The Express: An evil man we must ban

An evil man we must ban

By James Slack, Home Affairs Correspondent

Daily Express, 7 July 2004

THE visit to Britain by a hate-filled Muslim cleric who supports wife beating and suicide bomb attacks by children should be banned, the Government was urged last night.

Extremist Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, who has defended the beheading of a Western hostage in Iraq, is already barred from visiting America. But Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has issued the Egyptian with a visa to speak at a London conference for Muslim women next Monday.

Labour MP Louise Ellman called for the trip to be blocked. She pointed to alleged links between Dr Al-Qaradawi, who is the spiritual leader of the Egyptian terror group The Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas. She said:

“It is outrageous that at a time of heightened security concerns and when the Government is clamping down on terror, somebody with close links to Hamas who has already been outlawed in the US is permitted to come to this country. He may well make inflammatory speeches inciting hatred. It will create enormous security problems at a very sensitive time.”

Dr Al-Qaradawi is based in Qatar but was born in Egypt – the same country as hook-handed cleric Abu Hamza. Al-Qaradawi insists Israeli civilians are legitimate targets for Palestinian attacks and has even encouraged women and children to become suicide bombers.

Asked about children launching suicide attacks, he said: “The Israelis might have nuclear bombs but we have the children bomb and these human bombs must continue until liberation.”

Al-Qaradawi, who is also head of the European Council on Fatwa and Research, has condemned the September 11 attacks, but describes Western civilisation as “wretched”. He has attacked homosexuality as a “disease that needs a cure” and has discussed whether the punishment should be death.

Al-Qaradawi says women who are “disobedient” should be beaten and he has also refused to condemn outright the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg in Iraq. The cleric said the brutal slaughter, which was video taped, must be viewed “in the right context”.

He is to be guest of honour at a conference on Muslim women’s dress organised by The Muslim Women Society and the Muslim Association of Britain. The groups set up the “Assembly for the Protection of Hijab”, the religious dress which has been banned in France and Germany.

Ms Ellman said Home Secretary David Blunkett had the power to ban Al-Qaradawi. In 2002, Mr Blunkett successfully prevented Louis Farrakhan, controversial leader of The Nation of Islam, from entering Britain.

But last night a Home Office spokesman insisted Al-Qaradawi’s visit was a matter for the Foreign Office, which was asked to grant his visa application.

The Foreign Office said Mr Straw had granted the application. A spokesman refused to comment on his application but said: “Everyone applying for a visa has to satisfy the visa regulations. Visa officers will carry out a number of checks and will also ensure all criteria are satisfied.”