Muslim scholar questions visa ban

Yusuf al-Qaradawi had applied for a UK visa eight months ago for medical treatment.

    The Egyptian-born Qatari is known for theAl Jazeera programme, Ash-Shariah wal-Hayat [GALLO/Getty]


    Sources told Al Jazeera that al-Qaradawi had applied for the visa eight months ago but, after having received no response, he opted for France and sought his medical treatment there.

     

    The Egyptian-born Qatari is best known for his popular Al Jazeera programme, Ash-Shariah wal-Hayat (Sharia and Life), and IslamOnline, a website he helped establish in 1997.

      

    Banned

     

    He last visited Britain in 2004 - a trip that sparked protests from gay and Jewish groups, who accused him of homophobia and anti-Semitism.

     

    Last month, David Cameron, the leader of Britain's main opposition Conservative party, demanded that Gordon Brown, Britain's prime minister, ban "preachers of hate" from Britain, naming al-Qaradawi.

      

    Twenty members of parliament's lower House of Commons signed a motion expressing "grave concern" at the prospect of al-Qaradawi being granted a visa.

      

    An interior ministry spokesman said: "We can confirm that al-Qaradawi has been refused a visa to visit the UK.

      

    "The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence."

      

    The move was welcomed by the Community Security Trust, an organisation which works to prevent anti-Semitic attacks, as "brave and correct".

     

    "There were many different communities that were very unhappy at the idea of Qaradawi returning to Britain," Mark Gardner, its director of communications, said.

     

    "His continued support for jihad against British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is just one example of his dangerous extremism."

     

    Principles at risk

      

    But the ministry of interior's decision was sharply criticised by the Muslim Council of Britain.

     

    Muhammad Abdul Bari, the group's secretary-general, said Qaradawi enjoyed "unparalleled respect and influence throughout the Muslim world".

      

    "I am afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture," he said.

      

    "Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit.

      

    "These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world."

      

    The British Muslim Initiative (BMI) also condemned the decision, saying it was "an unwarranted insult to British Muslims" and describing al-Qaradawi as an "eminent scholar".

      

    "We would have to go as far back as the medieval age when scholars were hounded and vilified in order to find a similar retrograde decision," Muhammad Sawalha, BMI head, said.

     

    Al-Qaradawi has been banned from entering the United States since 1999.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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