Understanding IslamismA Policy Exchange Project
The US State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, has issued a statement in which it “condemns the well-documented record of anti-Semitic attitudes and remarks made by the senior leadership of Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW).” The Statement, which reviewed last year’s controversies surrounding the social media posts of two former trustees of IRW, added that the “consistent pattern of spreading the most vile anti-Semitic vitriol by IRW’s leadership causes us to question the core values of the organization”. The IRW had itself previously stated that it was shocked by “the anti western and anti Israel” content of the posts in question; it has also denied any links to Islamism.
Islamism continues to be a subject of much public discussion in Germany. On Monday, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung published an interesting article under the title “The European Mission of Political Islam”. “Legalistic Islam” said this piece “is on the march in Germany. Its entry point is education. Its goal the establishment of a theocracy by peaceful means.”
In November, the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, the Kingdom’s highest religious body, published a significant communiqué condemning the Muslim Brotherhood. The Council described the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group that does not represent the true values of Islam; it further labelled it a deviant group which undermines coexistence within nations, and stirs up sedition [fitnah], violence and terrorism. The Saudi Council also claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood had a history of promoting extremism and terrorism — adding that the Society had inspired the formation of many extremist and terrorist groups that had been responsible for atrocities worldwide.
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.