Qatar-backed International Union of Muslim Scholars: A history of extremism
Qatar-backed International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) has a history of extremist stances. The most recent being their response condemning the US Middle East peace plan and its calls for the Muslim world to “use all means” against it.
As soon as the plan was announced by US President Donald Trump, the IUMS issued a statement and called on “all the free people of the world to oppose this eradication war by all means possible.”
On its website, the IUMS also published an excerpt from its founder, controversial hardline cleric Youssef al-Qaradawi, who once wrote that it was every Muslim’s duty to “wage jihad and sacrifice their souls in defense of Jerusalem.”
This is not the first time the IUMS, which is financially backed by Qatar, has prompted backlash over its stances. Most recently, it opposed an historic high-level visit by the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL) to the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. IUMS President Ahmed al-Raissouni wrote that “it is a right and an obligation to question the Holocaust.”
Last April, the IUMS urged Muslim preachers across the world to focus their weekly Friday sermons on calling for armed jihad against Israel.
IUMS civil beginnings, political present
When the union was established in 2004, its founding president Youssef al-Qaradawi stated its goals would be civil rather than political. Over the years, however, the body has grown political in nature, as evidenced by its statements following the coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2015.
“Noble President Erdogan, go your righteous way and build Turkey as you wish, as we wish, lead the people toward the truth, call them to wisdom, help the oppressed and support the downtrodden and we will be with you,” the union statement at the time.
According to several international organizations, Turkey is among the top countries accused of systematically failing to investigate allegations of torture in police custody following the coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016. To date, no IUMS statement has been released on those still languishing in Turkish jails.
Raissouni also courted controversy over an article posted on his personal website in 2015, in which he wrote that ISIS was a product of the West.
“The war against ISIS is first and foremost an American-Western product, and then an Iranian-sectarian [Shiite] product – while the Arab and Muslim peoples have nothing to do with it. They have nothing to do with making decisions or planning it, or with commanding [it]. They have no interest in it [at all],” Raissouni wrote.
Youssef al-Qaradawi’s violent rhetoric
IUMS founder Qaradawi, a Doha-based, Egyptian-born cleric, is banned from entry in several countries, including France and the UK since 2012, after he advocated for suicide bomb attacks against Israelis. He is also considered to be the spiritual leader of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.
The former head of the IUMS has not only been banned by government, but the tech industry as well. Google removed an app with an introduction written by Qaradawi for containing anti-Semitic rhetoric. The app, called Euro Fatwa App, was launched by the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) in Dublin for the purpose of guiding “European Muslims to adhere to the regulations and manners of Islam.”
Over the years, Qaradawi issued numerous fatwas (religious edicts) that have been considered extreme and violent, even by extremist group al-Qaeda’s radical standards.
One of these fatwas came three years ago during Qaradawi’s show on Qatar-owned and Doha-based Al Jazeera channel when a viewer asked him about Syrian civilians in areas under regime control and whether it was permissible to kill them knowing that many of them would be supporters of Bashar al-Assad's government.
Qaradawi replied that anyone who did not oppose al-Assad should be killed.
“We are not looking for intentions. Anyone who did not go out on Bashar al-Assad and remained under his authority must be fought and killed, whether civilian or military,” Qaradawi replied at the time.