The government has been criticised by moderate Muslim groups for banning a controversial Muslim scholar from entering Britain and branding him an extremist.
The government confirmed to the Guardian that Yusuf al-Qaradawi had applied to come to the UK but had been refused.
The decision could hand the Tories a small political victory as the Conservative leader, David Cameron, last week called for his exclusion from the UK, saying Qaradawi was a “dangerous and divisive” preacher of hate.
But moderate British Muslim groups, including the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), are upset with the ban. Muhammad Abdul Bari, the secretary-general of the MCB, condemned the ban. He said the UK government had bowed to Zionist and neo-con pressure and pointed out that a Tory government had allowed Qaradawi to enter Britain several times.
Bari said Qaradawi was respected as a scholar throughout the Muslim world: “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.
“I am afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture. Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit. These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world.”
The Home Office said: “We can confirm that Al-Qaradawi has been refused a visa to visit the UK. The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence.”
The Sun, on the other hand goes with “PM bans hate cleric’s UK visit“.
And for Tim Montgomerie’s response see Tory Diary, 7 February 2008