How Hamas is winning hearts and minds in Europe

Via conferences and through hierarchies linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, Gaza-based terror group is building global infrastructure to challenge PLO’s standing as Palestinians’ sole legitimate representative

The Times of Israel, by March 14, 2017:

At the end of February, in Istanbul, the Palestinians Abroad Conference convened with the purported goal of promoting global support for the Palestinians. Its actual purpose was to bolster the status of Hamas in the international arena.

Many of the organizers of the conference, which was attended by thousands of Arabs and Palestinians from all over the world, are of Palestinian origin. But to those who closely followed what happened in Istanbul, it became clear that many of the organizers and attendees had something else in common: they are known to have been members — for decades — of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated networks all over Europe.

This was not the first conference of its kind. Many like it have taken place in recent years. Many of the same faces are present — including current and past members of the Muslim Brotherhood, at a more or less official level, and current and past members of Hamas.

Their shared goal is to promote international legitimacy for Hamas — in Europe, Africa, the Middle East (of course) and even in Latin America — in a bid to challenge the PLO’s international standing as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.

Hamas, in this way, is slowly but surely establishing a global infrastructure of supporters who are providing not only encouragement and legitimacy, but also quite a bit of financial assistance.

Tracing the outlines of this infrastructure lends some surprising insights. For example, Britain turns out to be hosting more of this semi-official activity by Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood than any other country in Europe.

Then-Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (L) and freed Palestinian prisoner Yahya Sinwar, a founder of the terror group’s military wing, wave as supporters celebrate the release of hundreds of inmates in a swap for captured IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, in Khan Yunis, southern Gaza on October 21, 2011. (AFP/Said Khatib)

One almost quintessential example of such activity under innocent-seeming cover is the Global Anti-Aggression Campaign.

“This group was established in 2003 in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Ehud Rosen, an expert on political Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood who assisted Steven Merley, another expert, in writing a comprehensive study on the topic. Merley started a website, Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch, which reports on Muslim Brotherhood activity all over the world.

“It was initiated by two former members of al-Qaeda, both from Saudi Arabia, who tried to brand the new organization as ‘non-violent,’” Rosen said. “The organization was rebooted in Qatar in 2005 [following the Saudi government’s objections to hosting it on Saudi soil]. Its founding group from 2005 includes high-ranking Hamas officials, including political leader Khaled Mashaal, alongside representatives of other groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood’s global organization, Salafists and Salafi jihadists.

“The group has held many conferences and issued fatwas against the West, such as against France after it began military action in Mali.”

The Campaign began focusing on Gaza in 2009, during and after Operation Cast Lead, an Israeli military campaign aimed at stopping rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. At a conference held in February 2009, the group decided to turn Gaza into a new front for jihad under the auspices of the “Istanbul Declaration.” The declaration, signed by 90 Muslim clerics from all over the world, including members of Hamas, stated that the Palestinian Authority was not the representative of the Palestinian people, while the “elected government of Hamas,” was in fact the legitimate representative.

The statement attacked the Saudi-sponsored Arab Peace Initiative — a proposal that offers normalization of ties between Arab countries and Israel in exchange for Israel pulling out of territories claimed by Palestinians — calling it nothing less than “a proven betrayal of the Islamic Nation and the Palestinian cause, and a blatant betrayal of the Palestinian people.”

“This [Global Anti-Aggression Campaign] group, like some other Muslim groups throughout Europe, does not call itself the ‘Muslim Brotherhood’ or a supporter of Hamas. These are networks of groups scattered over nearly the entire world. For their part, Muslim Brotherhood leaders claim their movement is active in 80 countries, but since September 11, 2001, and even before, the groups that are identified with [the Brotherhood] have denied any connection,” Rosen said.

“Take another example: FIOE, the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe,” he said. “Thirty-seven different groups in different countries on the continent operate under that organization, and over the years have created an image for themselves as ‘the legitimate representatives’ — the Islamic mainstream. The group is known as IGD in Germany and UOIF in France. The same thing is going on in Scandinavia and almost everywhere.”

These networks operate according to the long-established model of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. In each country there is a network of civil society organizations — in other words, dawa, a word in Arabic meaning proselytizing or preaching of Islam. These organizations are run by well-known figures who head madrasas, or Muslim schools; mosques; charitable organizations that raise money not only for Muslims in Europe but also for Hamas; and even student associations in every well-known university in Europe. Recently, Muslim “human rights” groups have been established that work to strengthen support for the ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Essam Mustafa (Youtube screenshot)

Many prominent figures in these groups, again, operate on British soil. Here are some examples.

Anas Altikriti, a native of Iraq, is the son of a high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood official. His father fled Saddam Hussein’s regime to Britain. He himself was born in Iraq, but has lived in London since he was two years old. He visited the White House two years ago and met with president Barack Obama. Though he supports its policies, he says he is not a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Muhammad Sawalha, of Palestinian origin, is very well known to the Israeli security establishment as one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing in the West Bank. He also lives in London.

Zaher Birawi, a former Hamas operative in the Gaza Strip, was one of the spokesmen of the Mavi Marmara flotilla and has been involved in other flotillas.

Essam Yusuf Mustafa is a former member of Hamas’s political wing, at least according to the US Treasury Department. Mustafa, one of the organizers of the latest conference in Istanbul, is on the board of trustees of another organization, Interpal, which was declared a terrorism-supporting organization by the United States as far back as 2003. Both Birawi and Mustafa live in Britain.

Members of the Palestinian Hamas security forces stage mock raid on IDF post during a graduation ceremony in Gaza City on January 22, 2017. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Mustafa was a leader of a group called the Charity Coalition (also known as the Union of Good), which raised money for Hamas in the early 2000s and gained the spiritual support of Yusuf al-Qardawi, the leading Sunni cleric and Muslim Brotherhood member. The Turkish IHH group, which was one of the organizers of the Marmara flotilla, was also part of the Charity Coalition.

There are others, in and out of Britain: Ismail Patel, head of the Friends of Al-Aqsa group; Daud Abdullah, originally from Grenada, a former member of the Muslim Council of Britain, who helps operate a news site which takes a pro-Hamas and pro-Muslim Brotherhood stance; Azzam Tamimi, a Palestinian who is the CEO of the Alhiwar television station, which operates from London and is considered explicitly pro-Hamas (Zaher Birawi hosts a show on the station); Egyptian-born Ibrahim el-Zayat, currently living in Germany, who is considered a key figure in the financial dealings of these networks; and Ibrahim Munir Mustafa, also Egyptian by birth, who chairs the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood movement and lives in London.

Rosen, who has been tracking these names for quite some time, said there is a distinction between members of the official Muslim Brotherhood, such as those who operate in Egypt, and the networks that are thought to be identified with them.

“These are in effect groups that sprang up from former members of the Muslim Brotherhood who fled Egypt in the 1960s and settled in Europe. These groups were founded without any direct orders [from the Brotherhood], without a centralized command structure or a prominent commander,” he explained.

“But there are definite networks here, with major nexuses, such as London or Germany. They cooperate with the official Muslim Brotherhood and with Hamas.

“Hamas’s place in the enormous organization known as the global Muslim Brotherhood is growing right now,” he said. “Hamas is the movement’s own flesh and blood, and it wants to take control of the PLO. This is why its global activity has taken on a new importance. The Palestinian organization is trying to re-invent itself, with a new platform and a supposedly more moderate direction, but they are still the same organization.

“The whole BDS issue benefits from this Islamist infrastructure and receives assistance from organizations that are identified with Hamas or the Muslim Brotherhood,” said Rosen. “And there is persistent talk of Khaled Mashaal, the leader of Hamas’s political wing, replacing Ibrahim Munir as the chair of the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood movement.”

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Muslim Brotherhood: London is a base for extremists that fight the integration of British Muslims

A recent Muslim Brotherhood rally in CairoReuters

A recent Muslim Brotherhood rally in CairoReuters

IB Times, by Steven G. Merley, Dec. 17, 2015:

For over 14 years I have been engaged in documenting and writing about what I came to call the Global Muslim Brotherhood, which I have defined as a global network developed by Muslim Brothers (Ikhwan) who fled their home countries and settled in Europe and the United States where they went on to found what has become some of the most prominent Islamic organizations in their new home countries.

On more than one occasion, critics have labelled this conspiracy theory thinking and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood once famously called the idea ‘a Hollywood Fiction’. The release of Britain’s Jenkins report on the Muslim Brotherhood on December 17 is, for me at least, a complete vindication in describing how Europe became an important base for the growing Muslim Brotherhood global network.

Beyond that acknowledgment, the UK report also supports what I have also tried for years to document, that the Global Muslim Brotherhood has a highly problematic relationship to violence and is prepared to countenance violence – including, from time to time, terrorism – where gradualism is ineffective.

The reality is actually far worse, as a forthcoming report that I have authored will demonstrate how important Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders from around the world, including the UK, have sat down at the table in an organization that is led by and includes individuals designated by Western governments as terrorist and terrorist financiers. That same organization has made it abundantly clear that it considers “The West” to be the primary enemy of the Islamic world.

Further confirming what I have struggled to get acknowledged is that Muslim Brotherhood groups in the UK are connected to a wider network of Global Muslim Brotherhood organizations. The report identifies the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) as part of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) and concurs with what I wrote in 2008, that FIOE represents the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.

Even more surprising is the statement in the report that UK charities such as INTERPAL, despitewholly inadequate investigations by the UK Charity Commission, are part of the Hamas and Brotherhood infrastructure in the UK, something I reported in 2009.

Beyond the focus on terrorism, I have also at times tried to move discussion about the Global Muslim Brotherhood beyond terrorism to a focus on how the Brotherhood networks impact the social fabric in the various countries where it is operating.

Once again, the UK report supports what I have long argued which is that the Brotherhood works counter to the successful integration of Muslim immigrants by promoting the view that “Western society is inherently hostile to Muslim faith and interests and that Muslims must respond by maintaining their distance and autonomy.”

However, far more important than the satisfaction I experienced in seeing my long-held views endorsed by a major Western government is the question of what should be done in light of the report findings. While some suggest that a UK ban on the Muslim Brotherhood is in order, it is not altogether clear how such a ban could work given that there is still no “official” definition of who or who is not part of the Muslim Brotherhood or even exactly what constitutes the Global Muslim Brotherhood.

Such a ban would also likely be prone to the phenomenon seen in Germany when various far-right groups are banned only to be re-constituted under a different name and organizational structure. A blanket ban might also raise the risk of allowing the banned organizations to claim that they are being discriminated against, further reinforcing the narrative referred to above that the West is hostile to Muslims.

Far more useful would be a UK governmental blanket policy of denying any imprimatur of legitimacy to UK Muslim Brotherhood groups, something which the very same groups seek at all costs as they strive to be recognised as the sole representatives of the Muslim community. Under such a policy, government would simply refuse to engage with, support, fund, or in another way lend support to any group that it has found to be part of the Global Muslim Brotherhood network.

At the same time, recognition and support should be accorded to any legitimate Muslim organization that is found to be acting without significant ties to the Brotherhood or any other Islamist group. Such recognition of alternative voices would also serve to counter the far-right narrative that Islam itself, rather than Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, is the heart of the problem as well as negating any accusations of “Islamophobia.”

Perhaps most important of all is the report’s finding that the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, using London as a base, claims to act in support of other Muslim Brotherhood organizations around the world and that this activity is sometimes secretive, if not clandestine.

Yet once again, I have long argued that there is a substantial limit to what we can know about the Global Muslim Brotherhood by using the kind of open source information to which analysts such as myself are limited. To gain further access to the secret workings of these organizations will required dedicated action by national law enforcement and intelligence agencies who can and must take appropriate action when instances of illegal or anti-democratic behaviour is found.

This is only a question of political will and the release of the Jenkins report appears to denote that UK has taken the lead in West in going down that path.

Steven Merley is the editor of the Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch which tracks developments in the worldwide networks of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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From the Vault: The Plan of the Muslim Brotherhood by Dale Hurd

Also see:

Revealed: The Muslim Brotherhood’s British Property Portfolio Bankrolling Global Islamism

muslim_brotherhood_demonstrators (1)Breitbart, by Liam Deacon, July 10, 2015:

A registered charity with an £8.5million property portfolio in the UK, whose leaders have alleged links to al-Qaeda, Hamas and even the terrorists behind 9/11, has been revealed to exist solely to fund international Islamist organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. The trust owns 47 student flats in Leeds and the student rents have been unwittingly bankrolling political Islam in Europe for years.

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The Leicestershire-based Europe Trust, which was created in 1996 with the backing of Gulf donors, claims to be “a non-political, non-profit making and independent, charitable organisation” on its website, which seeks to “contribute to a harmonious society where equal opportunity and quality of life are a reality for everyone” by supporting “the advancement of the Islamic religion.”

However, it sends funds to the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), identified as the Brotherhood’s unofficial representative network on the Continent by experts; the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), a member FIOE identified as “the Brotherhood’s representative in the UK” by a government minister in 2010, and a network of Arabic-language religious schools attended by one of Lee Rigby’s murders.

The activities of the trust and the unofficial network of Brotherhood-linked organisations it funds were exposed in an investigation by Andrew Norfolk in The Times.

Former head of the FIOE and MAB, who has therefore been one of the most senior Islamists in Europe, Dr. al-Rawi, is the current President and a former trustee of Europe Trust. The structural engineer, 67, was born in Iraq but came to the UK in 1975. He is a member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), funded by the FIOE which promotes it as the “chief religious authority for Muslims throughout Europe”.

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ECFR chairman, Yusuf al-Qaradawi (pictured above), regarded as the Brotherhood’s supreme religious authority, has praised Hitler for “put[ing the Jews] in their place” and has issued fatwas condoning suicide bombings, attacks on Israeli children, FGM, wife-beating, and stoning homosexuals to death.

Dr. al-Rawi told The Times he does not accept the word Islamist and denied being a member of the Brotherhood. When they asked if he supported the Brotherhood’s ideology, he said he was “a Muslim.”

The trustees of the registered charity listed by The Times have links to just about all of the most feared and violent terrorist organizations on the planet. They include:

A man who ran Lajnat al-Dawa al-Islamiya (LDI), a Kuwaiti organization banned by the UN because of links with al-Qaeda, whose Pakistan branch was headed up by the brother of the mastermind behind 9/11.

  • Senior figures in “aid agencies” banned in Israel for being part of a wider group “created by Hamas to transfer funds to… terrorist,” according to the American government.
  • The previous head of the Islamic Society of Germany; investigated but not prosecuted by German police for indirectly funding al-Qaeda. He was also sentenced to death last month in Egypt for an alleged plotting with Brotherhood leaders.
  • An imam from Palestine jailed for five months in 2001 because of a secret “circumcision clinic” operating from his mosque Italian for the purposes mutilating young girls.
  • A Syrian businessman and leader of the Brotherhood in Turkey who is said to have ties with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is a supporter.

The Brotherhood operates as covertly as possible in Europe. It has no official organization, never uses its menacing official logo, and instead represents itself via a network of shady charities, think tanks, educational institutions and Muslim-interest groups.

Steven Merley, an American intelligence specialist with a decade of experience researching the Brotherhood, who assisted The Times with their investigation, said:

“Brotherhood-affiliated organisations in Europe have traditionally been heavily dependent on funding from Gulf sources. The money supply once seemed unlimited, but that’s changing and they needed to find a way to insulate themselves from potential funding problems in the future… To meet Islamic requirements they can’t get involved with interest-bearing assets, but property is seen as an Islamically compliant vehicle for building wealth. Britain is central to the Brotherhood’s European activities and Europe Trust’s role is significant.”

The Muslim Brotherhood’s overarching objective is to replace secular democratic government with an Islamic caliphate under sharia law; its motto declares: “the Koran is our constitution, jihad our way and death for the sake of Allah our highest hope.” It is the most influential organization in the 20th century revival of political Islam, whose founding member, Hassan al-Banna, said the “nature of Islam to impose its law on all nations and to extend its power to the entire planet.”

It is not banned in the UK, but is classed as an illegal terrorist organisation in Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia. In April 2014, David Cameron launched an investigation into the Brotherhood’s activities here and allegations of extremism.

The Times reports to have sent all the information they gathered regarding the Europe Trust to the Charity Commission. A spokeswoman told them it would be assessed “to establish whether it gives rise to regulatory concern”. No formal investigation has been launched.

(Despite its members supporting Hamas and the killing of Israeli civilians and British and American troops in Iraq, the Brotherhood publicly condemns acts of terrorism in non-Muslim countries and there is no suggestion that Europe Trust is funding terrorism.)