DOHA, Qatar — The preacher at the center of Qatar’s worst-ever diplomatic crisis is a raspy-voiced 91-year-old who wears spectacles and no longer stands to give sermons. Yet, to Qatar’s Arab neighbors, Yusuf al-Qaradawi is a uniquely dangerous man.
The Qatar-based cleric and TV star has never been charged in a terrorist attack, but he was labeled a terrorist this month in a formal declaration by Saudi Arabia and three of its allies. Since then, Persian Gulf states have banned Qaradawi’s books, blocked his broadcasts and even sought to remove his name from public buildings.
Qaradawi’s offense: inflammatory words, amplified on a Qatar-owned TV network in a beguiling style likened by one Arab official to a “twisted version of ‘The Daily Show.’ ”
As part of the widening diplomatic feud that began June 5, the Saudi-led bloc is demanding that Qatar take action against 59 individuals and a dozen organizations with alleged ties to terrorists or extremist groups, including al-Qaeda-linked militants in Syria and North Africa. In a long list of new demands revealed in a draft proposal Friday, the countries also ordered Qatar to shut down the Al Jazeera news network and scale back relations with Iran.