Apparently the "radical Islamic cleric" Yusuf al Qaradawi is in the Sudan right now trying to do something about the crisis in Darfur, yet none of the mainstream Western news sources have picked up on it yet. Abu Aardvark has an insightful post discussing this and the smear campaign being waged against Qaradawi. Concurring with the Aardvark, there are many things about Qaradawi that I really do not agree with, and I also find it quite unusual that I am now defending him. However I also disagree with the way in which the Western press has demonized Qaradawi. Says the Aardvark:
Qaradawi - along with his main platform, al Jazeera - has been the target of a concerted campaign of defamation which has established a conventional wisdom which just isn't true. When Swift Boat liars appear in the US, we all (or at least, most of us) understand the smear for what it is; when a smear happens in Arab politics, a lot of people think that someone like Abd al Rahman al Rashed or Mamoun Fandy is some kind of neutral truth teller rather than an active participant in the political operation. There's a million blogs to fact-check the Swift Boat Liars, but not many to correct the record on al Qaradawi or al Jazeera. So criticize Qaradawi for his views, by all means - lord knows there's plenty to criticize - but just try to recognize the political hatchet jobs for what they are....
I can’t agree there’s a smear campaign against Qaradawi – that would suggest that people are lying about what he’s saying, smearing him with untruths. Instead people object to what he’s actually said and done, and rightly so.
The fact that that this reactionary Islamist gets several hours a week to broadcast on Al Jazeera says much about its agenda. The rest you need to know about the station is that yesterday they showed no footage of the horrifying video of Islamists holding the Russian children hostage in the gym. How did they miss the story or perhaps its getting squeamish?
Scorpio, okay maybe "smear" is the wrong word. They aren't actually telling untruths about him (well, Qaradawi is now denying reports that he said American civilians can be targets). But only one side of his story is being told. No one seems to care about the positive things he has to say, which have to do with reform, political freedoms, etc, etc. The problem is that sometime omissions turn into untruths. If one side of Qaradawi is not portrayed, I think it almost amounts to a smear.
The reason why this is significant is because he has a huge following throughout the Muslim world, and we can't just ignore the parts we don't want to believe. I dislike Qaradawi as much as you do, but that doesn't portray him as something he isn't.
It's been raining here, and that always makes me grumpy even though I love the rain. "Maybe" I was too harsh with my previous comments, but there are several things about this post that strike me odd. First is of course that the crisis in the Sudan has been going on for 19 months, so I naturally have to be suspect when Qaradawi shows up a month before the second UN deadline for the government. Think of the people he might have saved if he sincerely was concerned sooner. So is it concern for the Sudanese, or is it concern the evil empire will step in via the UN to wage a war on Islam of course.
Second is that this has to be a smear campaign against him vs what it really is which is saying the guy says some really crazy things. He should be called on those things, and he should be consistent with his views as well, and then maybe the world could stop wondering what is going on with muslims.
Third thing that struck me was why the hell do people listen to clerics. I know morally bankrupt governments and cultural/religious thing. We have a couple of nuts making political statements in America, but by and large the west doesn't need to rely on clerics to tell them how to live their daily lives and whom they should or shouldn't kill today. Didn't they bring you guys up right that you don't need them for daily instructions? I don't get that part.
Lastly, I am glad you wrote this post and are thinking about things; and that you see the good and the bad about this guy, because I would expect no less of you. If the message is mixed, maybe it's not real; just a thought.
Thanks Chanad for the reply. Qaradawi gets himself into this position because he has one message in English another in Arabic – and it’s a function of this double talk that people naturally react by raising questions about the obvious contradictions.
How is it possible to trust what he says which can be construed as positive when he’s saying exactly the opposite to someone else? Who knows when he’s being sincere, or even whether he himself understands what he is saying?
Most of these “moderate” Islamists are pretty calculating, and even if Qaradawi isn’t this doesn’t make him any less dangerous – for example his role in Algeria. The moribund FLN regime invited him in the 80s because they thought they could use him to give them new legitimacy. Instead the guy paid lip service to Algiers before leading the radicalisation of the populace that would eventually engulf the country in a brutal civil war.
Now he’s in Darfur, with that other newly moderate Islamist Hassan Turabi – the mass murderer turned democratic dissident.
Scorpio and Anon, thanks alot for your comments. I wish I had the time to answer each of the points that you have both raised. But I'll just try and reiterate the main intention behind this post. I am totally in agreement with you with regards to your criticisms of Qaradawi. We must be critical of him (and everyone) when he says something that doesn't sound right.
My real problem is that the media is only presenting one side of what he says, and is making the world believe that he has only that one side. Sure, you can call him disingenious for having a mixed message. But people need to be aware that he has a mixed message in order for them to come to that conclusion.
M, Sorry about that. I realized just as I clicked the "Submit" button how confusing that last sentence was. So let me make an attempt at unravelling it. Here goes.
My claim was that only one side of what Qaradawi says gets reported in the media. He has also issued statements about political reform and freedom of the press, etc. A commenter suggested earlier that if his message is mixed maybe he isn't being genuine. My response is that criticizing him for having a mixed message is fine, but that is not what is taking place. Only half of what he has to say is reported, whereas as the rest is completely omitted.
Okay, I'm not sure that cleared thing up or confused you even more, let me know :)
On another note, here is a link to Qaradawi's denial of the "kill American civilians" fatwa that was reported earlier. Believe whatever you want.