Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Doha-based Islamist scholar who once called on his followers to back jihadist groups in Jammu and Kashmir, has emerged as a key mediator in secret talks between the U.S. and the Taliban, government sources have told The Hindu. In 2009, Mr. al-Qaradawi had issued a fatwa, or religious edict, asserting that “the Kashmiris were properly fighting jihad against the Indian army.” The jihad was legitimate, he argued, since mujahideen groups sought to create an Islamic state. Therefore, the edict concluded, it was incumbent on all Muslims to help Kashmiris gain their “freedom from Indian aggression.” New Delhi, Indian diplomatic sources said, has been warily watching Mr. al-Qaradawi’s emergence as peace broker — fearful that his growing influence could help regional jihadist groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad find new sanctuaries in a rapidly changing West Asia or a future Afghan regime which includes the Taliban. Earlier this month, the sources said, Mr. al-Qaradawi helped draw a road map for a deal between the Taliban and the United States, aimed at giving the superpower a face-saving political settlement ahead of its planned withdrawal from Afghanistan which is due to begin in 2014. In return for the release of prisoners still held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, the lifting of United Nations sanctions on its leadership and its recognition as a legitimate political group, the Taliban was expected to agree to sever its links to transnational organisations like al-Qaeda, end violence and eventually share power with the Afghan government. Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s President, recalled his country’s envoy to Qatar after The Hindu broke news that negotiations to open a Taliban office had reached an advanced stage — angered, reports said, at the prospect of a deal that would have given Taliban legitimacy at a time when hardliners in its ranks are carrying out a lethal campaign targeting regime supporters. However, Kabul on Tuesday announced it would accept a Taliban liaison office in Doha — as long as the talks were “Afghan-led.” Evidence that hardliners have increasing influence over Taliban decision-making, intelligence sources say, has been mounting. Earlier this year, for example, Sheikh Muhammad Aminullah — who was placed on a United Nations watchlist in 2009 for aiding acts of terrorism — was given command of its Peshawar shura, or command council. Born in 1973, Mr. Aminullah represents a new generation of Taliban commanders ideologically committed to al-Qaeda’s vision.
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Qaradawi, a virulent anti-Semite is often referred to here as the most important leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, an acknowledgement of his role as the de facto spiritual leader of the movement. In 2004, Qaradawi turned down the offer to lead the Egyptian Brotherhood after the death of the Supreme Guide. Based in Qatar, Sheikh Qaradawi has reportedly amassed substantial wealth through his role as Shari’ah adviser to many important Islamic banks and funds. He is also considered to be the “spiritual guide” for Hamas and his fatwas in support of suicide bombings against Israeli citizens were instrumental in the development of the phenomenon. A recent post has discussed a video compilation of Qaradawi’s extremist statements.