British foreign office: Muslim Brotherhood is “fundamentally non-violent” and contributes to peace

On Monday, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a report which argued that groups like the Muslim Brotherhood are the “best ‘firewall'” against violence in democratic transitions. This was their conclusion because, when individuals and groups are excluded from the political process and subject to repression, they may resort to violence.

This appears to reverse the government’s stance, as defined by the 2014 review of the Muslim Brotherhood by UK then-ambassador to Saudi Arabia John Jenkins. The previous assessment saw the Muslim Brotherhood as a gateway to a violent form of radicalisation.

The new assessment sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a necessary policy partner in the Middle East.

Some politicians have expressed concern over the new report, including the chair of the foreign affairs committee, Crispin Blunt.

Sweden : An official report targets the Muslim Brotherhood

The controversy around the Muslim Brotherhood has now reached Sweden. A report on the influence of the network in the country was just published by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap, MSB).

A ”parallel society”

According to the report – based on a study realised in November-December 2016, the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the Swedish society and its political parties through numerous Muslim organisations and individuals since the 1970’s.

The authors of the report – Magnus Norell, Aje Carlbom and Pierre Durrani – accuse the Muslim Brotherhood of striving to become the natural representatives of the Muslim minorities for the authorities. For the authors, by promoting a distinct identity for Muslims and creating a “parallel society”, the network implements its political agenda of islamization.

A controversial report

22 Swedish scholars specializing on religious studies have published a post against the report, criticizing the methodology used by its authors. The researchers point out a blatant lack of evidence and of serious references.

However the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency has stood for its report, describing it as a feasibility study on the influence of the islamist network on the Swedish society and its impact on the security of the country. For Anneli Bergholm Söder, head of the Operations Department of the MSB, the aim of this study is to determine which areas of research and study should be developed in that field.

By Farida Belkacem

Sources :

http://www.thelocal.se/20170303/debate-rages-in-sweden-over-muslim-brotherhood-report

The report :

https://www.msb.se/Upload/Kunskapsbank/Studier/Muslimska_Brodraskapet_i_Sverige_DNR_2107-1287.pdf

The researchers’ declaration :

http://religionsvetenskapligakommentarer.blogspot.it/2017_03_01_archive.html

 

In 2015: UK government delayed Muslim Brotherhood classification

In light of the American consideration of classifying the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation, we share this 2015 UK news about the British experience on this topic. 

In 2015, British then-Prime Minister David Cameron pulled a report which was expected to say that the Muslim Brotherhood is not terrorist organisation. The government likely did not publish the report because it would have hurt the UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates, countries which have all banned the Muslim Brotherhood and consider it to be a terrorist organisation.

Chris Doyle, the director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding, critiqued the unpublished report for being too political and for possibly contributing to the stigmatisation of Muslims within the UK.

Fillon wants ‘strict control over Muslim faith’ (video)

“I want strict control over the administration of the Muslim faith, seeing as its integration in the Republic has not been fully achieved,” he said during his first meeting as presidential candidate.

“Around us, there is an expansionist radical Islam that threatens our civilization,” he stated. He called for the “immediate dissolution of all movements associated with Salafism or the Muslim Brotherhood.”

For more, see the video.

 

 

Many ‘political Islam’ movements share our values, say UK MPs

The government should narrow its definition of ‘political Islam’ and recognise that many Islamic political movements share the same values as Britain, according to a report by an influential committee of MPs.

The report criticises the Foreign Office for using the term to describe both groups that embrace “democratic principles and liberal values” and others that instead hold “intolerant, extremist views.”

Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Crispin Blunt, said: “We absolutely agree with the FCO on the need for a nuanced approach to the broad phenomenon of ‘political Islam’. We only regret that this approach does not appear to have been applied to the Muslim Brotherhood Review, which failed to mention some of what we saw as the most elementary factors that determine the group’s current behaviour.”

The committee said the FCO had “hindered” its inquiries by refusing to give it a full, or redacted copy of the review, or allow Sir John Jenkins to give oral evidence.

The watchdog criticised the Government’s handling of the Review as there was a delay of 18 months between its completion and the release of its main findings last December on the last day the Commons sat before the Christmas recess.

The committee warned the handling of the Muslim Brotherhood review threw up wider concerns about the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) attitude to what constitutes “political Islam”.

The body found the “political Islam” tag used by the FCO was too “vague” as the Government uses it to describe groups that embrace democratic principles and liberal values and groups that hold intolerant, extremist views.

Mr Blunt said: “Through its counter-extremism and counter-terrorism strategies, it is clear what values the UK opposes.”

“But the UK’s standing in the world also depends on it clearly articulating, through the FCO, the values that this country supports and therefore the groups with which we will engage.”

‘Political Islam’, and the Muslim Brotherhood UK Review

House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Report:

We found that:

• Some political Islamists have embraced elections. Electoral processes that prevent these groups from taking part cannot be called ‘free’. But democracy in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)—where we focused our inquiry— must not be reduced to ‘winners’ and ‘losers’, and the FCO must encourage both political Islamists and their opponents to accept broader cultures of democracy.

• The Muslim Brotherhood is a secretive group, with an ambiguous international structure. But this is understandable given the repression it now experiences. • Some communications, particularly from the Brotherhood, have given contradictory messages in Arabic and English. And some of the responses that the group offered to our questions gave the impression of reluctance to offer a straight answer. The FCO is right to judge political Islamists by both their words and their actions.

• Some political Islamists have been very pragmatic in power. Others have been more dogmatic. But fears over the introduction of a restrictive interpretation of ‘Islamic law’ by the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) in Egypt were partly based on speculation rather than experience.

• The UK has not designated the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organisation. We agree with this stance. Some political-Islamist groups have broadly been a firewall against extremism and violence.

As European authorities target Salafism, the word needs parsing

What exactly is Salafism? In continental Europe, the word is now used as a catchall for extreme and violent interpretations of Islam. This week for example, authorities in the German state of Hesse raided five premises including a mosque; it was the latest move in a crackdown on ultra-militant forms of Islam all over Germany which began last week. “Extremist propaganda is the foundation for Islamic radicalisation and ultimately for violence,” said the interior minister of Hesse, Peter Beuth, by way of explaining the latest raids. “The Salafist ideology is a force not to be underestimated,” he added.

On November 15th, German federal authorities banned what they described as a Salafi organisation known as “True Religion” or “Read!” whose notional purpose was to distribute copies of the Koran. On the same day, police swept through 200 offices and other buildings across the country. Ralf Jäger, interior minister of the populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW), reportedly gave this reason for the ban: “Every fifth Salafist who has travelled out from NRW under the aegis of so-called Islamic State in order to join a terror cell had previous contact with ‘Read!’”

In France, too, the word Salafi or Salafist is often used as a generic term for forms of Islam which are too extreme for any government policy to parley with or accommodate. Manuel Valls, the Socialist prime minister, has reported with alarm that the Salafis, although a tiny minority among French Muslims, may be winning an ideological war in France because their voice is louder and more efficiently disseminated than any other. François Fillon, a centre-right politician who is likely to make the run-off in next year’s presidential election, is a strong advocate of cracking down both on Salafism and on the groups linked to the global Muslim Brotherhood.

In the very loosest of senses, all Muslims are Salafi. The word literally describes those who emulate and revere both the prophet Muhammad and the earliest generations of Muslims, the first three generations in particular. There is no Muslim who does not do that. But in practice the word Salafist is most often used to describe a purist, back-to-basics form of Islam that emerged on the Arabian peninsula in the 19th century.

But even Saudi Salafism, despite appearances, is no monolith, according to H.A. Hellyer, a British scholar who studies Muslim communities across the world. Several different tendencies can be detected among the kingdom’s religious scholars, who underpin the monarchy.

In Egypt, too, the word Salafi is used as though it had a simple meaning, but again that is misleading, according to Mr Hellyer. On the face of things, the Egyptian Salafis are represented by a political party, Al Nour, which emerged as a powerful player after the 2011 uprising, and favours extreme conservatism in matters of dress, gender roles and personal behaviour. This is contrasted with the more tactical and pragmatic form of Islamism represented by the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged in Egypt in the early 20th century and now wields influence through ideological allies all over the world, including Europe.

Here is another source of confusion: in the broad sense, the Brotherhood too is partially Salafi in inspiration. It shares the ideal of going back to the very first generations of Muslims; that was part of the thinking of Hassan al-Banna, the Brotherhood’s founder.

Do the politicians of France and Germany, who use the word Salafi/Salafist as though it were virtually a synonym for terrorist, need to know all this? Yes they do, because the safety of Europe’s streets is at stake. In Britain, for example, there are Salafi mosques whose preachers are theologically conservative but are far from terrorists; and there have been terrorists who have had nothing to do with the mainstream of Salafism. It’s important to understand that of the various forms of Salafism described, there is one, the unreconstructed kind, which can (though does not always) morph into terrorism. Labels can be a helpful pointer through a maze of complexity, but in the end the labyrinth has to be negotiated carefully.

How One Policy Change Could Wipe Out Muslim Civil Liberties

Designating Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization could lead to major fallout for American Muslims.

Members of the hardline anti-Islam lobby are eagerly anticipating the possibility of the Trump administration designating the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization, which is increasingly likely if conspiracy theorists like Frank Gaffney play a prominent role in Trump’s transition team. Gaffney believes the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the US government at every level and has even questioned whether Barack Obama was “America’s first Muslim president” implementing the Brotherhood’s plans.

While a terrorist designation would have several foreign policy implications, experts say the measure is being pushed primarily by stateside anti-Islam extremists like Gaffney who believe it would empower the Trump administration to target a number of major Muslim American nonprofits.

“Let me be extremely clear,” said J.M. Berger, a counterterrorism analyst at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism. “This initiative is concerned with controlling American Muslims, not with any issue pertaining to the Muslim Brotherhood in any practical or realistic sense.”

Nathan Lean, author of The Islamophobia Industry, said such a designation could have chilling implications for Muslim civil society in the United States. Based on unfounded yet oft-repeated claims that American Muslim groups have ties to — or are outright fronts for — the Muslim Brotherhood, Lean said, the designation would provide cover for the administration to shut down nonprofits, maliciously prosecute individuals, and pursue other acts that would, in turn, leave ordinary American Muslims more vulnerable to marginalization and repression.

“I believe that Muslim civil liberties could potentially, with this policy move, be wiped off the map,” Lean said. “It sounds like hyperbole, but I mean that very seriously.”

Dismissal of prison chaplain over extremism accusations highlights growing tensions between state and Muslim associations in Germany

Model project on prevention

The Ministry of Justice in the state of Hesse has ended its cooperation with an Imam working as a prison chaplain at a correctional facility in the city of Darmstadt. Authorities reacted to advice given by the German domestic intelligence agency (the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz): the agency had classified Imam Abdassamad El-Yazidi as a security risk.

Starting point for this assessment had been El-Yazidi’s association with the organisation Deutsch-Islamischer Vereinsverband Rhein-Main (German-Islamic Associational Union, DIV), deemed since August 2016 to be ‘under extremist influence’ and consequently placed on a surveillance list. El-Yazidi had been the DIV’s chairman until three years ago; presently, he chairs the Hessian chapter of one of the country’s largest Muslim associations, the Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland (Central Council of Muslims in Germany, ZMD), of which the DIV is a member.((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Complex institutional landscape

This episode highlights the complex institutional landscape of Muslim representation in Germany, with the ZMD being an umbrella body composed of further umbrella organisations. The DIV, which is now in the spotlight, for instance, brings together 46 local associations. One of them, the Europäische Institut für Humanwissenschaften (European Institute for Human Sciences, EIHW), located in the Ostend neighbourhood of Frankfurt, now triggered the intervention by the Verfassungsschutz. The Institut is perceived to be part of a transnational Muslim Brotherhood network. ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Amidst this organisational diversity and fragmentation, El-Yazidi asserted, it was at times impossible for the mostly unpaid volunteers working in the ZMD to scrutinise all aspects of fellow players on the associational scene. At the same time, El-Yazidi also defended decisions to retain contacts with institutions deemed to be under extremist influence, on the grounds that only continued engagement would make it possible to prevent further radicalisation. ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Criticism from Catholic representatives

In an interview with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper, El-Yazidi noted that he had only received a call from the Hessian Ministry of Justice informing him that he had to end his work as a prison chaplain without being given more concrete information about the suspicions directed against him.(( http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

Joachim Valentin, responsible for Christian-Muslim understanding at the Catholic bishopric of Limburg and chairman of a Catholic cultural centre in Frankfurt, decried the measure as disrespectful and counter-productive. He criticised the Verfassungsschutz for “failing to differentiate between orthodox Islam, radicalism, extremism, and terror threats.” Blanket accusations and criminalisation would only serve to “drive meritorious Muslims into inner exile.” ((http://www.faz.net/aktuell/rhein-main/so-treibt-man-verdienstvolle-muslime-ins-innere-exil-14478785.html?printPagedArticle=true#pageIndex_2 ))

The ZMD itself reacted with a press release deeming the exclusion of its representative from prevention programmes against radicalisation “incomprehensible”, stressing that so far Hessian authorities and participants had appreciated the collaboration and its effects. ((http://zentralrat.de/28081.php ))

Signs of strain between state and Muslim associations

The affair surrounding chaplain El-Yazidi is only the latest episode in a gradual worsening of the relationship between German authorities and the country’s Muslim associations. In recent months, much of the political discussion has centred on DITIB and the influence of the Erdogan government over this association and its mosques.((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/freiburg-declaration-secular-muslims-starkly-reveals-fault-lines-among-german-muslim-associations/ ))

Yet it is questions of foreign financing and control more generally have taken centre stage, amidst a renewed debate about the (lack of) loyalty Muslim citizens exhibit vis-à-vis the German state. ((http://www.euro-islam.info/2016/10/17/old-question-loyalty-german-turks-relationship-erdogan/ )). This prompted the ZMD in its reaction to the El-Yazidi affair to stress its determination to “reject any influencing from abroad, no matter from which country.” ((http://zentralrat.de/28081.php )) Yet recent developments surrounding the EIHW have rekindled voices accusing the ZMD itself to be an apologist of the Muslim Brotherhood. ((http://www.allgemeine-zeitung.de/politik/hessen/im-schatten-der-muslimbrueder_17372765.htm ))

Valls wants to “combat the discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood” in France

Prime Minister Manuel Valls stated that “we must combat the discourse of the Muslim Brotherhood in our country, we must combat Salafist groups in our neighborhoods.”

“We need to help Muslims who don’t support being confused by such discourse. Not only with jihadists, not only with terrorists, but also with fundamentalism, conservatism, radicalism,” he stated.

When asked how he would combat such groups, Valls responded: “By the law, by the police, by intelligence services. Many things are done. A religion cannot impose its discourse in our neighborhoods.”

The denunciation of Salafism, even if it is primarily quietest and hostile toward jihadism, is very common, especially as the ultra-Orthodox movement influenced by Saudi Wahhabism has gained ground in mosques, present in over 100 (out of 2,300) today.

The Muslim Brotherhood is less common today at the highest state level. The group is at once reformist as well as being conservative. It is engaged in both the political and social sectors, as well as being represented by the Union of Muslim Organizations of France (UOIF) and embodied by Tariq Ramadan, grandson of the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder Hassan el-Banna.

The liberal imam of Bordeaux Tareq Oubrou is also a member. With over 250 associations, the UOIF is one of the principal Islamic organizations in France. It oversees the first Muslim school under contract by the state (Averroès, in Lille), which has recently been accused of fostering an “Islamist” ideology among its students. The UOIF also organizes the largest annual gathering of Muslims in the West, which boasts over 100,000 attendees annually, and whose guest list is monitored by the authorities.