DOHA: The International Union of Muslim Scholars, headed by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, on Monday criticized France for denying the influential cleric a visa, but said it respects the sovereign decision.
Egyptian-born Qaradawi, 86, has been invited to visit next month by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).
“We are surprised, and we admonish France for refusing to grant Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi a visa. He is a moderate scholar who contributed to combating extremism in Islamic thoughts,” said the union’s secretary general, Sheikh Ali Al-Qaradaghi.
But he told AFP that the Doha-based union “respects the sovereignty of states and their decisions as a principle,” and expressed “hope that Qaradawi would be able to visit France, the country of civilization and democracy.”
President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that the Qatar-based Sunni Muslim cleric was not welcome in France.
“I told the emir of Qatar himself that this gentleman was not welcome in the territory of the French Republic,” Sarkozy told France Info radio.
The cleric is accused of having made anti-Semitic and homophobic statements and was banned from entering Britain in 2008. He has been banned from entering the United States since 1999.
Qaradaghi also said the union condemns the “terrorist” shootings in Toulouse in which three Jewish schoolchildren and a trainee rabbi were killed.
“It is not permissible to kill children, pastors, and priests, even during war time, so what if it was during peace, and in an allied country,” he said.
“We consider France an allied country that had a major role in the Arab Spring, especially in Libya. We expect it to play a similarly strong role to liberate Syria,” he said.