to Britain’s two million Muslims. “The negative impact of this ban is no less than that of banning the Pope from entering any of the Muslim countries,” said Mohammad Sawalha, BMI president. “We would have to go as far back as the medieval age when scholars were hounded and vilified in order to find a similar retrograde decision.”
Faisal Hanjra, spokesman of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK and Ireland (FOSIS), believes the government made a wrong decision. “Dr Qaradawi is a respected mainstream scholar, well known for denouncing terrorism and related activities,” he said. “We shouldn’t let personal prejudices get in the way of allowing a respected individual seeking the best medical treatment.”
The British Muslim leaders regretted that Prime Minister Gordon has caved in to pressure from David Cameron, the leader of the opposition Conservative party. “After one year of indecision the Labour Government has finally succumbed to neo-conservative pressure,” said Sawalha, the BMI president. “It is regrettable that the government has finally given way to these unreasonable demands spearheaded by the Tory leader whose government had in fact allowed Dr Qaradawi to visit the UK five times between 1995-97,” said MCB leader Bari.
See also the letter from Ubaid-ur Rehman, secretary of the LGBT Muslim support group Imaan, in the Guardian, 11 February 2008