An Egyptian cleric who was seen as the spiritual leader of the pan-Arab Muslim Brotherhood and long advocated for suicide bombings against Israelis, has died at the age of 96.
Youssef al-Qaradawi’s death on Monday was announced on his official website.
He died in the Gulf Arab nation of Qatar, where he had been living in exile following the military’s overthrow of a Muslim Brotherhood-led government in Egypt in 2013.
Al-Qaradawi had been tried and sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt.
For many years while living in exile, he had a popular talk show on Qatar’s Al-Jazeera network and often weighed in on controversial political topics. He published over 100 books about Islam and Muslim law, with many considering him one of the religion’s leading theologists.
Al-Qaradawi was long close with the Hamas terror group, a Palestinian split-off the Muslim Brotherhood that rules the Gaza Strip.
Hamas waged a relentless campaign of suicide bombings against Israel in the early 2000s that enjoyed a degree of mainstream Muslim legitimacy thanks to the cleric.
Al-Qaradawi was eulogized by Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas terror group’s political bureau, who hailed the cleric’s “great impact” in the fields of “jihad, advocacy, and science.”
In Israel, Al-Qaradawi was mourned by Safwat Frij, chair of the Shura Council of the Islamic Movement’s Southern Branch, the religious council behind the Ra’am party that is currently a member of the outgoing Israeli government.
Right-wing opposition parties have long sought to delegitimize the party and the government by accusing the faction of supporting terrorism.
“Al-Qaradawi dedicated his life for the benefit of the defense of Islam and Muslims,” Frij said, and expressed hope he would be rewarded in the afterlife.
Al-Qaradawi was a major religious proponent of terror against Israelis.
In 2004, he gave an interview to the BBC justifying Palestinian terror and the killings of Israeli women and children.
“Israeli women are not like women in our society because Israeli women are militarized… I consider this type of martyrdom operation as indication of justice of Allah almighty… Through his infinite wisdom, he has given the weak what the strong do not possess and that is the ability to turn their bodies into bombs like the Palestinians do,” he said.
During a visit to Gaza in 2013, he denied Israel’s right to exist.
“This land has never once been a Jewish land. Palestine is for the Arab Islamic nation,” he said at the time.
Al-Qaradawi partially reversed himself in 2016, declaring that suicide attacks — even against Israelis — were no longer permissible, as the Palestinians now had “other capabilities” to defend themselves such as the rocket arsenals possessed by Hamas and other Gaza-based terror factions.
He continued, however, to laud deadly acts of terror against Israelis.
Qaradawi has also condoned domestic violence and the murder of members of the LGBT community.
Al-Qaradawi also voiced support for the Iraqi insurgency that erupted after the US-led invasion of 2003 and called on all Muslim nations at the time to prepare to fight the Americans there “if the Iraqis fail to drive them out.”
In 2012, al-Qaradawi was barred by France from attending a conference, with the French government saying at the time that it did not want “extremist preachers” on its soil.
Four years later, the UK denied him entry after announcing it would “not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence.”