Sarkozy bans Muslim cleric from visiting France
President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Monday that influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi was not welcome in France, adding to concerns that the French leader is fueling Islamophobia.
Egyptian-born Qaradawi, 86, has been invited to visit next month by the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF).
“I told the emir of Qatar himself that this gentleman was not welcome in the territory of the French Republic,” Sarkozy told France Info radio.
Qaradawi, who hosts a popular show on Al-Jazeera satellite television, backed Arab Spring uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, and has launched a fund-raising effort for the Syrian opposition.
He had been due to attend the UOIF congress at Le Bourget near Paris on April 6 alongside renowned Egyptian preacher Mahmoud al-Masri.
“I said that a certain number of people, who have been invited to this congress and who maintain or who would like to take positions that are incompatible with the republican ideal, would not be welcome,” Sarkozy said.
Qaradawi, who has close ties with the leadership of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, left the country in the 1960s after being imprisoned by the regime of president Gamal Abdel Nasser.
He is accused of having made homophobic statements and was banned from entering Britain in 2008. He has been banned from entering the United States since 1999.
Sarkozy has fanned right-wing discourse ahead of French presidential elections this year in an attempt to win conservative voters wary of immigration and France’s large Muslim population.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayip Erdogan recently accused the French leader of inciting racism and Islamophobia in a bid to get re-elected.
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