A Muslim cleric who supports the death penalty for homosexuals has been refused entry to Britain, after a Conservative campaign to present him getting a visa.
Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has defended suicide attacks on Israeli civilians and is banned from entering the United States, will now not be allowed to enter the UK for medical treatment.
The Home Office said the cleric had been refused entry because of fears his views “could foster inter-community violence”.
Last month David Cameron described Mr al-Qaradawi – a Qatar-based scholar with a large following across the Muslim world – as “dangerous and divisive” and demanded he be banned from Britain.
Today the Muslim Council of Britain attacked the Tory leader and said the Government’s decision to refuse the visa undermined Britain’s tradition of free speech.
Mr al-Qaradawi’s fatwas, or religious rulings, are considered binding by many Muslims. He was invited to the UK in 2004 by London mayor Ken Livingstone, who described him as “a powerfully progressive force for change” and “an absolutely sane Islamist engaged with the world”.
Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the MCB, said the Government had caved to “unreasonable demands spearheaded by the Tory leader”.
“I am afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture,” he said.
“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.”
Egyptian-born Mr al-Qaradawi, a regular guest on mainstream Arabic TV stations including Al-Jazeera, is accused of homophobia, misogyny and anti-Semitism by critics.
He has defended Palestinian suicide attacks that kill Israeli civilians. “I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God’s justice,” he is reported to have said.
“Allah Almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs as Palestinians do”.
But his support for Muslim integration in Western societies has led him to be seen by some as a moderate – if conservative – Islamic thinker.
The Home Office said the decision to refuse the visa had been taken after advice from several Government departments, but that Mr al-Qaradawi could still appeal on human rights and race discrimination grounds.
“The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any act of terrorist violence,” a spokeswoman added.