Continuing his witch-hunt of Lutfur Rahman, Andrew Gilligan has directed his fire against Ken Livingstone, who in an appeal for unity has attempted to repair some of the damage caused by the Labour Party NEC’s shameful decision to override a democratic decision by party members in Tower Hamlets and deselect Lutfur as Labour’s mayoral candidate.
According to Gilligan, Ken “has been an ally of Islamic fundamentalism for far longer than Lutfur Rahman”, and as evidence he offers Ken’s “embrace of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a man who has justified rape and suicide bombing”.
For Qaradawi’s position on suicide bombing Gilligan refers us to a BBC News report dating from Qaradawi’s visit to London in July 2004, which states: “Defending suicide bombings that target Israeli civilians Sheikh Al-Qaradawi told the BBC programme Newsnight that ‘an Israeli woman is not like women in our societies, because she is a soldier. I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God’s justice. Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do’.”
But if you check out the Newsnight report you can see that Qaradawi was talking generally about the legitimacy of suicide bombing as a military tactic in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict. And while he addressed the issue of civilian casualties, there is no indication that he was responding to a specific question about Palestinian suicide bombers targeting Israeli non-combatants. In fact Qaradawi has avoided justifying such attacks.
In a Guardian interview with Madeleine Bunting in 2005, for example, Qaradawi made it clear that when he defended the legitimacy of suicide bombing he was talking about attacks on members of the Israeli armed forces: “Sometimes they kill a child or a woman. Provided they don’t mean to, that’s OK, but they shouldn’t aim to kill them. In every war, mistakes are made and non-combatants get killed…”.
In an interview in Asharq Al-Awsat in 2001, Qaradawi made the same point: “Some children, old people, and women may get hurt in such operations. This is not deliberate. However, we must all realize that the Israeli society is a military society, men and women. We cannot say that the casualties were innocent civilians…” (emphasis added).
So, while Qaradawi holds the view that there is no clear dividing line between civilians and non-civilians in Israel, he does not present this as an argument in favour of suicide bombers deliberately targeting non-combatants. The deaths of the latter, he says, are justifiable only if they are a side-effect of attacks on members of the Israeli military.
As for the ludicrous charge that Qaradawi has “justified rape”, Gilligan directs us to a Daily Telegraph article, published as part of the hysterical right-wing campaign against Qaradawi during his 2004 visit to London, which claimed that Qaradawi “believes that female rape victims should be punished if dressed ‘immodestly’ when assaulted”. (The article, which concludes with a quote from Peter Tatchell, was in fact inspired by an OutRage! press release.)
Leaving aside the fact that the main thrust of the IslamOnline article was to counter the view, widespread in some backward rural societies, that women who are the victims of rape are guilty of damaging the “honour” of the family or community, the article wasn’t by Qaradawi anyway. Nor was it written by “a panel, headed by Mr al-Qaradawi” (an invention lifted by the Telegraph from the OutRage! press release). The author of the IslamOnline was an individual named Kamal Badr.
Even the Israeli-American academic Martin Kramer, a hardline Zionist who is associated with Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum and is a vehement opponent of Qaradawi, balked at this particular stitch-up.
“I abhor the views of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi”, Kramer wrote, “… but I’m not happy with what the London Telegraph did to him this morning. It attributed to Qaradawi an accusatory view of rape victims: ‘To be absolved from guilt, the raped woman must have shown some sort of good conduct.’ These words actually belong to someone else, a consultant to the website Islamonline. Even if Qaradawi is ostensible head of the committee that oversees this website, a Muslim jurist can only be deemed responsible for his ownfatwas… Today’s Telegraph article establishes nothing.” (“Qaradawi non-quote”, Sandbox, 11 July 2004)
If Gilligan can find a quotation from Qaradawi himself implying that women deserve to be raped if they dress immodestly, we would be happy to reproduce it here at Islamophobia Watch. We can guarantee that he won’t be able to come up with a single one.