The following are excerpts from an interview with Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone: The interview was conducted in English with Arabic voice over. The following translation is based on the Arabic voice over.
Interviewer: You published a bunch of documents regarding Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi's visit to London and about the media campaign against him and you, for meeting him last July, here, at City Hall. Why did you conduct this study, and why did you publish it?
Ken Livingstone: This dates back to last summer, when we had called a conference here in London to protest about the French government's ban on young Muslims wearing a hijab in schools. Because Dr. Al-Qaradhawi was in London at the time for a conference of fatwas, as he regularly comes to European cities. I thought it would be wonderful if this eminent Muslim scholar would speak at our conference.
Because he has visited London more than 20 times in the past 15 years without causing any controversy, we were surprised when there was a campaign in the press of distortion of facts, suggesting this man was a monster. He was described as the devil's cleric, and there were calls for his prosecution. I was really quite surprised.
And what was clearly a wave of Islamophobia whose purpose was to prevent a dialogue between progressive Muslim opinions and the West. This is why we thought it would be important to have a full investigation, consulting religious scholars around the world, examining the 140 books that Dr. Al-Qaradhawi has written. And the results were quite shocking.
Almost all of these lies that distorted the sermons of Dr. Al-Qaradhawi originate from an organization called the Middle East Media Research Institute, which claims to be an objective research institute analyzing various Muslim scholars, from around the world. But what we discovered was that this institute is run by a former officer in the Israeli intelligence, the Mossad. And he systematically distorts the facts - not just what Dr. Al-Qaradhawi says but what many other Muslim scholars say. In most cases, the distortion is complete, and therefore I published this dossier.
I believe that this study serves as a warning to the Western media, that they should look at the motives of the people who are leading the attack on Islam and its prominent leaders.
This organization is an extreme Zionist organization with ties to the Likud government that wishes to prevent any dialogue that builds up understanding between the West and the Muslim world.
Interviewer: How can we benefit from this study of yours in order to prevent such attacks, whether against Sheik Al-Qaradhawi or anyone else? This is an attack based on distortion of facts.
Ken Livingston: Well, we are going to publish this and we are going to circulate it to all the politicians in Britain, to everybody in the House of Commons, we're going to send copies to every newspaper, television, and radio channel. We will draw their attention to the fact that this is a true warning about how honest people in the media can become puppets, who repeat unawares the words of people with political agendas.
In the West, our weakness is that no one knows the Arab language in the Western press and television. There is no one who understands the Koran and its meaning. They always turn to others to translate things for them.
One should note that when Sheik Al-Qaradhawi came to London I heard him say, in his own words: "We are not against the Jews because they are Jews but we oppose the Zionists because they stole our lands." Anyone who heard this speech, and later opened a newspaper, found something completely different and amazing. The amazement stems from these people putting their trust in the agent of a foreign intelligence, rather than in the evidence in front of their eyes, and what their ears hear. I think that we must reach the media and tell them: "You cannot rely on other people's translations."
Interviewer: Earlier, you mentioned the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), upon which this distorted information was based. Do you think that there is a connection between this institute and the Israeli intelligence, or at least to the Likud party in Israel, on the one hand, and some British newspapers owned by those who support Israel, the Likud party, and the Israeli right's plan almost blindly?
Ken Livingstone: What my report demonstrates is that you have a former Mossad agent running MEMRI, and in it are prominent members of the rightist Likud party. It would be unrealistic to believe that someone who served the Israeli intelligence faithfully for decades, suddenly would lose all his contacts. And therefore, I would not trust anything I read in the MEMRI files.
The Israeli right for decades has been denouncing anybody who opposes its policy, and automatically calls him anti-Semitic. I, myself, have suffered from this label for 20 years. I've been denounced by Israeli institutions and called an anti-Semite just because I disagreed with the policy Israeli policy of expansion.
I believe this is ridiculous because it prevents honest coverage and causes people to be afraid, and refrain from demanding accountability from the Sharon government for fear of being labled anti-Semites. We must be united in order to refute this nonsense. You can disagree with Israel without hating Jews.