Monday, February 21, 2011

Something Missing

The following New York Times profile by David D Kirkpatrick, which I've extracted from a longer report, references an important speech given by the famous Egyptian Muslim preacher, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, in Cairo's Tahrir Square last Friday. In it, Qaradawi gave passionate voice to the demands of the Egyptian people for a free and open society, but, it seems, had zip to say about a certain foreign policy matter that has preoccupied his country for the past 63 years:

"Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an influential Sunni cleric who is banned from the United States and Britain for supporting violence against Israel and American forces in Iraq, delivered his first public sermon here in 50 years on Friday, emerging as a powerful voice in the struggle to shape what kind of Egyptian state emerges from the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak... Sheik Qaradawi, a popular television cleric whose program reaches an audience of tens of millions worldwide, addressed a rapt audience of more than a million Egyptians gathered in Tahrir Square to celebrate the uprising and honor those who died. 'Don't fight history', he urged his listeners in Egypt and across the Arab world, where his remarks were televised. 'You can't delay the day when it starts. The Arab world has changed'. He spoke as the authorities in Libya, Bahrain and Yemen were waging violent crackdowns on uprisings inspired in part by the Egyptian revolution. The sermon was the first public address here by Sheik Qaradawi, 84, since he fled Egypt for Qatar in 1961. An intellectual inspiration to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Sheik Qaradawi was jailed in Egypt 3 times for his ties to the group and spent most of his life abroad. His prominence exemplifies the peril and potential for the West as Egypt opens up. While he condemned the 9/11 attacks, he has supported suicide bombers against Israel and attacks on American forces in Iraq. On Friday, he struck themes of democracy and pluralism, long hallmarks of his writing and preaching. He began his sermon by saying that he was discarding the customary opening 'Oh Muslims', in favor of 'Oh Muslims and Copts', referring to Egypt's Coptic Christian minority. He praised Muslims and Christians for standing together in Egypt's revolution and even lauded the Coptic Christian 'martyrs' who once fought the Romans and Byzantines. 'I invite you to bow down in prayer together', he said. He urged the military officers governing Egypt to deliver on their promises of turning over power to 'a civil government' founded on principles of pluralism, democracy and freedom. And he called on the army to immediately release all political prisoners and rid the cabinet of its dominance by officials of the old Mubarak government... Scholars who have studied his work say Sheik Qaradawi has long argued that Islamic law supports the idea of a pluralistic, multiparty, civil democracy. But he has made exceptions for violence against Israel or the American forces in Iraq. 'You call it violence; I call it resistance', said Prof. Emad Shahin of the University of Notre Dame, an Egyptian scholar who has studied Sheik Qaradawi's work and was in Tahrir Square for his speech Friday. 'He is enormously influential', Mr Shahin added. 'His presence in the square today cemented the resolve of the demonstrators to insist on their demands from the government'." (After long exile, Sunni cleric takes role in Egypt, 18/2/11)

See what I mean? Nothing on Palestine/Israel at all. Not, mind you, that Qaradawi didn't have anything to say about that hot little chestnut. It's just that, for reasons best known to the NYT, it neglected to report it - a most extraordinary sin of omission.

Well, what was it that the readers of the NYT had to be shielded from?

Here is my translation of the relevant references from the precis, Qaradawi to Egypt's army: release the detainees and change the government, at 1) "Sheikh Qaradawi demanded that the army open the Rafah crossing to the besieged Palestinian people, who 'expect justice from the heroic army of Egypt'"; 2) "Sheikh Qaradawi expressed the hope that he would be able to pray and sermonise in the Aqsa Mosque in occupied Jerusalem, following its liberation, and asked God to effect this clear victory for Muslims."

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