A government decision Thursday to ban a Qatar-based Muslim cleric who supports suicide bombings in Israel from entering the UK has been criticized by Muslim groups. Egyptian-born cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi wanted to come to the UK for medical treatment, but was refused entry. "The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence," the Home Office said. Qaradawi has in the past visited the UK at the invitation of London Mayor Ken Livingstone, sparking protests from civil rights groups, the Jewish community and the gay and lesbian community. In 2004, Qaradawi defended suicide attacks against Israelis. "It's not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God," he told the BBC. He added that it did not matter if women and children were the victims of suicide attacks and called for the destruction of the State of Israel. He has also called for the death penalty for homosexuality and has reportedly preached that husbands should beat "disobedient" wives. Last week, Conservative Party leader David Cameron called for Qaradawi's exclusion from the UK, calling him a "dangerous and divisive preacher of hate." Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, condemned the ban and said Qaradawi was respected as a scholar throughout the Muslim world. He said the Labor government had "bowed to Zionist and neo-con pressure." "It is regrettable that the government has finally given way to these unreasonable demands, spearheaded by the Conservative leader whose government had, in fact, allowed Dr. Qaradawi to visit the UK five times between 1995 and 1997," Bari said. He added that the decision would send the "wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture." Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, condemned the government's refusal to allow Qaradawi into the UK on the Guardian newspaper's Web site. "Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit. These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world," Bunglawala said, adding that the ban Qaradawi was an attack on free speech. The British Muslim Initiative described the ban as "an unwarranted insult to British Muslims." "We would have to go as far back as the medieval age, when scholars were hounded and vilified, in order to find a similar retrograde decision," said BMI president Muhammad Sawalha. Sources close to Qaradawi said that his visa application had support within the Home and Foreign Offices, but that Prime Minister Gordon Brown had given in to pressure from "the Zionist lobby" to block his entry.