The Muslim Brotherhood has been dealt several deafening blows, ranging from the security strikes targeting its runaway leaders, the confiscation of its entities’ funds, and the inclusion of its military arms on terrorist lists.
The blows threaten the cohesion of the organization and are an indication of the rifts between its members proliferating across several Islamic, Western and Asian countries. The group has become the focus of many activists and researchers in the countries that had provided a safe haven for the Muslim Brotherhood, where it was provided with political, logistical, and legal protection and support.
The group’s activities are subject to governmental and security monitoring and review. Its files are being discussed by decision-makers in Europe and the US. It is now to be decided whether to support and use the organization as a pressure card on states and governments or to restrict its movements and activities, which are a threat to the security and stability of these safe relationships. This analysis tracks the path of the organization in Europe before the “decisive moment”.
Years after some Western capitals politically and militarily had used armed groups affiliated with political Islam, the threat of these groups became a reality for Western societies, as their wings have spun out of control. Generations of activists, media professionals, and academics in Western societies regard them as a threat living in the Western body and intrudes on their nationals. These threats have grown with the increase of the activities of the international terrorist organization and youth recruitment, the spread of anti-Western jihad ideology, and the development of a number of objectives and principles hostile to the West. These in turn threaten to cut the cord between the fundamental leaders of the Islamic current and Western agencies and governments that had helped and sponsored the current and boosted their presence in the political arena of the Muslim majority states in the Middle East and the Arab world.
With the fall of communism and the rise of Islamophobia, due to academic studies and intensive and targeted media and press campaigns, difficult questions were raised. Their answers constituted a stream of hostility towards Islam and Muslims without distinction between that group and the reality of religion and its followers in the world. The answers isolated the stances of the bodies and governments and the logic of publicly defending the rights of those currents has become political suicide and some of them took it further to a camp of public hostility. The matter became a subject of political speculation nurtured by the right wing in Europe, especially France, due to the increase of terrorist operations, bombings, and behaviors by the followers of jihadist groups’ ideology. Anti-Islamic theories have generally dominated with desperate attempts by some security agencies to maintain a minimum level of safe use of jihad group elements in achieving a number of objectives that serve the interests of these countries. These theories have grown since the 1980s as a result of out-of-control climate and factors.
“Interaction of contrasts” and “green threat”?
The West has adopted a new approach based on the “interaction of contrasts,” which counts on the export of two models of Islam; moderate and extreme, and with new ways of employing both, especially in terms of direct and indirect financial support to fight Islamophobia in the West. Propaganda campaigns have been launched in support of organizations and groups under the banner of being moderate and competent to rule with the pretext of eliminating extremist terrorist groups. This took place in parallel with the spread and intrusion of anti-Islamic conspiracy theories after the collapse of communism, the indications of which were clear during the rule of Ronald Reagan in the United States. The time when the “green threat” of Islam (or Islamic fundamentalism), Sunna or Shiaa, replaced the “red threat” of communism. Nevertheless, the favorite ruler of the United States in the Muslim world, the Shah of Iran, was overthrown by religious Ayatollah. This has led to the rise of movements in the Muslim world attempting to regain their countries from Western-backed regimes. It has also helped communities in the Muslim world express their desire for political change in strange religious terms and narratives. This aided in the promotion of the narrative that some Muslims had embraced violence against Western states that supported their rulers. Some also called on Islamic states to protect Muslims’ lives, as did the Jews to a Jewish state. Therefore, the growing religion among Muslims in an external Islamic appearance was the visual component needed to highlight the “foreign” threat to Europe.
On from the green threat to the war of universal terminology. After the events of September 11, 2001, Western theorists, with the help of so-called experts and black propaganda, described the global threat to Islam using terms such as “Islamist,” “terrorist,” and “extremist,” all replacing “Islamic fundamentalism,” with large numbers of articles, books, media stories and “experts” promoting the threat of global terrorism and “Islamism.” It has become normal to use terms of takeover to highlight the threat to European societies and values, which are embraced by new politicians and entrenched in foreign policies. For example terms like “networks of global terrorism,” “global jihad,” “hate our values and way of life,” “they threaten our freedom,” “Londonistan,” “Eurabia,” “Sharia imposed in our cities,” “forcing non-Muslims to eat halal,” “taking over schools with via the Trojan horse,” and “Islamization” all became very common. Furthermore, in James Bond films, the United States and the West are presented as being on a mission to save society from a variety of evil characters trying to rule or destroy the world, starting from Khomeini, Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS). The governing philosophy is that not only must the Western civilization be “protected” from the threat of Islam, but Muslims must be as well protected from the harm of their religion. Of course, terms are just symbols or metaphors for Islam and Muslims. It has been rooted in European sentiment, myths, and anti-Islamic stereotypes for centuries.
Amid this momentum of hatred, the Muslim Brotherhood made a glaring appearance in 2011, when the group, with declared Western support, benefited from uprisings in the Arab streets against certain regimes and institutions. It emerged as the only group capable of organizing an alternative to the chaotic situation. However, the mistakes of the Brotherhood’s elders led to their downfall and their quick removal from the scene. As a result of that experience, the Muslim Brotherhood movement had become largely discredited among a large segment of the youth who trusted them. Western capitals had become a source of attraction and assembly for the Brotherhood in the diaspora to return and control, which required lobbying, influencing decision-makers and public opinion, and providing financial, logistical, and media support for continuity and survival.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and their plan for a global caliphate
Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood has deeply influenced political life in the Middle East, while extremist views of the Muslim Brotherhood have shaped the beliefs of generations of Islamists. During the past two decades, the Muslim Brotherhood has lost some of its power and appeal in the Middle East, crushed by non-recognition and siege by local regimes, and ignored by younger generations of Islamists because they often prefer more radical organizations and groups. Over time, Europe has become an incubator of the political evolution of the ideology of these Islamic extremist organizations. Since the early 1960s, members and sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood have moved to Europe, slowly establishing, albeit with stability, an extensive and well-organized network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organizations. Unlike the larger Muslim community, the ultimate goal of the Muslim Brotherhood may not be simply to “help Muslims be the best citizens they can be,” but rather to further spread their ideas throughout Europe and the United States. Four decades of teaching and education finally paid off. Refugee students who emigrated from the Middle East 40 years ago and their grandchildren now lead organizations representing local Muslim communities in their dealings with Europe’s political elite. Funded by generous contributors from the Arabian Gulf, they run a central network covering almost every European country. These organizations represent themselves as mainstream, even while embracing radical Muslim Brotherhood views and maintaining ties with terrorists.
Due to a moderate “declared” speech, fluently speaking in German, Dutch, French, and English, they have gained acceptance between European governments and the media alike. Politicians from across the political spectrum seek to engage them whenever a Muslim-related problem occurs or when they seek the vote of a prosperous Muslim society. They speak Arabic or Turkish in front of fellow Muslims, abandoning their façade and embracing extremism. While their representatives talk about inter-religious dialogue and integration on television, their mosques call for hatred and warn worshippers about the evils of Western society. While publicly condemning the murder of passengers in Madrid and school children in Russia, they continue to raise funds for terrorist organizations. Europeans who are eager to engage in dialogue with the increasingly resentful Muslim minority ignore this duplication. The issue is particularly evident in Germany, which retains a central position in Europe, not only because of its location in the heart of Europe but also because it received the first large wave of Muslim Brotherhood immigrants and hosted the best-organized Brotherhood presence. The German government’s reaction is also useful to be known to show the dangers of accepting the apparent Muslim Brotherhood’s rhetoric, without looking at the broader scope of its activities.
In isolation from political circles and media agencies and within research centers, European activists have focused on the movement of the Brotherhood in Europe, revealing that there are more than 180 Muslim organizations in Europe, which fall under the category of human rights non-governmental associations, promoting the idea of a global caliphate, and are hostile to the opponents of Europe’s Islamization. They have been doing so with the money of European taxpayers and Middle Eastern countries since 2010. When the main funding began, these organizations received more than $300 million. Most organizations are associated with the international Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is banned in many countries. They revealed that this movement is in line with other banned organizations in most countries of the world, including Al-Qaeda and IS, to create a global caliphate. The movements of activists and researchers have emphasized that these Muslim groups led by the Muslim Brotherhood rely on methods that bring them closer to their goal of “occupying Europe.”
“Today, the Muslim Brotherhood has the widest network of organizations in the Old World, while maintaining closer relations with Salafists and jihadists, making it more dangerous than extremists. They aim to establish a global caliphate, to organize the Muslims of Europe, speak on their behalf, represent them, and today they have the loudest voice, whether they are loved by European Muslims or not.”
Most analyses and studies have revealed that the largest number of such Islamic movements is found in the United Kingdom, followed by Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, and France. These Muslim organizations were established and dominated by the Egyptian-based Muslim Brotherhood, as well as links to the Palestinian Hamas movement, religious parties and groups in most Arab countries, and the administration of the religious state of Turkey, known as Diyanet.
“The Muslim Brotherhood deceives most politicians, while at the same time using them to advance their agenda, as Islamists do not declare their true goals to the European public. Therefore, we are trying to demonstrate their tactics and their relationships with jihadists and those who claim to advocate the application of Sharia law. According to the Brotherhood’s activists, they are fighting against Islamophobia. This battle is the main stated objective of these organizations. To that end, they have received official funding, especially since 2010. “
The European Commission and the governments of Austria, Germany, Norway, Switzerland, Sweden, and the UK allocated $155 million for the Islamic activities of Islamic organizations. Another $157 million were put in their accounts from some Gulf capitals, Qatar, the USA, governments, charities, and individuals. For example, in 2014, the Danish Islamic Council received 20 million Euros from the government of Qatar, and the League of Muslim in Belgium about 1.1 million Euros. In fact, concerning the issue of fighting Islamophobia, the Brotherhood and its affiliates promote claims that their organizations are peaceful and make campaigns against those who oppose the Islamization of the European community according to their ideas. They put pressure on those who decide to tell the truth, where a fierce battle is promoted on social media. For example, Facebook has a page named Report Anti-Islamic Pages, with over 11,000 members. Led by people from Pakistan, they collect data on all users and groups that, in their opinion, advocate anti-Islam policies. For example, they bombarded the Department of Social Networking and Facebook with messages calling for the blocking of the “Republic of Atheists” group, which had 1.6 million followers. At the same time, most European politicians believe that the war against “Islamophobia” is merely Islamic organizations that promote Muslim rights. In a statement last April, President Alexander van der Beelen of Austria said on television that all European women should wear the hijab as a show of solidarity with Muslim women.
Soros’ support for the fight against Islamophobia
According to activists, one of the active sponsors of the struggle against Islamophobia is American billionaire George Soros. Over the past six years, his organization Open Society Foundation has allocated $1.5 million to support Islamic organizations. European activists believe that billionaires like Soros are donating money to support groups that will later create chaos in Europe. Activists say that several cases of sponsoring the Muslim Brotherhood organizations can be mistakenly attributed. Its main recipient is the European Network against Racism (ENAR), whose leaders are members of the Muslim Brotherhood. Prior to that, Ibrahim Zayat was the Vice-President of the Forum of European Muslim and Student Organizations (FEMYSO), which protects the rights of Muslim youth, part of the international network of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Another organization funded by Soros’ foundation is the Association for the Promotion of Islam in Germany. According to The Wall Street Journal, 60 percent of the organization is funded by Arab Gulf states and is located in the German capital in the same building with two Islamic organizations, under the supervision of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Bavaria, with links to the Muslim Brotherhood.
The amount of investment in European Islam is surprising. In early May 2017, the largest mosque in Scandinavia, with a capacity for 2,000 worshippers, opened in Malmö, Sweden. The construction cost more than 3 million Euros, paid by Qatar, and is regarded as a springboard for the Brotherhood. The capital of Finland already has many mosques, and the new mosque will be twice the size of the main Lutheran cathedral. Activists in Sweden confirm that the Muslim Brotherhood is building a parallel society. There has been no debate about the construction of a mosque, although this year the country’s Emergency Agency published a report that explicitly states that the Muslim Brotherhood builds a parallel society in the country according to its values and ideas, which will threaten the cohesion of the country in the future.
The report points out that members of the Brotherhood call on other members in other countries to try to have a small community within a large society, or they will melt like salt in water, arguing that what has preserved Jewish identity in recent centuries are their small communities, which were unique in their ideas and rituals and are called Jewish ghettos. “Try to have your Islamic ghetto”, as what the non-official theorist of the Muslim Brotherhood, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi said.
According to a study in Sweden, “an ideological network of associations and organizations has been established, and European democracy can be an excellent tool for achieving the caliphate. On the one hand, Islamists are difficult to blame, because in defending their activities they speak of equality and the promotion of religious rights and freedom of opinion, and on the other hand, they actively promote their interests through business and politics. This action can affect Swedish society, even through various EU directives and policies in individual areas.”
Political Islam is not the religion of Islam
From the point of view of activists and academics, there is a difference between Islam as a religion and political Islam as a threat, and that they must not be drawn into a sympathetic battle with religion. They emphasize that political Islam in Europe as a concept divides their societies and leads to extremism. The Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists act as engines due to the closed nature of Muslim communities which are rapidly growing because of the influx of refugees. Most ordinary Europeans are unaware of what’s happening inside. The Brotherhood tries to use Sharia laws among European Muslims, and they try to force their women to wear the hijab.
At the same time, most people in the Old World do not notice how political Islam enters slowly but steadily, even through food. For example, the halal food cooked according to Sharia rules has become commonplace in the West. According to Reuters, in 2015, spending on halal food cost about $1.1 trillion and generated revenue of nearly $414 billion. In Europe, because of animal slaughter rituals, halal food has been banned in Denmark, Switzerland, and recently in Belgium. In the rest of Europe, they are sold freely and generate income. According to journalist Alexandre del Valle, 60 percent of halal food in France is controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, where Islamic organizations endorse the Brotherhood to approve the products, without their approval it cannot be considered halal.
In France, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) includes about 200 associations. In other countries, activists call the Islamic Center of Munich, the Islamic Center in Aachen, and the Finnish Islamic Society as terrorist organizations, which the United Arab Emirates considers as a terrorist group due to funding and training jihadists. Europeans also face the ugly side of Brotherhood Islamization. However, that doesn’t happen very often, yet. This is usually witnessed only when it affects their interests, or when scandalous details of the internal life of Islamic organizations are revealed. For example, in 2014, Islamists in several schools tried to start training jihadists in Birmingham. Also in May 2017, a scandal that shook Denmark took place: A video of Imam Munzer Abdullah’s sermon in the Copenhagen Mosque appeared online, with the black flag with the Muslim declaration of faith in the background, saying in modern Arabic that doomsday will not come until Muslims defeat and kill Jews. The imam also said that a caliphate would soon emerge that would start a war to unite the Muslim community and lead to the liberation of the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem from the Zionists.
However, the terrorist attacks in Europe and the joining of hundreds of Europeans in the ranks of the Islamic State have already demonstrated the benefits of Islamization to Europe. Also in Denmark, a 17-year-old girl was accused of planning to blow up two schools, including a Jewish school in Copenhagen.
The Brotherhood pretends to be peaceful
The Muslim Brotherhood and other similar groups do not publicly display their relations with recognized jihadists, convincing everyone around them of their peace-loving nature. However, they are directly associated with Salafists and jihadists. For example, the Global Against Aggression Campaign (GAAC), which emerged immediately after the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, representing itself as a non-governmental, independent, peaceful, and educational campaign, is an organization with the Salafists, Jihadists, Muslim Brotherhood, and Hamas under its umbrella. Some of whom are recognized by the United States and Europe as terrorists, as reported by the Muslim Brotherhood Center for Studies in 2017. Thus, the secretary-general of the organization, Safa Al-Hawali, is considered one of Osama bin Laden’s teachers. He supported the September 11 attacks in the United States, calling for jihad against Americans and their allies. Washington recognized the head of the body Abdul-Rahman Ben Omar Al-Naami as one of Al-Qaeda’s sponsors. The organization itself, according to writer Stephen Merley, is an attempt to unite the forces of Islamic Jihad under one roof to confront Americans and their allies. At the same time, as the report says, the Muslim Brotherhood itself does not hide its desire to invade Europe. Al-Qaradawi said Islam would return to Europe victorious. He explained this in detail as follows: “It seems that the next conquest, as God wishes, is in preaching and religious doctrine.” The report quoted the words of the Muslim Brotherhood’s spiritual mentor. As proof of these words, a video on Facebook shot in a German city, showed a Muslim preacher climbing the base of a memorial and telling spectators that several generations later Germany will become an Islamic state and Germany’s women would marry Muslims.
For those who do not know, Osama bin Laden’s spiritual guide, Abdullah Azam was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s the first terrorist Bin Laden met in a university in Saudi Arabia. Aliaa Ghanem, Bin Laden’s mother, told “The Guardian” in August 2017 that people at the university changed him and he became a different person. He was a very good child until he met some people who had largely brainwashed him when he was just over 20 years old, she added.
The Muslim Brotherhood and the German model
In Germany, the Muslim Brotherhood’s status has a distinctive position more than any place in Europe. The Muslim Brotherhood in Germany has gained considerable strength and political acceptance. Islamic organizations in other European countries are now consciously following the model set up by their German peers during the 1950s and 1960s when thousands of Muslim students left the Middle East to study at German universities. They were not lured by the technical reputation of the German institutions as they claimed; rather, the desire to escape the political regimes that are fighting their activities. The regime of President Gamal Abdel-Nasser was particularly active in its attempts to uproot the Brotherhood.
In 1954, many Muslim Brotherhood members fled Egypt to avoid being tried. West Germany provided a safe sanctuary. Bonn’s motives were not mere altruism, as terrorism expert Khalid Duran explained in his studies on jihad in Europe. The West German government decided to cut diplomatic relations with the states that recognized East Germany. When Egypt and Syria established diplomatic relations with the communist government, Bonn decided to welcome Syrian and Egyptian political refugees. Often, these dissidents were Islamists. Many members of the Muslim Brotherhood were already familiar with Germany. Many of them had cooperated with the Nazis before and during World War II. Some reportedly fought in the notorious Bosnian Handschar division of the SS. Saeed Ramadan was one of the first pioneers of the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany and a personal secretary of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan Al-Banna.
Ramadan, an Egyptian who led the unorganized Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine in 1948, according to the Brotherhood story, moved to Geneva in 1958 and studied law in Cologne. In Germany, he founded what became one of Germany’s three major Islamic organizations, the Islamic Community of Germany (IGD), which he chaired from 1958 to 1968. Ramadan also co-founded the Muslim World League. It receives substantial funding from regimes that sponsor Islamic radical ideology in the Arab region. Ramadan and his successors in the IGD used the money to finance the Islamic Center in Geneva and numerous financial and religious activities.
Hani Ramadan, son of Saeed, ran the Islamic Center. Among its other board members, Saeed’s other son, Tariq Ramadan, recently made headlines in Western newspapers because of sexual harassment scandals.
The case of Saeed Ramadan is not isolated after Ramadan’s 10-year presidency of IGD. Pakistani Fadil Yazdani led IGD briefly before Ghalib Hamat, a Syrian with Italian citizenship, took the lead. During his long tenure (1973-2002), Hamat moved between Italy, Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. Intelligence agencies around the world have always observed Hamat’s links to terrorism. He is one of the founders of the Bank of Taqwa, a powerful conglomerate called by Italian intelligence “the Muslim Brotherhood Bank”, which has financed terrorist groups since the mid-1990s, if not even before that period. Hamat helped Youssef Nada, one of the financial masterminds of the Muslim Brotherhood, in running Al-Taqwa and a network of companies based in major locations such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and the Bahamas, which maintain few regulations on cash origin or destination. According to reports, both Hamat and Nada transferred large sums to groups such as Hamas and the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) and established a secret credit account for a senior aide to Osama bin Laden. In November 2001, the United States Department of the Treasury classified both Hamat and Nada as funders of terrorism. According to Italian intelligence, Al-Taqwa also funded several Islamic centers throughout Europe and numerous Islamic publications, including the “Risalatul Ikhwan” (Brotherhood Mission), the official magazine of the Muslim Brotherhood. After the US Treasury’s classification, Hamet resigned from the presidency of the IGD. He was succeeded by Ibrahim Zayat, of Egyptian descent and the charismatic leader of many student organizations.
The fact that the leaders of the IGD Ramadan and Hamat are among the most prominent members of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past half-century points to the links between the Democratic Islamic Organization and the Brotherhood. Furthermore, reports from internal intelligence agencies from various German states openly describe the IGD as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, according to an intelligence report, the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood took control of the IGD from its earliest days. The Muslim Brotherhood led by Ramadan and Hamat sponsored the construction of the massive Islamic Center of Munich in 1960 with the help of large donations from Middle Eastern rulers.
The Ministry of Interior in Nordrhein-Westfalen has announced that the Islamic Centre of Munich has been one of the European headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood since its founding. The center publishes the magazine “Islam,” which is funded by the Bank of Taqwa (according to an Italian intelligence file). According to the Interior Minister of Baden-Württemberg, “Islam” clearly demonstrates how the German Brotherhood rejects the concept of a secular state. The February 2002 issue, for example, states that in the long run, Muslims should not just accept German family, real estate, and judiciary laws, but they must aim for an agreement between Muslims and the German state aimed at a separate judiciary for Muslims. IGD, of which the Islamic Center of Munich is one of the most important members, is the main branch of the Egyptian Brotherhood in Germany. IGD is also a clear example of how the Muslim Brotherhood came to power in Europe.
The IGD has grown significantly over the years and now includes dozens of Islamic organizations across the country. Under its umbrella, Islamic centers gathered from more than 30 German cities. Today, the real strength of IGD lies in its cooperation and sponsorship of many Muslim youths and student organizations in Germany. The focus on youth organizations followed the leading of Ibrahim Zayat. He understood the importance of focusing on the next generation of German Muslims and launched recruitment campaigns to involve young Muslims in Islamic organizations. A Meckenheim police report about Zayat, who dresses elegantly, reveals his worrisome connections. The German authorities explicitly say he’s a member of the Muslim Brotherhood. They also link him to the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a Saudi non-governmental organization that seeks to spread Wahhabi ideology throughout the world with its literature and schools. WAMY, which falls under the umbrella of the Muslim World League, aims to reinforce Muslim youth with full confidence in the superiority of the Islamic system over other ones. It is the largest Muslim youth organization in the world with unprecedented resources. In 1991, WAMY published the book “Islamic Directives,” which states: “Teach our children the love of revenge against the Jews and the oppressors, and teach them that our children will liberate Palestine and Jerusalem (Al-Quds) when they get there. Return to Islam and Jihad for God’s sake”. Emotions in “Islamic Directives” are the rule, not the exception. Many other WAMY publications are filled with powerful anti-Jewish and anti-Christian rhetoric. The Meckenheim police also link Zayat to the European Institute of Human Sciences, a French school that prepares European imams. Many radical clerics give lectures at the school and several European intelligence agencies accuse the school of spreading religious hatred. The German authorities also highlight the fact that Zayat is involved in numerous money-laundering investigations. Zayat has never been accused of terrorist activity yet, but he has suspicious financial dealings and ties to many organizations that spread religious hatred. The IGD may have changed its leadership after the US Treasury Department designated Hamat as a terrorist, but it did not change its orientations.
While the Egyptian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood chose Munich as its base of operations in Germany, its Syrian branch is based in the German city of Aachen near Holland’s border. The former Carolingian capital, with its famous university, is now home to a large number of Muslims, including the prominent Syrian family of Attar. The first Attar to move to Aachen was Essam, who fled his country of origin in the 1950s when he was the leader of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Other members of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood soon followed him. Over time, Islamists from other countries took the Attar Bilal Mosque in Aachen as their base of operations. From hosting exiled Algerian terrorists to running a charity designated by the United States Treasury as a financial front for Hamas, Aachen is well known to intelligence services around the world.
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood base in Aachen maintained close ties with its Egyptian counterpart. For example, confirming the trend of important Muslim Brotherhood families to document the alliance through mixed intermarriage, Essam Attar’s son married the daughter of banker Youssef Nada. However, the links between the two branches of the Muslim Brotherhood are more comprehensive than individual marriages. According to reports, the Islamic Center in Aachen received funds from Al-Taqwa. Faculty members of the Islamic centers of Munich and Aachen make rotations between the two centers. For example, Ahmed von Denver, editor of the Islamic Center’s Islam magazine in Munich, came from Aachen to Munich. However, there is still some distance. The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood never joined the IGD, instead, it preferred to maintain some form of independence. Of all the financial activities of Zayat, the activity that aroused the German authorities’ greatest suspicion was its association with officials of Milli Görüş, in Turkish National Vision. With 30,000 members and perhaps 100,000 sympathizers, Milli Görüş claims to defend the rights of the Turkish immigrant population in Germany, giving them a voice in the democratic political arena while “preserving their Muslim identity.” But Milli Görüş has another agenda. While declaring their disdain for democracy and Western values, some Mullah leaders publicly declared their interest in democratic debate and their desire to see Turkish immigrants integrated into European societies.
The local German intelligence agency has repeatedly warned against the activities of Milli Görüş, and in its annual reports has described it as a “foreign extremist organization.” The agency also stated that “in public statements, Milli Görüş pretends to uphold the fundamental principles of Western democracies, abolish the secular regime in Turkey and establish an Islamic state and social order, like before.” The history of Milli Görüş alone indicates why the group should be considered extremist. Former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan whose Welfare Party was banned by the Turkish Constitutional Court in January 1998 for “activities against the country’s secular regime,” remains the undisputed leader of Milli Görüş, even if his nephew Mehmet Sabri Erbakan is the party’s president. The 2002 meeting of the European Millionaire in the Dutch city of Arnhem, where Necmettin Erbakan was the keynote speaker, provides a glimpse into the ideology of Milli Görüş. After a speech about the evils of Western integration and American politics, Erbakan declared that “after the fall of the wall, the West found an enemy in Islam.”
First Germany and then Europe, while the Muslim Brotherhood worked on consolidating Islamist influence in Germany’s Muslim society, they did not limit themselves to Germany. Due to generous foreign funding, careful organization, and the naivety of European elites, the Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations have gained prominent positions throughout Europe. In France, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France became the dominant organization in the Islamic council of the government. In Italy, the UCOII is the government’s main partner in dialogue on Italian Islamic issues. In parallel with integration efforts with the European Union, the Muslim Brotherhood is also seeking to integrate its various European agents.
Over the past 15 years, the Muslim Brotherhood has created a series of European organizations, such as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, where representatives of national organizations can meet and plan initiatives. Perhaps the Muslim Brotherhood has had the greatest influence in all of Europe with its youth organization. In June 1996, Muslim youth organizations from France, England, and Sweden joined the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe and the world Muslim youth council to create a European Muslim youth organization. Three months later, delegates from 11 countries met in Leicester and officially launched the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO), headquartered in Brussels. According to its official releases, FEMYSO is “a network of 42 national and international organizations that bring together young people from more than 26 different countries.” FEMYSO proudly stated in 2003 that over the past four years it has become the active voice of young Muslims in Europe. It is regularly consulted on Muslim issues in Europe. It has also developed useful links with the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the United Nations, the European Youth Forum, and several relevant non-governmental organizations at the European level.
Ibrahim Zayat, who held the presidency until his commitments in Germany forced him to step down, used the FEMYSO chair to address the European Parliament. As the Muslim Brotherhood is considered a bulk of FEMYSO’s constituent organizations, it provides the “actual voice of young Muslims in Europe. While FEMYSO claims that it is “committed to combating prejudices at all levels, for Europe’s future to be multicultural, inclusive and respectful,” such statements seem to be hollow given the position of the sponsors such as the WAMY, which believes that “Jews are enemies of believers, God, angels, and humanity. Every tragedy inflicted on Muslims is caused by the Jews.” The vast funds and organizations of the Muslim Brotherhood have contributed to their success in Europe. But their acceptance into mainstream society and their undisputed rise to power would not have been possible had the European elites been more vigilant, understanding the motives of those who finance and build these Muslim organizations.
Europeans and the Brotherhood: Fooled by pretenses
Why do Europeans look so naive to the researcher in dealing with the Brotherhood’s file? Bassam Taibi, a German professor of Syrian origin and an expert in Islam in Europe, believes Europeans, and Germans in particular, fear being accused of racism. Radicals dressed in cloths made from sheep have learned that they can silence almost everyone by accusing them of xenophobia. Any criticism of organizations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood is followed by racist cries and persecution against Muslims. Journalists who are not afraid of these appeals are mired in unfounded, failed but expensive lawsuits. In some cases, politicians simply fail to verify the backgrounds of those who claim to be legitimate representatives of the Muslim community. As in the United States, representatives of the Muslim community describe themselves as more extreme than the population they represent. In other cases, politicians are aware that these organizations are not the ideal counterparts in constructive dialogue, but they do not take enough time to search for others that are less visible but more moderate, many of which exist only at the grass-roots level, hampered by financial constraints.
What most European politicians fail to understand is that by meeting with extremist organizations, they enable them and give the Muslim Brotherhood legitimacy. There is implicit support for any meeting, especially when politicians themselves ignore moderate voices that cannot get generous funding. This creates a subjective cycle of extremism, because the greater the political legitimacy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the more opportunities it and the groups acting on its behalf will have to influence and radicalize different European Muslim communities. The irony is that Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan Al-Banna dreamed of spreading Islamism throughout Egypt and the Muslim world, never dreamed of his vision becoming reality in Europe.
Some may believe that German relations with the Brotherhood are new, but as research indicates, it is found that they are historical and rooted, with documents saying that the Muslim Brotherhood sent hundreds of its members to receive “training” under the banner of the Nazi regime in the 1940s. As the Muslim Brotherhood had sent 700 members to be trained under the leadership of Hitler, this was revealed and published later by German authorities.
Turkey in the Brotherhood’s formula for presence in Europe
After the rise of the AKP to power in 2002, Turkey became a base from which the Muslim Brotherhood headed to Europe, providing political, logistical and media cover to enable it to move, proliferate, and influence in the service of the “New Ottoman” project officially announced in 2010. It also uses the political Islam current and its followers from armed groups as soldiers for the caliphate and to regain control and influence for the caliphate.
Thus, Turkish, fascist, and Islamic nationalist policy practices have posed a threat to world peace in general and Europe in particular. Racism, fascism, and extreme nationalism do not become purer because they have Islamic roots. It is rare to hear about how different regimes affect Western politics, although it is very clear that they do so. For many years there has been talking of threats against the European Union and Western powers from foreign powers, especially from Russia and China. One regime that has influenced the policies of the international community recently is the Turkish regime. In recent years, no one has escaped from the prison, from parliament representatives and professors in Turkey, as well as students and local politicians. Turkey has the highest percentage of jailed journalists in the world (usually without evidence). Academic freedom no longer exists in Turkey, and when it comes to the human rights of minorities, Turkey has not been so bad since the Atatürk days.
In the name of the Ottoman Empire, Turkey has become the base for Muslim Brotherhood operations to dominate the world as they aspire. Turkey’s ruling Islamists the AKP are associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has an international organization, with different strategies and tactics in each state, despite that the different national branches often communicate and cooperate with each other. Erdogan’s ties to the brotherhood date back to the 1970s, when he was one of Necmettin Erbakan’s most trusted political students, the godfather, and organizer of Islamism in Turkey. The Muslim Brotherhood branches in the Gulf helped Erbakan and Islamists of Turkey in this phase when they faced the repression of the secular establishment. Historical roots are the same, as is the ideological approach in political and religious interpretation, and the self-interest as political opportunism.
When Necmettin Erbakan died in 2011, the most prominent Brotherhood leaders attended his funeral in Istanbul. Around this time, as the Arab Spring protests grew and Turkey’s support for Islamists increased. The AKP government’s support for Muslim Brotherhood movements abroad changed dramatically in 2010 and 2011, as Ankara sought to fund branches of the Muslim Brotherhood that were ideologically ranging from secret loyalists like excessive religious extremists. The Turkish regime, with strong hopes of expanding its influence in the Middle East, has worked with Qatar to finance, support, and expand the influence of Muslim Brotherhood parties in the region. Islamic Action Front (Jordan), Prosperous Justice Party (Indonesia), Islamic Renaissance Party (Tajikistan), Islamic Party (Iraq), Islamic Labor Front (Lebanon), Justice and Construction Party (Libya), National Rally for Reform and Development (Mauritania), Islamic Party (Malaysia), Freedom and Justice Party (Egypt), Yemeni Congregation for Reform “Al-Islah” (Yemen), Islamic Constitutional Movement “Hadas”(Kuwait).
Turkey and Qatar have invested billions of dollars in expanding the institutions associated with the AKP and the Brotherhood with US relations. The members of the AKP and Qatari government officials can be observed in the proceedings of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), which is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. Turkish names were increasingly appearing in the boards of NGOs associated with the brotherhood, and Turkish Islamists were increasingly influential in the United States. “Red Herring” tactics were used to attack Erdogan’s enemies, while massive PR campaigns actively portrayed him as a savior of the Muslim world because people would reject reports of Erdogan’s notoriety regarding human rights. Muslim Brotherhood television shows broadcast around the world depict Turkey under the AKP as a progressive and prosperous country. Erdogan has been recognized anywhere in the Middle East as an established leader who saved Turkey, and now wants to save the Muslim world. The Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish mosques in Europe, North America, and even the Middle East have become instruments of propaganda, training imams to maintain a positive image of Turkey under Erdogan, attacking the Saudi and Egyptian governments, and portraying them as reactionary, brutal, and evil regimes.
A growing number of participants confuse the ideology of AKP and Turkish Islamist groups with the belief in the return of the caliphate. The Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, has adopted an Islamic identity and even a Muslim Brotherhood identity in many places throughout Europe, especially Germany, where they have been accused of espionage.
The European intelligence services, activists, researchers, and media professionals have monitored Turkey’s relationship with international organizations and all active organizations in European countries. They provided the organizations with financial, logistical, and media support. They also use them as a pressure card for the Erdogan project, and to promote a mental image of him as a caliphate and protector of values, principles, Sharia, and the first defender of Muslim rights around the world. This puts the governments of those States before a difficult choice in dealing with Erdogan’s file that threatens European security and the security system within and outside NATO, as well as all the threats it poses to the security of States within the system, such as Greece and Cyprus. The handling of the Erdogan file will be part of the handling of the Brotherhood’s file as an organization in European societies and major powers within the Old Continent, such as Germany and Britain.
Europe needs to coordinate with the United States after the election of Joe Biden as President. This is placing a burden on the major Arab countries to uncover all the above politically and in the media, taking advantage of the movement of activists, journalists, and researchers in the West, who every day reveal the danger and objectives of the Brotherhood in Europe and in all the communities in which it is active. All might be surprised from rewarding Turkey and the Brotherhood, re-employ their role, and contain their danger to Europe in the equation of the gains and losses that control the balance of international relations, which is in the interests of international states and actors.
The game does not only include the evil and the good but the interests of some at the expense of others as well, in a dysfunctional equation that does not have rules that make sense in the context of what we have referred to as “the interaction of contrasts.”