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July 08, 2004


Martin Kramer

Well, I won't cover old ground here. Just wanted to note that slippery old Qaradawi seems to have made some other enemies along the way. I wrote following in my "Sandbox" today. Go there for the links.

Qaradawi and gays. Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, now visiting London, should be anathema to anyone appalled by suicide bombings against innocent Israelis. But Qaradawi may also be reviled for other reasons. Peter Tatchell, the UK's leading gay rights campaigner, claims that Qaradawi has advocated the execution of homosexuals and should be banned from the country. "He should be treated as a political pariah." Actually, Qaradawi hasn't made up his mind about the punishment. "Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication," he ruminates, "or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? 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."

the aardvark

This is too weird. When I tried to post a response to Martin, Typepad wouldn't let me... kept saying that it had "questionable content." Because it mentioned ho*o*s*x*a*l*ty?!?!?

OK, now I'm adding my original response from inside the owner's page - see if it will accept it now:

I haven't seen the fatwa you're referring to before, Martin - and the site on which it's posted on (straightway.sinfree.net - ??) looks like it could be less than reliable. I honestly don't know what Qaradawi's position is on it, though it wouldn't surprise me to find out that he's a typical social conservative on the issue. But that would just be assuming, becaues I don't know. I'll poke around and see what I find on what Qaradawi's said about it, if I have time. Not likely, given very tight work pressures and I'll be out of the office until Monday, but hopefully I'll get to it next week some time.

Martin Kramer

Okay, here is a better url for the same fatwa: Islamonline:

Martin Kramer

And I can't resist quoting a few other memorable Qaradawi fatwas (there are 150 of them at Islamonline). On democracy, AbuAardvark writes that Qaradawi has made "respectable arguments... reconciling Islam and democracy." So have a look at his democracy fatwa:


The thrust is not to reconcile Islam and democracy, but to establish Islam's obvious superiority to democracy:

"Islam wants this nation to consult with each other, and stand as a united body, so no enemy can penetrate it. This is not what democracy is for. Democracy is a system that can't solve all societal problems. Democracy itself also can make whatever it wants as lawful, or prohibit anything it does not like. In comparison, the Shari'ah [Islamic law] as a political system has limits. If we are to adopt democracy, we should adopt its best features. These are the issues of methods, guarantees, and manners of a democratic society. As a Muslim society we should adopt it in an Islamic context of a society that seeks to live with its Shari'ah laws. Our society should abide by what have been made lawful by Allah and also what have been made unlawful by Him. In comparison democracy with a slim majority can cancel all laws and rules. It can even eliminate itself with this type of margin. In fact, in some case democracy may become worse than dictatorship."

Yeah, great job at reconciling...

(And to tie into his position on homosexuality, here is his example of the potential depravity of democracy: "For instance, many democratic countries have allowed types of sexual deviance to spread, and even legalized such behavior. Gays and Lesbians now can marry each other legally." Horror.)

On suicide bombings, AbuAardvark admits that "Qaradawi has endorsed suicide bombing in the Israeli-Palestinian context," but he immediately adds that "he did so with some nuance, and insisted on a tight contextualization." In fact, it was none other than Qaradawi who dramatically extended the scope of the acts, with this infamous fatwa permitting if not enjoining women to commit suicide bombings:


(And I'm glad Qaradawi cleared up this point: "When necessary, she may take off her Hijab in order to carry out the operation, for she is going to die in the Cause of Allah and not to show off her beauty or uncover her hair. I don’t see any problem in her taking off Hijab in this case.")

Finally, AbuAardvark says Qaradawi preaches toleration. So read his fatwa on "intellectual apostasy":


(My favorite passage: "The traces of intellectual apostasy are noticed everyday in circulated newspapers and books, in radio and TV programs and in laws legislated to govern people's affairs. This kind of apostasy is--in my point of view--more dangerous than openly announced apostasy... They are the hypocrites whose abode will be in the lowest level of the Hell-Fire.")

As I have said before, Qaradawi is a typical, retrograde, old-style, obscurantist Muslim Brother. These are the kinds of people the United States used to cut deals with, in the days of the Cold War. Since 9/11, the rules have changed. Sure, he's not the worst of them, but unless you think the Arab Muslim world is a completely lost cause, he is not your man.


This must be the same newspaper which, while criticising Qaradawi's views on one page, parades half-naked women on the other. Can you smell that...? I think it's called hypocrisy.

Of course, it's perfectly okay to meet and greet a Sharon, or a Gaddafi, or the Chinese premier. Why we'll even give the latter a state banquet! It's perfectly ok for Le Pen to stroll about the UK, or for Griffin to exploit race. It's perfectly ok for extremist atheists to use their privileged positions (I'm looking at you Dawkins and Pullman) or for mad and insane secular evangelicals like Hari, to attack religion and the religious call them derogatory names, imply that they are mentally deficient. It's fine for the ECHR to imply that a Muslim woman wearing the headscarf because she supports 'certain fundamentalist movements'.

But we must get all fiery and worked up over someone whose views have long been known -- I mean, he happens to be on the consultancy board for the Jornal of Islamic Studies produced by Oxford (the same Oxford that was the home of Gibb and Van Den Bergh, I should add). Qaradawi hardly hides himself or his views. As for his "views on gays": Like most 'conservatives', he probably regards sex outside marriage as a severe sin, punishble by law. This is line with 'classical' as well as 'modern' Islamic thought, "fundamentalist" or not. As Islamic law only recognises marriage between a man and a woman, and prohibits certain sexual acts for all, you can figure out where this leaves homosexual relations. I doubt he said you can "kill gays" because "being gay" is not quantifiable, accept by acts -- which must be proven in a court of law. As a trained jurist, he must be aware of procedure and proof, more so than your average Islamist rabble-rouser. (And save us the liberal dross of "freedom of the individual", because it is built on certain philosophical ideas, and pushed with such unquestioning certainty that I have the need to call it a dogma.)

Islam is obviously superior to democracy, Kramer, because democracy is 'method' and not 'truth'. Islam makes truth-claims for the ultimate destiny of men and women, whereas democracy is a means by which people can organise themselves. Unless you wish to make truth-claims for democracy...

Also, there is nothing immoral about suicide-bombings, per se. Again, it is only "Western" assumptions about "pain" and "the body" and "being human" that cause an uproar over the use of "suicide bombings". Though, _I_ would agree that targetting women and children is out of the question. Other than that, soldiers, and maybe even the means of production for the armed forces, are fair game in a conflict situation using "suicide-bombings" or otherwise.

As for tolerance: very often, we tolerate things we do not care about, or we tolerate something by putting up with it, as in pain. Attempts to parade "tolerance" as some sort of benign philosophical position often mask the power it brings the state (which is historically verifiable).

Lastly, your braying on intellectual apostasy are laughable. America is the home of McCarthyism, in its traditional as well as contemporary forms, yes? It's the home of the so-called "CampusWatch", yes? Does asking questions of the Unholy Trinity of capitalism-democracy-freedom still make one a "Marxist"? Does the word "social" in front of an academic discipline still cause fits from the defenders of "good"?

Too bad your "scholarship" and "alternative readings", Kramer, does not meet the excellent standards of someone like Gerber of the Hebrew Uni.

"...he is not your man."

"Free-thinking" and a "democratic mandate" not good enough for you, Kramer? Still want to foist views and ideas down others throats? Qaradawi is very popular across the ME, whether you like it or not.

Martin Kramer

There is so much in Thabet's comment that I find objectionable that I won't even start. Instead, I will confine myself to the point on which we are in agreement. He writes: "I would agree that targeting women and children is out of the question." Qaradawi has created a self-serving fiction, by which Hamas and Jihad suicide bombers are aiming at military targets. When women and children die, well, that's just collateral damage. No one seems to have told Qaradawi (or maybe he knows and has decided to un-know) that the strategy of the bombers and their dispatchers has been to elude obvious military targets (occupation forces, checkpoints), and go straight for plainly civilian targets (buses, cafes, restaurants). Even by Thabet's own standards, this is immoral, and Qaradawi, by any standard, is a supporter of what Human Rights Watch has described as crimes against humanity. And this is what passes for moral leadership?

I'll let HRW tell Thabet why the Palestinian suicide campaign has been illegal and criminal:


the aardvark

Thanks for the fuller presentation - I appreciate it. It's highly selective, though, as you know. Here's just a few examples pulled off the top of my Qaradawi file, since I honestly don't have time for more than that.

March 2004: a condemnation of the bloody events in Iraq, as posted on Qaradawi's website in Arabic: "what happened yesterday in Iraq on the day of Ashura, the letting of blood, the aggression against the innocent, it was a hateful crime.. those who carried out this horrible action are paid for agents, or are the height of stupidity, they carry out their plans as enemies of Islam, as enemies of the umma.. nobody benefits from this enmity which turns some of the umma against the other.... We condemn these insane criminal actions, we condemn them with all condemnation, in the name of Islam, and the name of the ulema of Islam in every place... we consider them enemies of the message of Islam and of the umma of Islam."

Does that sound like an apology for terrorism?

On Al Jazeera's Sharia and Life, June 6, 2004, in Arabic, on the relationship between Islam and democracy: "In truth, real democracy is the most important cure to treat our ailments... by democratizing Muslim society I mean that we should take the fundemantal guarantees of democracy, where the people are ruled by rulers who are chosen by the people.. and this choice is made without distortion, where the rulers are accountable to the people... this is the spirit of democracy.. which says that the rule of the people for the people... Some Islamists don't understand that the rule of the people is not instead of the rule of God, but rather is against the rule of the single individual tyrant who rules over the people... Muslim society needs a democracy, which will respect norms which means that democracy will not abolish prayer or the zakat or the pillars of Islam... One of the norms that nobody can contest is that in democracy we will have shura [consultation], which we say is required and not optional..."

He goes on in this vein for quite a while. It would be better to actually go to one of his books and quote in detail from his theories reconciling Islam and democracy, but what he says on al Jazeera - which reaches far more people than his learned books, I'd reckon - is probably more immediately relevant.

Nicholas Weininger

Overall, it sounds like this guy is more or less at the same level as Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell-- fiercely antigay, a believer in religiously-based law, and willing to condone violence in a religious cause under at least some circumstances, but accepting of some of the key tenets of tolerant democracy and thus (just barely) within the normal spectrum of debate in a democratic country.

Doesn't bode too well for the Islamic world that their "moderates" have about the same degree of tolerance and moderation as our religious extremists, does it?


Nicholas -- It's more a reflection of the realtive narrowness of the religious spectrum in the Islamic world. The Anglican church on my street has a big poster supporting Gay Pride Week. If you're gay in Pakistan, there is no religious organzation that will condone your behaviour -- you're forced into a secular tradition (Marxist or liberal), like it or not. (Al-fatiha.net notwithstanding)

I gather Kramer, Smith and company would prefer to engage the liberal, gay positive elements in Muslim-majority countries, even if this rules out every single religious individual. The Aardvark asks us to engage the men at the liberal end of the religious spectrum, despite the fact they are not as gay-friendly as the current Archbishop of Canterbury.

Kramer is right in the narrow sense -- Qaradawi is no liberal. I wouldn't want him running my country. But I would still go with the Aardvark -- engaging those willing to talk, despite their illiberality, is the way to go. Of course, this ought not to be at the expense of real liberals in Egypt, Pakistan, whatever.

The Aardvark-Kramer discussion is one that can be found in any context. Should anti-Isreali militants refuse to engage any Israeli or should they reach out to the folks at PeaceNow? Should Canada reach out to 'soft' Quebec nationalists or take a hard federalist line? You pick'em.

(I will note that Kramer is misrepresenting the Qaradawi quote on democracy. As I read it, The quote supports democracy with limits on the power of the majority. Not too different from the Canadian constitutional system. Well, other than the fact the Qaradawi's limits relate to Hell-fire. Like the gay marriage amendment GWB supports. I guess I wouldn't want him running my country either.)

Randy McDonald

Should Canada reach out to 'soft' Quebec nationalists or take a hard federalist line?

Bigoted Islamic fundamentalists, generic Israelis, and Québec nationalists: Which does not belong?

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