Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leader, returns to Cairo

Vince Coglianese Editorial Director
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Yusuf al-Qaradawi, widely considered the preeminent Muslim Brotherhood theologian, returned to Cairo today to call on Egyptians to “guard your revolution,” according to The Christian Science Monitor.

“Don’t let anyone steal this revolution from you – those hypocrites who will put on a new face that suits them,” Qaradawi warned in his first public speech since 1981.

The CSM explains:

The massive turnout and Mr. Qaradawi’s warning that the revolution is not complete demonstrate that if the military drags its feet on reform, another uprising could begin. And while his sermon was nonsectarian and broadly political, the turnout was also a reminder that political Islam is likely to play a larger role in Egypt than it has for decades.

Qaradawi is said to have broad appeal in Egypt, and his national profile has the potential to drive the role of Islam in the newly formed government:

“Qaradawi is very much in the mainstream of Egyptian society, he’s in the religious mainstream, he’s not offering something that’s particularly distinctive or radical in the context of Egypt,” says [Shadi Hamid, research director at the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center in Qatar]. “He’s an Islamist and he’s part of the Brotherhood school of thought, but his appeal goes beyond the Islamist spectrum, and in that sense he’s not just an Islamist figure, he’s an Egyptian figure with a national profile.”

Qaradawi’s ties to the Muslim Brotherhood run deep.

Al Jazeera reported in 2004 that the theologian had even been offered the leadership position of the Brotherhood that year. Abu al-Futuh, a Brotherhood spokesman, confirmed the offer with praise for Qaradawi. “Sheikh al-Qaradawi is an influential scholar and one of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual leaders in the world. Any Muslim Brother would be honoured to have him as supreme guide…”

While Qaradawi refused the post for “health reasons”, he praised the “Muslim Brotherhood under whose umbrella I grew and which I so defended.”

His views on the role of Islam are often considered controversial or extremist, and his religious commitment to violence against Israel is well documented.

In a statement on January 30, 2009, Qaradawi praised the Holocaust, saying that, “throughout history, Allah has imposed upon the [Jews] people who would punish them for their corruption. The last punishment was carried out by [Adolf] Hitler… Allah willing, the next time will be at the hand of the believers.”

Qaradawi has been banned from both the United States and the United Kingdom after supporting violence against the West, saying “those killed fighting the American forces are martyrs given their good intentions since they consider these invading troops an enemy within their territories but without their will.”

“The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence,” explained a spokeswoman for the UK’s Home Office.

For gatherers in Tahrir Square, Qaradawi’s latest speech seemed to resonate Friday, according to the CSM:

After his speech, he read from the Quran, his voice cracking as he reached a verse on the fate of tyrants. Then the thousands settled into prayer amid a pin-drop silence before breaking out into shouts of ‘no to Hosni, no to his regime, no to his supporters.