Yusuf al-Qaradawi's Ties to Extremists

Yusuf al-Qaradawi was a Qatar-based Islamist theologian and the unofficial chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood.“Al-Qaradawi turns down top Brotherhood post,” Al Jazeera, January 12, 2004, http://www.aljazeera.com/archive/2004/01/2008410145045889729.html. Qaradawi died on September 26, 2022, at the age of 96.“Influential cleric Qaradawi, supporter of Arab Spring uprisings, dies,” Reuters, September 26, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/influential-muslim-cleric-qaradawi-dies-twitter-2022-09-26/. Qaradawi’s death ended a long and influential career, during which he called for the murder of Americans, gay people, and Jews through his writings, speeches, and fatwas.Melanie Phillips, The World Turned Upside Down, (New York: Encounter Books, 2010), 214; “Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Homosexuals Should Be Punished Like Fornicators But Their Harm Is Less When Not Done in Public,” MEMRI, June 5, 2006, http://www.memri.org/clip_transcript/en/1170.htm. Qaradawi served as the chairman of numerous Islamic organizations and operated on a variety of media platforms, including a televised broadcast on Al Jazeera, which reached approximately 60 million viewers.Alexander Smoltczyk, “Islam's Spiritual 'Dear Abby': The Voice of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood,” Spiegel, February 15, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islam-s-spiritual-dear-abby-the-voice-of-egypt-s-muslim-brotherhood-a-745526.html. He was a co-founder of the popular Islamic website IslamOnline.net, which features a larger number of his fatwas.“Yusuf al-Qaradawi,” Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs, accessed May 6, 2016, http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/people/yusuf-al-qaradawi. Qaradawi wrote more than 120 books,Alexander Smoltczyk, “Islam's Spiritual 'Dear Abby': The Voice of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood,” Spiegel Online, February 15, 2011, http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islam-s-spiritual-dear-abby-the-voice-of-egypt-s-muslim-brotherhood-a-745526.html. some of which are included in the Muslim Brotherhood’s educational curriculum.“Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi: Theologian of Terror,” Anti-Defamation League, March 15, 2011, http://archive.adl.org/nr/exeres/788c5421-70e3-4e4d-bff4-9be14e4a2e58,db7611a2-02cd-43af-8147-649e26813571,frameless.html.

As head of the Ireland-based European Council for Fatwas and Research (ECFR) and, until November 2018, president of the International Union of Islamic Scholars (IUMS), Qaradawi used his influence to promote extreme positions justifying violent terrorism. Qaradawi has defended suicide bombings as “the supreme form of Jihad … that is allowed by the Shari’a” and “heroic operations of martyrdom.”“Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi in London to Establish ‘The International Council of Muslim Clerics,’” MEMRI, July 8, 2004, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1168.htm#_edn2. He has called for the murder of U.S. citizens in Iraq“Reactions to Sheikh Qaradhawi’s Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq,” MEMRI, October 6, 2004, http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/1231.htm. and for Muslims around the world to travel to Syria to take up arms in defense of Bashar al-Assad. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain added the IUMS to its collective terrorism list in February 2017 for the group’s “work to promote terrorism through the exploitation of Islamic discourse, which they use as cover to carry out various terrorist activities.”“Saudi-led bloc blacklist scholars' union, individuals as terrorists in Qatar boycott,” Daily Sabah (Istanbul), November 23, 2017, https://www.dailysabah.com/mideast/2017/11/23/saudi-led-bloc-blacklist-scholars-union-individuals-as-terrorists-in-qatar-boycott. According to his website, Qaradawi “called on all those able to undertake jihad and fighting to head to Syria to stand by the Syrian people who are being killed at the hands of the regime and are now being killed at the hands of what he called the party of Satan.”Sami Aboudi, “Leading Sunni Muslim cleric calls for "jihad" in Syria,” Reuters, June 1, 2013, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-syria-crisis-qaradawi/leading-sunni-muslim-cleric-calls-for-jihad-in-syria-idUSBRE9500CQ20130601.

As a result of his public persona, Qaradawi was tied to violent extremists and propagandists around the world. Matthew Levitt of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy called Qaradawi “one of the most public figureheads of the radical wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.”Sudarsan Raghavan and Joby Warrick, “How a 91-year-old imam came to symbolize the feud between Qatar and its neighbors,” Washington Post, June 27, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/how-a-91-year-old-imam-came-to-symbolize-feud-between-qatar-and-its-neighbors/2017/06/26/601d41b4-5157-11e7-91eb-9611861a988f_story.html?utm_term=.73afe65fad22. Qaradawi was directly linked to the Muslim Brotherhood’s leadership, including former acting Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat and political leaders Mahmoud Ghozlan and Muhammad al-Beltagy—all of whom have been charged with encouraging violent protests against the Egyptian government. He has also supported the Brotherhood’s former Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, who was sentenced to life in prison for killing protesters. Qaradawi was also the chair of the U.S.-designated charity Union of Good, accused of funneling money to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Palestinian offshoot, Hamas. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh is a member of Qaradawi’s International Union of Islamic Scholars, and Qaradawi previously called for “jihad until death” against Israel during meetings with Haniyeh.Andrew Gilligan, “How the Muslim Brotherhood fits into a network of extremism,” Telegraph (London), February 8, 2015, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/11398538/How-the-Muslim-Brotherhood-fits-into-a-network-of-extremism.html;
“Treasury Designates the Union of Good,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, November 12, 2008, https://www.treasury.gov/press-center/press-releases/Pages/hp1267.aspx;
“Hamas Leader Haniyah Joins Emerging Network of Islamists,” Access ADL, February 10, 2012, http://accessadl.blogspot.com/2012/02/hamas-leader-haniyah-joins-emerging.html;
Nidal al-Mughrabi, “Influential Muslim cleric visits Hamas-controlled Gaza,” Reuters, May 9, 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/05/08/us-palestinians-gaza-cleric-idUSBRE94714Y20130508.

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Key Points

CEP has documented 15 extremist individuals and organizations with ties to Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Qaradawi-led organizations provided ideological and material support to terrorist groups. The U.S. government designated the Qaradawi-chaired Union of Good charity in 2008 for providing financial support to Hamas. Until November 2018, Qaradawi served as president of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, which Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain designated a terrorist organization in February 2017 for the group’s “work to promote terrorism through the exploitation of Islamic discourse....”

As the unofficial chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, Qaradawi supported violent Brotherhood leaders such as Mohammed Morsi, who was serving a life sentence in Egypt for killing protesters prior to his own death, and former acting Supreme Guide Mahmoud Ezzat, who is in Egyptian custody for instigating violent protests in Egypt.

Qaradawi previously declared that the “abduction and killing of Americans in Iraq is a [religious] obligation” and defended suicide bombings as “heroic operations of martyrdom.” Qaradawi has also called for Muslims around the world to become foreign fighters in Syria and supported “jihad until death” against Israel.

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On September 30, 2017, there was a small explosion at Myanmar’s embassy in Cairo, Egypt, though there were no casualties. Hasm later claimed responsibility for the attack, the militant group’s first on a civilian target, saying it was a warning in response to the Myanmar’s military crackdown on Rohingya Muslims. 

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