Understanding Islamism

A Policy Exchange Project

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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UK Figures and Islamists Participate in International Conference on Islamophobia and the War on Terror

Arranged by the Centre for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) at the Istanbul Zaim University, the third International Conference on Islamophobia saw the participation of a number of individuals from the UK. Notably, this year the event had a particular focus on counter-terrorism policies. Held between 26 and 30 March, the conference was subtitled “Examining the Global War on Terror: Challenges, Policies, and Consequences” and included a great deal of discussion about policies in Britain, particularly the counter-radicalisation Prevent strategy.

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Secretary General of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Attacks New French anti-Separatism Proposals

Senior figures at the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) have continued to condemn the French government for its policies on separatism; which seek to encourage integration and counter-extremism. On his Facebook page, the group’s Secretary-General, Ali Al-Qaradaghi, has posted a call in Arabic opposing an addition to the “anti-separatism” bill that would ban certain religious practices in university corridors. In February, Policy Exchange reported on an IUMS communiqué, in which Al-Qaradaghi called on the French government to stop interfering in Islamic affairs, and on scholars in France and elsewhere to reject racism and religious discrimination against Islam and its followers.

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Recent Paper from Understanding Islamism Featured in Austrian Press

Austria’s largest newspaper, Kronen Zeitung, has run a story featuring Understanding Islamism’s latest paper: Grasping the Nettle by Sir John Jenkins and Clarisse Pasztory. Referring to the “renowned London research institution Policy Exchange”, Kronen Zeitung reports that the new paper is largely supportive of the Austrian government’s renewed focus on confronting Islamism. In particular, the piece notes the authors’ support for an approach that targets Islamism as an ideology, while making a clear distinction from the religion.

Noting the recent police raids against Muslim Brotherhood-linked activities in Austria, the piece repeats Sir John Jenkins and Clarisse Pasztory’s warning that extremists will be watching developments in Austria closely.

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Grasping the Nettle

The evolving Austrian debate on Islamism – reflecting in turn a growing public understanding of the issues over the last decade – continues to be of great interest to anyone concerned with the future of a liberal democratic state system. In France, the Macron government has been spurred into action by acts of terror. In Italy successive governments have for years used their long experience with combating organised crime to remove Islamist hate-preachers and others who undermine social cohesion with admirable expedition. In Germany concern about Islamism is at last gaining traction beyond the intelligence agencies. But it is in Austria over the last three years that the public and now governmental focus on the subject has in some ways been most sustained and instructive.

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London-based Ibrahim Mounir made acting General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

London-based Ibrahim Mounir made acting General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

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.

London Rally in Support of the Militant Group Hashd Al-Sha’bi

London Rally in Support of the Militant Group Hashd Al-Sha’bi

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.

Muslim Brotherhood statement welcomes “Intifada” in a response to Macron’s remarks

Muslim Brotherhood statement welcomes “Intifada” in a response to Macron’s remarks

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.

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