Row over Islamist cleric's visa
International Director Irfan Al-Alawi on Qaradawi visit to UK
by Jamie Doward
The Observer [London]
January 27, 2008
An Islamist cleric who has defended suicide bombings and the execution of homosexuals is to be allowed to enter the UK, sparking a major row between government departments.
The Observer understands that senior civil servants in the Home Office and Foreign Office have recommended that ministers approve an application by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who is banned from entering the United States, to come to London for medical treatment.
The news has prompted unease in the Department for Communities and Local Government, which fears that allowing Qaradawi in might offend other faith groups as well as many Muslims. Several senior civil servants are also understood to have reservations because Qaradawi, 80, has previously received treatment in France, suggesting that he can receive medical attention for his undisclosed illness elsewhere.
There were calls last night for ministers to reject Qaradawi's application. 'Qaradawi has been banned from the US since 1999,' said Dr Irfan al-Alawi, international director of the Centre for Islamic Pluralism. 'Why should the British government allow him to come here?'
This is not the first time Qaradawi's close relationship with Britain has attracted controversy.
Two years ago the government paid for him and his wife to fly from his home in Qatar to Istanbul for a conference. In 2004 the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, invited Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, to the capital. The move provoked widespread protests from Jewish groups and gay rights organisations.
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said that it could not comment on individual visa applications.
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