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The Scholars Brawl in Doha | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Let’s start from the beginning. Four years ago a group of Islamists met and founded an association called the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), as part of the civil society movement that yielded many associations, and Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi was called to be chairman of the union. From the start, suspicion arose that the union was set up to face up to the Salafi movement that, in turn, has been in continuous conflict with the Muslim Brothers. The union was also said to be politically planned to isolate the Wahabis. Wahabis is a term usually used to belittle the Saudis. Iran was the keenest to attend the union’s meetings through the Arab and Iranian scholars attached to it. The union was described as an “unwholesome mosque.”(Dirar mosque’ – A mosque built by hypocrites in Medina during the times of the Prophet, to destroy the unity of Muslims and as a base against Islam. The Prophet demolished the mosque, after God warned him from accepting the invitation to pray there).

Then something went wrong, an incident between Al-Qaradawi, the chairman of IUMS, and the Iranians; a consequence of the “Iranian Shiite” and “Arab Sunni” war. All that Al-Qaradawi did was cry “fire, fire!” by saying that there was an Iranian plan to extend Shiite influence to Sunni societies, and as extremists usually do, the Iranians forgot the years of very close brotherly ties, and their semi official news agency attacked Al-Qaradawi claiming that he was a mouth piece for world freemasonry leaders and for Jewish rabbis. And, with the intention of insulting him further, the Iranian news agency said that Arab youths were attracted to the Shiite doctrine. Sheikh al-Qaradawi hit back with fresh blows, thereby declaring war on Iranian Shiites and warning against them.

At this point, IUMS organizers quickly sought to bring about reconciliation and convened the “Al-Quds” [Jerusalem] conference. Usually Al-Quds is just a title used in regional and partisan conflicts. In fact it has nothing to do with occupied Jerusalem, apart from propaganda. The problem of the proponents of reconciliation is that Al-Qaradawi’s deputy – the deputy chairman of IUMS – is a Shiite, namely Ayatollah Ali Taskhiri, who refused to attend the conference. Furthermore, Taskhiri used his Internet site to denounce his superior, Al-Qaradawi. Following the public sparring rounds between Sheikh al-Qaradawi and Ayatollah Taskhiri, the Iranians sent a large delegation headed by Velayati who is said to have apologized to Al-Qaradawi and to have asked him to withdraw what he said against Iran. Al-Qaradawi agreed to withdraw what he said on condition that Iran, in turn, stops its activities against the Sunnis. Thus, reconciliation failed and the sparring continued. Such conferences fail first and foremost because of the insincerity of those who call for them. Moreover, some of them are used for political ends, in the name of religion and of Muslims. In fact this is what Al-Qaradawi has found out, albeit very late. If we look at the Doha conference, we would find ourselves in the presence of a farce that has nothing to do with Islam or with Al-Quds. We would find groups in disagreement, divided by continuous quarrels about ideology and religion. But at the conference, these same groups speak about cooperation and tolerance.

As far as individuals are concerned, we would find ourselves before a surrealist scene: religious zealots and left-wingers exchanging cards and telephone numbers, but the reality of their differences need no explanation. When it comes to those attending the conference, one would have to bang one’s head against a wall to be able to understand that the conference of the International Union of Muslim Scholars is about Al-Quds. In fact, in the front row of the conference room are seated the stars of the ceremony: Khalid Mishal, Hamas’s strongman in Syria and a frequent visitor to Iran, and Sheikh Harith al-Dari who is accused by the Iraqis of being an extremist Sunni who has become a friend of Iran, even though he denies this. As for Ma’an Bashur, he is the former secretary-general of the Pan-Arab Conference. He is at the conference as part of the general décor, just like Jerusalem Bishop Attallah Hanna. Most of the participants are extremist Sunnis, Shiites and Muslim Brothers who have come to the conference to face up to the Zionist plans to judaize Jerusalem. The situation outside the conference is no better, with quarrels flaring between fundamentalist groups who are militarily different and who uphold different views and fatwas. And, while they talk about tolerance, scholars issue fatwas against the setting up of a tennis team for women.