An Islamic preacher who has called for gay people to be put to death has been denied entry into the UK for medical treatment.
Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, 80, was at the centre of a row in 2004 when he spoke at an event in City Hall as a guest of London 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, Dr 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 Home Office today announced he would be refused entry over concerns his presence “could foster inter-community violence.
“The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any act of terrorist violence.”
Muslim groups have condemned the ban.
Mohammed Shafiq, from Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation, told the BBC:
“We’ve had figures like Nick Griffin and the BNP operating freely and promoting violence towards ethnic minorities, and nothing is done.
“This smacks of double standards, and will isolate Muslim communities further.”
Currently living in Qatar, Dr Qaradawi is banned from entering the United States, but has visited Sweden and France in recent times.
The Mayor has defended his decision to host Dr Qaradawi at a City Hall conference on Islamic issues.
“We are clearly not going to see Dr Qaradawi on a gay rights march,” he told a committee of MPs in 2005.
“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.
Today Conservative Candidate for Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:
“It is absolutely right that this preacher of hate has been refused entry to the UK.
“This decision highlights Ken Livingstone’s gross error of judgement in inviting a man to London who espouses such vile opinions.”
Brian Coleman, London Assembly Member for Barnet and Camden and Deputy Chairman of the London Assembly, who is gay, also welcomed the ban.