“When you get a progressive figure who is moving that religion in the correct direction you engage and you develop it,” said Livingstone (Al-Jazeera).

Additional Reporting By Hany Bishr, IOL Correspondent

LONDON, January 11 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – London Mayor Ken Livingstone Tuesday, January 11, called on British media to apologize for sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi over the hostile campaign that sought to blemish his reputation during his visit to London in July.

Speaking at a press conference, Livingstone further urged those who took for granted false reports circulated by the Israeli intelligence services Mossad to admit that they were plainly wrong, Al-Jazeera satellite channel said.

He further revealed that he would submit a report to the Press Complaint Commission to keep it posted on the problems of the British media, which often promulgate stereotypes about Islam and its respected leaders.

“When you get a progressive figure who is moving that religion in the correct direction you engage and you develop it,” the BBC News Online quoted Livingstone as saying.

He said engaging with Al-Qaradawi would help enhance relations between the West and Islam.

“Here is the force that we need to engage with if we are to actually get a dialogue between the west and the Muslim world.”

Mossad Hands

Livingstone further revealed at his press conference that the campaign against Qaradawi was driven by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), who is led by a former Israeli intelligence officer, Al-Jazeera added.

He urged the institute to offer an apology for Al-Qaradawi, criticizing it for depending on unauthentic reports released by the Mossad.

The Mayor said that the institute was exploited by Mossad and the extremist right-wing in Britain to propagate untrue allegations about Islam and Muslim figures.

Dossiers

The reason behind Livingstone’s press conference was to respond to a dossier he and other London Assembly members have received, entitled “Mayor Livingstone and Sheikh Qaradawi” on  November 9, 2004.

The dossier condemns the Mayor for standing at the same platform with Al-Qaradawi. It repeated what have been said in British media June 2004 as well as some reports from MEMRI. The dossier was signed by some figures, none of them is Muslim.

In addition, four Sikh organizations-Khals Human Rights, the National Council of Gurdwaras, the Sikh Federation and the Sikh Secretariat- have explained that no evidence has been produced by the authors to back up their original allegations that Al- Qaradawi backs forced conversions to Islam and have, therefore, distanced themselves from the dossier, according to IOL correspondent.

In response, Livingstone issued a counter report during his press conference, entitled “Why the Mayor of London will maintain dialogue with all of London’s faiths and communities-A reply to the dossier against Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi,”  a copy of which was obtained by IOL. The report is some 50 pages, including appendix of some of the press coverage of Al-Qaradawi’s visit to London in June 2004.

Word for word, the Mayor of London refutes the allegations of  “Mayor Livingstone and Sheikh Qaradawi” report. Using many references; academic books, websites, newspapers and reports, the Livingstone report sheds light on the various stages of Al-Qaradawi’s life and activities. IslamOnline.net figures high as an important source in the report.

Livingstone has frequently said that a better understanding of Islam and of Muslims would show that the “differences are nowhere near as great as some would like to suggest.”

In July, Livingstone apologized for Qaradawi on behalf of the British people, inviting him back to the United Kingdom.

“On behalf of the people of London, I want to apologize to the Sheikh for the outbreak of xenophobia and hysteria in some sections of the tabloid press which demonstrated an underlying ignorance of Islam,” Livingstone had said.

British Muslims had expressed disappointment at the campaign launched by the “Zionist” lobby in the UK ahead of Qaradawi’s visit.

The July visit turned into a political storm when MP Louise Ellman, a member of the Labour Friends of Israel group, urged then Home Secretary David Blunkett to deny the renowned scholar a visa.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) concluded that there was no legal ground to prosecute prominent Al-Qaradawi during his London visit.

Prominent Scholar

Egyptian-born Qaradawi is well known throughout the Middle East where many consider him as the champion of moderation in the Muslim world.

He lives in the Gulf state of Qatar and is a regular guest on Arab TV screens. He is also a trustee of the Oxford University Center for Islamic Studies and three of his daughters completed doctorates at British universities.

Qaradawi is also the head of the Dublin-based International Association of Muslim Scholars (IAMS).

Many were the times that sheikh Qaradawi had made clear that bombings targeting civilians were strictly forbidden in Islam, hitting out at the “heinous” Bali bombings and the terrorist 9/11/2001 attacks in the United States.

“Islam not only prohibits attacking non-Muslims who do not launch attacks against Muslims, but it also urges Muslims to treat those non-Muslims with due respect and kindness, especially non-Muslims who live alongside Muslims within the Muslim territories,” he had said.

But Qaradawi angers the United States and Israel over sanctioning Palestinian resistance operations as a war against Israeli occupation, in addition to ruling that fighting the US occupation in Iraq is a religious duty.

Qaradawi further calls for distinguishing between the Israeli occupation and the Jews themselves.

“We do not fight Israelis because they are Jews, but because they took our land, killed our children and profaned our holy places,” the venerable sheikh had said.

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