Doha-based Egyptian-born Yusuf al-Qaradawi is one of Islam's most popular and influential clerics. His al-Jazeera program, Shari'a and Life, made him a household preacher in the Arabic-speaking world. A self-proclaimed moderate, he only condones suicide-bombings against Israelis (of all ages and genders, maintaining that there are no innocent non-combatants among them). Indeed, many of his conservative co-religionists have condemned him in fiery oratory for being too soft on the West.
Nevertheless, like fellow Muslim scholars, Qaradawi is outraged by what he perceives as European hypocrisy in the Danish cartoons brouhaha. He acknowledges that "the Danes say they can ridicule Jesus and his mother, but can they ridicule Jews?" he demands, "Nobody even has the right to question the number of Holocaust victims."
Qaradawi's acid test for true liberality is Holocaust denial. Whoever doesn't sanction erasing the memory of slaughtered Jews cannot claim the credentials of impartiality and unprejudiced intellectual integrity.
It'd be tempting to dismiss this as fanatical in-house Muslim rhetoric, were there not very fertile receptors for Qaradawi's rationale in - of all places - embattled Europe, which ostensibly these days upholds the intrinsic values of tolerant pluralistic civilization.
Yet precisely those who now find themselves attacked by militant Islam - the very ones from whom Jews might belatedly expect greater understanding, if not actual empathy - succumb to Qaradawi's logic whereby true neutrality hinges on espousing the crudest of anti-Jewish dialectics (though the compulsion to rewrite Holocaust history or draw propagandistic analogies thereto belie claims that this is merely justifiable criticism of Israeli policies).
The notion that Arab/Muslim grievances (as numerous as Arabs'/Muslims' failed attempts to aggressively get their way) must be redressed or balanced by Jew-bashing has become near axiomatic in cosmopolitan European discourse.
Examples abound. As the Danish cartoons furor inflamed Muslim passions worldwide, BBC HARDtalk presenter Stephen Sackur grilled Flemming Rose - the since-suspended culture editor of Jyllands-Posten which printed the controversial cartoons - to discover whether he's limitlessly broadminded, or whether his publication policy isn't as libertarian as professed.
"Would you portray a rabbi as a Nazi after Israelis killed Palestinians?" Sackur pressed.
Valiant Rose immediately rose to the challenge: "Last December we printed a cartoon depicting Sharon killing Palestinian children." The fact that Sharon never ordered the slaying of Palestinian kids appeared entirely beside the point. The fact that the only tots deliberately targeted are Jewish (Qaradawi, revered by Hamas, permitted suicide-bombers to blow up Israeli youngsters) was even further from attention.
EUROPEAN SATIRISTS never take up the cause of underaged Jewish terror victims. Even Jews in baby strollers somehow have it coming and deserve no bon-ton compassion. Slandering Jews as sinister, hook-nosed Hitlerite practitioners of infanticide, a la medieval blood libels, is their hallmark of enlightened objectivity.
Rose courageously resisted submission to taboos Muslims sought to impose on his culture. The very notion that the whole world must abide by Muslim prohibitions is patently a form of theocratic imperialism. It assumes that there's only one overriding truth and all else is heresy. It's as if Muslims would one day order all Western women to wear the hijab or risk violence for offending Muslim sensibilities. But the fact that even Rose assumed he evinces evenhandedness by slandering Jews should send chills down our spines.
For Sackur, however, Rose's self-vindication was insufficient. He wouldn't let go the rabbi-as-Nazi imagery. Sackur's seeming premise was that any alleged injustice to Muslims must be corrected via injustice to Jewish scapegoats.
By this yardstick, Iran's Holocaust-lampooning caricature competition (which Rose considered featuring) and obviously its nuclear ambitions are proper tit-for-tat.
Sackur could claim his Nazi/rabbi correlation was mere provocative illustration to expose Rose's bias. Yet he dragged Jews into an extraneous issue. Sackur made (and repeatedly emphasized) a symptomatic and superfluous suggestive association, intimating to impressionable audiences that it's unfair if Jews too aren't denigrated.
Sackur doesn't anyway deserve the benefit of our doubt. During his two-year stint as the BBC's Mideast correspondent, he was consistently tendentious.
"Thirty years after Israel's military conquest," pontificated Sackur on June 5, 1997, characterizing Israel's self-defense as land-grabbing adventurism, "we returned with Muhammad Burkan to the Jerusalem house he owned before 1967. Now a Jewish family lives thereâ€¦" Sackur failed to mention - or perhaps didn't bother to check - that Burkan never owned said property and lost all appeals to Israel's exceedingly accommodating and solicitous courts.
In 2002 Sackur took on America's Jewish lobby, painting it as a dark force that holds the hapless White House captive in its inextricable grip - shades of Protocols - vintage conspiracy libels.
Sackur's predecessor at HARDtalk, Tim Sebastian, lately chairs another BBC offering, The Doha Debates, spotlighting the Arab media. The day Sackur harped on Nazi-rabbis, Sebastian's panelists argued vehemently about who's culpable for lack of adequate international animosity towards Israel and awareness of "Zionist crimes." The failure of articulate and analytical Arab journalists to wonder whether they aren't abetting calumny and aren't themselves fed a load of lies didn't move a muscle on Sebastian's otherwise expressive face.
Nearby, enjoying the same Qatari city's hospitality, Qaradawi must be having a wry last laugh as his "beat-the-Jew" motif resonates from oil-rich Doha's explicitness to oil-dependent Europe's subtext. The sacrifice he demands of another Jewish scapegoat is just an appetizer. He wants more. Islam, he declares, "is poised to take over the world. The harbinger of Islamic triumph will be the conquest of Rumia" - a.k.a. Rome. "Islam will return to Europe as the victorious conqueror, after having been twice ousted from it."
Remember: Qaradawi is a relative moderate.