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Sheikh Qaradawi dies

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BEIRUT: Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, a spiritual guide to the Muslim Brotherhood who championed the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and unsettled rulers in Egypt and the Gulf with his Islamist preaching, died on Monday. He was 96.

Born in Egypt, Qaradawi spent much of his life in Qatar, where he became one of the most recognisable and influential Sunni Muslim clerics in the Arab world thanks to regular appearances on Qatar’s Al Jazeera network.

Broadcast into millions of homes, his sermons fuelled tensions that led Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies to impose a blockade on Qatar in 2017 and declare Qaradawi a terrorist.

His death was announced on his official Twitter account.

Qaradawi, who studied at Cairo’s Al-Azhar University, was often described by supporters as a moderate who offered a counterweight to the radical ideologies espoused by al-Qaeda. He strongly condemned the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, and supported democratic politics.

But he also sanctioned violence in causes he favoured.

In Iraq after a 2003 US-led invasion, he backed attacks on coalition forces and he supported Palestinian suicide bombing against Israeli targets during an uprising that began in 2000.

Several Western states banned him from entry.

During the Arab Spring uprisings he called for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to be killed and declared jihad against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government.

Qaradawi joined the Muslim Brotherhood as a young man. Advocating Islam as a political programme, the Brotherhood has been seen as a threat by autocratic Arab leaders since it was founded in 1928 in Egypt by Hassan al-Banna, whom Qaradawi knew.

He turned down the chance to lead the organisation, instead focusing on preaching and Islamic scholarship and building a following that extended well beyond the group.

His prominence grew after the 2011 Arab revolts.

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