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The preacher, who was at the centre of a 2004 controversy when he was welcomed to City Hall by Ken Livingstone, has in the past condoned suicide bombings against Israeli citizens. He is also banned from the United States.
But a piece in The Observer last Sunday said the paper “understands that senior civil servants in the Home Office and Foreign Office have recommended that ministers approve an application by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi…to come to London for medical treatment”.
The report provoked concern among politicians and community leaders, particularly coming just two months after Ibrahim Mousawi, the editor of a Hezbollah channel Al-Manar was allowed into the UK.
In a speech on Tuesday, David Cameron insisted: “I’ve said it before and I will say it again. People like al-Qaradawi and Mousawi are dangerous and divisive and should not be allowed in this country. Full stop.”
He added: “It’s clear for reasons of our security that we must expel or refuse entry to those who preach hate, pit one faith against another and divide our society. So I call on the Government to confirm that it will not be giving al-Qaradawi permission to enter this country… …and that it will not repeat the mistake of last December and make clear that Mousawi is not welcome in the UK.” He also used the speech to advocate completely banning groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Hezbollah. Meanwhile, MPs from all three major political parties have signed an early day motion which expresses ‘dismay’ that al-Qaradawi could be allowed entry and calls on the Government to reject the visa application “without delay”.
CST Director of Communications Mark Gardner told the Jewish News yesterday: “Some people in Government Departments risk repeating the mistakes of the 1990s, when they turned a blind eye to British based incitement for suicide bombings overseas in the hope that this would prevent domestic suicide bombings here in Britain. If Qaradawi, and Ibrahim Mousawi are admitted here, then this will have a considerably adverse impact on the Jewish community and others, not least those many moderate British Muslims who oppose international Islamist agendas.”
But a spokesperson for Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said: ““Many of Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s views are repugnant; the job of a truly liberal society is to defeat such abhorrent ideas by arguing forcefully and persuasively against them.
Giving al-Qaradawi the publicity that a ban would create would ultimately serve only to legitimise his views in the eyes of extremists. If he is allowed into this country he is of course subject to our laws; and if he were to break the law in any way – including inciting or glorifying terrorism – he should obviously be prosecuted.”
In November, sources close to communal leaders told the Jewish News that they had been informed that both the Department of Communities and Local Government and the Foreign Office advised against allowing Ibrahim Mousawi, a former Hezbollah spokesperson, into the country to speak at a Stop the War Coalition Rally. This paper now understands that ministers at the highest level in the DCLG had made their opposition to al-Qaradawi’s presence clear.
When pressed about al-Qaradawi’s case during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday, Gordon Brown said: “In 2006, a decision was made not to exclude al-Qaradawi. We are looking at that again. He has applied to come into this country, and a decision will be made in due course. I have to say that it has to go through the proper judicial processes, but he has not been allowed into this country at this stage.”
A Home office spokesman said: “We don’t comment on individual cases. The Home Secretary may decide to exclude or deport an individual who is not a British citizen if the Home secretary considers that persons presence is not conducive to the public good. That power has been used.”
A spokesperson for Livingstone said last night, “Professor Yusuf Al-Qaradawi visited Britain at least five times during Michael Howard’s time as Home Secretary and the current Tory leader never before raised any objections to his visits. Dr Al-Qaradawi made at least 17 visits to Britain under the last Conservative government and, again, no questions were raised by that government.”'Ban him' by Justin Cohen