Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, one of the most influential Islamic scholars, arrived in the Gaza Strip late on Wednesday at the head of a
delegation of 50 senior Islamic figures from 14 countries.
86-year-old Qaradawi is expected to meet with Hamas leaders and representatives
of other Palestinian factions.
His visit is seen as a symbolic victory
for Hamas, whose leaders consider the controversial Egyptian- born Qaradawi the
spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Qaradawi’s visit to the Gaza
Strip is expected to last 48 hours hours, during which he will attend a
Hamas-sponsored rally on Thursday.
Qaradawi, who has in the past come out
in support of suicide bombings against Israel, is expected to deliver a sermon
during Friday prayers at the Omari Mosque in Gaza City.
scholars accompanying him are from Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Libya,
Tunisia, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, Australia and
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri welcomed Qaradawi’s visit as
“historic” and hailed his positions in support of the Palestinians.
Zuhri dismissed the Palestinian Authority’s opposition to the visit. “Receiving
scholars and allies of the Palestinian resistance is better than meeting with
leaders of the occupation and the enemies of the Palestinian people in
Ramallah,” he said.
The PA leadership has come out against Qaradawi’s
visit to the Gaza Strip, saying it would harm Palestinian interests and deepen
the split between Hamas and Fatah.
“We do not welcome this visit,” said
Mahmoud Habbash, the PA minister for Wakf affairs.
“This is a visit that
carries political dimensions and is intended to recognize as legitimate Hamas’s
rule in the Gaza Strip.”
Habbash said the visit would also help Hamas
move foreword with its plan to create a separate Palestinian entity in the
Referring to Qaradawi’s recent fatwa forbidding Muslims to visit
Jerusalem while it is under Israeli control, the PA minister remarked: “Qaradawi
is now entering the Gaza Strip with Israeli permission. He should revoke his bad
fatwa which violates all religious teachings.”
Mahmoud Aloul, a top Fatah
official in the West Bank, condemned Qaradawi’s visit as “suspicious.”
said that the senior scholar was himself a suspicious man because of his fatwas,
including ones that permitted the US and NATO to intervene in the internal
affairs of the Arab world.
Aloul said that Qaradawi’s fatwas have caused
sedition and conflicts in the Arab world and among Muslims and led to the
killing of hundreds of thousands of innocent people in Syria, Libya and the
The Fatah-affiliated Palestinian Journalists
Syndicate in the West Bank called on its members to boycott Qaradawi’s visit and
to refrain from covering his activities in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip, including Fatah and the Marxist Popular
Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Leninist Democratic Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, also said they would boycott Qaradawi and his