by BENEDICT BROGAN, Daily Mail 19:58pm 13th July 2006
British taxpayers paid for a Muslim cleric who has defended suicide bombers to attend a conference on Islam in Turkey, it has emerged.
The Government paid for Yusuf al-Qaradawi and his wife to fly from their home in Qatar to Istanbul for the two-day event, and for their accommodation in a five-star hotel. The 80-year-old cleric was the focus of furious protests in 2004 when he visited Britain as a guest of London mayor Ken Livingstone.
He is considered the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, a militant group with offshoots around the world which acts as the ideological engine room of Islamist extremism. Mr al-Qaradawi, who has also called for the execution of homosexuals and opposed equal rights for women, addressed the opening day of the £300,000 conference.
He has defended Palestinian suicide bombers who attack Israel as "a weapon which the weak resort to". He was invited to speak by a steering group that included Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the former head of the Muslim Council of Britain.
The Foreign Office confirmed that it had covered Mr Qaradawi's expenses as part of its support for the conference, which took place earlier this month. Frances Guy, the FCO civil servant in charge of the "Engaging with the Islamic World Group", met Mr Qaradawi at the conference.
Details emerged as leaked emails obtained by the journalist Martin Bright and included in a pamphlet published by the think tank Policy Exchange yesterday revealed unease in the Foreign Office about Britain's relations with extremists.
Critics say the Government's support for Mr Qaradawi flies in the face of Tony Blair's calls for an end to tolerance for so-called "preachers of hate". Two years ago Mr Blair told MPs: "Let me make it absolutely clear. We want nothing to do with people who support suicide bombers in Palestine, or elsewhere or support terrorism."
And last week, on the eve of the anniversary of the London tube bombings, he said: "If we want to defeat extremism, we have to defeat its ideas." Mr Qaradawi and his wife were among 180 Muslim leaders from Europe, Egypt and Saudi Arabia flown by the Foreign Office to Istanbul for a conference called "Muslims in Europe" held in the luxury Ceylan InterContinental Hotel. Mr Qaradawi is banned from the United States, and when he appeared in Britain his visit sparked protests from Jewish and gay groups.
A leaked FCO memo dated last July revealed how some diplomats are keen to promote links with Mr Qaradawi, describing him as "a highly respscted islamic scholar". A spokesman for the FCO defended the decision to pay for Mr Qaradawi to attend the conference: "It is our view that you have got to engage in discussion with individuals with whom you don't necessarily agree."
More: Extremist linked cleric given green light to enter Britain
Excuse me but.....I wanna know know WTF is the British Government doing covering the expenses of a known terror preacher (who lives in Qatar not in Europe) to a conference in Turkey (not in Europe) about Muslems in Europe. This man has more money than most moslems I know (and I know a damn sight more than most of you) and he can well afford to pay for his own ticket. Tony Blair has got to realise that MM is not the initials of the famous Mouse or his favourite candy but the Muslim Menace. You cannot buy these people. Sure they will take your gifts and trinkets but they will laugh at your stupidity in the process. They will only stop at world domination.