In recent weeks, officials in the Gulf have lashed out at Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) and a prominent spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB), for fatwas he issued in the past permitting suicide operations. The accusations came on the wake of the July 4, 2016 suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia. The first to voice the accusations was UAE Foreign Minister 'Abdallah bin Zayed, who, in two tweets, blamed Al-Qaradawi for suicide attacks and called to hold him to account for his role in encouraging them. Responding to this on his own Twitter account, Al-Qaradawi called bin Zayed a "devil" but refrained from addressing the accusations themselves. It should be noted that after Twitter twice removed Al-Qaradawi's response he reposted it on his Facebook page. 
Bin Zayed's comments were echoed by two other Gulf officials: Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Aal Khalifa and UAE State Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr. Mohammed Gargash. Several articles in the Gulf press joined the attack on Al-Qaradawi, calling him "the Mufti of Suicide" and "the Sheikh of Fitna," and some Egyptian papers known from their anti-MB position also published articles against him.
The accusations against Al-Qaradawi sparked a heated debate on social media. As evidence for their validity, users pointed to a video from 2012 in which the sheikh justified suicide operations in Syria. Asked whether it was permissible to carry out a martyrdom operation against regime loyalists even if civilians may be harmed as a result, Al-Qaradawi said that this was allowed as long as the group (that carried out the attack) deemed it necessary.
This is not the first time that various Arab media, especially those opposing the MB, have blamed this movement - and Al-Qaradawi as one of its prominent ideologues - for ISIS's violence in the Arab world. In fact, Egypt and some other Arab countries have designated the MB a terrorist organization. However, this is the first time official Gulf elements have fingered Al-Qaradawi as responsible for ISIS's terrorism and for suicide operations. This may stem from their desire to rebuff Western claims that the source of Sunni extremism is the Wahhabi stream, dominant in Saudi Arabia, and shift the blame to the MB, which is regarded by many in the West as a more moderate Islamic movement.
It should be noted that even prior to 2012 Al-Qaradawi sanctioned suicide operations, especially in Palestine. In 2001 he responded to a fatwa by then-Saudi mufti 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin 'Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh that forbade suicide operations even against an army occupying Muslim land. Al-Qaradawi stated in reply to this fatwa that operations by Muslim suicide bombers were a legitimate form of resistance, "heroic acts of martyrdom and sacrifice," and one of the noblest kinds of jihad for the sake of Allah. He clarified: "These operations are the furthest [thing] from suicide and the ones who carry them out are not suicides by any measure. A suicide is someone who kills himself for selfish reasons, while one who sacrifices himself [a fida'i] does this for the sake of his religion and ummah. [He] fights the enemies of Allah using a new weapon that God has placed in the hands of the oppressed as a means of resisting the tyranny of the strong and the haughty." As stated, in 2012 Al-Qaradawi permitted suicide operations in Syria provided that "the group [carrying out the attack]" deems it necessary, without explaining exactly what this means. In 2015, after he was accused of sanctioning suicide operations in Egypt following the ouster of president Muhammad Mursi, Al-Qaradawi's office issued a statement meant to clarify his stance on this issue. It said that, in his book Fiqh Al-Jihad from 2009 the sheikh had clearly stated that he permitted suicide operations only in Palestine and nowhere else. The statement clarified further that, now that the Palestinians had obtained sophisticated weapons, suicide operations were no longer valid even in Palestine. However, Al-Qaradawi's fatwas sanctioning suicide operations are still interpreted in some Muslim circles as a blanket permission for attacks of this kind. It should also be stressed that these fatwas still appear on his website.
This report will review the recent accusations against Al-Qaradawi.
Gulf Officials: The MB, Headed By Al-Qaradawi, Are To Blame For Suicide Attacks
On July 4, 2016, several hours after the series of attacks in Saudi Arabia, UAE Foreign Minister 'Abdallah bin Zayed tweeted: "We should hold to account those who incited and permitted to kill people and [to perpetrate] the suicide attacks." In a later tweet he explicitly pointed the finger at Al-Qaradawi: "Do you remember that [the former Saudi mufti], the honorable sheikh ['Abd Al-'Aziz] bin Bazz, forbade suicide attacks? Do you remember that the MB's mufti, [Yousuf] Al-Qaradawi, permitted them?"
Bin Zayed's tweet
Responding to this, Al-Qaradawi called Bin Zayed a "devil," saying: "Enjoin what is right and avoid the ignorant [Koran 7:199]. We ask Allah to protect us from the evil of the devils when the latter are released from their chains."
Al-Qaradawi's post on Facebook
Other gulf officials supported bin Zayed's position. UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Mohammed Gargash, tweeted: "Those who justified suicide attacks and issued fatwas [permitting them] are responsible for the current situation. Thousands of innocent people have died because of [their craving] for influence and power which is disguised as religion." He added: "These people must take responsibility for the chaos and violence that they helped to ignite... The MB's historical affinity for violence and bloodshed is documented and known..."
Two days later, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed Aal Khalifa likewise responded to Al-Qaradawi's reply and supported his UAE counterpart, tweeting: "The devils who were unchained are those who tried to destroy the heart of the [Muslim] ummah and its strongest fortress. Now they are blaming the righteous leaders for their own faults."
Khalid Aal Khalifa's tweet
Articles In Gulf Press: Al-Qaradawi And His Ilk Prefer To Sacrifice Other People's Sons On The Altar Of Their Bloody Struggles; 'The Suicide Belts [Al-Qaradawi Permitted In His] Fatwas Have Come Back To Harm The Muslims Themselves'
Articles blaming Al-Qaradawi for suicide attacks also appeared in the Gulf press. The London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat published an article titled "Al-Qaradawi Refuses to End the Affair of His Fatwas Permitting Suicide Attacks" which presented examples, some of them groundless, of Al-Qaradawi's support for such attacks. The article said: "Al-Qaradawi has called on Muslims throughout the world - from Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Senegal, Pakistan, India, Somalia, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan - to become 'martyrs'... In previous fatwas, Al-Qaradawi ruled that [the attackers] 'must verify that there are people in the target area' [chosen for] the suicide attack and that they are 'of the descendants of the apes and pigs [i.e., Jews],' and prior to this he encouraged Palestinians to blow themselves up, claiming that this was a type of jihad. He said: 'If the Western world has atom bombs, we have human bombs,' namely the suicide bombers who carry out his fatwas."
Muhammad Al-Hamadi, editor of the UAE daily Al-Ittihad, harshly criticized Al-Qaradawi in an article titled "The Mufti of Suicide [Attacks]," in which he called upon the sheikh "to declare his new and different position" on suicide attacks and "to renounce his fatwa [permitting them] and not to insult the Muslims' intelligence as is his custom..." He added: "Because of this fatwa, which [Al-Qaradawi] never recanted and never asked to erase from YouTube or from any other site, he is responsible for the crime of the suicide bombers and [for the death of] the innocent Muslim and non-Muslim victims of these suicide operations. Why all this anger about [Bin Bazz's] tweet that reminded us who encourages suicide [attacks] and who opposes them?!"
In an editorial titled "The Sheikh of Fitna," the UAE daily Al-Bayan called not to suffice with condemning the planners and perpetrators of the attacks, but to address "the source of the disease, [namely those] who provide backing for the attacks by presenting them... as sacred deaths." It added: "Were it not for these fatwas that incite the youth, the terror organizations would not have [managed to] capture so many of them and play with their minds... Right in front of us we [see] the fatwas of the Sheikh of Fitna, Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, that justify suicide and suicide bombings... He and his ilk are personally responsible for starting these wars. They issue fatwas and play with the heads of the simple folk, while [they themselves] enjoy great wealth and live in luxury. They prefer to sacrifice other people's sons on the altar of their bloody struggles... It is no longer possible to remain silent and suffice with half solutions while ignoring the bitter facts. We must stand as one against this darkness and against those who nurture it with ideas, money, weapons or with fatwas manufactured in the laboratories of black death... Islam must be liberated from those who have hijacked it..."
The Al-Bayan editorial
Khaled Al-Ghanami, a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Sharq, wrote: "Sheikh 'Abdallah bin Zayed is perfectly right to blame Al-Qaradawi... The suicide belts [Al-Qaradawi] permitted in fatwas from the 1990s have come back to harm the Muslims and have [even] reached the mosque in Al-Madina and the Prophet's tomb... Fatwas permitting suicide attacks will come back to harm the Muslims and will be used against them."
Accusations against Al-Qaradawi were reiterated following the July 14, 2016 Nice terrorist attack, which the sheikh later condemned. Several hours after the attack, Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh, a columnist for the Saudi Al-Jazirah daily, tweeted: "The one who perpetrated this shocking and bloody act - is he a liberal or a secularist, or is he one of the manufacturers and supporters of the 'martyrdom' fallacy which is associated with Al-Qaradawi and which has blackened his name? May Allah soon gladden us with [Al-Qaradhawi's] death."
Muhammad Aah Al-Sheikh's tweet
In his Al-Jazirah column, Aal Al-Sheikh came out against Western commentators who claim that Wahhabi Saudi clerics are the ones responsible for suicide attacks, while the true culprits, in his opinion, are MB clerics, especially Al-Qaradawi. He wrote: "As long as we fail to pursue the jurisprudents who have ruled in favor of suicide [attacks] and the sources [of these attacks], [as long as] we keep silent over [what they say], treat them politely and ignore them, [as long as] we condemn terror [but] fear to point the finger at those who invented the terrorist weapon of suicide [attacks], we will continue to be trapped in a vicious circle. Yousuf Al-Qaradawi, the MB mufti, was the first to rule that [suicide] was a form of jihad and to call it 'martyrdom' in order to entice mentally deranged youths [to carry out such operations]... The system of takfiri terrorism includes [three components]: the sheikh who issues fatwas, namely Al-Qaradawi; the sheikh who speaks of the [wide-]eyed beauties of Paradise, and a madman who carries out the attack..." He added: "What angers me is that the one who incites to perform the crime [of suicide] is Al-Qaradawi, who is an MB sheikh to the core... [But] Westerners, especially French commentators, attribute the sanctioning of suicide [attacks] to 'Wahhabi' jurists... and this, even though Saudi Arabia's chief clerics oppose the statements in favor of suicide that constitute the terrorists' main weapon these days [and which] emanate from the MB..."
Claims In Egypt: Most Suicide Operations In Muslim World Rely On Al-Qaradawi's Fatwas
Unsurprisingly, accusations against Al-Qaradawi were also voiced in Egypt, whose current regime is virulently opposed to the MB. The Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' daily noted that, following the recent bombings in Saudi Arabia, a video was circulated on Facebook in which Al-Qaradawi permitted suicide operations. The daily stated that "most suicide attacks recently carried out in Arab capitals are based on a fatwa by Yousuf Al-Qaradawi in which he allowed groups to decide whether to carry out suicide attacks..."
Al-Azhar sheikh Rasmi 'Aglan urged Al-Qaradawi to "come out today, not tomorrow, and say the truth, for he is the one who [issued] militant and controversial fatwas... Whenever a cleric tells the terrorists that their operations and [their] killing and violence are forbidden, they immediately answer: 'It is Al-Qaradawi who said [this is allowed]."
Al-Qaradawi's Supporters Come Out In His Defense
Some of Al-Qaradawi's supporters rallied to defend him. According to a report, Kuwaiti preacher and Islamic scholar Tareq Al-Suwaidan tweeted: "Small politicians should speak politely when addressing great clerics."
Dr. 'Azzam Al-Tamimi, the former head of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought in the UK, who is known for his ties with Al-Qaradawi, wrote that the UAE foreign minister's attack on the sheikh stemmed from his frustration at the change in Saudi Arabia's policy towards the MB, which was reflected in the warm welcome extended by the Saudi king to Al-Qaradawi when he made his historic visit to the kingdom several weeks ago.
 Facebook.com/alqaradawy, July 6, 2016.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 6, 2016.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6170, "Saudi Journalist: Islam Prohibits Suicide Attacks - This Is A Negative Innovation By The Muslim Brotherhood That Must Be Fought," September 30, 2015.
 Al-Jazeera.net, April 21, 2001.
 See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6116, Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi: Permission Previously Given To Palestinians To Carry Out Suicide Attacks - No Longer Valid; They Now Have Missiles That Can Strike Deep Inside Israel, July 28, 2015.
 Twitter.com/ABZayed, July 4, 2016.
 Facebook.com/alqaradawy, July 6, 2016. This is a reference to a hadith with states that, during Ramadan, the gates of Paradise open while the gates of Hell close and the devils within are chained. The month of Ramadan ended this year on July 5.
 Twitter.com/AnwarGargash, July 6, 2001.
 Twitter.com/Khalidal-khilafa, July 7, 2016.
 This is apparently a misrepresentation of Al-Qaradawi's statements from June 2014, in which he called upon Muslim across the world to be witnesses [shuhada, which also means "martyrs"] to what is happening in Egypt.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 7, 2016. As noted, while Al-Qaradawi has indeed issued fatwas sanctioning suicide attacks, not all the examples quoted by the daily are credible; some appear only on the websites of Al-Qaradawi's opponents.
 Al-Ittihad (UAE), July 8, 2016.
 Al-Bayan (UAE), July 8, 2016.
 Al-Sharq (Saudi Arabia), July 10, 2016.
 See Qaradawi.net, July 16, 2016.
 Twitter.com/alshaikhmhmd, July 15, 2016.
 Al-Jazirah (Saudi Arabia), July 17, 2016.
 Al-Yawm Al-Sabi' (Egypt), July 6, 2016.
 Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London)m July 7, 2016.
 Klmty.net, July 9, 2016.
 Arabi21.com, July 9, 2016.