Extreme duplicity or matter-of-factness?
September 24, 2003
Doha, Qatar -- Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, arguably Islam's
most influential cleric, takes the podium at Omar ibn
al-Khattab Mosque, a short distance away from the
headquarters of the U.S. Central Command, and delivers
a khutba, Friday sermon. The cleric's big theme of the
day is the arrogance of the United States and the
cruelty of the war it unleashed on Iraq.
Consider his web site, Qaradawi.net,
where the faithful can click and read his fatwas (religious
edicts) -- the Arabic interwoven with html text -- about
all matters of modern life, from living in non-Islamic
lands to the permissibility of buying houses on
mortgage to the follies of Arab rulers who have
surrendered to U.S. power.
However the actual deeds of
Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi vary from what he preaches. There are
the preacher's children: One of his daughters made her way to the
University of Texas
where she received a master's degree in biology, a son
had earned a Ph.D. from the University of Central
Florida in Orlando, and yet another son embarked
on that quintessential American degree, an MBA at the
American University in Cairo. Al-Qaradawi embodies
anti-Americanism as the flip side of Americanization.
An American friend took exception to my categorisation
of the Sheik's views as the manifestation of
extreme hypocrisy. He retorted that it was not extreme
but rather practical.
"I don't see a contradiction," he said. "You
want your kids to have the best education, so you send them to
US. But that doesn't mean that you want the US (a)
dropping bombs on your cousins in Iraq, or (b)
bringing their morality into your country."
In fact, he added, weren't some
of the early leaders of India (and Pakistan at the time, I
suppose), the ones who
insisted on the British leaving, themselves
educated in the West? They wanted to send their kids to England
for their education too. It's been going on like that for thousands
of years. The elite frequently send their kids to the best schools,
abroad or at home but they don't have to agree with the morality
or foreign policies of the leading countries, my friend insisted.
He went on that if the Sheik's message was about US "incompetence" in
business affairs, then his sending his kids to be
educated there would be more difficult to understand,
though still not impossible. To come to the conclusion
that he shouldn't have his kids educated in the US he would
have condemned the "incompetence of the
Americans at educating foreign students."
I made a final riposte because as a Pakistani I cannot
tolerate the double standards prevailing in the
Islamic Crescent. Sheikh Youssef al-Qadrawi is
extremely popular in Arab states, especially in
the Persian Gulf with a weekly religious and fatwa (religious edicts)
program hosted by the many Arab satellites.
He has indeed
issued many edicts, which are a
compulsion for Muslims to abide to in order to ascend
to the heavens. All universally condemned the fatwa
issued against the life of Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah
Khomeini, which I hope gives you the indication of the
power of fatwa, please note the following two
fatwas (in Arabic) by the Shiekh:
1-Depositing money in American banks is a
crime of highest order that constitutes ultimate sin for Muslims.
2- Buying American products is a sin for every Muslim.
If someone sends his own
children to the US, he definitely draws on the US banking
system and indulges in the consumption of US products;
on both counts his fatwa stand dead in water. Therefore I find
the Shiekh culpable of the unpleasant
two-facedness. What he finds superior for his own self and his
family should be good for other Muslims too.
I only charge him of double standards because if the academic
environment of the US is first-rate for his offspring,
then it would hold that it is a superior place for
other Muslims too. Equal opportunity for everyone is
the only way we will progress within the confines of
culture, tradition and limitations of our region.
Muslim children should be moulded with the greatest
gifts that their parents can give them. Sheik al-Qaradawi has
obviously done very well with his children and educated them at
the finest institutions. However why
does he forbid this very opportunity for the children
of his fellow Muslims? In the end, Islam teaches us
that what is good for the children of the ulema
should be good for commoners too!
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