| 10.3°C Dublin

'Theologian of terror' held radical Islamic council session here

JIM CUSACK and MARK DOOLEY AN ISLAMIC group which has advocated suicide bombing, the murder of homosexuals and the mutilation of corpses of servicemen in Iraq has just held a conference in the Irish Islamic Centre in Clonskeagh, Dublin.

The Sunday Independent has learned that the controversial Egyptian preacher, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, visited Dublin in late February to chair the 14th session of the European Council forFatwa and Research (ECFR).

While 'fatwa' is associated in the West with directives to murder the author Salman Rushdie and, more recently, the secular Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali, most fatwas amount to little more than directives from senior Islamic clerics based on teachings from the Koran. Most of the directives from the ECFR are of a spiritual nature.

However, as a result of his directives on suicide bombing - including one fatwa in which he advocated that women become suicide bombers - Qaradawi has become known as the "theologian of terror". He was banned from the United States in 1999 for his ongoing support of suicide bombing.

The ECFR was founded by Qaradawi in 1997 to provide a central religious authority for European Muslims. It is permanently headquartered in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh.

A spokesman for the Islamic Centre confirmed yesterday that Qaradawi had attended the conference, but said the resolutions from the conference were still being translated. He was unaware of previous fatwas issued by the ECFR relating to thekilling of homosexuals orsuicide bombing.

During its annual conference in 2003, the ECFR issued a fatwa (legal ruling) calling for "martyrdom operations" by "Palestinian factions to resist the Zionist occupation, even if the victims include some civilians". This fatwa, which was researched and sanctioned by Qaradawi, instructs Muslims that the suicide bomb "is a weapon the likes of which the enemy cannot obtain".

And in April 2004, the Dublin-based ECFR's deputy Faisal Mawlawi justified the mutilation of American security contractors in Iraq, saying, "Muslims are allowed to take vengeance for their mutilated dead mujahids [fighters]".

The council also supports the so-called "insurgency" against coalition troops in Iraq. In August 2004, Qaradawi declared, "Fighting American civilians in Iraq is a duty for all Muslims. There is no difference between a civilian and a military American in Iraq."

Qaradawi, who has chaired at least three meetings of the ECFR in Dublin since September 2000, is the founder and dean of the Sharia College at Qatar University. His website, IslamOnline, is funded by the Qatari government, and his television programme, Sharia and Life, is broadcast by the Al Jazeera network. He is also president of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, a pan-Muslim organisation also based in Dublin.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

After 9/11, Qaradawi was found to be a major shareholder in the Bahamas-based Al Taqwa Bank, which, according to US treasury officials, was "financing and facilitating" groups such as Hamas and Al-Qaeda. He is also a leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist organisation that inspired Hamas and Egyptian Islamic Jihad.

And despite posing as a moderate, Qaradawi condones the use of children as suicide bombers. On his Al Jazeera programme in 2002, he said, "The Israelis might have nuclear bombs, but we have the children bomb - and these human bombs must continue until liberation." He also recommends that Muslims "should not buy from those who support the Jews and Zionists".

And in a fatwa issued at the ECFR Dublin conference in 2000, Qaradawi declared that it was a sin for any Muslim to surrender any bit of Palestine, including the territory of the state of Israel.

On his website, Qaradawi instructs that homosexuals should be executed either by "burning or stoning". He says, "While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements." IslamOnline also contains fatwas permitting a husband to "lightly" beat his wife. Such extreme views have led to worldwide condemnation of Yusuf al-Qaradawi, including by some Muslim groups. After two American hostages were murdered in Iraq in September 2004, the United Arab Emirates newspaper, Al litthad, said the beheadings were "in direct response to Qaradawi's fatwa and incitement which permits the killings of American citizens".

And last October, over 2,500 Muslim intellectuals sent a petition to the United Nations calling for an international treaty to ban the use of religion for incitement to violence. Among "the Sheikhs of death" mentioned in the petition is Qaradawi, whom they accuse of "providing a religious cover for terrorism".

Although he is banned from entering the US, Qaradawi is still permitted to enter Ireland and Britain unrestricted. Last summer he paid a controversial visit to London, during which he said that Allah gives "the weak what the strong do not possess and that is the ability to turn their bodies into bombs".

The British Conservative leader, Michael Howard,has called for him to bepermanently barred from the country.

Just before coming to Dublin in February, Qaradawi told a youth conference in Doha, "I will not relinquish my mission whatever accusations are levelled at me regarding terrorism or other matters. I hope my life will end with a virtuous death, like that sought by warriors fighting Jihad for the sake of Allah."

Most Watched