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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 July, 2004, 03:23 GMT 04:23 UK
Islamic cleric to address event
Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi and London Mayor Ken Livingstone
The cleric's visit has been backed by London Mayor Ken Livingstone
Islamic cleric Yusuf Al-Qaradawi is due to address a conference on Sunday supported by the Metropolitan Police.

Controversy has surrounded his visit to the UK amid claims by Jewish community leaders he threatens race relations.

But the cleric has been allowed to speak after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said it would not act over his defence of Palestinian suicide bombers in Israel as "martyrs".

He is expected to speak at the Wembley Conference Centre in London.

This latest engagement comes after he side-stepped controversy surrounding his visit to the UK when he spoke at a Muslim conference in London on Saturday.

The Wembley event is supported by the Met Police.

In his speech on Saturday, the cleric avoided controversial issues but criticised the West's view of Islam as "erroneous".

'Insufficient evidence'

Before the conference, the Board of Deputies of British Jews presented the police with a "dossier" of alleged comments by the sheikh.

But the CPS said there was "insufficient evidence" to prosecute the cleric.

In a statement, it said: "The CPS has reviewed the material submitted by the Metropolitan Police in relation to interviews with Yusuf Al-Qaradawi broadcast in this country.

"We have advised the Metropolitan Police that there is insufficient evidence that a criminal offence has been committed."

He is really quite angry...He felt on the first of his visits he had been totally misrepresented
Doctor Azzam Tami, translator for Yusuf Al-Qaradawi

The sheikh was warmly received by delegates at Saturday's Muslim Association of Britain's annual summer conference in Kensington Town Hall.

His hour-long speech in Arabic, which concentrated on theological aspects of Islam, praised "interfaced dialogue" and a "soft and courteous approach" to those of other faiths.

But he was critical of the "erroneous" view of Islam held by people in the West as "inherited from the legacy of the crusaders".

'Venomous media campaign'

On Friday, he preached a message of tolerance at a London mosque.

Lord Janner, former President of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, said he regretted the decision by the CPS not to prosecute.

"In this decent land you don't prosecute unless you can prove a case beyond reasonable doubt. He should never have been allowed in the country and the sooner he is turfed out, the better," he said.

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi accused certain sections of the press of distorting his views without bothering to read his books or watch his TV appearances.

Boys studying the Koran
The vast majority of Muslims feel that there is a huge gap between how they perceive themselves and their faith and how the rest of the world views them
Magdi Abdelhadi, BBC Arab affairs analyst

"Do these people know me? If they are really after the truth why don't they try and find it instead of this venomous media campaign," he was reported to have said.

Doctor Azzam Tami, translator for the sheikh, said he had been bewildered by the way he was treated.

He said: "He is really quite angry. He felt on the first of his visits when he allowed some journalists to interview him that he had been totally misrepresented."

Sheikh Al-Qaradawi - who supporters say is a respected and moderate thinker - claimed Islam justified suicide bombings on BBC Two's Newsnight.

In the interview he claimed suicide bombings were "martyrdom in the name of God".

A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain said the sheikh's views had been distorted and he had been the victim of an "orchestrated campaign".

"We do not condone the taking of innocent life by anybody in the Middle East, whether they be Israelis or Palestinians," he said.

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"The British authorities may not like these views, but in a democracy, they allow them"

Is Islamophobia affecting the UK?
08 Jun 04  |  Have Your Say

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