In a September 8, 2008 interview with the Egyptian daily Al-Masri Al-Yawm, Sheikh Yousef Al-Qaradhawi, head of the International Association of Muslim Scholars, called on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down and also not to pass the presidency on to his son Gamal. He expanded on several other issues, among them the relationship between religion and politics and the political activity of the Muslim Brotherhood. His statement in the interview that the spread of the Shi'a in Sunni countries was a dangerous phenomenon received attention in the media, mainly because of the vehement reactions on the part of Iranian elements that it triggered.
Following are excerpts from the interview with Al-Qaradhawi:
Religion and Politics Must Go Hand in Hand
Interviewer: "...Some Islamists share the secular belief that religion should be separated from politics, since [the latter] is impure; [accordingly,] if religion is mixed with politics, it may come to be associated with the sins of politics and politicians."
Al-Qaradhawi: "The problem is that in our generation, people hold politics in low esteem, [believing it] to rest on treachery, fraud, and immorality. They also think badly of politicians, perceiving them as unscrupulous... Religion must be interwoven with politics and play a role in government, in order to safeguard it from impurity, and to purge it in case it becomes contaminated. This is the task of religion – it rectifies anything into which it is incorporated. That is preferable to leaving politics in the hands of the irreligious..."
Mubarak Must Not Seek Another Term in Office, Should Not Pass Presidency On to Gamal
Interviewer: "...As an ordinary citizen, how can I [hope to] convey my opinions to the leader?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "[Every citizen] has certain mechanisms available to him [in order to reach the leader]. In Western countries, there are mechanisms that can [even] ensure the dismissal of a head of government who has violated the constitution, providing that the majority in parliament [agree to this]. We too should have this kind of capability.
"The first step would be to choose our parliament members through genuine [elections], so that we have a real parliament, which can say 'no' to the ruler. However, if the ruler has the parliament in his pocket, and expects it to always accept and applaud everything he wants, as is the case today – how can we dismiss him if he errs?"
Interviewer: "Is it really possible [to make a ruler step down]?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "Pakistan, through popular pressure and nonviolent demonstrations, forced the president to resign. We, however, have not yet reached Pakistan's level of democracy. In our country, there is not a single leader who is satisfied with one or even two terms in office. Everyone wants to hold on to his position forever, or, if he decides to give it up, then [at least] to pass it on to his sons."
Interviewer: "If so, what would be your advice to President Mubarak?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "I suggest that he submit to [the will of] the people and give up the idea of passing the presidency [on to his son], or of serving another term as president. He must not pass the presidency to his son, but rather give the people the option to elect the next president..."
The Muslim Brotherhood Is a Political Party – And More
Interviewer: "Why do you think there is apprehension about the [possibility] of Muslim groups [i.e. Political Islam groups] rising to power?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "Muslim society does not oppose these groups, but welcomes them with open arms. Not long ago, [in the 2005 parliamentary elections], people voted en masse for the Islamic [Muslim Brotherhood] representatives, and they won 88 seats in the Egyptian Parliament..."
Interviewer: "Are you convinced that [the Islamist groups] can rise to power?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "Yes, as long as they base their rule on shari'a. But let me emphasize that I support democracy and the people electing their leaders – be they Islamists, democrats or pan-Arabs. The important thing is for the people to have a right to choose – and if they choose badly, they will have to bear the consequences of their choice."
Interviewer: "Like what happened with Hamas?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "Hamas has not managed to realize its vision, because since the day [it was elected, various forces] have besieged it and prevented it from doing anything..."
Interviewer: "You have criticized the Muslim Brotherhood for becoming immersed in politics and thereby squandering most of the energy it [once] devoted to social activity."
Qaradhawi: "True. They failed to prepare themselves for connecting with the people, and did not perceive the people's needs, but became completely immersed in politics [instead]..."
Interviewer: "In the present circumstances, do you consider the Muslim Brotherhood a political party?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "As long as they concern themselves with the nation's problems, elections, and [winning a place] in government, they are a political party whether the others like it or not. [Since] they concern themselves with party [politics], I consider them a [political] party. [However,] they may be more than [just] a party... because in addition to politics, they are also concerned with education and morals, and that is what distinguishes them from other parties... [The Egyptian establishment does not recognize them as a legitimate political force], but true legitimacy is granted by the people and not by the ruler. The other [Egyptian] parties are not even genuine... [They are bogus parties] created by the government."
Wahhabism Is Blind Fanaticism; The Shi'ia Infiltration Of Sunni Countries Is A Threat
Interviewer: "Which do you think has more influence and [constitutes] a greater danger –Wahhabism or the Shi'a?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "In recent years, Wahhabist ideology has gained momentum, and acquired [many] supporters and advocates. Its flaw is its blind intolerance of [all] other views. Wahhabism is based on the Hanbali school, [and its adherents] believe that only they are right, and that they are, [in fact], infallible...
"As for the Shi'ites, they are Muslims, but they have strayed far [from the truth]. The danger they pose lies in their attempt to infiltrate Sunni society. They are [well] equipped for this [task], having great wealth, estimated in billions [of dollars], as well as a legion of missionaries trained to spread the Shi'a in Sunni countries... I recently discovered to my sorrow [that there are] Shi'ite Egyptians. In past decades, the Shi'ites could not get even one Egyptian [to embrace the Shi'a]. From the days of Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyoubi [of the 12th century] to 20 years ago, there wasn't a single Shi'ite in Egypt. Today they write in the papers and appear on TV, and publicly profess their Shi'ism..."
"Steer Clear of [Clerics] who Spew Fatwas to Please the Government"
Interviewer: "How can we know which [clerics] are qualified to exercise ijtihad [i.e., independent religious judgment], when the satellite channels are full of sheikhs and preachers [propounding their views]?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "If someone has a sick child, he asks which doctor is the best, and chooses one that is widely considered to be an expert. So why do we not exert the same efforts when it comes to religion? We must learn from those whom we know [to have] knowledge and expertise, and steer clear of those who spew fatwas to please the government..."
Interviewer: "How did the cleric cease to be the ruler's right hand and become a mere civil servant?"
Al-Qaradhawi: "In the past, the ulama were powerful since they controlled the [religious] endowments, and their salaries were paid by these endowments. Today, Al-Azhar and its ulama have no endowments, but are [funded] by the state. [Now,] whoever pays your salary [has the power to] control you. This explains why the Shi'ite ulama are more powerful than the Sunni. They are not civil servants but receive their salaries directly from the people..."
 Al-Masri Al-Yawm (Egypt), September 8, 9, 2008.