The Harry’s Place gang on Qaradawi

Yet again it seems that Ken Livingstone is in trouble over his meeting with Shaikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Ken (as we all call him) has posted a defence (in PDF form) of his meeting on the London Assembly website, which “david t” at a blog called Harry’s Place calls “a work of propaganda. For which Londoners will have to pay.” The HP mob’s main beef about Qaradawi is his views on homosexuality and Palestinian suicide bombing. As for homosexuality, he is only articulating what any Muslim who has studied Islamic law would conclude was indeed Islamic law. The punishment alluded to would be applied only in cases where the required number of (upright, unbiased, male) witnesses has testified to seeing the act, or where someone confesses to it. Neither of these standards of evidence is easy to achieve, and the people who would end up getting the punishment (unless voluntarily) are the brazen, the stupid and the unlucky. The punishment isn’t for two men who simply live together, or for a man known to simply be gay, but for proven sodomy.

The blog entry also mentions that

Livingstone’s first line of defence is that Qaradawi does not espouse a vigilante war against homosexuals. That defence crumbles when you realise that Qaradawi doesn’t “explicitly oppose repression of homosexuals” at all.

How does Livingstone’s defence “crumble” at this? Don’t you know the difference between law and vigilantism, david?

As for suicide bombing, again his position (although not the unanimous position of Muslim scholars) is a widely-held view in the Muslim world, which they apply to the Palestinian situation and, currently, nowhere else. (For example, they didn’t apply it to the 9/11 attacks; the action, and the situation, were wholly different.) Given what is actually happening in Palestine - an illegal occupation, people’s land seized for the benefit of enemy settlers, a wall being built between people’s homes and their land, etc. - there are those who would conclude that violent resistance is justified.

“david t” flippantly dismisses the comments on MEMRI which appear in the dossier:

And in any case, as Ken points out, MEMRI’s translations can’t be trusted because the Guardian’s Middle East editor doesn’t like their political connections, and because they once mistranslated the Arabic word “wilayah” in a manner with which Juan Cole disagrees. So obviously anything from MEMRI is to be discounted.

Nobody’s suggesting that MEMRI’s reports be dismissed because so-and-so doesn’t like them; the said so-and-so (Brian Whitaker) made concrete accusations against MEMRI, namely, that they distorted and selectively quoted their sources. A dialogue was published with its president, Yigal Carmon, in the Guardian, in which Carmon side-steps a direct challenge over a distorted translation of an interview with the mufti of Jerusalem and insinuates that Whitaker’s real beef with him and MEMRI is that they are Israeli.

Livingstone’s defence seems to be pretty comprehensive; it demonstrates that the people involved in preparing the anti-Qaradawi dossier sent to members of the Assembly all had ideological reasons for wanting to keep al-Qaradawi out, including, in the case of four signatories, Marxist-inspired hostility to Islam itself (as George Carty pointed out):

Bahram Soroush poured scorn on the idea that ‘a reformist – if such a thing was possible – liberal or a softer version of Islam … is tolerable. That is an insult to humanity. Our criticism, our attack, our problem with this Islamic movement is not just with its extremist faction; it’s with the whole of it. So I think to anyone like that I would say … why not get rid of the whole thing?’ (p18 of dossier; his source was a piece by the three Iranians in the Worker Communist Party of Iran Briefing)

Shaikh al-Qaradawi’s views on the two issues for which he has been criticised are, then, really nothing unusual. The real question is why Ken chooses to talk to al-Qaradawi rather than a scholarly representative of the British Muslim community, most of whom are not Arabs and a fair number of whom, as I have mentioned before in fact, are likely never to have heard of this imam. The Arabs happen to control the “central mosque” at Regent’s Park, and he is a famous scholar who makes appearances on al-Jazeera, but he is the reference point for a small minority of London’s - never mind Britain’s - Muslim community.

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