CAIRO: The British government has refused to issue a visa to Egyptian cleric Sheikh Youssef Al-Qaradawi, a spokeswoman for the British Home Office in London told Daily News Egypt.
In a telephone interview, a Home Office spokeswoman reiterated the official statement made early Thursday: ”The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence.”
The statement did not say when the decision was made or why Al-Qaradawi had sought to enter Britain. But the Qatar-based preacher was reportedly seeking medical treatment in the UK.
The refusal has sparked reactions from Muslim and Jewish groups in the UK who condemned and praised the decision respectively.
In a statement on its website the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Mohammad Abdul Bari said that, “Yusuf Al-Qaradawi enjoys unparalleled respect and influence throughout the Muslim world, and added that he was “afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture.
The MCB website’s press release said that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had been under “immense pressure from the pro-Zionist and neo-conservative lobby.spearheaded by the Tory leader [David Cameron], to take its decision.
When contacted by Daily News Egypt, the MCB’s media spokesman declined to elaborate on this statement.
The Community Security Trust, which works to prevent anti-Semitic attacks, welcomed the decision as “brave and correct.
The trust’s director of communications Mark Gardner said that, “There were many different communities that were very unhappy at the idea of Qaradawi returning to Britain.
“His continued support for jihad against British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan is just one example of his dangerous extremism, Gardner added.
Al-Qaradawi, who has his own show on Al-Jazeera entitled “Islamic Law and Life, last visited Britain in 2004 sparking protests from Jewish and homosexual groups, who regard him as anti-Semitic and homophobic.
Al-Qaradawi was widely criticized by Jewish and human rights groups in the same year after an interview on BBC’s Newsnight in which he justified suicide attacks on Israeli civilians saying that, “an Israeli woman is not like women in our societies, because she is a soldier.
At the same time Al-Qaradawi is known for his moderate views on issues such as Sunni-Shia relations, and has called for democracy in the Muslim world.
Spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo Essam El-Erian told Daily News Egypt that Qaradawi is a “moderate Sheikh and that the decision to refuse his visa was “unfair and unjust.
El-Erian believes that the main reason for the refusal was Al-Qaradawi’s outspoken support for Palestinians against “Zionist aggression in the occupied territories .
Jon Wilks, Dubai-based regional Arabic spokesman for the British government, told Daily News Egypt that the only reason this individual case of visa refusal had become a public matter was because it had been the subject of a parliamentary question to the Prime Minister made by an opposition member, referring to David Cameron.