Brown bans Muslim preacher who praised suicide bombers as 'martyrs' from Britain
Gordon Brown today faced the anger of Muslim groups after banning a radical Islamic cleric from entering Britain.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 81, had been hoping to come to London to receive medical treatment but it is understood that the Prime Minister has blocked his visa.
The Muslim Council of Britain accused Mr Brown of bowing to pressure from the "pro-Zionist and neo-conservative lobby".
Al-Qaradawi visited in 2004 when he was given the red-carpet treatment by Mayor Ken Livingstone.
The sheikh, who has been banned by many other countries including the US, is the spiritual leader of a movement linked to the outlawed Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamist group in the Middle East.
In the past he has spoken out against homosexuality, promoted the idea of Palestinian suicide attacks against Israelis, and described suicide bombers as "martyrs".
Mr Brown's intervention came a week after David Cameron called for Al-Qaradawi to be prevented from entering the UK.
The Conservative leader said there should be zero tolerance towards clerics who defend Middle East terrorism, who call for the execution of gay people or who oppose rights for women.
But the Muslim Council of Britain, which represents more than 500 organisations in Britain, said it was "regrettable" that Mr Brown had given way to the "unreasonable demands" of the Tory leader.
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the council's secretary-general, said: "Yusuf al-Qaradawi enjoys unparalleled respect and influence throughout the Muslim world...
"Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit. These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world."
The visa decision is seen as a shift in policy by Mr Brown.
Muslim outrage as Yusuf al-Qaradawi refused UK visa
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a controversial Muslim cleric who defends suicide attacks, has been refused a visa to enter to the UK after a campaign by David Cameron.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said that it deplored the decision and accused the government of caving in to “unreasonable demands spearheaded by the Tory leader”.
Muhammad Abdul Bari, the secretary-general of the MCB, said that Dr al-Qaradawi enjoyed respect as a scholar throughout the Muslim world.
“I am afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture,” he said.
“Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit. These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world.”
The British Muslim Initiative (BMI) described the decision to bar al-Qaradawi, an “eminent scholar”, as “an unwarranted insult to British Muslims”.
Muhammad Sawalha, the BMI president, said: “We would have to go as far back as the medieval age when scholars were hounded and vilified in order to find a similar retrograde decision.”
The 81-year-old Egyptian-born preacher is now based in Qatar and makes regular appearances on al-Jazeera television, clad in white robes, where he denounces anti-Muslim sentiment in the European media.
Sources close to Dr al- Qaradawi said that his visa application had had support within the Home and Foreign Offices. "But the Zionist lobby placed huge pressures to block the visa application and Prime Minister Gordon Brown eventually backed that position," they added.
It is understood that Dr al-Qaradawi, who is banned from entering the United States, applied for a medical visa almost a year ago. In August he was hospitalised for a stomach ulcer, and in November he was treated for a cracked vertebra apparently caused by a slipped disc.
In a fax from the British embassy in Doha, his application was refused, reportedly citing Article 41 of the United Nations charter, which relates to threats to peace and security.
1) Brown bans Muslim preacher who praised suicide bombers as 'martyrs' from Britain
2) Muslim outrage as Yusuf al-Qaradawi refused UK visa