Yusuf al-Qaradawi is an Egyptian-born fundamentalist cleric and a prominent leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Ikhwan has been suppressed by the Egyptian establishment for decades, so Sheikh Qaradawi has lived in exile in Qatar for almost fifty years.
Now the Egyptian establishment has collapsed at last, and today Yusuf al-Qaradawi returned triumphantly to Cairo and spoke to a crowd of thousands of cheering supporters in Tahrir Square.
Al-Ahram gave a brief account of his appearance in its live blog this afternoon:
12:19 Yusuf al-Qaradawi gives the Friday sermon from a podium in Tahrir Square to the hundreds of thousands in attendance. He praises the January 25 revolution, describing it as an “educated” one. Al-Qaradawi adds that it was not only Mubarak Egypt’s youths defeated, they also defeated injustice and oppression.
12:33 Al-Qaradawi extols Egyptians to persevere with their revolution as it “continues to build a new Egypt” and should be “protect[ed] from hypocrites.” He condemns the regime for being the source of sectarianism in Egypt while in “here in Tahrir”, Christians and Muslims strove side-by-side for their revolution.
12:40 Al-Qaradawi praises the army’s statements on democratic transition and asks them to liberate Egypt from Mubarak’s cabinet.
12:56 Al-Qaradawi calls on the “brave Egyptian army” to open the Rafah crossing so that Gazans can receive the supplies they need. Turning his attention to arab leaders, he says: “Don’t fight history, you can’t delay the day when it starts. The Arab world has changed.”
Voice of America described the occasion:
Thousands of supporters of Egypt’s democracy movement are gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square Friday for a day of celebration marking one week since President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
A leading Muslim cleric, Yusuf al-Qaradawi called on the Egyptian army to listen to the will of the people and bring fresh faces into Mr. Mubarak’s former cabinet, which still includes many of the former president’s allies.
The cleric also called on the Egyptian people to be patient with their new leadership. The Egyptian army, which has popular support, has assumed control of the government until elections can be held.
Based on this account, the Sheikh would seem to be a mild-mannered sort of fellow, the kind of “moderate” we can work with. No mention of the inflammatory rhetoric he has used in the past — or perhaps VOA is unaware of it.
The News has a bit more:
The influential Sunni scholar Yusuf al Qaradawi addressed the huge crowd during a Friday prayer sermon.
Praising the revolution, he called on Arab leaders to listen to their people.
Qaradawi, an Egyptian-born cleric who has lived in Qatar since the early 1960s, is considered to be a leading intellectual and religious figure, with close links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The group was officially banned under the Mubarak regime, though its activities were largely tolerated.
Next comes a brief mention of an incident that takes some of the shine off the “Cairo Spring”. Like the beating and gang-rape of Lara Logan, we can expect the MSM to discuss this development as little as possible:
In a troubling incident during Friday’s events in Tahrir Square, Google executive Wael Ghonim — who emerged as a leading democratic voice in the Egyptian uprising — was barred from walking onto the stage by security guards.
When Ghonim tried to take the stage, men who appeared to be guarding Qaradawi barred him from doing so. Ghonim left the square with his face hidden by an Egyptian flag.
Have Sheikh Qaradawi and Mohammed El-Baradei met face-to-face yet? I expect the latter to receive a similar treatment at the hands of Egypt’s new hero. Yusuf al-Qaradawi is evidently setting himself as the Khomeini of the Egyptian revolution, and now he has the wind at his back.
The Christian Science Monitor has further details:
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a leading Egyptian Islamic theologian popularized by Al Jazeera, returned to Cairo today to deliver a stirring but overtly political sermon, calling on Egyptians to preserve national unity as they press for democratic progress.
“Don’t let anyone steal this revolution from you — those hypocrites who will put on a new face that suits them,” he said, speaking to at least 200,000 who gathered for Friday prayers in Tahrir Square, the epicenter of Egypt’s uprising. “The revolution isn’t over. It has just started to build Egypt … guard your revolution.”
The massive turnout and Mr. Qaradawi’s warning that the revolution is not complete demonstrate that if the military drags its feet on reform, another uprising could begin. And while his sermon was nonsectarian and broadly political, the turnout was also a reminder that political Islam is likely to play a larger role in Egypt than it has for decades.
And while he praised Egypt’s new military rulers, he warned that they must quickly restore civilian rule.
“The real message here was, ‘Don’t mess with us Egyptians,’” says Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center in Qatar, who joined the crowd at Tahrir today. “It’s a clear message to the military, warning them that people are still willing to come out in massive numbers and it’s going to continue indefinitely if needed.”
“Qaradawi is very much in the mainstream of Egyptian society, he’s in the religious mainstream, he’s not offering something that’s particularly distinctive or radical in the context of Egypt,” says Mr. Hamid. “He’s an Islamist and he’s part of the Brotherhood school of thought, but his appeal goes beyond the Islamist spectrum, and in that sense he’s not just an Islamist figure, he’s an Egyptian figure with a national profile.”
Now we know that Yusuf al-Qaradawi is in the “mainstream”, even though he’s an Islamist. It’s likely that devout Sunnis agree with him on most issues, including his stance on the status of women and the prescribed punishments for adultery, theft, and apostasy.
MEMRI has the most interesting summary of the Sheikh’s speech:
During massive demonstrations at Cairo’s Al-Tahrir Square, where crowds were estimated at one million, Friday prayers were led by International Union of Muslim Scholars head Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi.
Al-Qaradhawi was leading prayers in Egypt for the first time in many years.
In his sermon, he expressed his esteem for Egypt’s young people for their accomplishments in the revolution against “the tyrannical pharaoh” Hosni Mubarak, and said that the revolution belonged to all Egyptians, both Muslim and Christian.
Al-Qaradhawi called on the young people to contribute to the building of the country, to preserve their unity, and to prevent the revolution from being snatched from their hands. He praised the army’s announcement of support for democracy and elections and for the establishment of a committee for changing the constitution.
He asked the army to disband the new government and to free the political prisoners, and promised that the Egyptian military would not be less patriotic than the Tunisian military.
Addressing the Arab leaders, he called for them to listen to the will of the people, because no one can change the wheels of history.
In a special mention of the Palestinian issue, Al-Qaradhawi asked the Egyptian army to open wide the Rafah crossing and to pray for the re-conquest of Jerusalem by the Muslims, so that he and the Muslims could pray in security at Al-Aqsa Mosque. This part of his sermon was cheered and applauded by the crowd. [emphasis added]
To summarize what we know thus far about Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi:
|1.||He’s a mainstream Sunni Muslim.|
|2.||He’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.|
|3.||He’s an “Islamist”.|
|4.||He enjoys widespread popular support.|
|5.||He wants to open the border crossing from Egypt into Gaza.|
|6.||He wants to summon his fellow Muslims to reconquer Jerusalem from the Zionists.|
So tell me again: why should we not be worried about the Muslim Brotherhood taking part in an Egyptian government?
What makes Western leaders think that the above won’t cause them any problems?
Maybe they think it will just cause problems for the Israelis, so it doesn’t really matter.
Remember, this is what the Ikhwan says before it’s in power, before it has its Islamist hands on the levers of state control, before it can command the police or the army.
What do you think the Egyptian situation will look like this time next year? Or in five years’ time?