Switzerland bans cleric for anti-Semitic rhetoric

'Gulfnews' reports Swiss gov't bars radical Saudi scholar Muhammad al-Arefe because of his misogynist ideologies.

By JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT
May 28, 2013 23:02
3 minute read.
Mohammed Al-Arefe

Mohammed Al-Arefe. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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BERLIN – The Swiss government extended its ban of the radical Saudi Islamist scholar Muhammad al-Arefe because of his anti-Semitic and misogynist ideologies.

The website GulfNews.com reported on his denial of entry into Switzerland on Monday.

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The Swiss government initially barred al-Arefe from entering the country in December to attend the second annual conference of the Swiss Central Islamic Council.

Germany permitted al-Arefe to deliver talks in April and last year at an Islamic center that houses a kindergarten in the city of Mainz. German taxpayer funds subsidize the center, called the “Arab-Nil-Rhein- Verein.” The radical cleric is enormously popular on social media, with a current Twitter following of over 5 million.

The GulfNews.com article wrote that “al-Arefe’s critics have often accused him of advocating violence against women, homophobia and anti-Semitism.”

According to a detailed 2012 report published by two scholars from the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies – “Facebook Fatwa: Saudi Clerics, Wahhabi Islam, and Social Media” – al- Arefe justifies the physical abuse of one’s wife.

In a YouTube video, the FDD report says, al-Arefe explained the three ways a man should discipline his wife: he should first admonish her, and if that doesn’t work he should give her the silent treatment to show his anger. In the event that those two options fail, al- Arefe says, the third option is to strike her, specifying that the beatings should not be outwardly visible.





“If he beats her,” Al-Arefe said in the video, “the beatings must be light and must not make her face ugly. He should beat her in some places where it will not cause any damage.”

In another YouTube video cited by the authors of the FDD report, Jonathan Schanzer and Steve Miller, al-Arefe advocates violence against non-Muslims.

“Devotion to jihad for the sake of Allah, and the desire to shed blood, to smash skulls, and to sever limbs for the sake of Allah and in defense of His religion, is, undoubtedly, an honor for the believer,” the Muslim cleric says. “Allah said that if a man fights the infidels, the infidels will be unable to prepare to fight [the Muslims].”

In a talk show appearance, al- Arefe gave advice to victims of parental molestation, and urged family members to not call the authorities. According to al-Arefe, “The girl should not be left alone with her father nor should she wear provocative clothing around him.”

The Middle East Media Research Institute has translated a sermon by al-Arefe broadcast by Hamas-controlled Al- Aqsa TV on September 12, 2008.

Al-Arefe claimed that “studies conducted in Tel Aviv and in the Palestinian lands occupied by the Jews showed that they plant Gharqad trees around their homes, because the Prophet Muhammad said that when the Muslims fight the Jews, each and every stone and tree will say: ‘Oh Muslim, oh servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” Al-Arefe said the Jews plant Gharqad trees around their homes to hide behind them because “they are not man enough to stand and fight you.”

Responding to criticism that the Mainz Islamic center permitted the alleged hate-cleric to deliver talks, Samy El-Hagrasy – a spokesman for Islamic center – told the Allgeimeine Zeitung Rhein Main Presse newspaper that al-Arefe did not issue any statements by the center against Christians, Muslims or anyone else.

“What the man said at one time in Saudi Arabia has nothing to do with the Arab-Nil association,” he said.

Prof. Dr. Günter Meyer, the head researcher covering the Arab world at the University of Mainz, defended the invitation of al-Arefe to the Arab-Nil Islamic center. Al-Arefe is a conservative cleric who enjoys high respect in the Arab world, Meyer told the Rhein Main Presse.

In 2011, Meyer came under fire of charges of anti-Semitism for expelling an Israeli academic from a conference in Berlin.

Ronen A. Cohen, an expert on modern Iran, received an email from Meyer informing him he had been banned from participation in the 18th International Congress of DAVO in Berlin.

“It is not acceptable that a representative of an illegally established Israeli university in the occupied territories is participating in this conference,” wrote Meyer, who chairs the German Middle East Studies Association for Contemporary Research and Documentation.

The University of Mainz rejected Meyer’s call to boycott Cohen, and his invitation to speak was restored.

Benjamin Weinthal is a European affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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