Die Welt reports EU Commission funding Islamist groups with anti-Semitic links
Die Welt – the Berlin-based centre-right German newspaper of record – reported on 25 April that the European Commission apparently continues to fund organisations that either the Federal Government (FG) or the domestic German intelligence and security agency, Das Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz (BfV – The Constitution Protection Agency), have found to be Islamist and some of whose employees have made anti-Semitic statements.
One of these organisations, according to Die Welt, is Islamic Relief Deutschland (IRD), which the newspaper says the FG identified in 2019 as having significant personal connections to the Muslim Brotherhood or associated organisations. In 2016 the Berlin Senate also claimed – according to the report – that IRD had on several occasions sponsored organisations close to the MB.
A second organisation whose EU funding Die Welt questions is the European Muslim Union, whose founder, a German lawyer named Andreas Abu Bakr Rieger, was identified by the BfV in 2008 as “ close to an Islamist movement” and seems to have a record of anti-Semitic hate speech. In 1993, for example, he was reported as saying that Germans, like the Turks, had a history of fighting for the right cause, “…though I have to admit that when it came to our common enemy my grandfathers were not thorough enough.” Rieger has disowned this statement. But his current homepage continues to display photographs of him with or links to others who have made anti-Semitic statements, including the current Mufti of Jerusalem and the former PM of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohammed. Rieger has described Mahathir’s inflammatory remarks after the murder of Samuel Paty last October as “cynical and false”. But he continues to claim on his homepage that he has a “close relationship” with him and acted as his lawyer in Europe and elsewhere.
A third questionable organisation in receipt of EU funding, according to Die Welt, is the Weimar Institute for Spiritual Issues and Contemporary History – again established by Rieger. In 2017 the government of Mecklenburg-Vorpommen classified this Institute as “Islamist”. In 2009 and 2010 the BfV cited it in connection with “Islamist extremism”. Rieger told Die Welt that he had he had not been on its board at the time of the funding arrangement. Die Welt reports that a search of the Weimar registry shows him to have been a member of the board once again since July 2020.
Die Welt concludes by quoting two German members of the European Parliament, Nicola Beer (FDP) the Vice-President and Monika Hohlmeier (CSU), the Chair of the Management Committee, as expressing concerns about the matter. A spokesperson for the European Commission said that no funding went to organisations with an illegal or extremist agenda. If this were found to have happened, funding could be clawed back. The commission was committed to preventing radicalisation.
This represents another interesting insight into growing German and wider European concerns about the use of official funding for Islamist organisations.