An Islamic preacher who has called for gay people to be put to death is to be allowed entry into the UK for medical treatment.
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 80, was at the centre of a row in 2004 when he came to London as a guest of Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was then heavily criticised by gay rights campaigners and Jewish organisations for inviting him.
The spiritual leader of Islamicist organisation the Muslim Brotherhood, al-Qaradawi is known to have supported suicide bombings in Israel, the oppression of women’s rights and has argued in the past that homosexuals should be put to death.
The Observer reported yesterday that Home Office and Foreign Office recommended he be allowed into the UK, while the Department for Communities and Local Government felt such a move would offend some Muslims and other groups such as the LGBT community.
He is banned from entering the United States, but has visited Sweden and France in recent times.
The Mayor has defended his decision to invite al-Qaradawi’s to London, saying his views concerning the death penalty for homosexuals are a “a series of questions of a philosophical nature.
“We are clearly not going to see Dr Qaradawi on a gay rights march.
“But you wouldn’t see the Pope on a gay rights march and I would meet him.”
Campaigner Peter Tatchell withdrew his support for Mr Livingstone over the issue and along with an LGBT Muslim group, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, Hindu and Sikh groups and the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, wrote to the Mayor expressing their anger at the meeting.
However, many other gay rights advocates, among them Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill, the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism and activist Linda Bellos supported Mr Livingstone, citing his “proud record” on human rights and social justice for lesbians and gay men.
The arguments raged for nearly a year, with Mr Livingstone insisting that as the Mayor of the most diverse city in the world it was right for him to meet with members of faith groups even if he disagreed with their views.