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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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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