The Sun: You’re crazy, Ken

You’re crazy, Ken

By Trevor Kavanagh, Political Editor

The Sun, 8 July 2004

* KEN: Prosecute The Sun for saying this cleric spouts evil
* CLERIC: Suicide bombers are OK to kill Coalition troops in Iraq … they are God’s martyrs

SLIMY Ken Livingstone mounted an astonishing defence of a hardline Muslim cleric who yesterday launched a new rant backing suicide bombings. The London Mayor shared a platform with Yusuf al-Qaradawi – who The Sun yesterday exposed as a terror supporter.

Livingstone welcomed the sheik to the capital as an “honoured guest” – ignoring the cleric’s support for child suicide bombings, executing homosexuals, wife-beating and killing Jews. And he even turned on The Sun accusing US of fanning the flames of “Islamaphobia”.

He suggested we should be prosecuted – even though we have only pointed out what the cleric has been calling for. He claimed media coverage of the sheik’s visit showed a need for new laws against religious discrimination. Livingstone said: “British Muslims make an enormous contribution to the capital and this outcry in the tabloid press shows why legislation is necessary.”

Egyptian-born al-Qaradawi said he had been visiting London for 30 years and was baffled by the fuss. But last night, in a pre-recorded TV interview, the rabble-rouser called for suicide bombers to kill Allied soldiers in Iraq. And in London he spoke in support of suicide bombings by Palestinians in Israel.

Talking on BBC2’s Newsnight the cleric urged Iraqis to rise up against Coalition forces. If they failed, he said, suicide bombers should be used against them. He said: “This is not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God. If the Iraqis can confront the enemy, there’s no need for these acts of martyrdom. If they don’t have the means, acts of martyrdom are allowed.”

He went on: “Let’s be agreed that what has happened in Iraq is an occupation – the Americans are occupiers and it’s the right of everyone under occupation to resist that occupation. Millions of people in Britain are not agreeable to this war and they think its an unjust war. We think its an unjust war and the Iraqis have the right to resist the American occupiers. But we have to determine one important thing – do the Iraqis have enough weaponry to resist this occupation? Or are they like the Palestinians who have nothing but themselves to blow up. I think that depends on the means at their disposal.”

Asked about the deaths of women and children in Israel, he said: “Israeli women are not like women in our society because Israeli women are militarised. I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an indication of the justice of Allah Almighty. Allah is just through his infinite wisdom, he has given the weak what the strong do not possess and that is the ability to turn their bodies into bombs like the Palestinians do.”

Earlier in London, speaking through an interpreter, al-Qaradawi said: “Had the Palestinians had weapons similar to those given to the Israelis –tanks, F16s, Apache helicopters, missiles – they would not have resorted to turning themselves into human bombs. They have been driven into a no-option situation.”

His new outbursts came as Tony Blair faced growing pressure to kick him out of Britain.

Al-Qaradawi, who is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood organisation, has been in hiding since arriving on Monday. He is billed as Livingstone’s guest again next Monday at a conference to support the Islamic veil.

Cabinet Ministers yesterday desperately tried to avoid blame for letting al-Qaradawi into the UK. The Foreign Office fingered an unnamed Overseas Clearance Officer who failed to check computer records. And the Home Office said it had no idea he was guest of honour at the conference.

A spokesman said junior minister Fiona Mactaggart was unaware she was listed as a speaker. Miss Mactaggart, who has shared a platform with another cleric who advocates killing Jews, has now withdrawn her support, accusing extremists of “hijacking” the conference.

Tory leader Michael Howard challenged Tony Blair to explain why the Government had not acted. The PM said the visit was being monitored but any exclusion from the UK had to be lawful. The PM faced mounting anger from Labour MPs. Veteran MP David Winnick said: “This country is contaminated by the presence of such a creature.”

But last night The Muslim Association of Britain defended the cleric. Spokesman Dr Azzam Tamimi denied al-Qaradawi supported the execution of gays. And Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Association of Britain said: “Al-Qaradawi is an Islamic scholar held in great respect throughout the Muslim world.”