While he faces enormous challenges convincing Congress and European allies to green light a military strike on Syria, President Barack Obama’s plan is being welcomed by one unexpected voice.
Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, the influential Muslim cleric known for supporting suicide bombings, has come out in support of a U.S. military strike against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, because “We [Muslims] do not have such power.”
In a Friday sermon broadcast on Qatar TV, Qaradawi said that the Muslim world does not have the ability to launch a deadly strike on Assad’s government; therefore, American intervention in this case wouldn’t be such a bad thing.
“If only we could be the ones to retaliate against those people [the Syrian regime]. I wish there were an Islamic power capable of punishing these people. If only there was an Islamic power capable of drawing the line for the oppressors, and imposing upon them the punishment they deserve,” Qaradawi said, according to a translation posted by the Middle East Media Research Institute. “We do not have such power, however, so if they are punished by others, it is better than nothing.”
In his sermon, Qaradawi also philosophized on the Muslim equivalent of “divide and conquer.”
“Allah pits the oppressors one against the other. The ancients used to say: ‘Oh Allah, keep the oppressors busy with one another, and let us emerge from among them intact.’ We do not pity those people when they are attacked by whoever strikes them, because they deserve to be attacked, just like they attacked the Muslims,” he said.
While Qaradawi appears to be solidly behind Obama on this issue, two new polls reflect just how little support there is in the American public for any military strike on Syria, even if limited to cruise missiles. According to the Associated Press, 26 percent of Americans said they support Congress approving the use of force. The numbers compiled by Reuters/Ipsos pollsters found even fewer Americans – only 16 percent – who believe the U.S. should get involved.
When Scott Pelley of CBS News said to President Obama on Monday, “The people aren’t with you” Obama answered, “Yeah, well, not yet. And I, as I said, I understand that.”
Qaradawi is an enormously influential Sunni cleric and is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has in the past called on Muslims to wage jihad against Israel as well as in Egypt in defense of the Muslim Brotherhood. He has praised suicide bombings, calling them “heroic martyrdom operations.”
The cleric is also host of the Al Jazeera program “Sharia and Life” whose audience is estimated at 60 million Muslims worldwide.
Here is the video excerpt of his sermon courtesy of MEMRI: