The following are excerpts from an interview with Islamic scholar Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi, which aired on BBC Arabic on February 8, 2010.
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: If Egypt cares only about its own security, it is free to do what it wants. But Egypt bears Arab and Islamic responsibility. I believe that the defense of Gaza is not the duty of its people alone, but of all Arabs and Muslims.
Interviewer: Are you implying that Egyptian national security must be conditional upon Arab and Islamic security?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Brother, don't you care about anything except for Egypt's national security? Let me tell you something. If your fatwas correspond to the positions of the state, you are considered a great mufti and scholar, but if you disagree with them, they level accusations against you. For example, in Al-Azhar's Islamic Research Council, we have been studying the issue of organ transplants for several months. The government was seeking a fatwa permitting organ transplants. When I agreed with the government, all of a sudden, I was great.
Interviewer: If we want to draw a relation between Egyptian national security, and Arab and Islamic national security...
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Don't you have anything else to deal with except Egypt's national security?
Interviewer: Let me finish this point, please. If Egyptian national security...
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: This is very strange. You brought me here, just so you can waste the entire show on Egypt's national security and the wall.
Interviewer: Let us conclude the issue with the following question: If Egypt's national security depends upon Arab national security...
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: I won't respond to this question.
I condemn the presence of the [US military] base in Qatar, as well as the presence of an official Israeli bureau in Qatar. I have condemned this publicly, as the people of Qatar, and especially the Emir of Qatar, know. I'm not embellishing the truth.
When Peres visited Qatar after the Qana massacre, I delivered a sermon, in which I said that those who shook hands with Peres should wash their hands seven times, one of those times in dirt.
It has been said that [Abbas] called for the [Israeli] invasion of Gaza. I said that if this is proven to be true, it is not enough to sentence him to death, but that he must be stoned, because he is the president of Palestine, and a president who calls for the invasion of his people has no right to live. His people should stone him to death.
I supported martyrdom operations, and I was not the only one. Hundreds of Islamic scholars supported these operations. When the Islamic Jurisprudence Council convened in Kuwait, hundreds of scholars signed their names to a fatwa [supporting such operations]. This is a necessary thing, as I told them in London. Give the Palestinians tanks, airplanes, and missiles, and they won't carry out martyrdom operations. They are forced to turn themselves into human bombs, in order to defend their land, their honor, and their homeland.
Interviewer: Sheik Al-Qaradhawi, I'd like you to explain this point calmly, if possible. Does this necessity justify the killing of civilians in such operations?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: The [Palestinians] has been making sure that civilians are not killed. They always look for concentrations of soldiers. If a civilian is killed, it is not intentional.
Interviewer: So your position is different when these operations take place in places with civilians, like markets, right?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: They didn't mean to do this, and in any case, they are not infallible. Mistakes can happen.
I will not sit down with anybody who approves of Israel. I have refused to participate in any Jewish-Christian-Islamic dialogue. I welcome Christian-Islamic dialogue, but if a Jew comes into it, I say that I will not sit on the same podium with a Jew who recognizes Israel.
Interviewer: But there are Arab countries and leaders who have recognized Israel, aren't there?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes, there are.
Interviewer: And you are not prepared to sit down with them either?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: With whom?
Interviewer: With the Arab countries and leaders who have recognized Israel?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Brother, are you comparing the Arabs with the Zionists who plundered my land, spilled my blood, and drove my people out?
Interviewer: Sheik Al-Qaradhawi, we hard you say: "anyone who recognizes Israel."
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: I meant the Jews who recognize Israel. I will not share a podium with any Jew who recognizes Israel, in a dialogue or anything else.
Sheik Al-Qaradhawi, at the same time that you called for supporting Hizbullah – and indeed, you supported it – you also stated that you consider its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, to be a fanatic, like all Shiites. Did you say this?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes, I did.
Interviewer: On what basis did you say that he was fanatic?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: There are things that indicate this. He did not have a clear-cut response when I attacked the Shiites for not... They do not implement things that we agree upon on Sunni-Shiite conferences. When I attacked them, they attacked me harshly. I expected him to say something that would do me justice. After all, we have good relations, and I have always stood in his defense against people who issued fatwas forbidding support for Hizbullah. But he did not say a word [in my defense]. However, he is not one of the extreme fanatics.
There was not a single Shiite in Egypt, since the days of Saladin. Now there are Shiites in Egypt, who write in newspapers, who pen books, and who appear on TV. Isn't that poof [of Shiite proselytizing]? This is happening in several Arab countries, which did not have a single Shiite. This is proof. We are receiving information from various countries. I am not secluded from the world. I head an international institute with scholars from all countries, and we receive information. I am not making anything up. This is not what we agreed upon in our [interfaith] conventions. We agreed, among other things, that one denomination should not try to spread into countries of the other. They did not honor this.
Interviewer: Sheik Al-Qaradhawi, you described the Shiites as – and I quote – "heretics." Then you call for Sunni-Shiite rapprochement. Do you want Sunnis to become close to "heretics," as you call them?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes. We have conducted dialogue with the Christians, and we are not calling for dialogue with the Eastern idolatrous religions – Buddhism, Hinduism, and others. So how can we not conduct dialogue with Muslims, whose [ideology] contains heresy - for which we condemn them? This does not mean that they are not Muslims. The fact that they are heretics does not exclude them from the community of Muslims, unless their heresy is of the kind that turns a Muslim into an infidel.
Interviewer: Am I correct in saying that you are against Christian proselytizing?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes, I am. All Muslims are against Christian proselytizing. Who can accept Muslims being converted to Christianity? No one can accept this.
Interviewer: Are you also against spreading the call for Islam in the West, among non-Muslims?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Of course not. I support the spreading of the call for Islam. I believe that Islam is the true religions, with which Allah sealed the [monotheistic] messages. But this cannot be achieved by treating people as fools – by giving people money, like they do, in order to make them convert. They convert the poor to Christianity by paying them. We condemn this.
I support all liberties, and I consider freedom to be sacred. I have often said – and this has angered some Islamists – that freedom takes precedence over implementing Islamic law. I say that before we implement Islamic law, we must achieve freedom. We cannot implement Islamic law in a society devoid of liberties.
Interviewer: Do you believe that when a Muslim wants to convert to Christianity, this constitutes freedom of belief?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: If a person is really free, he has the right to change his religion. However, we must give him a chance, try to get him to repent, understand why he is changing his religion. A Muslim cannot possibly want to change his monotheistic religion, unless there is something wrong with him. This has been proven by history. Those who try to leave the fold of Islam do so, I'm sad to say, for other – non-religious – considerations.
Interviewer: Sheik Al-Qaradhawi, you have criticized the ban [on building] minarets in Switzerland, haven't you?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes, of course.
Interviewer: But do you accept, at the same time... Even if it has been permitted to build churches in some Arab countries, especially in the Gulf, [Christians] are forbidden to raise crosses or to build belfries, under the pretext that these are religious symbols. How can you accept one, but not the other?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Here in Qatar, the building of some churches has been permitted – each church belonging to a different denomination. I did not denounce this.
Interviewer: In some Islamic countries, there is a complete ban on building churches. What is your view on this?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Nowhere is there a complete ban on this, except in Hijaz, which has a special status in Islam. It is considered the fortress of Islam, and it belongs purely to Islam. It is like the Vatican. Nobody will build a mosque in the Vatican.
Interviewer: Would you accept a Copt as a candidate for the Egyptian presidency, just like you issued a fatwa permitting a woman's candidacy to the position of judge?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: Yes.
Interviewer: So you don't have a problem with a Copt running for president in Egypt?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: It is not a problem.
Interviewer: But isn't it considered a position of "general rule"?
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi: What is forbidden to non-Muslims and women is presenting their candidacy to the position of Caliph, who heads the Islamic nation. This is a religious position, not merely a political one. Egypt and the other [Muslim] countries are considered to be a region within the greater Islamic state.