Understanding Islamism

A Policy Exchange Project

Islamism and the Left

This paper seeks to consider the question of the relationship between Islamism (in all its forms) and parts of the Left, not just in France but more broadly. It proceeds from the assumption that such a relationship exists and is not simply tactical.

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IRGC flag displayed at London anti-Israel rally

The Iranian news agency Mehr News has released a short video showing a flag of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) being displayed during a London anti-Israel demonstration on 22 May. The IRGC was designated as a foreign terrorist organisation by the US State Department in 2019. In December 2020, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee called on the British Government to also proscribe the IRGC.

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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.

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CAGE and Islam21C promote endorsements from alleged Al-Qaeda aligned activist in Syria

The campaign group CAGE and the Islamist website Islam21C have both promoted endorsements from Tauqir Sharif (Tox) as part of their Ramadan fundraising campaigns. Sharif is a UK-born activist based in Syria who has been unable to return to Britain since 2017 when his British citizenship was removed on the grounds that he is linked to a group aligned with Al-Qaeda. Sharif has reportedly admitted to fighting in Syria, but denied being part of Al-Qaeda. He has justified his presence in Syria as a charity worker. However, a letter from the Home Office accused Sharif of being “aligned with an AQ-aligned group,” and stated that it had been assessed that his return to the UK would “present a risk to the national security of the United Kingdom.”

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Friends of Al-Aqsa leader participates in online conference including listed terrorist and Islamist figures

The head of the UK-based campaign group Friends of Al-Aqsa (FOA), Ismail Patel, has appeared among the speakers at a recent online conference that included a number of extreme figures. Taking place on 9 May 2021, the conference titled The scholars’ speech to those steadfast in Al-Aqsa, was broadcast over Facebook and YouTube by the Palestine Scholars Association in the Diaspora. Coverage of the event by Donia Al Watan reported that Muthanna Harith Al-Dhari, head of the Political Department of the Association of Muslim Scholars in Iraq (AMSI), was one of those speaking at the conference. In 2010, Al-Dhari was listed by the UN Security Council under the Al-Qaeda sanctions list for providing financial support to Al-Qaeda in Iraq. He is the son of the late Harith Al-Dhari; the former head of AMSI, known as ‘the Spiritual Leader of the Iraqi Resistance’ (Insurgency), and designated by the US Treasury in 2008 for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq.

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5Pillars publishes Hizb ut-Tahrir leader advocating military force and a Caliphate to “liberate Palestine and Kashmir”

The UK Islamist news website 5Pillars has published an opinion piece by Abdul Wahid—chairman of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir Britain—arguing that Muslim majority countries, and to a lesser degree some Muslims in the UK, are betraying the Palestinian and Kashmiri causes. Titled, Only a united Ummah can liberate Palestine and Kashmir, Wahid advocates the use of military force and the establishment of the Khilafah, or Caliphate, as the only means for achieving this.

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Latest Publications

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Latest Blogs

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung continues Islamism Debate

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung continues Islamism Debate

On 5 January, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Swiss German-language paper of record, offered a valuable review of the long running argument between two distinguished, French academic observers of Islam and Islamisms, Gilles Kepel and Olivier Roy. The title of the article reads, “Where does jihadi terror originate?  What is the place of Islam in Europe? A French debate that concerns the whole of Europe.” As NZZ describes, the dispute between Kepel and Roy might be described in the following (simplified) way: Kepel believes the problem is the radicalisation of Islam; Roy that it is the Islamisation of violent radicalism. Kepel emphasises the enabling ideology of an evolving Islamism, Roy the discontents arising from exclusion, economic inequity, conflict and so forth.  Kepel speaks Arabic, studied in Damascus and Cairo and is an area specialist and political scientist by training, Roy came to the subject through his sociological research in Afghanistan. This explains some of the differences in their approach. As the NZZ suggests, there may be something in the approach of both men.  But (the article goes on to say) a more accurate understanding of the issues should matter to all of us. And the piece offers another example of the way this topic is now a matter for public debate in Europe.

UK Diverges from Allies in Treatment of Islamic Relief Worldwide

UK Diverges from Allies in Treatment of Islamic Relief Worldwide

The UK’s Charity Commission has issued a press release on Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) concerning its investigation into that organisation, following allegations of anti-Semitism involving several members of IRW’s leadership. Officially registered to an address in Birmingham, but operating throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, IRW has faced a number of recent allegations of having links to the Muslim Brotherhood, and of members of its leadership promoting anti-Semitism, and of having “glorified terrorist attacks on Israel”.  In its press release, the Charity Commission stated that individuals from IRW’s leadership had made social media posts, “which ran contrary to the charity’s code of conduct and fell far below the standard the public expect of charity trustees and staff.” However, the Charity Commission further stated:

The Palestinian Forum in Britain Hosts Jordanian Islamist, Dr Ahmad Nawful, at Online Event

The Palestinian Forum in Britain Hosts Jordanian Islamist, Dr Ahmad Nawful, at Online Event

On 23 January, the Palestinian Forum in Britain is hosting an online event to mark “Arab Communities Day” 2021.  Among the invited speakers is the Jordanian academic and Muslim Brotherhood figure, Dr. Ahmad Nawful (also spelt Nawfal, Noufal, Nofal).[1]

Nawful, a professor of Islamic law at Jordan University, was banned by the Home Secretary (Theresa May) from entering the UK in 2011. He has a long record of extremist comments.

In 2008, Nawful endorsed a fatwa issued by Sheikh Faysal Mawlawi, then vice president of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (established and headed by Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi), which explained why it would be legitimate to kill Israeli civilians.

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