JERUSALEM, Israel - In his address to an estimated one million Egyptians gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Friday, Sheik Yusef al-Qaradawi had a special message to "our brothers in Palestine."
"I harbor the hope that just like Allah allowed me to witness the triumph in Egypt, he will allow me to witness the conquest of the al-Aksa mosque [on Jerusalem's Temple Mount] and will enable me to preach in the al-Aksa mosque," Qaradawi said.
"Oh Allah, allow us to preach in the al-Aksa mosque, amen," he said to shouts and cheers from the crowd. Click here to view his remarks, translated by MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute.
"The Arab world has changed," the 84-year-old Egyptian-born cleric said in his first public appearance in Egypt in 50 years. Qaradawi, a longtime member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is often considered a moderate because of his seeming embrace of democracy and pluralism.
But as Oren Kessler pointed out in Monday's Jerusalem Post, the "man for all seasons" is very much a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde," as Reuven Paz described him in an article for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy published in 2001.
While the enigmatic leader condemned the Islamist attack on the World Trade Center, he supports suicide bombings on Israelis. According to Qaradawi, there's "no enmity between Muslims and Jews," but rather against the "oppressive Zionist movement."
"Allah almighty is just; through his infinite wisdom he has given the weak a weapon the strong do not have and that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs, as Palestinians do," he told the BBC in 2005.
Qaradawi teaches that Arabs predate the Jews in "Palestine" so anyone claiming the Jews have a long history in Israel is a liar. He also believes the Nazi Holocaust, though exaggerated by the Jews, was divine punishment. "I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an evidence of God's justice," Qaradawi said.