Understanding Islamism

A Policy Exchange Project

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.

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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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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:

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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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UK-based Islamic Organisations petition UN Human Rights Council over French Policies

According to the Islamist website, 5 pillars, a number of UK-based organisations were amongst those who submitted a complaint to the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, over the French Government’s recent steps to try and combat what it calls Islamist “separatism”.

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Senior Indonesian Muslim Leader Calls for Reform to Combat Extremism

Yahya Cholil Staquf, the General Secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia, has published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, calling on Muslims to challenge extremism within their midst. “How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical” argues that: “Nearly a generation after 9/11, the world has made little progress in freeing itself from the threat of radical Islam.”

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Senior Indonesian Muslim Leader Calls for Reform to Combat Extremism

Senior Indonesian Muslim Leader Calls for Reform to Combat Extremism

Yahya Cholil Staquf, the General Secretary of the Nahdlatul Ulama in Indonesia, has published an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, calling on Muslims to challenge extremism within their midst. “How to Make the Islamic World Less Radical” argues that: “Nearly a generation after 9/11, the world has made little progress in freeing itself from the threat of radical Islam.”

New Austrian Government-sponsored Studies on Islamism

New Austrian Government-sponsored Studies on Islamism

The new Dokumentationsstelle politische Islam (Centre for the Study of Political Islam), established in Vienna in late 2020 by the Austrian government, has produced its first paper: Political Islam as a Subject of Academic Analysis and the Example of the Muslim Brotherhood by Dr Mouhanad Khorchide and Dr Lorenzo Vidino. It is designed to establish the scope of the Centre’s engagement with the subject, resolve some key definitional issues and set the scene for further studies. It complements Policy Exchange’s own papers which launched the Understanding Islamism project in December, as well as our more recent paper on Political Islamism in Austria.
 Political Islam as a Subject of Academic Analysis is divided into two parts, the first of which deals with definitional issues in regard to Political Islam (the authors’ preferred term) in general; the second with the specific case of the Muslim Brotherhood. It offers important insight into the evolution of the Brotherhood’s networks in Europe, and particularly in Austria.

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