Rumours have been circulating in the Gulf media, and the Arabic press in London, that the controversial cleric Yousuf Al Qaradawi will be leaving Qatar, the place he adopted as home and became a citizen of, to live either in Tunisia or London. If there is any truth to these rumours, then it means that the diplomatic pressure on Doha by its three brotherly states — Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain — has borne fruit. Al Qaradawi leaving Doha, in my opinion, is a wrong step. It is much more desirable to keep the elderly man in Doha, as he could be closely monitored — he has been banned for four weeks so far from preaching during Friday prayers in the grand mosque at Doha. If he goes to some other place, like London, with his grievances, he could become an annoyance for everybody, especially Egypt, his place of birth, where things have not settled yet. The historic similarity that comes to mind is of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, when the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi insisted that the Iraqi authorities get rid of Khomeini from the holy town of Najaf. Khomeini tried to come to Kuwait, but was later given a quick passage to Paris, where he became an icon for the Iranian revolutionaries. The rest of the story is well known.
I am definitely not trying to compare Al Qaradawi with Khomeini, as both men belong to a different era and setting, but my analogy attempts to make some comparisons about what we call in social studies the unintended results of our actions. The Muslim Brotherhood is still active in more than 30 states around the world, although it has been branded by Egypt and Saudi Arabia as a terrorist group. They continue to be active around the globe and in some Arab states as well. Most of the Brotherhood literature is naïve in its approach, simplistic and straight forward. If you red Sayyid Qutb, you can immediately feel the tragedy of the man. Another, Toiama Al Jorf’s writing on Islam, though he was a legal scholar, is very shallow. Both Qutb and Al Jorf where hanged by the Egyptian authorities during Jamal Abdul Nasser’s rule. One could be surprised to read that Abul Ala Maududi, the Indian-born Muslim thinker, is considered to be the godfather of the Egyptian, and later the Arab Muslim Brotherhood movement. When he visited Egypt, he refused to have his picture taken, as he considered it haram (forbidden).
Al Qaradawi’s writing is different. His books have been translated into many languages, including English and Urdu. He has written over 50 books, including pamphlets. The ideas in those books that are modern, eloquent and political could easily attract the younger generation, which has a limited knowledge of Islam, and is becoming more critical of its own governments.
The Arabs have to go a long way to separate religion from politics, or rather to modernise or reform religious thought. Some of them can adopt more fundamental and aggressive ideas. The setbacks we are witnessing in Tunisia and Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood are for a limited duration. There is no grand theory in Arab politics, paving the way for a real civil state. Muslim scholars in the eight century started to think on those line.
In the 13th century, Najm Al Deen Al Tofi said in matters that are not related to beliefs or worship, if the interpretation of verses of the Quran contradicts human interests, the interests should prevail.
Unfortunately this kind of thought has not been developed by scholars. To the contrary the opposite was adopted, by scholars who had very limited understanding and who adhered too literally to the verses, without using any contemporary interpretations.
Then there is the stuff we teach our younger generation at school on religious matters. We load their young minds with legendary stories, which mainly belong to the mythical world, rather than the real one. Added to that the bombardment from television and social media, which daily carry the wrong message of Islam, delivered by preachers whose primary motive is financial gain.
So Al Qaradawi and his like find it easy to spread their twisted thinking to a population that has very limited intellectual resources or methods to reexamine what they hear. The GCC could heal its wound by making the Al Jazeera television station more balanced and keeping Al Qaradawi in check at his Doha residence – it would be cheaper and more beneficial for everybody.