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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Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration talks of need to challenge Islamism

Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration talks of need to challenge Islamism

The Danish public broadcaster, TV2 reports an interview given by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration, Mattias Tesfaye (Social Democrats) to Jyllands-Posten, in which he claimed that “a large part of Islam today is represented by Islamists”. Tesfaye pledged that he would try to curb Islamism in Denmark with a number of laws – perhaps an indication of his desire to emulate recent moves in Austria and France. In the interview, Tesfaye also went on to discuss his Government’s ongoing efforts to reduce immigration levels and the challenges of social cohesion. His remarks were criticised by members of other parties including the Enhedslisten (Unity List) and De Radikale (Radicals).

Muslim Brotherhood Newsletter Draws Attention to Report by Europal Forum on Labour and Antisemitism

Muslim Brotherhood Newsletter Draws Attention to Report by Europal Forum on Labour and Antisemitism

A November 2020 edition (no. 1101) of the Muslim Brotherhood’s, UK-based weekly Arabic newsletter, Risalat al-Ikhwan, drew attention to a report produced by the Europal Forum, which discusses the controversies surrounding antisemitism in the Labour Party.
Europal Forum describes itself as “an independent and non-party political organisation based in London, working to build networks throughout Europe in support of the promotion and realisation of Palestinian rights.” The Dutch former intelligence analyst, Ronald Sandee, and Steven Merley, an investigative expert on Islamist networks, have both identified Europal as aligned ideologically with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hizb ut-Tahrir UK Conference

Hizb ut-Tahrir UK Conference

The Islamist political party Hizb ut-Tahrir (HuT) remains active in the UK. In late 2020, HuT Britain reported that it had held “an international online conference on The Return of the Islamic World Order.”

According to the report on this gathering published by HuT, “Speakers showed how the secular capitalist world is incapable of providing coherent solutions for humanity and in fact, lies at the heart of most of the suffering in the world today.”

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