AS LONDON paused on Thursday to remember its bomb victims, Tony Blair announced a list of anti-terrorist measures aimed at curbing the activities of firebrand Islamic clerics. The new laws will permit the Home Secretary, Charles Clarke, to ban or deport any imam suspected of radicalising Britain's Muslim youth.
One of the targets of this new legislation is the controversial Egyptian preacher, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Labelled the 'theologian of terror' for his support of suicide bombings, Qaradawi caused outrage in London last year when invited by its mayor, Ken Livingstone.
On that occasion, he announced that Allah gives "the weak what the strong do not possess and that is the ability to turn their bodies into bombs".
Last March, the Sunday Independent reported that Qaradawi, who is banned from entering the United States, visited Ireland at least three times since September 2000. We also disclosed that his most recent trip to Dublin was in late February, when he chaired the 14th session of the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR).
Qaradawi founded the ECFR in 1997 to provide "a central religious authority for European Muslims". Its permanent headquarters are in the Islamic Cultural Centre of Ireland in Clonskeagh.
At its 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". Qaradawi, who commented that the suicide bomb "is a weapon the likes of which the enemy cannot obtain", sanctioned and researched this fatwa.
The Dublin-based council also backs the "resistance" in Iraq, including the killing of civilians. In August 2004, Qaradawi said that fighting "American civilians in Iraq is a duty for all Muslims. There is no difference between a civilian and a military American in Iraq."
Apart from presiding over the ECFR, Yusuf al-Qaradawi is 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 regularly broadcast by the Al Jazeera network. He is also a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant Islamist group that inspired Hamas and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. And after 9/11, he was found to be a significant shareholder in a Bahamas-based bank that the US believes was "financing and facilitating" al-Qaeda.
Supporters such as Ken Livingstone claim that Qaradawi is a moderate, even though he advocates the use of women and children as suicide bombers. In 2003, for example, he said that women's "participation in the martyrdom suicide operations is one of the most praised acts of worship". In 2002, he declared that the "Israelis might have nuclear bombs, but we have the children bomb - and these human bombs must continue until liberation".
On his website, Qaradawi instructs that homosexuals should be executed by "burning or stoning to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements". And in a fatwa issued at the ECFR Dublin conference in 2000, he branded it a sin for any Muslim to surrender any bit of Palestine, including the territory of Israel.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi has earned global condemnation for his radical views, which many believe have led directly to terrorist atrocities. When two American hostages were beheaded in Iraq in 2004, the United Arab Emirates newspaper, Al lithad, said the slaughter was "in direct response to Qaradawi's fatwa and incitement which permits the killing of American citizens".
And in a letter to the United Nations last October, over 2,500 Muslim scholars called for an international treaty banning the use of religion for incitement to violence. The letter directly names Qaradawi as a "Sheikh of death" and accuses him of "providing a religious cover for terrorism".
After last week's carnage, Tony Blair now knows that banning people like Qaradawi from Britain is a necessity. As Downing Street made clear on Thursday, if it is deemed that admitting certain clerics "would not be conducive to the public good", they will automatically be excluded for good.
But yesterday it was learned that Qaradawi has been invited to attend an international conference hosted by Manchester's Ramadhan Foundation in August. That puts serious pressure on the British government to revoke his visa as soon as possible. And because Qaradawi has used previous British visits to travel on to Ireland, it is time for the Irish government to recognise the threat he poses.
Michael McDowell has acknowledged that Islamists had used Ireland to "engage in logistical support activities for terrorist-type activities in Europe and elsewhere". And he stressed that the Government would do whatever it takes to assist in the battle against international terrorism. But since we first reported on this story last March, the Minister has made no comment on the fact that a notorious extremist, who praises suicide bombing and the murder of homosexuals, regularly visits Dublin to chair meetings of the ECFR.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi is banned from entering the United States and will soon be barred from Britain. If Minister McDowell is serious about combating Islamic fanaticism here, he must follow suit by ensuring that the "theologian of terror" is permanently prevented from entering this State.