Muslim cleric refused UK visa

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A controversial Muslim cleric has been refused entry to the UK, it emerged today.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it deplored the decision to refuse Yusuf al-Qaradawi a visa, and said the Government had caved to "unreasonable demands spearheaded by the Tory leader".

Last week, David Cameron called Dr al-Qaradawi "dangerous and divisive", and called on the Government not to let him into the country.

Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary-general of the MCB said Dr al-Qaradawi enjoyed respect as a scholar throughout the Muslim world.

"I am afraid this decision will send the wrong message to Muslims everywhere about the state of British society and culture," he said.

"Britain has had a long and established tradition of free speech, debate and intellectual pursuit.

"These principles are worth defending, especially if we would like to see them spread throughout the world."

The Egyptian-born preacher was reportedly seeking to come to the UK for medical treatment.

Al-Qaradawi, who is banned from entering the United States, visited the UK in 2004, sparking protests from Jewish groups and gay people, who regard him as anti-Semitic and homophobic.

In the same year, the cleric defended suicide attacks on Israelis during a BBC interview, saying: "It's not suicide, it is martyrdom in the name of God."

He added that it did not matter if women and children were the victims of such attacks.

The British Muslim Initiative (BMI) said the decision to bar al-Qaradawi, whom it described as an "eminent scholar", was "an unwarranted insult to British Muslims".

BMI president Muhammad Sawalha said: "We would have to go as far back as the medieval age when scholars were hounded and vilified in order to find a similar retrograde decision."

The Home Office confirmed that it had refused al-Qaradawi a visa after taking advice from numerous Government departments and deciding he could pose a threat to community cohesion.

"The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any act of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence," a spokeswoman said.

Al-Qaradawi has the right to appeal against the decision on human rights and race discrimination grounds, and today's ruling does not preclude him being given a visa in the future.