The Egyptian sheikh with a tainted beard

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

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The Arabic Al-Waseet dictionary defines the term ‘Sheikh’ as someone who has reached an old age, older than middle aged but before reaching senility. Therefore I will describe Youssef al-Qaradawi as sheikh since he is older than 50 years old. However, not everyone who carries this description enjoys a certain immunity or respect.

I hesitated a lot before writing about Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Qatari sheikh who carried Egyptian nationality but took another passport to enter his former country, Egypt. I noticed early on his voracity to avenge and possess. I remember when unknown parties carried him to head the prayers at Tahrir Square on the next Friday after Hosni Mubarak was toppled. It wasn't understood back then how and why did this man come to jump over the heads and shoulders of the masses of protestors and infiltrators.

However, I feel there is some clarity now. After he was revered during the Tahrir protests, he began to visit Egypt more. He made sure to lead wherever he went. He took it upon himself to market the intellect of the organization to which he belongs and he was assigned by parties, which remain unknown until now, to carry out this role. Worth noting, he was responsible for dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood in Qatar and of halting its activity in exchange of promising full support to the group internationally. More on that later. Qaradawi continued to involve himself in al-Azhar, the most important institution in the Islamic world. There were rumors that preparations were underway to achieve his dream of taking over the grand imam's post which was then held by Imam Doctor Ahmad al-Tayeb. After Mohamed Morsi hijacked the presidency, the doors were open for Sheikh Qaradawi.

True Intentions Revealed

Like many others, Qardawi could not handle the Egyptians' awakening and toppling of the Brotherhood from governance and the presidency. Egypt’s revolution shocked him and left him angry and confused and he became incapable of controlling his actions or statements.

Abdel Latif el-Menawy

Qardawi became an unwelcomed guest by the Egyptians who knew what his true intentions with more and more people becoming aware daily. What was painful is how he occupied al-Azhar Mosqe podium. During that phase, no one had the right to object to the country's rulers, the Muslim Brotherhood. However, the Qatari sheikh delivered Friday sermons several times from al-Azhar and called on people to support the Brotherhood and its project which carried the name of Ennahda (The Renaissance) and which the Egyptians saw nothing in other than destruction.

Like many others, Qardawi could not handle the Egyptians' awakening and toppling of the Brotherhood from governance and the presidency. Egypt’s revolution shocked him and left him angry and confused and he became incapable of controlling his actions or statements. This was apparent from his angry rhetoric, insulting to Egyptians and to the country he used to belong to. Even the grand imam, known for his tolerance, was not spared from Qaradawi’s insults.

The imam did not respond to Qardawi and even refused to discuss the idea of expelling Qardawi from the committee of al-Azhar scholars. Qardawi's insults did not spare Ali Jomaa either, Egypt's former mufti. Qaradawi surprised everyone with the criticism he directed towards Jomaa, claiming he was the man behind poisonous fatwas (religious edicts), suspicious orders and politicized rulings. He also caleed Jomaa's ugly in childish and reckless statements.

Qardawi on the offensive

In an article called, "The coup against legitimacy," Qaradawi says "Al-Azhar's turban and its sheikh's beard should not have been contaminated by those whom the past few days revealed they have bad intentions as they seek power at the expanse of the martyrs' blood and the liberals' remains." He also said: "corruption spread in different Egyptian institutions and al-Azhar is the first of institutions where corruption spread." This is only a sample of Qaradawi's continuous violations against al-Azhar. Sources at Al-Azhar Supreme Scholars committee, which Qaradawi is a member of, said that Qardawi's statements published on his website upset many scholars at the committee. Sheikh Mahmoud Ashur, al-Azhar former undersecretary, commented saying "everything that Qardawi says has nothing to do with Islam." He noted that Qaradawi, who is 87 years old, has become irresponsible for what he currently says.”

Al-Azhar refused to officially comment on Qaradawi's statement and said "Al-Azhar and its sheikh are (of a) greater (status) than to respond to such statements." The newest attack from Qaradawi was his shameful attack on the Egyptian army it, stating, “: "The Egyptian army was defeated at three wars in 1948, 1958 and 1976. It only won one war in 1973." Some citizens filed a complaint to the Egyptian attorney general accusing Qaradawi of inciting violence against Egyptian soldiers. Only several days ago, he called on the Egyptian soldiers not to obey the commands of their officers. The sheikh has become a symbol of Islam in the Muslim Brotherhood. He said whoever attacks the Brotherhood is the enemy of Islam. Each day, he loses the respect of others.

This article was first published in al-Jarida on Oct. 19, 2013.


Abdel Latif el-Menawy is an author, columnist and multimedia journalist who has covered conflicts around the world. He is the author of “Tahrir: the last 18 days of Mubarak,” a book he wrote as an eyewitness to events during the 18 days before the stepping down of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Menawy’s most recent public position was head of Egypt’s News Center. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists in the United Kingdom, and the Egyptian Journalists Syndicate. He can be found on Twitter @ALMenawy

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