Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi delivers a sermon (May 31, 2013) strongly condemning Iran, Hezbollah, and its leader Hassan Nasrallah
Sheik Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Palestine-info, August 15, 2010)
Ismail Haniyeh, head of the de-facto Hamas administration, kisses Al-Qaradawi’s hand during the sheik’s visit to the Gaza Strip (ikhwanonline.com, May 10, 2013)
A poster carried by Hezbollah’s opponents in Lebanon
Al-Qaradawi and Bashar al-Asad in better days, when Al-Qaradawi worked for Shi’ite-Sunni rapprochement (all4syria.info)
1. On May 31, 2013, Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, the most prominent religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world, delivered a sermon in which he lashed out against Iran and Hezbollah. The sermon was delivered at a conference held in Doha, the capital of Qatar, in solidarity with the Syrian people. Al-Qaradawi accused Iran and Hezbollah of helping Syria’s Alawite regime in its war against the Syrian people by supplying weapons and dispatching operatives from all across the Shi’ite world. Al-Qaradawi used inflammatory rhetoric to condemn Hezbollah (“the party of Satan”), saying that it sends operatives to Syria “to kill the people of Al-Qusayr” and referring to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah (whose name literally means “Allah’s victory”) as “Nasr al-Shaytan”, or “Satan’s victory”. Al-Qaradawi called on Muslim volunteers and Muslim countries to help their brothers in Syria, and added, “I swear that if I could, I would go into battle without hesitation” (see Appendix for the summary of the sermon).
2. Sheik Dr. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the most prominent religious authority in the Sunni Muslim world, was expelled from Egypt and found refuge in Qatar. He operates from there throughout the Arab and Muslim world. After President Hosni Mubarak was ousted, Al-Qaradawi returned to Egypt and delivered a sermon in Al-Tahrir Square in Cairo. Many consider him the supreme religious and ideological authority for the Muslim Brotherhood, although he is not officially its leader. Al-Qaradawi is also the supreme religious authority for Hamas and an enthusiastic supporter of Palestinian terrorism. On May 8, 2013, Al-Qaradawi held a first of its kind visit to the Gaza Strip. While there he made radical statements rejecting any possible recognition or negotiation with Israel, and called on Muslims “to prepare for defending the Al-Aqsa Mosque”.
3. Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s sermon in Qatar was delivered in response to a speech given by Hassan Nasrallah on May 25, 2013, in which he admitted for the first time that Hezbollah was involved in the Syrian civil war. The sermon was delivered in the midst of the fighting, about one week before the Syrian regime, with the help of several thousand Hezbollah operatives, was able to take over the city of Al-Qusayr—a significant military victory that gave a morale boost to the Syrian government loyalists. That victory, coupled with Iran’s ongoing assistance to the Syrian regime and Hezbollah’s growing embroilment in the Syrian civil war, has further deepened the Sunni-Shi’ite schism in the Arab and Muslim world, as evidenced by Al-Qaradawi’s strong-worded remarks and the calls to wage jihad against Hezbollah and Shi’ite Muslims made by other Sunni clerics. However, even though Al-Qaradawi is a popular and established preacher, his sermon does not carry the authority of a fatwa (religious ruling) and there is doubt whether his sermon will motivate thousands of zealous Sunni volunteers to Syria to wage jihad against the regime.
4. Al-Qaradawi’s statement is a telling indication of the heavy price Hezbollah has had to pay in the Arab and Muslim world—and in Lebanon itself—for its growing involvement in the Syrian civil war. Hezbollah’s image in Arab Muslim countries has taken a serious blow—it has been demonized and turned from the spearhead of anti-Israeli resistance into “the Party of Satan”. What’s even more, Hezbollah is increasingly faced with the danger that the Sunni-Shi’ite tensions could spill over to Lebanon itself. The violent clashes in Tripoli and Sidon, the rocket attacks on the Shi’ite areas controlled by Hezbollah in Beirut’s southern suburb and in Baalbek, the demonstration recently held by Hezbollah’s opponents in front of the Iranian embassy in Beirut—all of these clearly indicate that Hezbollah’s opponents in Lebanon have become bolder, and that the Syrian civil war has started to spill over to Lebanon, intensifying sectarian tensions in that country (even if the lessons of the previous civil war are still deeply etched in the collective consciousness of Lebanon’s various sects and opposing sides and serve as a restraining factor).
A poster carried by Hezbollah’s opponents in Lebanon, with the Hezbollah logo changed from Hezbollah (Party of Allah) to Hezb al-Shaytan (Party of Satan), in the spirit of Al-Qaradawi’s sermon. Hezbollah’s motto, “The Party of Allah are the victors”, was changed to “The Party of Satan are the losers” (molotovnews.com).
5. Al-Qaradawi’s attack on Iran and Hezbollah can also make things difficult for the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated Hamas, which tries not to upset the status quo and maintain a delicate balance in its relationship with Iran. While Hamas is aligned with the policy of the Muslim Brotherhood, a movement that strongly supports the rebellion against the Syrian regime, we also believe that Hamas would like to continue receiving military support from Iran, which formerly played a major role in the military buildup in the Gaza Strip (mainly by providing advanced weaponry). So far Hamas has not directly commented on Al-Qaradawi’s sermon (who mentioned Bashar Asad’s efforts to bring Hamas over to his side). However, Hamas spokesman Salah al-Bardawil echoed Al-Qaradawi’s strong condemnation of Iran and Hezbollah. In an interview to the Arabic-language newspaper Al-Sharq al-Awsat, Al-Bardawil said that Hezbollah made a “serious mistake” by becoming involved in the Syrian crisis, that support for Hezbollah was dwindling and that the organization was in a state of “total collapse”. Al-Bardawil added that Iran and Hezbollah’s support for the “resistance” did not “absolve them from the responsibility for the events in Syria and the deadly mistakes made there” (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 10, 2013).
6. Al-Qaradawi’s remarks are part of a pattern of escalating Sunni rhetoric—from politicians, clerics, and the media—towards Shi’ite Muslims. More than just a response to Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, that escalation can be considered part of a broader, region-wide conflict between the Shi’ites and the Sunnis that is also manifested in several other arenas: Iraq, where the death toll in bombings between Shi’ites and Sunnis has climbed to its highest in years; Lebanon, where conflicts and clashes take place in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut; and the Persian Gulf, where Iran is vying with Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf states for control over Bahrain and Yemen.
 For more details on Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, see our February 27, 2011 Information Bulletin: “Portrait of Sheikh Dr. Yusuf Abdallah al-Qaradawi, senior Sunni Muslim cleric, affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood”.
 Following Hassan Nasrallah’s speech, Sunni clerics, including Al-Qaradawi, started calling for jihad (holy war) against Hezbollah and Shi’ite Muslims in general. For details, see MEMRI report issued on June 6, 2013 (975): “Following Nasrallah’s Statements On Syria Fighting, Calls Emerge For Sunnis To Wage Jihad Against Hizbullah, Shiites”, by H. Varulkar, L. Barkan, and R. Green. See also Appendix I of the present Information Bulletin for details on reactions to Al-Qaradawi’s sermon.
 For more information on Hezbollah’s growing involvement in the Syrian civil war, see our June 4, 2013 Information Bulletin: “Hezbollah Involvement in the Syrian Civil War”.