Last August the Irish Naturalization and Immigration Service refused to approve an entry visa for Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian cleric who is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the one of the most prominent sheikhs of the Arab satellite TV, al-Jazeera. In his books, al-Qaradawi has defended suicide bombings not as terrorism but as legal "resistance"; advocated the death penalty for homosexuals and apostates, and condemned secular Arab countries as unbelievers.

Irish Immigration officials seem to have blocked his entry after al-Qaradawi on the grounds of his description of suicide-bombings to Israelis as "martyrdom in the name of God." The Irish ban follows similar ones in the United States and the United Kingdom. Until Egyptian President Hosni Mubabrak's last February, he was banned from entering Egypt as well.

The problem is that al-Qaradawi is also the head of the European Council of Fatwa and Research (ECFR), founded in March 1997, and based on Roebuck Road, 19, Clonskeagh, Dublin – leading the Irish decision to look at the very least naïve.

As stated in the official website of the Council, its main objectives are: "approaching and bringing together scholars who live in Europe and trying to unify their legal opinions regarding the most important legal issues; issuing fatwas that meet the collective needs of Muslims in Europe, solving problems and regulating their interaction with the European community, all within the rules and objectives of the sharia; publish studies and research to resolve the legal issues that arise in Europe in order to achieve the objectives of the sharia and the interests of all people."

In a nutshell, Sharia Law had already come to Europe but nobody seemed to have realized it.

The Council was founded on the initiative of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), ideologically linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. You only need to look at the list of its members and you will find that its president is Yusuf al-Qaradawi; and that one of its most prominent members, Rached al-Ghannouchi -- the leader of the Tunisian party al Nahdha, linked to the Muslim Brotherhood -- has spared no attacks against Israel and against liberal intellectuals. The deputy president is Faisal Mawlawi, who, in 2004 on the site www.islam-online.net said that, "martyrdom operations are totally different from suicide which is forbidden. Anyone who dies in such missions as a martyr, God bless him ... I invite every Palestinian not to hesitate in carrying out such operations ."

The Council also seems given to issuing fatwas, or religious edicts, not yet available in English on its website. Although fatwas have, in general, a universal but non-coercive value for Muslims, in the field of Islamic extremism, it is clear that whoever goes to a mufti with a question will then follow his advice.

The first fatwa is about the permissibility of a Muslim to live permanently in a non-Islamic country. The fatwa reads as follows: "Our opinion is that a Muslim should never live among non-Muslims if it compromises his Islamic identity, unless you have no other choice. So if a Muslim lives in a place where his life, religion and those for which it is responsible are in danger then he must migrate [...]". The non-Islamic territory is presumably Europe.

Fatwa four concerns the punishment for those who commit the crime of apostasy, and notes that the penalty is not always death, which should only be applied when the Muslim who has abandoned Islam announces it publicly and criticises his former religion.

At present the website of the European Council for Fatwa and Research is only available in its Arabic version, and none of its members is European. It looks more like an Islamic "government" in Europe.

What is most worrisome is that in Europe an Islamic legal institution has been issuing fatwas for a long time without respecting universal ethical values -- foremost the sanctity of life -- and which considers European institutions as mere tools to be used to win the power.

It is high time that Europe in general, and Ireland in particular, start banning not only some clerics from entering it, as Ireland did, but also the institutions and associations linked to the same people not only dangerous for Europeans but also for the majority of Muslims living in Europe who may not wish to be radicalized.

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