September 26th saw the appearance of a report credited to David Gritten on the BBC News website’s ‘Middle East’ page. Headlined “Influential Sunni Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi dies aged 96”, the report tells readers that:
“Qaradawi’s supporters described him as a moderate, but some Western and Gulf states branded him an extremist.”
Readers are then provided with examples chosen to supposedly explain that difference of views.
“He condemned the 9/11 attacks in the United States by jihadist militants from al-Qaeda and backed the pro-democracy uprisings against the leaders of Egypt, Libya and Syria during the Arab Spring.
But he also called on Muslims to fight Americans in Iraq following the 2003 invasion and claimed that Islam justified Palestinian suicide bomb attacks against Israelis during the second Palestinian intifada that began in 2000.
In an interview with the BBC in 2004, he said: “I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an indication of the justice of Allah Almighty.””
At the bottom of this report readers find a link to a 2004 article which includes a version of that latter statement together with additional promotion of Qaradawi’s ‘justification’ of terrorism against Israeli civilians. That fawning report about Qaradawi’s ‘star status’ was written by the same journalist who years later in June 2012 had a no less flattering portrait of the Muslim Brotherhood published by the Guardian.
Qaradawi’s record of bigoted and offensive remarks is however by no means confined to excusing and praising terrorism against Israelis but Gritten’s report makes no mention of his homophobic and misogynistic declarations, his blatant antisemitism or his Holocaust distortions.
Neither are readers of this report informed that Qaradawi was barred from entering several Western countries, including the UK.
Most BBC audience members are likely to be unfamiliar with the British or foreign “supporters” of Qaradawi who Gritten states have described him as a “moderate”. That information is obviously essential to readers seeking to decide for themselves whether or not such a portrayal is indeed relevant, as well as in order to understand the wider implications of its promotion.