Anti-Islamic State Egypt Cleric Opposes U.S. War on Group

A prominent Egyptian cleric said he opposes U.S. military strikes against the Islamic State even though he shuns its ideology, comments that could complicate U.S. efforts to undercut the extremist group’s appeal.

“I disagree with Da’esh completely in thought and ideology,” Doha-based Yusuf al-Qaradawi said on Twitter, using the Arabic acronym of the Islamic State. “At the same time, I can’t accept that the U.S. is the one fighting them because the U.S. is motivated only by its interests and not the values of Islam.” Al-Qaradawi, a regular guest on Al-Jazeera television, is known for his close ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

U.S. President Barack Obama is trying to form a coalition with Muslim countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to fight the al-Qaeda breakaway group. U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq have helped Kurdish and central government forces recapture some of the territory the group has seized.

Richard Stengel, under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, will visit the Middle East this month to work with governments and news organizations against giving favorable coverage to Islamist militants, said a U.S. official who asked not to be identified because the trip hasn’t been announced. Among the steps being considered are efforts to raise the profile of leading Muslim clerics and scholars who oppose the Islamic State, the official said.

Egypt’s military-backed government has classified the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization, a move the group says was politically motivated.

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