Egypt’s Khomeini figure

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Hopes that Egyptians are committed to secular democracy took a blow Friday in the person of Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Sheik al-Qaradawi is the dominant voice in the region for a highly conservative and likely radical branch of Islam. Twice the Muslim Brotherhood has attempted to name him as its supreme guide, and twice he remained outside of - but strongly linked to - the Brotherhood.

Expert analysis brushed aside the potential for an Iran-style takeover in Egypt. The analysts point to the absence of a charismatic figure such as Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Sheik al-Qaradawi fits the charismatic, fundamentalist mold of Khomeini with a degree of media savvy that Khomeini did not command. The most popular talk show in the region is hosted by Sheik al-Qaradawi.

Many apologists cite Mr. al-Qaradawi as a moderate. If the Obama administration holds true to form, it will accept the moderate label, and Egypt’s missing ayatollah will be missing no more. Mr. al-Qaradawi’s credibility is enhanced by his having been thrown out of Egypt by former President Hosni Mubarak, much as Khomeini was expelled by Iran’s shah. Sheik al-Qaradawi’s media profile is as significant as that of any religious scholar in the Middle East, and his views are those of mainstream fundamentalism. The sheik maintains a viewership of 60 million on Al Jazeera.

The “moderate” Sheik al-Qaradawi supports suicide bombings, wife beating, punishment for female rape victims, random murder of Jews, female suicide bombers and terrorism. He sees the Holocaust as “divine punishment for the Jews.” He expresses his hope that the next Holocaust will come soon and will be at the hands of the “believers.” Given this, the potential point man for Iranian-style governance has arrived in Cairo.

DENNIS LANDRY

South Riding, Va.

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