Understanding Islamism

A Policy Exchange Project

Swiss debate over the veil and its relationship to Islamism

The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, the Swiss German-language newspaper of record, has produced another robust contribution to the debate on the full face veil, in the run up to a referendum on whether to ban the garment in early March. The title, “Burka and Niqab are the emblems of a totalitarian ideology and should be banned”, gives a flavour of the piece. The subtitle reads: “Islamism is not an abstract but a real danger. People are harassed and murdered in its name. Its symbol is the full veil. It has no place in a free society”.

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French CCIF reconstitutes as CCIE in Belgium

The controversial Collective against Islamophobia in France (Collectif Contre l’islamophobie en France, CCIF), which was singled out as a body promoting “Islamist propaganda” (see also here) by French Interior Minister, Gerald Darmanin, in the wake of the murder of Samuel Paty in late 2020, has effectively announced its reconstitution as the Collective against Islamophobia in Europe (Collectif Contre l’islamophobie en Europe, CCIE), based in Belgium.

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Austrian Debate on Counter-Islamism Measures

On 2 February, the Austrian Public Broadcasting service (ÖRF) carried an article reporting criticism of the measures contained in the government’s anti-terror package, which is currently under consultation. The criticism comes from the Association of Judges (Die Richtervereinigung – RV), certain senior lawyers, and the domestic security and intelligence agency (Das Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz und Terrorismusbekämpfung – BfVT).

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The German Debate on Islamism Continues

The German debate on Islamism continues, as demonstrated by the publication yesterday (Sunday 7 February) by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung of an interesting interview with Lorenzo Vidino, the author of The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West and other books and articles about Islamism in Europe and the United States. Vidino is also the Director of the Extremism Programme at George Washington University, and an adviser to the Observatory on Political Islam recently established in Vienna. The interview was conducted by Christian Meier and the main focus was the nature and influence of Islamist groups in western societies – and the challenge these represent.

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Ongoing Swiss Debate on the Niqab

The Swiss German-language newspaper of record, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, carried an interview on 5 February with Alice Schwarzer, one of the the most prominent feminist activists in Europe over the last 50 years, a former student of Michel Foucault and an associate of Sartre and Beauvoir.  The interview concerns the proposed ban on the face covering for women (the niqab or burqa), which will be decided in a referendum on 7 March. The Federal Government has recommended rejecting the proposal. Schwarzer argues passionately that it should be accepted. Her arguments are based on claims about human dignity, the equal worth of women, the way in which the veil in general is a reflection of the subordination of women to men in Islamic jurisprudence, and the use by Islamists of this jurisprudence to promote Islamist-inflected norms within Muslim communities in Switzerland and in Europe more widely.

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The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) criticises French government for interfering in Islamic affairs

On 24 January, the London based Al-Quds Al-Arabi published a report about a communiqué issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS). In this communiqué, the IUMS’s Secretary-General Ali Al-Qara Daghi called on the French government to stop interfering in Islamic affairs and to treat Islam like any other religion.

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Dominic Grieve completes independent report into Islamic Relief Worldwide

Dominic Grieve completes independent report into Islamic Relief Worldwide

On 14 January 2021, Dominic Grieve published the report of his Independent Commission into Governance and Vetting within Islamic Relief. This body had been set up four months earlier after Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW) had been exposed to “reputational damage” because of “the unacceptable comments and views of a small number of trustees and a member of its senior staff”. As described previously on this blog, the controversies surrounding Islamic relief had led a number of governments, including the United States, to reconsider their relations with the group.

Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud discusses French Approach to Islamism

Algerian novelist Kamel Daoud discusses French Approach to Islamism

The distinguished Algerian novelist, essayist and journalist, Kamel Daoud, has written in Le Monde (29 January 2021) an article under the title, “France has what it takes to shape the future of Islam”.  He compares the situation in France favourably with that in Muslim-majority states. The former, he says, has shown a willingness to bring into the open key issues about a Muslim crisis of identity, and the challenges of dealing with domestic terrorism; he sees in Paris a government which is trying to come to terms with its colonial past. By contrast, in many Muslim-majority states he sees only the suppression of freedom of thought and expression. According to Daoud, this opens up the possibility – through a mixture of negotiation and pressure – of creating a specifically French and republican Islam and providing a model for other countries facing the same challenge. He calls on French Muslim leaders to give priority to the human not the divine; to support freedom of conscience; and to show that it is possible to live one’s faith without impinging on the lives, or rights, of others.

Bernard Rougier Discusses Islamism in L’Express

Bernard Rougier Discusses Islamism in L’Express

On 21 January the French Centrist weekly, L’Express, published a long and trenchant interview with Bernard Rougier, the university professor and Middle East specialist, on the occasion of a new and expanded edition of his 2020 book, Les territoires conquis de l’islamisme (“The Territories Conquered by Islamism”).  The interview covers the major themes of the book – notably its claim that Islamists have created in France (and by extension elsewhere) a social space dominated by Islamist ideology which enables them to act as gatekeepers to sometimes widely separated Muslim communities. Rougier argues that they are to some extent facilitated in this endeavour by a State that increasingly seems to model its interaction with such communities on “an Ottoman or Lebanese model” of consociationalism. Rougier believes that this is fundamentally destructive of France’s republican and secular tradition. He also thinks that it enables Islamists to blur the important distinction between Islamism as an ideology and Islam as a faith system, a sociology and a civilisation.

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