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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London-based Ibrahim Mounir made acting General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

London-based Ibrahim Mounir made acting General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood

In September 2020, it was announced that the UK-based Ibrahim Mounir had been appointed as the acting General Guide of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood (EMB) – the most senior figure in the organisation. In the month following the announcement, the Qatari Arabi21 Arabic language portal reported that Mounir had addressed a letter to President Emmanuel Macron, in which he denounced the latter’s suggestion that Islam is in crisis. Mounir further claimed that Macron had been wrong to identify the Brotherhood with isolationism, radicalism and puritanism. And he objected to Macron’s assertion that the Muslim Brotherhood used religion for political ends, was attempting to establish a parallel order, or rejected the French republic.

London Rally in Support of the Militant Group Hashd Al-Sha’bi

London Rally in Support of the Militant Group Hashd Al-Sha’bi

On Sunday, 27 September 2020, a car rally took place through central London, “in solidarity with and in appreciation of the Hashd Al-Sha’bi” (also known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, PMF). The Hashd Al-Sha’bi, which was formed in 2014 when the conflict with ISIS began, is an Iraqi umbrella organisation comprised of 40 (mostly Shi’a) militia groups. The three main factions within Hashd Al-Sha’bi owe their allegiances to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, and Muqtada al-Sadr.

Muslim Brotherhood statement welcomes “Intifada” in a response to Macron’s remarks

Muslim Brotherhood statement welcomes “Intifada” in a response to Macron’s remarks

On the 30 October, the Muslim Brotherhood’s London-based weekly bulletin Risalat Al-Ikhwan published a statement titled: ‘On French and European offences against Islam, its Prophet and Book’. Among other matters, the Muslim Brotherhood’s statement praises the uprising [intifada] of the peoples of the Muslim world and the defence of their sanctities “by every peaceful civilised means”. An intifada is best understood as a sustained ‘uprising’. It may or may not be intermittent, and is often marked by violence – although the level of violence may vary.

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