Qaradawi’s Odious Vision
The “Arab Spring” and the treason of the intellectuals


Feb. 18, 2011, marked the triumphal return to Cairo of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “spiritual guide,” Yusuf al-Qaradawi, after years of exile. His public reemergence in Egypt was sanctioned by the nation’s provisional military rulers. Qaradawi’s own words, as well as the images and actions that accompanied him during his return, should have shattered the myth that the turmoil leading to President Mubarak’s resignation augured the emergence of a modern, democratic Egyptian society devoted to Western conceptions of individual liberty and equality before the law.

But unlike the Middle East Media Research Institute, and my colleague al-Mutarjim (whose translation follows), mainstream-media outlets failed to report that Qaradawi issued a clarion call for the jihad reconquest of Jerusalem. Likewise, they failed to predict the events of the subsequent ten months, including the open ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates across North Africa and the entire Middle East. Instead, as late as August 2011, Hoover Institution fellow Fouad Ajami was writing in the Wall Street Journal that the uprisings were “the Arabs’ 1989, their supreme moment of historical agency,” and that “for once the ‘Arab Street’ was not gripped by anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism, for once it wasn’t looking beyond its geography for alien demons.”

Qaradawi’s pronouncement, made during his Tahrir Square Friday khutbah (sermon), was met with thunderous applause. This is what he said:

A message to our brothers in Palestine: I have hope that Almighty Allah, as I have been pleased with the victory in Egypt, that He will also please me with the conquest of the al-Aqsa Mosque [i.e., Jerusalem], to prepare the way for me to preach in the al-Aqsa Mosque. May Allah prepare the way for us to [preach] in the al-Aqsa Mosque in safety — not in fear, not in haste. May Allah achieve this clear conquest for us. O sons of Palestine, I am confident that you will be victorious.

It’s not that the media didn’t hear this portion of the sermon. The statement Qaradawi made immediately following this rallying cry — about having the Egyptian army open the Rafah border crossing into Gaza to facilitate “delivering aid to our brethren” — was widely reported. The deliberate omission of Qaradawi’s bellicose incitement to recapture Jerusalem reflects a larger, sustained campaign — by both the mainstream media and the academics whom they choose to provide their background information — to characterize Qaradawi’s beliefs as “pluralist, reform Islam.” In fact, Qaradawi advances an obscurantist, albeit mainstream, brand of sharia-based, aggressive jihadism — as well as its corollary: virulent hatred of Jews and other infidels.

John Esposito, who heads the lavishly Saudi-funded Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, is the doyen of American academic apologists for jihadism. Esposito opined in a Fall 2003 Boston Review essay that Qaradawi embodied a “reformist interpretation of Islam and its relationship to democracy, pluralism, and human rights.”

Nearly a decade later, Esposito’s assessment of Qaradawi has been regurgitated by both the mainstream media and the new generation of academics these journalists seek out for comment. Witness the New York Times coverage of Qaradawi’s Tahrir Square oration. We are told that the cleric’s speech “struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching,” and that “scholars who have studied his work say Sheik Qaradawi has long argued that Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy.”

To the Times’s credit, the story also acknowledges that Qaradawi has openly endorsed violence against both Israeli Jews and American troops in Iraq. But it then quotes an “academic Qaradawi expert,” Notre Dame professor Imad Shahin, who defends these views: “You call it violence; I call it resistance.”