As part of its mission to discredit Arabs and Muslims, in the aftermath of the tsunami disaster the Middle East Media Research Institute devoted much effort to accumulating quotations from Islamic leaders explaining the disaster as the result of God’s anger with sinners. One of these was Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
MEMRI’s reports were reproduced in the Times, which gave over a whole page to what it called Islamic “tsunami conspiracy theories“.
Of course, Muslims were not alone in offering a “wrath of God” explanation for the disaster. Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Shlomo Amar, declared that the tsunami was an “expression of God’s ire with the world”, while one of his predecessors, Mordechai Eliahu, argued that it was a product of divine resentment at Sharon’s decision to pull out of Gaza. Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri, considered Israel’s leading Kabbalist rabbi, added that it was “not for naught that this place was hit, where many of our compatriots went to look for this-worldly lusts”.
But can you imagine the Times devoting a whole page to attacking Jewish views of the tsunami as a punishment for humanity’s sins? Obviously not, because this would rightly be construed as anti-semitic. But Muslims are considered fair game by the Murdoch press.
And not only the Murdoch press. Taking his inspiration from the Times piece, Peter Tatchell wrote a press release for Outrage! headed “Qaradawi says tsunami victims deserved to die“. Tatchell attacked Qaradawi as “a reactionary fundamentalist who says 150,000 people deserved to die because some of them were immoral and failed to observe his hardline interpretation of Islam”.
But Abu Aardvark challenged MEMRI’s summary of Qaradawi’s sermon.
He pointed out that, far from arguing that victims all deserved their fate, Qaradawi had stated that the tsunami presented a challenge to the faith of believers because “it took the honest and the wicked, the reverent and the licentious, the believers and the unbelievers alike”. Abu Aardvark concluded that “this does seem to be a case of MEMRI’s selective translation leaving readers with the wrong impression of his meaning”.
Abu Aardvark observed wearily that “rational discussions of Qaradawi seem to be virtually impossible these days. The demonization campaign seems to have worked, and people who really should know better just throw names around, casually equating Qaradawi with bin Laden and putting the most outrageous things in his mouth”.