WHO ARE THE BENGHAZI DEFENSE BRIGADES THAT THREATEN FRANCE

Who are the Benghazi defense brigades that threaten France

15.11.2016 Hala Abdennour

July 17, 2016 two (or three according to French authorities) French soldiers belonging most probably to the General Directorate for Internal Security (DGSE) agents are killed in Libya when the helicopter they were travelling aboard was shot down. A group known as the Benghazi Defense Brigades (BDB) claimed responsibility for the attack and posted images of a dead body it identified as a French soldier and pictures of the downed aircraft.

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French president François Hollande confirmed on July 20th that three French soldiers were killed in Libya: “At this moment we are carrying out dangerous intelligence operations [in Libya]… three of our soldiers, who were involved in these operations, have been killed in a helicopter accident [1].

The same day, in retaliation for the death of its troops, France bombed several BDB targets killing a number of their militants and forcing the group to retreat west towards the city of Ajdabiya.  BDB immediately issued a statement that was published on their news agency Boshra News threatening France that Libya will turn into a “graveyard for you as it was for your three soldiers”.

Few days later Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) issued a statement announcing its solidarity with BDB and calling for Libyans to fight against what it called the “oppressors ”[2]. See please Annex.

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Most of the French press related the event [3], Le Monde wrote an article about it [4] but none of them explained who the BDB are allied to. Only the English language press gave details of the links between the Benghazi Defense Brigades, Al Qaida and AQIM. The French press qualified them simply as fundamentalists.

According to August 2016 media reports, nearly 30-40 Malian and Algerian AQIM fighters have joined BDB in fighting against the Libyan National Army south of Adjdabiya. Since the establishment of the Benghazi Defense Brigades, dozens of Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb ( AQIM ) fighters have traveled to Libya to fight alongside BDB .

November 5th Saraya Media The official media outlet of Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council tweeted “ Two French soldiers killed while Benina Air Base was targeted with a number of grad rockets”

Who are the Benghazi Defense Brigades?

The BDB was established in June 2016 as a militia fighting with Al Qaida associated Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council, against the UN-recognized Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army led by Gen Khalifa Hiftar. The Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council is a coalition of jihadist militias in Libya.  One the members of the BRSC is Ansar Al Sharia. They were designated by the US government as a Foreign Terrorist Organization for their ties with Al Qaida and their role in the 2012 attack against the US compound in Benghazi [5]. They are also thought to be ideologically closer to ISIL than Al Qaida [6]. Even though they are allied with Al Qaida in some cities and with ISIS in others according to French jihadism expert David Thomson [7].

A former leader of Ansar Al Sharia Mohammad Al Zahawi was a leading figure in the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council before his death in 2015 [8].

One of the commanders of the Benghazi Revolutionaries Council Ismail Sallabi is a founding member of the Benghazi Defense Brigades.

In an October 2016 interview, BDB commander Mustafa Sharkasi reaffirmed his group’s support for the Benghazi Revolutionaries Shura Council [9].

Qatar support for BDB leaders

Ismail Sallabi, a Benghazi-based militia leader, has been identified as “among the most prominent” BDB leaders[10]. Sallabi was featured in the June 2016 video announcing the official formation of BDB, and has since been named in media reporting as a leader of BDB and other militant groups associated with Al Qaida in Libya[11].

Sallabi is a long time Islamist activist. Arrested and accused by the Qaddafi regime of working to topple the government he was released in 2004 with the help of Qatar. In the 1980s he fought in Afghanistan against Soviet forces and was a leader in the Al Qaida aligned Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), which was sanctioned by the UN and the US government[12].

Following the 2011 uprising against the Qaddafi regime, Ismail Sallabi became a leader in the February 17thMartyrs Brigade and the Revolutionaries Companies Gathering. Both militias received Qatari aid and arms during the Libyan Revolution according to media reports[13].

In an interview with Reuters Ismail Sallabi confirmed that his forces received weapons from Qatar at the beginning of the Libyan revolution[14]

At the time they were also supported by western intelligence agencies to topple the Qaddafi regime probably before realizing that these Islamist groups had strong links with Al Qaida and AQIM.

In 2012 Libyan officials asked the US government to stop Qatar from sending money and arms to extremist militias in Libya, according to New York Times reporting. Former US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton urged the Obama administration to address “the Qatar problem” by arming opposition groups,” hoping that would persuade Qataris to stop sending weapons to extremist rebel factions”[15].

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Most of Doha’s aid to the Libyan revolt has been guided by Qatar based cleric Ali Sallabi, brother of Ismail. Ali Sallabi is a key conduit of Qatari arms shipments to Libyan militias after the 2011 uprising. He maintained residence in Qatar where he remains active in coordinating political dialogues. He oversaw a conference in Doha of more than 80 Libyan individuals to discuss national reconciliation and political developments in Libya. According to Qatari media reporting, the government of Qatar hosted the conference [16] [17].

Ali Sallabi is also a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Union of Muslim Scholars a Doha Based organization led by Yusuf Qaradawi.

On July 23 2016 after the French airstrikes against Benghazi Defense Brigades targets, the International Union of Muslim Scholars published an article by the Grand Mufti of Libya, Sadiq Al Ghariani qualifying the attack as “a felony against the homeland in every sense of the word” [18].

Al Ghariani has been identified by BDB as the religious Marja (guide) of the group[19].  He is also praised by AQIM who issued a statement of solidarity with BDB following July 2016 airstrike. AQIM called on Libyan revolutionaries to attack French forces and rally around Ulemas like Al Ghariani who they stated: “has championed knowledge in coming out with the truth in the face of Evil and its cohorts”[20].

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In October 2014 Sadiq Al Ghariani was banned from the UK after reports revealed he was providing direct support to Libya Dawn’s takeover of Tripoli [21].  He departed the UK for Qatar, before relocating to Turkey.

In 2012 social media showed a meeting between then Qatari Crown Prince Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani with radical cleric Sadiq Al-Ghariani [22].

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Annex

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) statement
24.07.2016

Truly, your steadfastness put the flagrant Western campaign and the French military intervention in Libya to shame when the young revolutionaries, the mujahideen of the Benghazi Defense Brigades, killed three French officers, whose death on Libyan soil the French government later recognized. These events have revealed the depths of the treachery of the foreign agent Hiftar, who kills the children of Derna and the elderly of Benghazi, on which he is waging a fierce war to exterminate all those who have anything to do with the revolution… 

We call on the revolutionaries in Libya, and the Libyan people writ large to press on in their revolution against the oppressors. We call on them to rally around their ulema who speak the truth about the campaign of aggression against the identity and faith of the Muslim people. We also appreciate the courageous position of the learned Sheikh  Al­Sadiq al­Ghariani, Allah preserve him, who championed knowledge in coming out with the truth in the face of Evil and its cohorts. We ask Allah to keep him and his brothers on the path of justice, and make them a bulwark for Shariah.”

[1] Reuters – 20.07.2016 – France says soldiers killed in Libya during intelligence operation

[2] L ibyas Channel – 24.07.2016 – “تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد ببلاد المغرب الإسلامي” يعلن تأييده لـ”سرايا الدفاع عن بنغازي”

[3] BFMTV – 21.07.2016 – Libye: le gouvernement d’union nationale accuse Paris de “violation” du territoire

[4] Le Monde – 20.07.2016 – Trois membres de la DGSE tués en Libye, le gouvernement libyen proteste

[5] U.S. Department of State – 02.01.2014 – Terrorist Designations of Three Ansar al-Shari’a Organizations and Leaders

[6] Rfi – 06.10.2014 – Aaron Zelin: en Libye, Ansar al-Charia n’a «pas subi de défaite»

[7] Twitter – 30.11.2015 – David Thomson

[8] Reuters – 23.01.2016 – Leader of Libyan Islamists Ansar al-Sharia dies of wounds

[9] Twitter https://twitter.com/Ghanem3Salem/status/784413510868537344

[10] Al Jazeera – 07.06.2016 – سرايا بنغازي.. لغم جديد بطريق حفتر

[11] YouTube – 02.06.2016 – بيان رقم ( 1 ) لسرايا الدفاع عن بنغازي

[12] Albawabh News – 25.03.2015 – التنظيمات المتربصة ببوابة مصر الغربية

[13] WSJ – 17.10.2011 – Tiny Kingdom’s Huge Role in Libya Draws Concern

[14] Reuters 04.09.2011 – مقابلة- اسلامي ليبي يطالب اللجنة التنفيذية بالاستقالة

[15] New York Times – 27.02.2016 – A New Libya, With ‘Very Little Time Left’

[16] Akhbar Libya – 03.05.2016 – من يقف وراء مؤتمر المصالحة الليبي في الدوحة ؟

[17] Raya – 04.05.2016 – مؤتمر المصالحة الليبي بالدوحة يدعو لنبذ العنف

[18] IUMS – 23.07.2016 – لمن يكتب تاريخ ليبيا.. يومُ العدوان الفرنسي على بنغازي

[19] Libya Herald – 25.06.2016 – PFG vows to fight new Benghazi militants

[20]  L ibyas Channel – 24.07.2016 – “تنظيم قاعدة الجهاد ببلاد المغرب الإسلامي” يعلن تأييده لـ”سرايا الدفاع عن بنغازي”

[21] The Guardian – 30.10.2014 – Libya’s highest spiritual leader banned from UK over support of Islamists

[22] Facebook – 18.07-2012 – الشيخ تميم بن حمد آل ثاني ولي عهد قطر يقبل رأس الشيخ الصادق الغرياني مفتي ليبيا ..

THE WAR AGAINST PREVENT – WHY THE CLICHÉS PERSIST

The war against prevent – why the clichés persist

11.09.2016 La rédaction

It is quite rare to read an article in which almost every sentence is untrue and every claim deeply flawed, let alone one written by a supposed academic and expert in the field. Unfortunately, this is exactly what I was treated to when I read this piece by Professor Tariq Ramadhan. In fact, the piece lends credence to the notion that some political and religious activists lodge themselves in academia merely to provide a veneer of credibility to their polemics, unsubstantiated as they are.

Tariq’s piece can actually be summarised into one sentence – ‘the government says that it is all about religion, but really it is all about Western foreign policy. Thus work with and support the groups I am a part of since only we have the solution’. However, he attempts to dress this simple statement up in language that could do with closer examination.

More on Quilliam Foundation.

HEAD OF YOUTH AND STUDENTS DEPARTMENT OF FIOE CANDIDATE IN MILAN ELECTIONS

Head of youth & students department of FIOE candidate in Milan elections

27.04.2016 Valentina Colombo

The next local elections in Milan, particularly the lists of the Left, could be considered as a paradigmatic example of the schizophrenia reigning in parties and institutions when it comes to choosing “Muslims” candidates. In Milan two names stand out, namely Maryan Ismail and Sumaya Abdel Qader, who represent two worlds apart: the former is a staunch Muslim activist against all forms of radical Islam, the latter represents political and social activism in the name of the ideology and strategy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.

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Maryan is not veiled, Sumaya is. However, Abdel Qader’s veil goes far beyond her colourful head cover. The official biography of Abdel Qader highlights that she was born in Perugia, Italy, on 16/06/1978 from Jordanian-Palestinian parents, that she earned a degree in biology and another one in foreign languages ​​and cultures. She also has a master’s degree in sociology. She collaborates with Italian universities and schools giving talks, lectures and courses on Islam, the Arab-Islamic world, European Muslims, that she is one of the founders of GMI (Giovani Musulmani d’Italia, Young Muslims of Italy), where she has held the post of Secretary General and Vice President. In September 2008 she published an autobiographical book I wear the veil and love the Queen. Since 2011 she has been cooperating with the City of Milan at the table for new citizenship of the Department for social policies. She is also in charge of the cultural section of CAIM (Coordination of Islamic Organizations in Milan and Monza and Brianza), led by Davide Piccardo who is, among other things, one of the Italian members of the European Muslim Network in Brussels headed by Tariq Ramadan.

As CAIM member she has recently launched in Milan the campaign AISHA against violence on women.

Strangely enough, but not so much, Abdel Qader avoids to indicate in her official biography and presentations her most prestigious appointment: Head of FIOE (Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe) Youth and Student Department. FIOE is the main umbrella organisation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. Besides this, she is also a member of the Board of Trustees of FEMYSO (Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations) based in Brussels, which is the junior counterpart of FIOE. Giovani Musulmani d’Italia is a member of FEMYSO. In September 2015, at the 19th General Assembly of FEMYSO – that took place at the headquarters of the controversial Turkish organization Milli Gorus in Cologne – Abdel Qader was honoured with an award for her activities. She is also member of the board of the European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW) in Brussels together with her mother-in-law.

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In order to follow the international activities of FIOE Sumaya recently went to Finland, Turkey, Malaysia showing that Milan and Italy are just a small part of a microcosm of a much larger project.

Last, but not least she is the daughter of Mohammed Abdel Qader, Palestinian co-founder of Unione degli studenti musulmani in Italia (Union of Muslim Students in Italy, USMI) and the Unione delle Comunità e delle Organizzazioni Islamiche in Italia (Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy, UCOII) and Imam of Perugia, central Italy. She is married with Abdallah Kabakebbji, former President of GMI) and son of MB leader Maher Kabakebbji.

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But the main question that should be answered is the following: why is she casting a veil on her European appointments at the highest levels of the European Brotherhood and trying to hide her ties with the European spinoffs of the Muslim Brotherhood?

Valentina Colombo

TAREQ AL-SUWAIDAN WILL NOT ENTER ITALY

Tareq al-Suwaidan will not enter Italy

07.04.2016 Valentina Colombo

Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood member Tareq al-Suwaidan, who had been invited in Italy by the Associazione Islamica Italiana degli imam e delle Guide Religiose in San Giovanni in Lupatoto, “will not be able and will not enter Italy”. This was confirmed on April 6th 2016 during question time at the Italian parliament by Minister of Interiors Angelino Alfano. The Minister recalled that the preacher “has been inserted by Belgium in the Schengen Information System since November 2014 and by virtue of this he has no possibility to enter any country of that area, including of course Italy. Any application for issuing a visa would be automatically rejected. And if the imam will try to cross our borders would be immediately stopped and rejected.”

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However, the most important and significant statement is the one in which Alfano stressed that Suwaidan is a” well-known figure to our police forces and those of other countries of the Schengen area in relation to his previous preaching activities, marked by radical, anti-Western and anti-Semitic contents, and he is known for its proximity to the Muslim Brotherhood.” To denounce the radical, anti-Western and anti-Semitic are thus the Italian Minister of the Interior, the police forces of the Schengen countries, that is people and institutions in charge of Italian and European security.

The official statements are the polar opposite of the statements by Aboulkheir Breigheche, communications officer of the Association and former president of Alleanza Islamica in Italia which is member of FIOE, who had declared that Suwaidan had been invited as a communications expert and that he is an “enlightened, open and moderate person who also knows how to criticize the Western world.”

Valentina Colombo

AT THE HEART OF THE UOIF

At the Heart of the UOIF

05.04.2016 Soufiane Zitouni

In April 2015, while the annual conference of the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF) opens Friday at Le Bourget to discuss “Mohammed, the Prophet of Mercy and Peace”, the organization is experiencing internal tensions, with two of its former members, leaders of young Muslim association in France, pointing to UOIF Islamist drifts. The investigation below has been conducted by France 24 reporters, Alexandra RENARD and Roméo LANGLOIS

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The Union of Islamic Organizations of France (UOIF), which boasts more than 250 member associations in France, is one of the main bodies organizing the French Muslim community, but more and more dissenting voices are being heard within the Organization. Among them, two former members, leaders of young Muslim association in France, are pointing to Islamist drifts within the UOIF.

While UOIF representatives claim that their thoughts simply reflect conformity to Islam, under the French republican laws, its detractors assert that the Organization is the showcase of the Muslim Brotherhood in France. A member of the French Council of the Muslim faith (CFCM), this major actor of Islam in France has gone through several crises, beginning with its referencing as a “terrorist organization” by the United Arab Emirates in November 2014, along with 81 other groups or organizations, including Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State organization, the Somali Shebab or Boko Haram … The UOIF expressed its disappointment on this “insulting and ridiculous” qualification, which harms the Muslims of France.

A few months earlier, in February 2015, Averroès Muslim High School of Lille – connected to the UOIF – was criticized. In a column published in “Liberation”, a resigning philosophy professor denounced “a conception of Islam that is none other than Islamism”, as well as the students’ cultural anti-Semitism. The school director filed a complaint for defamation.

Finally, in the aftermath of Paris bombings, Prime Minister Manuel Valls appealed to “fight Muslim Brotherhood speech in our country”, which was seen as a reference to the UOIF in France.

Is the Organization a threat to the French Republic or is it working towards improving community life? Our reporters conducted their investigation in Paris, Lille and Nantes. They met with the president of the UOIF, Amar Lasfar, but also with former members who openly point to the Islamist drifts of the Organization.

By Alexandra RENARD, and Romeo LANGLOIS

This post is also available in Français .

MOGHERINI, D’ALEMA AND EUROPEAN POLITICAL ISLAM

Mogherini, d’Alema and European political Islam

30.03.2016 Valentina Colombo

On June 24-25, 2015, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D) and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), which is headed by former Italian Prime Minister Massimo d’Alemaorganized in Brussels the conference “Call to Europe V: Islam in Europe”.

The conference has been attended by some European actors linked with the ideological galaxy of the Muslim Brotherhood, notably the Belgian Michael Privot – who is director of the European Network Against Racism (ENAR), vice president of the Belgian movement EmBem and who in 2008 declared to a Belgian newspaper to be part of the new generation of the European Brotherhood – the German Mehmet Celebi, deputy head of the Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland (ZMD, Central Muslim Council of Germany) – that is the umbrella organization that includes most of the mosques, cultural and Islamic centers ideologically linked with the Brotherhood- , and Tarafa Baghajati, a key Austrian actor and chairman of the Austrian Muslim Initiative (AMI).

Federica Mogherini, High representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice president of the European Commission, presented the closing remarks on June 24 suggesting not only that “Islam holds a place in our Western societies. Islam belongs in Europe. It holds a place in Europe’s history, in our culture, in our food and – what matters most – in Europe’s present and future. Like it or not, this is the reality”, but she went further and declared that European policy include political Islam:

“I am not afraid to say that political Islam should be part of the picture. Religion plays a role in politics – not always for good, not always for bad. Religion can be part of the process. What makes the difference is whether the process is democratic or not. That is what matters to us, the key point.”

Mogherini thus mixed up Islam as a religion with political Islam, which is represented by any kind of Islamic ideology aiming at establishing an Islamic government. It is well known that the Muslim Brotherhood is one main expression of political Islam. Yusuf al-Qaradawi stated many times in his speeches and books that Islam is politics otherwise is not Islam.

Such discourse from a high ranked European official clearly marks a victory in the European MB agenda of political integration and infiltration. It is no secret that Tariq Ramadan has held training courses on Islam in Europe at the European External Action Service (EEAS), that the Socialists & Democrats – which co-organized the conference in Brussels – group at the European Parliament is one the main partners of FEMYSO, Ramadan’s European Muslim Network and ENAR.

Last December 2015, Massimo D’Alema and Tariq Ramadan took part to a debate about refugees at the Université Catholique in Louvain and apparently proposed different solutions to the emergency. However, on February 26, 2016 Le Soir published an article, signed by both D’Alema and Ramadan, which ends with the following remarks that remind Mogherini’s speech:

“We need a European Islam, an Islam of European citizens and not an Islam that consists of the sum of the communities under the influence of their country of origin”.

European Islam and European Muslims are Ramadan’s leit motiv that has been adopted by D’Alema and Mogherini. Last March, 24 Massimo D’Alema declared that “a significant part of the Muslim world in Europe is not integrated, which means that (Islamist) terrorism is surrounded by an area, if not of solidarity, of non-hostility. “I would like these people to feel they are full-blown European citizens,” he continued. “It would be preferable if they could build their mosques the same way churches are built, that is, with public funds. Italy has a 0.8% (tax program) for the Catholic church, but there are 1.5 million Muslims who are not recognized and with whom we don’t have an understanding”.

He concluded by saying that a European Islam “could be more open and modern than the fundamentalist kind that comes from some countries of origin,” which is definitely true if Islam is not confused with political Islam and political Islamists who have a precise agenda and are keeping a foot in both camps just like Tariq Ramadan who teaches both in Oxford and in Doha, who is President of the European Muslim Network in Brussels and member of the International Union of Muslim Scholars in Doha.

Valentin Colombo

ISLAMOPHOBIA AND GENDER AT THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT. AN EXAMPLE OF MB MONOPOLISATION

Islamophobia and Gender at the European Parliament. An example of MB monopolisation.

29.02.2016 Valentina Colombo

MEP Soraya Post is hosting on March 2, 2016 a public hearing on Islamophobia and Gender that confirms the strong link between S&D group and the galaxy of the European Muslim Brotherhood at the European level. It is noteworthy that such a controversial issues such as islamophobia and gender seems, at least in the case of the above-mentioned event, to be almost monopolized by organisations and individuals linked to a single ideological area, namely political Islam, of the immense and variegated universe of Muslims living in Europe. S&D group has already hosted Tariq Ramadan and Malika Hamidi, respectively President and Director of the European Muslim Network based in Brussels, Islamic Relief Belgium, FEMYSO and other actors of European political Islam.

The co-organisers of the upcoming event are the European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW), the Forum of European and Muslim Youth Organisations (FEMYSO) and the European Network Against Racism (ENAR). Although they seem to be independent from one another, it will be shown that they have, both in the past and in the present, not only common goals and strategy, but they also belong to the same Islamic context and trend.

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FIOE, EFOMW and ECFR

EFOMW, founded in 2006, is the European umbrella organisation of women associations belonging to the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), which is the main umbrella organisation of Muslim Brotherhood associations in Europe.

The official goal of FIOE is to broaden the cooperation and coordination of Muslim groups in Europe and to reinforce participation in societal dialogue, emphasizing that extra attention should be “granted to the affairs of youth, women, and the professional segments”. FIOE’s Shura Council, the consultative council chaired by Samir Falah – president of the Islamische Gemeinschaft in Deutschland – has encouraged Muslim participation in the European Parliament elections and has sought to take the lead on certain international political issues such as the situation in Ukraine, “escalating violations of the City of Jerusalem”, opposition to the Assad regime in Syria and Sisi’s government in Egypt, and Islamophobia in Europe.

The fight against Islamophobia and women are declared objectives of FIOE programme. In the Final Statement of the Fifth Shura Council Meeting in the Tenth Term of FIOE (Madrid, 22-25 October 2015) it was highlighted that it “also discussed developing a strategy specifically focused on supporting the values of human rights and equality, and in combating racism, hate, and Islamophobia”. On the other hand, the last paragraph of the Final Statement of the 3rd General Assembly Meeting in the 10th Executive Term of FIOE (Tunis, 21-24 January 2016) “called for greater effort in developing the presence of women and youth in the leadership bodies and councils of Islamic organisations in Europe, and to encourage them to raise their participation in all positive spheres”. Both documents confirm that the upcoming event at the European parliament perfectly fits into FIOE strategy about islamophobia and its tendency to point out women both as the most vulnerable and visible victims of hate against Islam and Muslims and as front-line actors in against Islamophobia.

It is worth pointing out the official link between FIOE and its members and the global Muslim Brotherhood. On July 6, 2009, that is still under Mubarak’s regime, Ibrahim Munir – present deputy Supreme Guide of the Muslim Brotherhood, was interviewed by the Egyptian daily Al-Masry al-Yom and clearly explained the role of the European umbrella organisation:

“Islamic activities [of the MB] in Europe are different, there is a completely independent structure which is called the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE). It is registered at the European Union; it has an office in Brussels and is known at the European level. On this basis, they cooperate. We must obey the laws of our countries and they must obey the laws of their countries. In all European countries, there are Islamic organizations that convey the thought of the Muslim Brotherhood and others that do not. All of these organizations are working for the benefit of their country and according to the laws of that country.”

FIOE is among other things behind the birth of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) in Dublin, headed by the controversial preacher Yusuf Qaradawi. ECFR inaugural meeting took place, as stated in the introduction of its First collection of Fatwas, “in London, UK, on 21-22 Dhul Qi’da 1417AH, 29-30 March 1997. The meeting was attended by more than 15 scholars who responded to the invitation of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe.” It is thus clear that EFOMW vision of women in Europe follows the model presented both by FIOE and ECFR.

When it comes to women both Qaradawi and ECFR hold ambiguous positions. For instance, Qaradawi in his essay The Lawful and Prohibited in Islam explains the reason of the prohibition of marriage between a Muslim woman and a non-Muslim man as follows:

“A marriage between a man and woman of different faiths can be based only on the husband’s respect for his wife’s beliefs; otherwise a good relationship can never develop. Now, the Muslim believes that both Judaism and Christianity originated in divine revelation, although later distortions were introduced into them. He also believes that Allah revealed the Torah to Moses and the Evangel to Jesus, and that both Moses and Jesus – peace be on them – were among the messengers of Allah who were distinguished by their steadfast determination. Accordingly, the Christian or Jewish wife of a Muslim lives under the protection of a man who respects the basic tenets of her faith, her scripture, and her prophets, while in contrast to this the Jew or Christian recognizes neither the divine origin of Islam, its Book, or its Prophet (peace be on him). How then could a Muslim woman live with such a man, while her religion requires of her the observance of certain worships, duties, and obligations, as well as certain prohibitions? It would be impossible for the Muslim woman to retain her respect for her beliefs as well as to practice her religion properly if she were opposed in this regard by the master of the house at every step.”

This position is also confirmed by ECFR fatwa. Although ECFR issues fatawa for Muslims living as minority in Europe and is meant to adapt sharia to a new minoritarian context, ECFR views about women are definitely conservative. For instance, the need of segregation between men and women is confirmed by the following ECFR fatwa regarding the attendance of mixed ceremonies by women:

“Our opinion in this matter is that Islamic Shari’a did not object to men and women being present in one place on condition that three matters are avoided and refrained from:

First: Seclusion, i.e. where a man and woman meet in a position where no one else can see them.

Second: Adornment of women, i.e. where a woman uncovers what Allah (swt) decreed to be covered from her body, perfume or jewellery or walks in such a way which draws attention and raises ill-thoughts and feelings.

Third: Contact, i.e. skin contact.

If these three matters were avoided and refrained from then there remains no legal objection to the congregation, whether it is a marriage ceremony or any other. However, we see that people often do not abide by these conditions in weddings, and thus the presence of men and women in one place becomes unlawful.”

Similarly, in ordinary life ECFR advises a correct form of dialogue between men and women that finally relegates it to greetings and limited intercourse:

“There are many Hadiths which confirm the permissibility of men greeting women and women greeting men, as well as the lawfulness of men visiting sick women and vice versa.

However, this does not imply the lifting of all boundaries, so that women start speaking to all men who come and go or that men start speaking to all women, as this is rejected by logic and good taste before being rejected by Islam. It is permissible for a woman to speak to a male relative, a teacher, a neighbour, a supervisor at work, and others according to the requirements and needs of every day life and complex relations amongst people in our days, as long as trust is established, troubles (fitna) are in restraint and conditions are normal.”

During Session 24, which was held in Istanbul August 16-19, 2014, ECFR issued many fatwas that apparently aimed to appease the West and its standards. For instance Fatwa 24/3 about “the cure for recalcitrance of a woman toward her husband” explains that the Qur’anic verse referring to it as IV, 34 that is “Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whose part ye fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them; but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, great (above you all)”. The key expression is “beat them”.

ECFR states that Muslims have to follow the example of the Prophet who never hit his wives, however, in an interview with the London-based Guardian newspaper, Qaradawi said he accepts wife-beating “as a method of last resort – though only lightly.” He also said that female rape victims should be punished if dressed “immodestly” when assaulted.

ECFR Fatwa 24/4 about khul’ – that is the Islamic divorce at the instance of the wife, who must pay a compensation – is interesting because after stating that in Europe there is no such a divorce, it advises the woman to refer to “Islamic centers or sharia councils if existing, because this is not against the law since the International convention for human rights states that minorities have the right to practice their religion”. The fatwa thus implicitly allows double standards and allows Islamic centers to handle family issues.

ECFR went also so far as issuing a fatwa about the possibility for a woman to ride a bicycle:

“Riding a bicycle or car or any other form of transportation is permissible in itself. The Arab woman during the days of ignorance as well as Islam used to ride camels. The Prophet Mohammed (ppbuh) said: The best of women who rode camels are the women of Qureish; they are the most merciful with their children and the most considerate with their husbands’ wealth” .

However, a woman must abide by Islamic mannerisms when riding a bicycle, such as wearing appropriate Islamic dress and avoiding physical contact with men. As for the possibility of teenage girls losing their hymen; it is important to examine such possibility. If it remains a rare occurring, then Islam has decided that a rule cannot be based upon a rarity.

However, if it is likely that the girl will indeed lose her hymen if she rides a bicycle and no measures can prevent her from doing so, then the Muslim girl ought to be stopped from this, so that people do not think ill of her and that she is not accused of what she has not committed. However, if riding a bicycle is an actual need for the girl, for instance to get to her school or important work, etc., then it remains that necessities make prohibitions permissible. Allah (swt) stated:

“But if one is forced by necessity without wilful disobedience nor transgressing due limits, then there is no sin on him. Truly, Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (2:173)” (Fatwa 38)

It is interesting that both Qaradawi and ECFR stand for the veil as a duty for Muslim women, while there are many Islamic theologians saying that it is not a duty, but a free choice. Considering the veil an Islamic duty, any action and/or law against it can be targeted and labelled as islamophobic. This is why not only EFOMW, but also ENAR have been focusing on projects on both gender and islamophobia. Last, but not least it should be noted that Qaradawi also heads the International Union of Muslim Scholars, based in Doha, that on the eve of the 57th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women which was held between March 4th and 15th 2013 issued an official statement in which IUMS attacked the UN Convention for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) because it contradicted Islamic principles for the following reasons:

“1- Substituting qawwama (male caretaking or responsibility) with partnership and complete sharing of roles inside the family between the man and woman (spending, child care, household issues).

2- Complete equality in marriage laws (cancelling all forms of: polygamy, `idda, guardianship, dowry, a man’s spending commitment toward the family, allowing Muslim women to marry non-Muslims and so on).

3- Equality in inheritance.

4- Withdrawing the power to divorce, referring it to the judiciary, and a sharing of all possessions upon divorce.

5- Giving women the authority to file a complaint against her husband accusing him of rape or harassment. The concerned departments would be obliged to exact a penalty on the husband equal to the penalty specified for a person who commits rape or harassment against a woman of no relation to him.

6- Granting complete sexual freedom to girls in addition to the freedom to choose her sex, and the sex of her partner (i.e. to choose to have natural or homosexual relations) in addition to raising marriage age to 18.

7- Giving teenage girls access to contraceptives, training them to use it, and allowing abortion to dispose of an undesired pregnancy (under claims of sexual and reproductive rights).

8- Equating an adulteress with a wife, equating children from an adulterous relation with legal children completely in all rights.”

IUMS statement eventually clarified its vision of women. Most of IUMS members – such as Qaradawi, Rached al-Ghannouchi, Ali Qaradaghi – are also members of ECFR. It should thus be assumed that ECFR, which is the theological reference for FIOE and EFOMW, shares IUMS views about women. Although EFOMW and FIOE promote women’s activism – which is limited to an élite and a restricted group of leading figures – in society and politics, they consider ordinary women’s role as mainly complementary to men’s role in family and life.

FEMYSO and ENAR

EFOMW partners for the event at the European parliament are FEMYSO and ENAR.

FEMYSO is a transnational umbrella organization, connecting 33 Islamic youth and student organizations in 26 European countries, which can be considered the breeding ground of FIOE.

The first meeting of MB Muslim youth organisations across Europe took place in Sweden in 1995, when the Foreign Ministry of Sweden in co-operation with the Swedish Muslim Youth organization (Sveriges Unga Muslimer), organized an international conference on “Islam in Europe”. The participants expressed the need to establish better communications between the organizations and to undertake steps towards more fruitful and organized cooperation. Jeunes Musulmans de France, Young Muslims UK and Sveriges Unga Muslimer were given the responsibility to further develop this idea. In June 1996 FIOE invited the three organizations in Birmingham to facilitate this process along with the Islamic Foundation based in Leicester. During a successive meeting in the same year FEMYSO was established as a youth offshoot of FIOE, whose Youth & Students section is member of FEMYSO.

FEMYSO is headquartered in Brussels, where it is registered as an international NGO. It adopts a formal administrative structure and communications activities similar to that of other MB EUOs. The organization has tried to maintain its autonomy from the global MB; however, FEMYSO’s composition and ideology represent indelible marks indicating that it is an important component of the MB European network. By operating out of Brussels FEMYSO is well placed to foster contact with EU institutions, allowing it to position itself as the voice of young Muslims in Europe.

FEMYSO Executive Committee confirms the nepotism in its upper ranks, as sons and daughters of senior MB leaders hold its key roles. Many past and current Executive Committee members have remained in power for extended periods, sometimes only switching offices. For instance, FEMYSO former President Intissar Kherigi – Rached Ghannouchi’s daughter – is a former Vice President, just like Huda Himmat – Ali Ghalib Himmat’s daughter – who was replaced by her brother Youssef at the end of her term. Youssef Himmat is now FEMYSO President. At present Intissar Kherigi sits on the Board of Trustees both of FEMYSO and ENAR and acts more behind the scenes.

Founded in October 1998 by grassroots activists on a mission to achieve legal changes at the European level and make decisive progress towards racial equality in all European Union member states and based in Brussels, Belgium, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) connects local and national anti-racism NGOs throughout Europe and acts as an interface between member organizations and the European institutions. ENAR is a result of the 1997 European Year Against Racism. Between March and September 1998, more than 600 NGOs were involved in national and European roundtable discussions regarding the viability of such a structure. The Constitutive Conference of ENAR brought together more than 200 representatives of these organizations to draw up a common program of action. According to its website, ENAR is the only pan-European anti-racism network that combines advocacy for racial equality and facilitating cooperation among civil society anti-racist actors in Europe.

ENAR states its “mission is to achieve full equality, solidarity and well-being for all in Europe” by fostering a collective voice in civil society and to influence decision-making in the EU. To this end, its main activity is to lobby the European Parliament on behalf of its member organizations, notably by calling on MEPs and political groups to establish a strong cooperative on anti-racism in the European Parliament, to advance a comprehensive anti-racist agenda and to jointly react to manifestations of racism and hate.

ENAR issues an annual Shadow Report on racism in Europe, which is a compilation of information and data collected by member organizations and produced to fill the gaps in the official and academic data while offering an NGO perspective on the realities of racism in the EU.

The Belgian convert Michael Privot, who started as networking and campaigns officer in January 2006, in March 2010 became ENAR director. Besides being an international expert on radicalization processes within Muslim communities, in 2008 the Belgian newspaper Le Soir published an article of his, entitled “Muslim Brotherhood: Time for Coming-Out”, where he declared his belonging the MB. Later he explained that he did not join the Egyptian Brotherhood, but he felt close to the way of understanding Islam of an Islamic organisation close to the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Policy officer is Julie Pascoet, who joined ENAR in April 2010 after working as communication and advocacy assistant for the NGO Islamic Relief Belgium and converting to Islam.

The presence in ENAR’s board of Intissar Kherigi has strengthened the relation and coordination with FEMYSO.

ISLAMOPHOBIA AND GENDER EVENT

All the speakers of the public hearing on Islamophobia and Gender at the European Parliament belong to the above-mentioned network:

  • Raghad Al Tikriti represents the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), which is member of FEMYSO and FIOE. Al Tikriti is the sister of Anas Al Tikriti, one of the key people of the MB network in the UK and president of the Cordoba Foundation;
  • Ilham Skah, presented as researcher on conditions of Muslim women in Norway, is an activist in the Islamiska Forbundet, which is member of FIOE;
  • Julie Pascoet is the responsible of the ENAR project Forgotten Women Project and ENAR policy officer;
  • Nora Rami is presented as an expert on the question of “laïcité” (The March 15th Freedom Committee). As a matter of fact, the March 15th Freedom Committee has been founded to defend the right of women to wear the veil and has been working very closely with the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF), member of FIOE;
  • Fatima Doubakil, Swedish Muslim Human Rights Committee. She is very active in Swedish Islamic organisations close to and members of FIOE;
  • Yasser Louati represents the Collectif Contre l’Islamophobie en France (CCIF), which is a partner of FEMYSO in the IMAN Project about Islamophobia, funded by the Directorate of Justice of the European Commission;
  • Assia Oulkadi represents FEMYSO;
  • Lamia Elamri is President of European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW) and Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of Islamic Relief Worldwide.

The above-mentioned list of speakers totally belongs to the same area of influence and to the same ideological background. The event organised at the European Parliament will consequently deal with the issue of Islamophobia and Gender only from one point of view without any questioning and true debate and will empower and strengthen the idea that organised/political Islam is the main representative of Muslims in Europe.

The event thus confirms the monopoly of Muslim Brotherhood linked organisations not only within the S&D group, but also within European institutions. On June 24-25, 2015 S&D group and the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS), which is headed by former Italian Prime Minister Massimo D’Alema, co-organised a conference in Brussels entitled “Call to Europe V: Islam in Europe”. The conference was attended by some European actors of the ideological galaxy of the MB, notably the Belgian Michael Privot, German Mehmet Celebi, deputy head of the Zentralrat der Muslime in Deutschland (Central Muslim Council of Germany), and Tarafa Baghajati, chairman of the Austrian Muslim Initiative (AMI).

Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and vice president of the European Commission, presented the closing remark suggesting European policy should include not only Islam, but also political Islam:

“I am not afraid to say that political Islam should be part of the picture. Religion plays a role in politics – not always for good, not always for bad. Religion can be part of the process. What makes the difference is whether the process is democratic or not. That is what matters to us, the key point.”

The 2nd March public hearing finally highlights the trend of confusing Islam and political Islam at the European level, of turning the latter in the only representative of Islam and Muslims in Europe which is unfortunately very far from the reality on the ground and discriminating towards the variegated majority of Muslims who live their religion in an apolitical way and do not recognise themselves in the above-mentioned organisations.

Valentina Colombo