Truth about Muslim scholar revealed in Foreign Office leak

Truth about Muslim scholar revealed in Foreign Office leak

By Ken Livingstone

Morning Star, 10 September 2005

Last weekend the Observer reported the leak of a document from a Foreign and Commonwealth Office adviser who had advised ministers not to ban the Muslim scholar Sheikh Yusuf al Qaradawi from Britain.

The leaked document contradicted the widespread advice of the majority of the British tabloids, which have waged a campaign against Qaradawi as an extremist.

Qaradawi was most recently wrongly reported to have called for the stoning to death of an Arab prince who was alleged to have been seen in a gay nightclub in London – although it has now emerged that the comments were in fact made by a Saudi named Muhammed Saleh Al-Munajjid.

The leaked document shows that the approach taken by the progressive left – of refusing to accept the “Clash of Civilisations” cold war being waged against Islam – is not only morally the right one, but also the best way to defeat al-Qaeda.

The document sets out that whilst the Foreign Office “certainly do not agree with Qaradawi’s views on Israel and Iraq … we have to recognise that they are not unusual or even exceptional among Muslims.”

It says that Qaradawi “was one of the first international Muslim scholars to issue a clear statement of condemnation” of the July London bombings, and states that “to act against Qaradawi would alienate significant and influential members of the global Muslim community.”

It describes him as “the leading mainstream and influential Islamic authority in the Middle East and increasingly in Europe.”

Most significantly, it argues that “excluding Qaradawi [from Britain] would give grist to al-Qaida propaganda of a western vendetta against Muslims and would undermine Qaradawi’s counter-terrorism messages.”

It adds that “we could not engage with Qaradawi on counter-terrorism or Iraq should there be a decision to exclude him from the UK.”

It quotes the Metropolitan police Special Branch Muslim Contact Unit, which argues that “Sheikh Qaradawi has a positive Muslim community impact in the fight against al-Qaida propaganda in the UK.”

But the response of some commentators to this leak – such as the Observer’s Nick Cohen – has been to renew their attacks on Qaradawi in the most aggressive terms, despite the very obvious advice from security officials charged with protecting us from further bombing that to ban him would hinder the fight against terrorism.

Cohen rubbished the report as a “fantasy” and “make believe,” arguing that it constituted an attempt at “preparing for an accommodation with radical Islam.”

Thus Cohen’s advice is to pursue a strategy of non-engagement with figures such as Qaradawi, a course which, as the FCO points out, would “give grist to al-Qaida propaganda.”

Cohen’s advice on the fight against terror reflects a general world-view in favour of a confrontation with Islam and in support of the neo-cons’ aggressive military strategy in the Middle East.

Writing in the Evening Standard (June 21), Cohen said that when he met the leading neo-con Paul Wolfowitz for dinner “I was in the presence of a politician who was committed to extending human freedom.”

Praising the record of the USA in Iraq, he added “if you are an Iraqi liberal you are more likely to get a fair hearing from the Daily Telegraph than the Independent” and claimed that Kurdish socialists would get a fairer hearing from Wolfowitz than myself or Tony Benn.

Wolfowitz of course is a leading architect of the pre-emptive strike policy against Iraq and a major figure in the development of the Bush administration’s neo-conservative policy agenda.

He has helped shift American foreign policy radically to the right and is now President of the World Bank.

The ex-left neo-cons who reject dialogue with mainstream Islam don’t do so by accident – it is part of a wider policy of confrontation with the Middle East.

It is a positive development therefore that this confrontational agenda was rejected by the FCO officials looking at the Qaradawi case.