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Alcohol fatwa sparks controversy

By Frances Harrison
Religious affairs reporter, BBC News

Yusuf al-Qaradawi. File pic
Yusuf al-Qaradawi views himself as a moderate voice of Islam

A prominent Egyptian cleric has created controversy by issuing a fatwa that says tiny amounts of alcohol are permissible in Islam.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi's fatwa says a level of 0.5% is allowed, whereas most Muslims would say alcohol of any quantity is banned.

Sheikh Qaradawi was recently refused entry to Britain as the UK government said his views could spark violence.

He issued his fatwa in response to a question about high energy drinks.

'Distorted'

Sheikh Qaradawi is talking about tiny quantities of alcohol - equivalent to about one-eighth of a unit of alcohol.

He ruled there was no religious ban on consuming drinks with a minute amount of alcohol in them if it was formed naturally through the process of fermentation.

He quoted the rule derived from the sayings of the Prophet that if drinking a lot of alcohol makes you intoxicated then drinking a little is also forbidden.

Sheikh Qaradawi argued that any person who consumed a large amount of high energy drink would not become intoxicated, therefore they were permissible, even though they contained tiny amounts of alcohol.

But this logic has not gone down well.

The editor of a newspaper in Qatar, where Sheikh Qaradawi lives, complained that the sheikh had just stirred up a controversy that everyone could have done without.

The editor said the fatwa from a cleric of the status of Sheikh Qaradawi would inevitably be misunderstood and distorted to suggest he was giving permission to Muslims to drink alcohol.

Sheikh Qaradawi, who is a well-known TV figure, views himself as a moderate voice of Islam.


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