Americans Should Beware Of the Sheik of Al-Jazeera
The New York Sun - 22 November 2006
By Steve Stalinsky
"O God, destroy the Zionist, the American, and the British aggressors. O God, shake the ground under them." - Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, Umar Bin-al-Khattab mosque, Doha, Qatar, March 7, 2003
As the new Al-Jazeera English network strives to separate itself from its mother channel, its American employees should denounce their co-worker Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi and his statements against their country.
Sheik Qaradhawi is considered Al-Jazeera's religious authority. He has hosted one of the network's most popular shows since its early days, "Al-Shar'ia wa Al-Haya," or "Islamic Law and Life." The program airs every Sunday at 9:05 a.m. Mecca time, and for 90 minutes focuses on modern life from an Islamic perspective.
Bootleg videos of old episodes of Sheik Qaradhawi's show are sold throughout the Muslim world. As Hugh Miles wrote in his seminal book "Al-Jazeera," "Throughout the internet and his Al-Jazeera TV slot, the Sheik influences hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world."
Sheik Qaradhawi wears many other hats. He established the department of Islamic research at the University of Qatar and is the founder and head of the European Council on Fatwa and Research, as well as serving as a top spiritual leader for many Sunni Muslims.
The sheik is also influential in Europe and America, which he has been barred from entering since 1999. While his European Council on Fatwa and Research has its headquarters in Ireland, last year E.U. Parliament members wrote a letter calling for him to be banned from Europe. In the letter, two British lawmakers, Dr. Charles Tannock and Nirj Deva, wrote: "We cannot accept him into our midst and provide legitimacy for those who incite terrorist violence in some places simply because they denounce other types of violence targeting Western cities."
In response, Sheik Qaradhawi and his supporters have tried to create an image of him as a moderate leader and a victim of a Zionist-American conspiracy. "In the last few months, a war was launched against yours truly. It is a ruthless media war, spanning most of the world in the East and the West. … This war was waged by global Zionism and its strategic partner, America," Sheik Qaradhawi said in a Friday sermon on January 7, 2005. "They recruited the soldiers and used mercenary writers and the reprehensible TV channels to attack me. They unleashed rabid dogs here and there to bite me with their fangs and bark at me with their voices. … I have become the no. 1 inciter for terrorism in the world. … I have become a preacher of violence."
In an interview with the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Hayat on February 19, 2005, Sheik Qaradhawi even said America or the Mossad could assassinate him, and that he wanted to die as a martyr.
The sheik became the focus of criticism within the Muslim world early this year after the controversy surrounding the Danish publication of cartoons of Islam's Prophet Muhammad, when he told his followers through Al-Jazeera: "The nation must rage in anger. … We are not jackasses for riding, but lions that roar."
During the last week of September, Sheik Qaradhawi gave a Friday sermon in response to the pope's statements on Islam, which aired on Al-Jazeera. The sheik is shown standing besides a poster in Arabic that reads,"Down with Christian Zionism. "The poster also shows President Bush walking an animal that looks like a combination of a pig and a dog, which is shown barking the word "baba," which means "pope" in Arabic.
Sheik Qaradhawi's venomous hatred of the West and anti-Americanism takes many forms, including calls to attack America, boycott American products, and even kill Americans in Iraq.
Just another reason why Al-Jazeera has a bad reputation.
Mr. Stalinsky is the executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute.