Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ken Welcomes Cleric Who Backs Bombers; Scholar Banned in US Due to Speak Here Next Month

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Ken Welcomes Cleric Who Backs Bombers; Scholar Banned in US Due to Speak Here Next Month

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY;ISABEL OAKESHOTT

LONDON BOMBINGS - MAYOR SAYS RADICAL SHOULD BE GIVEN A PLATFORM AS PRESSURE GROWS TO BAN FIREBRANDS FROM ENTERING BRITAIN

KEN LIVINGSTONE today backed an extreme Muslim cleric despite mounting calls to ban him from Britain. The Mayor said there was nothing wrong with allowing Yusuf al-Qaradawi to visit London to give a lecture.

The Egyptian-born scholar is banned from the US after praising suicide bombers as martyrs and vilifying Jews and homosexuals.

The Government is under intense pressure to stop allowing Islamic radicals to enter Britain - with a damning report today claiming extremists have been allowed to flourish in London. But today the Mayor said that the scholar should be given a voice in the wake of the London bombings.

Al-Qaradawi has been invited to make a speech to an Islamic conference in Manchester on 7 August. The 79-year-old was at the centre of uproar last year when Mr Livingstone welcomed him to City Hall despite protests.

Demonstrations were mounted by a coalition of Jews, Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims and gay people. His latest visit to London will fuel criticism that the Government is playing into the hands of terrorists.

However, the Mayor says that Al-Qaradawi has condemned the London bombings.

Asked if he would be welcoming the cleric again, Mr Livingstone today refused to give a direct answer. But he issued a statement which read: "London at this time urgently needs people in all communities, above all in the Muslim community, who unequivocally condemn the bombings in London on 7 July and help us to isolate, find and deal with those considering further atrocities.

"I am for banning anyone who supports or is any way equivocal about condemning the terrorist attacks on London."

Mr Livingstone said he was satisfied that Al-Qaradawi had condemned the atrocity as being wholly incompatible with Islam.

He went on: "I believe it important that Britain's Islamic community hears, through every means possible, condemnation of this from leading Islamic figures and urge them to speak out with all the means they possess on this issue. …

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