Many readers will remember the great furore when the hate preacher Yusuf al-Qaradawi visited London in 2004.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) was one of the villains of the piece. The evidence against Qaradawi was already extensive and nauseating back then. But the MCB was defiant. It lavished praise on Qaradawi. And no prizes for guessing who it blamed for the controversy. From a press release in July 2004:
The Muslim Council of Britain is greatly concerned at the very inflammatory reports in today’s newspapers about the current visit to the UK by the distinguished Muslim Scholar Dr Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, President of the European Council for Fatwa and Research, who is a voice of reason and understanding.
The MCB believes that the smear campaign against Dr Al-Qaradawi is being orchestrated by the Zionist lobby who are evidently angered by Dr Al-Qaradawi’s staunch opposition to Israeli State brutality against the Palestinian people.
In 2004 Sadiq Khan was chair of the MCB’s legal affairs committee. So did he dissent? Or just keep a low profile in the storm? After all, he has long opposed extremists, right?
Not a bit of it. In November 2004 Khan appeared for the MCB at a hearing of the Select Committee on Home Affairs. This is from the parliamentary record:
Q107 David Winnick: He was quoted on Qatar TV as saying the following: “Oh God, deal with your enemies, the enemies of Islam. Oh God, deal with the usurpers and oppressors and tyrannical Jews. Oh God, deal with the plotters and rancorous crusaders”. Say someone was trying to come from Israel who made the same sort of remarks about the Islam religion. Would we want such a person in our country as a visitor?
Mr Khan: This dialogue is taking place at the moment. You will probably have seen it in the letters page of The Guardian and there is a debate about the balancing exercise between the rights and responsibilities of freedom of speech that we have in this country and the importance of having an open dialogue. I cannot comment on the specific quote you have given but there is a consensus among Islamic scholars that Mr Al-Qardawi is not the extremist that he is painted as being by selective quotations from his remarks.
The real problem is the BBC:
… in a very long interview he gave to the BBC a few months ago a 15 second snippet was used to try and demonise him. I cannot defend him. It is for him to defend himself, but it does not help foster an open relationship if you are selecting quotes to do with what this man may or may not have said.
The BBC report Khan appears to be referring to is here. You will see that Qaradawi does a rather good job of “demonising” himself:
Defending suicide bombings that target Israeli civilians Sheikh A-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”.
Perhaps these were just more “flowery words”, eh.