What do Mitt Romney and Yusuf al-Qaradawi have in common? Ask the Guardian’s Brian Whitaker

Brian Whitaker has had many assignments during his nearly twenty-five year career at the Guardian, including a long stint as the paper’s Middle East editor.

So, the Guardian veteran’s image and moniker caught my eye in the comment section below CiF’s latest edition of Divine Dispatches by David Shariatmadari.

Whitaker was responding to Shariatmadari’s final bullet point about “speculation as to whether Mormons would have undue influence over the White House” (in the event of a Mitt Romney Presidency).

Here’s Whitaker’s reply:

Whitaker linked to an essay he wrote in 2005, while Middle East editor, titled “Fundamental Union“, which began thusly:

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a controversial Islamic scholar who approves of wife-beating and believes in traditional family values. The Mormon church, having abandoned polygamy more than a century ago, believes in traditional families too.

With that much in common, they have joined forces to “defend the family” and fight progressive social policies at the United Nations.

Intrigued by a comparison between the Muslim Brotherhood spiritual leader and the Utah based Church of  Latter Day Saints, to which Romney is a member, I read on.

“The Doha conference”, Whitaker informs us, “provides a striking example of growing cooperation between the Christian right (especially in the United States) and conservative Muslims.” [emphasis mine]

Further intrigued by a Guardian editor evoking the specter of a burgeoning Evangelical-Islamism Alliance – which, after all, represents something approaching apostasy at an institution which continually claims that the Christian right (and America more broadly) is immutably Islamophobic – I read further.

The debate about family values, opined Whitaker, does not “follow the usual dividing lines of international politics. The battle is between liberal secularists and conservatives…who think religion has a role in government.” 

On this issue, Whitaker’s flourish concludes, “the United States now sits in the religious camp alongside the Islamic regimes: not so much a clash of civilisations, more an alliance of fundamentalisms.” [emphasis mine]

While there is, to be sure, much to criticize about the Christian right in the U.S. – such as their views on gay rights and other social issues – it takes a truly breathtaking leap to posit anything approaching a moral overlap with Islamism, particularly the brand of Islamist thought championed by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.

Al-Qaradawi’s Islamism (which, along with the even more extreme Salafists, garnered a strong majority of the vote in Egypt’s recent elections) doesn’t merely condemn gays, but calls for their execution

Al-Qaradawi’s Islamism approves of female genital mutilation, and believes that women who are the victims of rape arguably should be punished for their apparent sin of tempting their innocent male attacker! 

Al-Qaradawi Qaradawi also supports acts of terrorism innocent American and Israeli civilians – and issued a fatwa in 2003 specifically authorizing the use of women in suicide attacks.

Finally – and strangely absent, even in passing, anywhere in Whitaker’s nearly 2,000 word essay – there’s the issue of Al-Qaradawi’s extreme, explicit and unapologetic antisemitism.

Such Jew-hatred, which Whitaker ever so curiously omitted, includes the MB spiritual leader’s citation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in “religious deliberations”, and his incitement of violence specifically against Jews.

More recently, Al-Qaradawi’s (Mormon-style?) Islamism explicitly endorsed Hitler’s genocide against the Jews, and was quoted in a Wikileaks cable literally calling on Allah to kill every last Jew on earth.

Whatever legitimate criticisms their may be regarding Mormon religious doctrine, even a cursory view of the Church (and its leadership) would disabuse those sincerely interested in such an inquiry of any suggestion that the faith is compromised by even a hint of such extremism. 

Whitaker’s bizarre, tall tale of twin, morally overlapping, fundamentalisms represents a classic Guardian polemicism: preconceived, politically convenient, and ideologically driven conclusions in desperate search of anything even resembling supporting evidence.   

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