Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi speaks to the press in Ireland

"Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi doesn't have much time for journalists, and it shows. Getting an interview with the man banned from the US yet considered the world's most influential Muslim scholar involves much toing and froing.

He is wary of the western media, I am told, because he feels they twist and misinterpret his words. Months of wrangling eventually culminate in a short conversation snatched between sessions at a conference in Istanbul. It feels rushed and Qaradawi seems preoccupied. It is hardly an illuminating encounter but perhaps that is not surprising. Despite being endlessly scrutinised, the octogenarian Egyptian cleric remains a complex enigma behind all the controversies and sensationalist tabloid headlines.

Qaradawi is many things to many people. To his millions of followers, he is a moderate reformer who helps seam Islam with modern life; a brave and independent voice in a world where too many Muslim clerics fail the credibility test because of their links to corrupt governments; a powerful figure whose swift denunciations of al-Qaeda attacks in New York, London, Bali and Madrid carry extra weight within the Muslim community.[...]

Qaradawi likes to present himself as taking the middle path, albeit one that doesn't stray far from the central tenets of Islam. "You find people split into three categories," he told The Irish Times. "There are those we call extremists who deprive people of everything. They view women as low and human rights as a narrow horizon. There are the liberals who don't commit themselves to anything in religion and open the gate wide to everything. Then you have the moderates who like to facilitate things. They believe that God made things easy for humans.[...]

"They believe in conversing with others and forgiveness for the sinful. They believe in peace, not war. They believe in peace and tolerance but warn those who want to fight them that they will fight back."[...]



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