March 18, 2010 Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 597

Palestinian Authority Attacks Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi for Calling to Stone President 'Abbas

March 18, 2010 | By C. Jacob*
Palestinians | Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 597


The Palestinian Authority has launched a verbal assault against International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) director Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi for his call to stone Palestinian Authority members if it can be proven that they collaborated with Israel in the Gaza war. Tensions apparently began with Al-Qaradhawi's December 2009 fatwa against Egypt's construction of a steel barrier along its border with Gaza.

The PA responded harshly to Al-Qaradhawi's call, accusing him of inciting to murder, of exploiting the religion to deepen the rift among the Palestinians, of ingratitude towards the PA leaders, and of issuing contradictory fatwas. However, Hamas members stated that Al-Qaradhawi had spoken the truth, and even announced that they would hold soon a conference in his honor to note his support for the Palestinian issue.

In a September 10, 2009 sermon, Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi demanded that there be an investigation into why the U.N. vote on the Goldstone report was delayed, and stated that the PA officials should be judged during their pilgrimage to Mecca, so that if they were found guilty the other pilgrims could stone them, "as Satan himself is stoned."[1]

About three months later, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud 'Abbas responded to Al-Qaradhawi's statements with a demand that he retract his fatwa, saying, "He wants to stone me in Mecca!!"[2]

In a January 8, 2010 Friday sermon, Al-Qaradhawi stated that he had not ruled that the PA leaders should be stoned, as he was not a judge; however, he clarified that he had called on the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and neutral individuals to investigate the possible collaboration of PA officials with Israel, and said that "if it were proven that Mahmoud 'Abbas incited Israel to attack Gaza, he deserves not only to die, but to die by stoning. Will anyone deny that someone who betrays his people and invites the enemy [to attack them] deserves to be stoned?"[3]

In January 15, 2010 Friday sermons, West Bank mosque preachers condemned Al-Qaradhawi's statements against 'Abbas. PA Religious Endowments Minister Mahmoud Al-Habbash called on Al-Qaradhawi to retract his statements and to apologize both to 'Abbas and to the Palestinian people for damaging their good name – which, he said, is against the rules of Islamic morality. Tulkarm mosque preachers called Al-Qaradhawi's fatwa illegal, and said that his statements against 'Abbas "serve the enemies of Islam."[4]

According to the Muslim Brotherhood website, the PA's Religious Endowments Ministry also released a circular instructing preachers to devote their sermons to condemning Al-Qaradhawi's statements. The website reported further that the "'Abbas-Dayton militia" members (Hamas's term for the PA security services) had broken into mosques and attacked worshippers expressing support for Al-Qaradhawi. Following the distribution of the PA circular, worshippers at several mosques protested against some preachers' anti-Qaradhawi statements; also, at the Great Mosque in Al-Bireh, worshippers refused to pray behind an imam who attacked Al-Qaradhawi and questioned his knowledge of religious law. At the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, worshippers forced the preacher off the pulpit for attacking Al-Qaradhawi.[5]

PA government spokesman Ghassan Al-Khatib denied the claims that worshippers were attacked by PA security services, explaining, "Worshippers at the Great Mosque in Al-Bireh who did not like the imam's sermon boycotted him and opposed his sermon, which led to verbal clashes among worshippers." He denied that any arrests were made following the incident.[6]

In early February 2010, a photo of Al-Qaradhawi with members of the Jewish ultra-orthodox sect Neturei Karta was posted on public bulletin boards in Ramallah; this was decried by his followers as an attempt by the PA to show that Al-Qaradhawi was normalizing relations with Israel. In his February 5, 2010 Friday sermon, Al-Qaradhawi termed the posting of the photo "fraud" and "[moral] bankruptcy." He acknowledged meeting with Neturei Karta members, saying that it was because of their opposition to the existence of the State of Israel and their support for the Palestinian cause, and adding: "I pray to Allah that I will die as a martyr for His sake while defending Palestine."[7]

Statements Critical of Al-Qaradhawi

1. He Is Exploiting His Clerical Status, Deeping Palestinian Rift

At an October 11, 2009 Fatah Central Committee meeting, it was stated that Al-Qaradhawi "had exploited his status as a cleric to issue fatwas inciting against [the PA] president and against Fatah members before, during, and after the Hamas coup in Gaza, and inciting Hamas to murder more and more Palestinians."[8] The Palestinian National Council condemned Al-Qaradhawi's statements and demanded an apology.[9]

Fatah Central Committee member Muhammad Dahlan stated that Al-Qaradhawi "should play a role in resolving disputes among the Muslims, not in intensifying them with fatwas that have no connection to the religion or to its tolerant [nature]."[10]

Bakr Abu Bakr, columnist for the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "The sheikh who enthusiastically defended the Buddha statues in Afghanistan [destroyed by the Taliban in 2001] remained silent as the Sphinx as Hamas spilled rivers of pure blood in its bloody coup, as if the martyrs it killed were chickens infected with avian flu that had to be destroyed. He observed from the side, joyful and happy at the victories of [Hamas'] jihad fighters – those who with an iron fist prevent military operations against the Zionist enemy, who carry out massacres and arrest people and cut off their legs. [These Hamas members acted] against members of the Dughmush clan [from the Jaysh Al-Islam organization], against [members of] the Hiles clan [from Fatah], and against the men of Sheikh Imam 'Abd Al-Latif Aal Moussa [from the Salafi Jund Ansar Allah organization], who were murdered at the Ibn Taymiyya mosque in Rafah, [and Hamas did all this] without fear of Allah and with no compunctions of religion, conscience, or humanity."[11]

2. He's Promoting Global Jihad

Kamal Salim, columnist for the PA daily Al-Ayyam, wrote that Al-Qaradhawi propagandizes against the PA from Qatar, but ignores the U.S. military bases only a few kilometers from the studio from which he broadcasts. He added: "In an era of television images, proliferation of fundamentalist movements, and attempts to politicize the religion...[12] the sheikh has become the most prominent tool for brainwashing entire generations and corrupting their conscience in order to lead them into a new dark age of benighted views [...] in the caves and holes where bin Ladens, Al-Zawahiris, Al-Zarqawis, and Taliban are born, who distort the image of the tolerant Islam [...]

"Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi sees nothing wrong with his attacks and invective against the PA; at the same time, he is shamefully silent in light of the existence of American military bases [in Qatar] from which [the Americans] launched and still launching the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and transferred ammunition to the Israeli army during the Lebanon war. These bases are located but a few kilometers from the television studio from which this 'revolutionary' sheikh issues his resolute rulings."[13]

Also referring to Al-Qaradhawi's propagandizing, Zuheir Al-Daba'i, columnist for the Jerusalem daily Al-Quds, stated that the sheikh had crossed the line, and that instead of preaching for the good of all, he was spreading propaganda aimed at obtaining material profits for one side at the expense of the other. He said that this propagandizing was what had caused the division in the Arab world, "which our enemies labor to perpetuate, and without which the Zionist enterprise would not have attained its series of successes at our expense..." He added that criticism was permitted, but not invective, or accusing the other of apostasy or other forms of wrongdoing, or claiming a monopoly on the truth or over representation of the religion and the homeland.[14]

3. He's Ungrateful Towards the PA Leaders

Hafez Al-Barghouti, editor of the PA government daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, wrote: "Although Al-Qaradhawi acknowledged... that in 1951 Arafat trained him to hold a gun so he could fight the English in Egypt, and even acknowledged that 'Abbas was the one who appointed him to his post in Qatar, he bit the hand that taught him to pull the trigger, and bit the hand that signed the appointment to his post in Qatar, calling for the maker of that decision ['Abbas] to be stoned at the Ka'aba. [Furthermore,] he did not retract this repulsive call, saying that it depended on whether the PA was found to be responsible for the shedding of Palestinian blood – while not looking at the [bloody] hands of the sheikhs of his ally Hamas."[15]

Nadia 'Ailabouni, a Palestinian journalist residing in Vienna, questioned Al-Qaradhawi's spiritual authority and his right to teach the Palestinians about patriotism. She wrote: "Has Al-Qaradhawi appointed himself governor or caliph of the Palestinians? Did our people swear loyalty to him as, say, mufti of the Palestinians? Or has he become so inflated [with the self-importance] that he sees himself as bigger and more important than Doha and its mosques [...?]

"We are entitled to criticize this preacher, who treats the religion and fatwas like a business deal. We are entitled to criticize his harming our freedom and our political regime, which has no place for murder or stoning [...] We do not aspire to establish a 'caliphate' in Palestine. We want a modern, democratic state for all, regardless of religion or ideological affiliation [...]

"Our people does not want to be ruled by men with turbans and amulets – especially after we have seen their injustice, tyranny, and bloodthirstiness, and how they trample human lives and the most fundamental human rights, as per the Hamas, Iran, Sudan, and Taliban models. The sheikh should never confuse the caves of Tora Bora with the Palestinians."[16]

4. Al-Qaradhawi, Qatar, Hamas Are Allied Against the PLO

Another claim was that Al-Qaradhawi is a mercenary for his wealthy masters, i.e. Qatar's leaders. Al-Ayyam columnist Hamada Fara'aneh wrote: "Hamas, which has established an alliance with some of the Gulf millionaires based on its hostility to the PLO, strives for two aims: One, to legitimize its bloody coup in Gaza that replaced the PLO and the PA; and two, to back up, and justify, their wealthy Gulf masters, who are evading paying the debt they must pay as Arabs, Muslims, and men of means for liberating Palestine and for defending the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem from Israelization, Judaization, and Zionization.

"Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, the obedient servant, has mobilized his pen, his tongue, and his linguistic capabilities for his wealthy masters [the Qatari leaders], who enjoy the protection of foreign military bases and intelligence. [He has done this] without batting an eyelid, and without mentioning a single word about the fact that these bases served for bombing and destroying Iraq and for bombing and killing the usouliyyoun [fundamentalists] in Afghanistan."[17]

5. He Issues Contradictory Fatwas

Al-Qaradhawi was also criticized for issuing contradictory fatwas and fatwas to order. Al-Ayyam columnist Dr. 'Abd Al-Majid Suwailim wrote: "Are we to believe Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi in this instance, or to believe his other fatwas, which permit elections in Iraq, accuse the Shi'ites of apostasy, or determine that 'Abd Al-Nasser's regime was apostate, some of which he [later] renounced, depending on the time of day or changes in the situation?"[18]

Al-Hayat Al-Jadida columnist Bakr Abu Bakr mocked Al-Qaradhawi for marrying an underage girl, presenting this as one of the injustices perpetrated against girls in Islamic society. He also attacked him for his contradictory and biased fatwas: "In a fatwa that was both ridiculous and perplexing, Al-Qaradhawi permitted the Muslims to fight alongside the Americans against their brother Muslims in Afghanistan... He [also] hastened to try to prevent the Taliban from blowing up the Buddha statues, calling them mankind's heritage, to win points from the U.N. and the U.S. and from those who love antiquities – but not from his Islamist buddies [...]

"When Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi stood up against the spread of the Shi'a in Egypt, the Iranian media attacked him, until he couldn't catch his breath; he asked for help from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, was rejected, and returned to Doha disappointed – even though he was one of the most important Muslim Brotherhood candidates for the position of Spiritual Guide. Why [wasn't he chosen for this post]? Because it is politics and money that matter, not this fatwa, that he issued without consulting [the Muslim Brotherhood]. Thus he failed to stop the spread of the Shi'a and also lost support of his Sunni friends [...][19]

"This sheikh is controlled by a fickle policy, not by the religion of the Muslim faithful, who have firm principles; thus, he wavers in his views and in his rulings, and shifts in his thinking from one direction to the other. This man recently ruled against [PA] President Abu Mazen ['Abbas] – who responded forcefully, loyally, and courageously to the Qatari press and media [...]

"We, the Palestinian people, have fought a holy war, struggling against the Israeli enemy every day, in every corner and every neighborhood – [while] he watches us from afar."[20]

6. Al-Qaradhawi Ignores Arab Leaders Who Harmed Gaza

Muhammad 'Inaya, a Palestinian journalist living in the U.S., wrote: "We expect that if the honorable and wise sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi believes in the punishment of stoning in Mecca – which we oppose in principle – then he should also show the courage of a man who believes in and aspires to justice, by making a new list that includes the dozens of Arab leaders and military commanders who are directly and indirectly responsible for the destruction and loss that struck the Gaza Strip and its residents.

"It would be appropriate for Al-Qaradhawi to apply the punishment of stoning in Mecca to them as well, before President Mahmoud 'Abbas's turn comes."[21]

Statements In Support of Al-Qaradhawi

Hamas members and columnists on websites affiliated with Hamas and with rejectionist elements spoke out in defense of Al-Qaradhawi. They said that the attacks on him were aimed at Islam, not at the sheikh himself, and that Al-Qaradhawi was right to call for 'Abbas to be stoned, because the latter had committed a crime.

1. Harming Al-Qaradhawi Means Harming the Path of Resistance

'Abd Al-Bari 'Atwan, editor of the London daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, said: "The attacks on Al-Qaradhawi are aimed not just at him personally, but also at the path of resistance in which he believes, and which he has incorporated into his religious program and preaching, and into the 60 books he authored [...]

"The Islam that adopts the 'culture of resistance' has been catalogued as extremist or terrorist Islam, which must be considered criminal and must be opposed. Has one single Arab or Islamic state declared support for the Taliban resistance against the American occupation – which is legitimate resistance to an illegitimate occupation?"[22]

2. Al-Qaradhawi Supported the Palestinians

The Hamas government's Religious Endowments Ministry, headed by Dr. Taleb Abu Sha'er, announced an upcoming conference in Al-Qaradhawi's honor, called "Dr. Al-Qaradhawi's Efforts in the Service of Islam and in Support of the Palestinian Cause."

In an editorial, Al-Quds Al-Arabi wrote: "Perhaps Al-Qaradhawi judged hastily, following misinformation that caused him to criticize the Palestinian president. [...] But this in no way means that the imams in the [West Bank] mosques, who have limited knowledge of religious law, should insult a supreme source of Islamic authority such as Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi."

The editorial also expressed regret that the PA had attacked Al-Qaradhawi despite his past support for the Palestinians and their cause.[23]

3. Al-Qaradhawi Is Right: 'Abbas Committed Crimes

Kamal Jaber, columnist for a Hamas-affiliated website, wrote: "Has Mahmoud 'Abbas had unprecedented success in the battle over Jerusalem, the refugees, the settlements, and the prisoners? And has he nothing left to do but to open fronts against the clerics and emblems of the Arab ummah?

"What is the logical context of this attack on the sheikh? Apparently, it is aimed at killing the spirit in us, and destroying us from within. It is no wonder 'Abbas committed this great crime, because since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority, he has brought only division and scheming upon our people. It was he who conspired against our people's choice [i.e. the election of Hamas]. [And] he is the main inciter to blockade our people in Gaza [...]

"'Abbas [also] conspired in, and participated in, last year's war on Gaza. In light of all this, we should not be amazed that he [instructed to] devote the Friday sermons in the West Bank mosques to attacking the cleric Sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, and at the same time [launched] an all-out war [on Al-Qaradhawi] in the media [...]

"What crime did Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi commit by shouting that anyone who is proven to have conspired against and betrayed the Palestinian people, either by [rejecting the] Goldstone [report] or in connection to the Gaza war, should be stoned? [...] How come he didn't confront the criminal [Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor] Lieberman [when the latter] confirmed that he ('Abbas) had egged on the Zionists in their determination to eliminate Hamas during the war – yet flew off the handle when Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi presented a logical and just demand?"[24]

Another columnist on the website, Dr. Salah Al-Raqab, wrote: "It is not strange or incredible that one Mahmoud Al-Habbash [PA religious endowments minister] aggressively attacked the honorable cleric Dr. Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, thus ingratiating himself with the master – that is, Mahmoud 'Abbas – who is emir [in charge] of security and military coordination and cooperation with the Jews in assassinating the jihad fighters in Palestine and in the war against our people in Palestine."[25]

Another attack on Habbash came from yet another writer on the website. Ibrahim Hamami wrote: "The sheikh of the Satans, one Mahmoud Al-Habbash, who was expelled from his previous organization, fled Gaza, and was appointed minister by 'Abbas and Fayyad, issued a binding circular, or what they called a 'mandatory Friday sermon for all West Bank mosques,' attacking the honorable and learned sheikh Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi for telling the truth – namely that if it is proven that 'Abbas conspired against his people, he should be stoned...

"'Abbas and his chessmen know that ['Abbas] really did conspire, and is still conspiring, against the Palestinian people and cause [...]

"[But] the West Bank mosques rose up against the collaborators and against the demands of Habbash, the executor of 'Abbas's instructions. The preachers refused to honor the satanic messages, and anyone who dared attack the honorable cleric Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi met the fate of removal from the pulpit."[26]

Islamic preacher Dr. Wajdi Ghneim said: "The Palestinian Authority campaign against the cleric Dr. Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi is a crime against the clerics of the ummah [...] The occupied West Bank is under the leadership of someone called Mahmoud 'Abbas, who is openly an agent of Dayton, and is partner to the torture of comrades, the capture of jihad fighters, and the extermination of the resistance in all its forms...

"There is no value to a man who imputes lies and concocts calumny about the cleric Al-Qaradhawi – who is too far above a man such as this Mahmoud 'Abbas for the latter to either discuss his behavior or criticize him."[27]

Below is the announcement for the Hamas Religious Endowments Ministry's conference on "Dr. Al-Qaradhawi's Efforts in the Service of Islam and in Support of the Palestinian Cause."[28]

*C. Jacob is a research fellow at MEMRI


[1] Al-Raya (Qatar), October 10, 2009.

[2] Al-Watan (Qatar), January 6, 2010.

[3] Al-Watan (Qatar), January 9, 2010.

[4] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 16, 2010.

[5], January 15, 2010.

[6] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 16, 2010.

[7], February 6, 2010.

[8] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), January 12, 2010.

[9] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), February 4, 2010.

[10], January 16, 2010.

[11] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), January 16, 2010.

[12] Throughout this document, ellipses without brackets represents those in the original Arabic text, while ellipses in brackets indicate those inserted by MEMRI.

[13] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 13, 2010.

[14] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 18, 2010.

[15] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), January 11, 2010.

[16], January 16, 2010.

[17] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 13, 2010.

[18] Al-Ayyam (Palestinian Authority), January 14, 2010.

[19] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), January 16, 2010.

[20] Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), January 16, 2010.

[21] Al-Quds (Jerusalem), January 17, 2010.

[22] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 24, 2010.

[23] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), January 17, 2010.

[24], January 17, 2010.

[25], January 17, 2010.

[26], January 16, 2010.

[27], January 17, 2010.

[28], February 2010.

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