- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

KHARTOUM, Sudan (Agence France-Presse) — A prominent Egyptian cleric last week accused international aid agencies operating in Sudan’s war-torn Darfur region of using relief distribution to convert the region’s Muslim population to Christianity.

Sheik Yussef al-Qaradawi made the charge during a sermon on Friday carried live by state television from Khartoum’s Martyrs’ Mosque, where he led the main weekly prayers. He charged that Western countries were conspiring against Muslims throughout the world, including in Darfur.

“We are in a big battle with our foes,” said Sheik al-Qaradawi, adding that the battle is a military and political conflict as well as a religious one. “They are conspiring against us religiously.”

Sheik al-Qaradawi said a host of nongovernmental organizations operate in Darfur under cover of “charity,” but in reality, they actively preach the Gospel and try to convert people to Christianity.

He added that of the 53 international agencies in Darfur, only four have Islamic affiliations and called on Muslim nations to mobilize and come to the aid of the region’s people.

The sheik, a regular guest on Qatar-based Al Jazeera satellite television religious talk shows, arrived in the Sudanese capital Thursday as the head of a delegation of Islamic scholars trying to mediate an end to the 18-month conflict in Darfur.

The war pitting government forces and allied Arab militias against non-Muslim black rebels has cost up to 50,000 lives and caused more than 1 million people to flee their homes, the United Nations says.

Sheik al-Qaradawi urged Darfur’s Muslims not to “attack each other” and not to allow their “enemies and the enemies of your nation” to use the conflict as an excuse to interfere in Sudan’s internal affairs.

Muslims are capable of handling their own affairs, he said.

“We are not slaves to anyone, but Allah,” he added.

Sheik al-Qaradawi and members of his delegation were to meet religious and political leaders in Khartoum before traveling to Darfur.

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