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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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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