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Security and Extremism Blogs
In September 2020, it was announced that the UK-based Ibrahim Mounir had been appointed as the acting General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (EMB) – the most senior figure in the organisation. In the month following the announcement, the Qatari Arabi21 Arabic language portal reported that Mounir had addressed a letter to President Emmanuel Macron, in which he denounced the latter’s suggestion that Islam is in crisis. Mounir further claimed that Macron had been wrong to identify the Brotherhood with isolationism, radicalism and puritanism. And he objected to Macron’s assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood used religion for political ends, was attempting to establish a parallel order, or rejected the French republic.
On Sunday, 27 September 2020, a car rally took place through central London, “in solidarity with and in appreciation of the Hashd Al-Sha’bi” (also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF). The Hashd Al-Sha’bi, which was formed in 2014 when the conflict with ISIS began, is an Iraqi umbrella organisation comprised of 40 (mostly Shi’a) militia groups. The three main factions within Hashd Al-Sha’bi owe their allegiances to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and Muqtada al-Sadr.
On the 30 October, the Muslim Brotherhood’s London-based weekly bulletin Risalat Al-Ikhwan published a statement titled: ‘On French and European offences against Islam, its Prophet and Book’. Among other matters, the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement praises the uprising [intifada] of the peoples of the Muslim world and the defence of their sanctities “by every peaceful civilised means”. An intifada is best understood as a sustained ‘uprising’. It may or may not be intermittent, and is often marked by violence – although the level of violence may vary.
Austria (with which I should declare I have family ties) is perhaps more widely known for Apfelstrudel, the Salzburg Festival, alpine resorts and Conchita Würst than as a European policy leader. It’s been a while since Bruno Kreisky’s edgy Middle East activism or Vienna’s early – and highly effective – engagement with conflict issues in the former Yugoslavia. On most issues, the country has largely been content to position itself in the middle of the EU pack. All perfectly sensible.
Following the latest attack in Westminster and another planned against Oxford Street, Professor Richard Ekins, Head of Policy Exchange’s Judicial Power Project, reiterates the need to update our law of treason.
The first report produced by the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Max Hill QC, reveals a worrying tendency to engage with – and take at face value – a small minority of Islamist-influenced groups, rather than with the broad diversity of Britain’s Muslim communities. Policy Exchange’s Dr Martyn Frampton argues that these groups represent only a small fraction of British Muslims, yet Hill seems all too ready to accept their bona fides and treat their views as authoritative and representative.
The reaction to the appointment of Sara Khan as lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism has shown that Islamist narratives are still accorded too much prominence in national debates. Policy Exchange’s Hannah Stuart cautions politicians, officials and journalists who mistakenly give voice to Islamists claiming to speak on behalf of all Muslims.
Last week, Chuka Umunna spoke to Chatham House in a much-needed intervention on the state of British foreign policy.
In recent years, the British foreign policy debate has not kept up with the pace of global political and economic change. For that reason alone, there was much to commend in Umunna’s sense of urgency. To adapt to the challenges of the twenty-first century, as he put it, “we need to look ahead and develop a proper national strategy on the basis of a clear understanding of what our interests are”.
Alistair Burt, the Foreign Office Minister, has been engaging with political Islamists during his recent tour of the Middle East. Sir John Jenkins — former British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and co-author of the Government’s Muslim Brotherhood Review of 2015 — looks at the lamentable historical record of such attempts at outreach, what to expect from them and how they could be improved.
Hannah Stuart — Co-head of Policy Exchange’s Security and Extremism unit — analyses the High Court’s rejection of a legal challenge against the government’s counter-radicalisation strategy, Prevent, and its delivery IN higher education institutions. She explains why the ruling ‘highlights issues that are central not only to tackling terrorism in the UK, but also to challenging the extremist ideologies used to legitimise terrorism’.