Livingstone: Al-Qaradawi is a “leading progressive voice” in Muslim world

Former London Mayor Ken Livingstone has described Islamist extremist Yusuf al-Qaradawi as “one of the leading progressive voices in the Muslim world”.

Embrace with an extremist: Ken Livingstone once again prasied Islamist bigot Yusuf al-Qaradawi

Should a man who supports wife-beating, FGM, and either lashing or killing homosexuals, really be considered a “progressive”?

In an interview with Ahmed Versi of The Muslim News, Labour Mayoral candidate and former London mayor, Ken Livingstone, appeared to suggest that he should.

AJV: “During your tenor [sic], you were criticised for your support for Sheikh Qaradawi. Are you going to change your policy?”

KL: “I think the fact that Sheikh Qaradawi has been banned is a disgrace; he is one of the leading progressive voices in the Muslim world. If you look at Sunnis, there are two strands. You have the Wahhabis supported by the Saudis and there are much more tolerant people like Qaradawi…

“When I met this man, [I found him that] he’s a progressive, humble person who is looking at how Islam can engage with the rest of the world and we should support him.”

Yusuf al-Qaradawi is often described as the ‘spiritual leader’ of the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s largest Islamist organisation. In 2004 he turned down an offer to lead the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood and has instead pursued a career in televangelism and as an advisor on Islamic banking. As the interviewer mentions, al-Qaradawi is also banned from entering the UK (and, since 1999, the USA).

Among al-Qaradawi’s many publications is a book which seeks to give guidance to Muslims living today about how they should live their lives. It is called ‘The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam’ (pdf). On page 76 he refers to homosexuality as a “perverted act” and “depraved practice”. He then discusses potential punishments for homosexuals:

The jurists of Islam have held differing opinions concerning the punishment for this abominable practice. Should it be the same as the punishment for fornication [i.e. lashing], or should both the active and passive participants be put to death? While such punishments may seem cruel, they have been suggested to maintain the purity of the Islamic society and to keep it clean of perverted elements.”

On page 90, al-Qaradawi goes on to state that, if a husband “senses that feelings of disobedience and rebelliousness are rising against him in his wife” and he cannot address these through reasoning with her or sleeping apart from her, then “it is permissible for him to beat her lightly with his hands”.

Al-Qaradawi has also issued a fatwa (religious opinion) arguing that “circumcision is better for a woman’s health and it enhances her conjugal relation with her husband” and that, while it is “not obligatory”, “whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world”.

Are such views really “progressive”?

Mr Livingstone presents his audience with a false dichotomy. The alternative to Saudi-style fringe figures who demand that the world is flat and that women must not drive cars, work with men, or reveal their faces in public, is not necessarily al-Qaradawi.

What about other Muslims around the world who, although they may still consider homosexuality to be a sin, do not want homosexuals to be punished in this world? And those who oppose FGM and wife-beating? Are they not the real “progressives”?

The danger is that, if leading figures like Ken Livingstone continue to claim that Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a ‘moderate’, they will feed the EDL/BNP narrative that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. For many British people, particularly those living outside the larger cities, their only knowledge of Muslims and Islam comes from the media. If they see a Muslim figure who supports FGM, punishing homosexuality and wife-beating being lauded as a “progressive”, then some may well ask ‘How regressive are the views of other Muslims?’.

Whatever one thinks of the previous Labour government’s decision to ban al-Qaradawi from the country, there are clearly reasons to be concerned about his views. Against a background of increasing anti-Muslim bigotry in this country, Ken Livingstone may think that his defence of al-Qaradawi is a defence of all Muslims. In reality, he runs the risk of making the situation worse.

  • Matthew

    This is what Ken is all about and one of the many reasons I voted for Oona instead.

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  • hmmm

    Ken’s hopes of winning in 2012 are dead if he continues supporting this guy.

    His defence of bigots like al-Qaradawi brings shame on the Labour party. I couldn’t agree more with this article.

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  • Cait

    The trouble is, from Ken’s kneejerk position, al-Qaradawi very probably *is* moderate compared to some of the extreme voices in control in the middle east region. What we don’t know is whether Ken modifies his position by stating ihs profund objection to al-Qaradawi’s views on women, marriage, homosexuality etc – could they have been edited from the interview? It is imperative if you’re saying somethign that you know will be contentious to make your position entirely clear.

    Sadly, I think it *is* entirely clear, and he *didn’t* voice his dissent, etc. The press will always pick up on this massive chink in Ken’s armour but for Chrissakes, he brings it on himself, the blinkered idealogue.

    I’ve never liked him. He was an amazing Mayor, did brilliant things for London but on top of this unarguably awful position, he seems to have set himself up deliberately as a strong oppositional figure against the coalition. I think he does think this is the eighties, and he can turn the Assembly in to the GLC. Wrong. WRONG.

    I agree, it should be oona, but she’s so mild a presence compared to Boris, I hope she can pull it together or we’ll be stuck with that dithering, lying twerp for another term.

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  • Ash

    Horrors! You’re not suggesting that we should push widely respected religious leaders ‘out of the progressive club’ just because they have vile and illiberal views on a range of fundamental human rights issues?

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  • Mr. Sensible

    Fully agree, George.

    Ken won’t do himself any favours by saying that.

    He’s done a lot of good things, but this kind of comment won’t help.

    This guy certainly is not progressive!

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  • MalcolmP

    Blimey, I thought I’d accidently opened a link to the Evening Standard by mistake. Unlike most politicians Ken Livingstone has never attempted to covet the popular press or felt obliged to follow popular opinion where he sees that opinion being manipulated. Context is all and in the context of Muslims in general, Qaradawi may not be considered progressive – I don’t know, I’m not a Muslim. In the context of important Muslim leaders Qaradawi is a progressive. In the context of a general audience, he is clearly not a moderate, in the context of the address Ken was making to 250 European Muslim delegates, he can be described as a moderate. One should also be very clear to distinguish between Ken’s “support” for Qaradawi and his “agreement with” Qaradawi. Watch this video just before the 5 minute mark and you can hear for yourself what Livingstone has to say on female genital mutilation Ken’s views on Lesbian and gay issues are well known, but read for yourself what the lesbian and gay coalition against racisim say about him – and perhaps consider some of the material here and that there is a bigger picture to all this.

  • PietroB

    “supports FGM, punishing homosexuality and wife-beating”?

    And what about his fatwa approving suicide bombing? Or the justification of Hitler’s extermination of the Jews? Why don’t you mention it?

  • Anon E Mouse

    MalcomP – I’m not a Muslim either but I know right from wrong when I see it and I never ever ever make excuses for it. Never.

    Ken Livingston is a disgrace and the sooner the left stops pandering to the views of these types of Muslims the better.

    When the pope was here last week I heard typical champagne socialists like Geoffrey Robertson and Polly Toynbee going through the anti Christian drivel yet failing to condemn the actions of people like this man.

    When was the last time anyone criticised Muhammad or Allah?

    If we are all “Children of Abraham”, as this nutter Ken Livingston supports claims, then the left should be up in arms about his support for this man and try and go back to the days when Labour used to be liberal with a small ‘L’.

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  • LiberalCommunist

    I agree with Ken about many things, and hope he re-takes the London Mayoralty, but it seems he can’t help reverting to a rather old leftist/anti-imperialist dogma, here.

    It goes like this: a group of people (in this case Muslims) are violently oppressed by the West; progressive anti-imperialists in the West should show solidarity with those opposing imperialism (so far, so good); this solidarity extends not being too (or at all) critical of the more reactionary and unenlightened views and policies of said opponents of imperialism, even when these views and policies are in direct conflict with your own progressive value system. Substitute “Muslim world” for “Cuban Revolution” and the same (un)principles apply.

    Great shame, really, as it should be well within the moral and intellectual capacity of the Left to develop more subtle and nuanced positions on such matters. Solidarity, anti-imperialism, and robust criticism ought not to be mutually exclusive.

  • Andy Newman

    A reply to Readings, in defence of Qaradawi here:

  • Ben

    This is a brilliant piece. Shame that George will now receive an outpouring of vile invective accusing him of racism and “Islamophobia” from Ken’s allies on the far left who have no loyalty to or sympathy with the Labour Party.

    Ken did many good things as mayor, but his inability to stray from the “anti-imperialist” rhetoric on these sorts of issues brings our party into profound disrepute, not least with ordinary liberal and left Muslims who are the first target of the reactionary clerics. It is a profound shame that Labour could not come up with a genuine social democrat/socialist to contest the mayoralty and we are stuck with Ken’s shallow and ersatz version thereof.

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  • Imnokuffar

    “Should a man who supports wife-beating, FGM, and either lashing or killing homosexuals, really be considered a “progressive”?

    By Muslim standards this vile creature is only repeating what is promulgated in the Koran, the Suras and the Hadiths. These are core values for Muslims so there is nothing substantively wrong in him making these statements alongside those concerning Israel and his rampant anti-semitism. That Livingstone is an anti-semite now comes as a shock to you lefties who having supported him for years are now wiping your hands of this creepy git. And fiegning outrage. It is you and your kind who promoted the “inclusiveness” of the Multicult/PC society that has allowed the cult of Allah to permeate our society to the extent that it now poses a significant threat to Democracy and society.

    Socialist like totalitarianism, it suits thier mindset.

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  • Mi GG

    Livingstone like many other leftists got crazy a long time ago. It is painful that such people still maintain a huge influence in the public sphere.

  • Mi GG