Gay activist Peter Tatchell has surprised many by arguing against a UK travel ban on a homophobic Muslim cleric, who is seeking medical treatment.

Tatchell has called the government’s decision to refuse a visa to Muslim fundamentalist cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi as “unwarranted and unmerciful.”

“Qaradawi is anti-Semitic, homophobic, sexist and an advocate of terrorist attacks on innocent civilians. But he is coming to Britain to receive medical treatment, not to resume his hate preaching. In these circumstances a ban is unjustified,” said Tatchell.

A Home Office spokesman confirmed the ban and said that, “The UK will not tolerate the presence of those who seek to justify any acts of terrorist violence or express views that could foster inter-community violence.”

According to critics, Qaradawi is said to advocate killing Muslims who have turned away from Islam, suicide bombing of Israeli civilians as well as the execution of gay people in Islamic societies. He also approves of violence against disobedient wives in certain circumstances.

Joining other Islamic organisations, and Tatchell, Europe’s largest support group for Muslim LGBT people, Imaan, has also expressed its opposition to the ban.

In a statement, the organisation’s Secretary, Ubaid-ur Reham, said: “Banning Dr Qaradawi will do nothing to further good relations between Muslim and non-Muslim communities, in fact it will only harm relations, as many Muslims will see this ban as double standards.

“We disagree with his views on homosexuality, but believe it is necessary to engage with those who have different opinions in order to effect change. We also believe the ban is counter-productive and politically motivated,” said Imaan.

“We should show Qaradawi the mercy that he seeks to deny to fellow Muslims who transgress his dogmatic, illiberal interpretation of Islam,” agreed Tatchell.

“It is wrong for the government to stoop to Qaradawi’s level of inhumanity. We should let him come to Britain for medical treatment, to show that our liberal, humanitarian values are better than his bigotry and his glorification of religious violence.”

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