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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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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