ANALYSIS: Islamists’ Evolution in Europe, from Intelligence Services to Charity Organizations and Beyond
by Khaled Hamoud Alshareef
We only woke up after 9/11, suddenly… we were asking ourselves many questions about “political Islam” organizations in Germany…
In efforts to combat the looming communist threat during the 60s and in fear of Gamal Abdel Nasser, the Red Camp German intelligence embraced the Muslim Brotherhood members fleeing from the Middle East and recruited some of them to build spies networks in Egypt and Syria.
The complex and deep network includes 10 central institutions, 30 offshoots, 10 central divisions, and 5 central committees, this way European governments have been penetrated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
The Union of Social Institutions in Ukraine is the brain of “planning the organization” in Europe. It is supported by: Sanabel Al Khair Association in Macedonia, Islamic Association for Rehabilitation and Culture in Poland, Union for Development and Islamic Culture in Bulgaria and Islamic Cultural Association in Moldova. And the headquarters of the Federation in Luxembourg, and Turkish Millia vision – which is the largest Islamic organization coming from Turkey that works closely With (Hezbollah) in Germany, it’s members count rose from 38,080 in 2011, to 42,550 by 2018.
Germany also witnessed remarkable growth among members and supporters of the Islamist “Salafi” movement, as their number increased from 3,800 to 4,500.
This prompted German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich to ban three of these groups. This clearly reflects why Germany was angry at the overthrow of Morsi after the June 30 revolution, as were America and Turkey.
Those who migrated from the Middle East, in the 50s-70s and their descendants are leading – now – organizations representing local Muslim societies in their dealings with the European political elite, they control business and charities worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
However, these organizations receive generous funding from the Gulf since the 50s up till the early 2000s, when the money started to dry up as a result of the monetary restrictions and crackdown on terrorism due to the 9/11 attacks. The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) main players served as a central network covering all countries across Europe present themselves as the mainstream Islamic governing body, despite their continued embrace of the Brotherhood’s extremist views, and their establishment of strong links and terrorists.
Through its spoken “moderate speech” in European languages MB gained acceptance and mainstream status by European governments and the media alike, consequently, politicians [in Europe] from all walks of life rushed to the Muslim Brotherhood’s side because the Muslim Brotherhood controlled the Muslim and Arab votes, controlled the political influence and a growing voices in the political scene as the leading figure of the Muslim community.
But when they speak “Arabic or Turkish” to their followers, they take away their convictions … and embrace an extremist tendency.
The situation in Germany and Sweden in particular reveals that the “Brotherhood” has achieved more significant influence than anywhere else in Europe, and Islamist organizations in other European countries are following in their footsteps consciously following the model of their German counterparts, where the first chapters of events started when a number of Brotherhood members left Egypt in the year 1954, to escape from the prisons of Nasser, it was that West Germany provided them with a special refuge, as its government decided – then – to cut diplomatic ties with the countries that recognized East Germany.
When both Egypt and Syria established diplomatic relations with the Communist government, Bonn decided to host the Egyptian and Syrian “political refugees” and among them was Saeed Ramadan, the son-in-law of the group’s founder, Hassan Al-Banna.
However, this was not an “early” embrace by the German authorities of Brotherhood members and Arab Islamists, according to German researcher “Guido Steinberg” – as revealed by a German intelligence officer, whom he met on June 1, 2012 to exert “political pressure” on countries. The German intelligence – at the time – was interested in establishing individual relations with them, to use them as “informants” on the conditions in their countries.
Steinberg explains, during the chapter he edited in the book “The West and the Brotherhood after the Arab Spring revolutions”, about the relationship between the Brotherhood and the German government on the one hand, and its intelligence services on the other hand.
He wrote, “The relationship between the German governments and the Brotherhood leaders in “Berlin” underwent three main stages, the first stage (the late fifties until the year 1979 CE) was characterized – in general by the lack of a deep understanding of the phenomenon of “political Islam”, as well as “the Brotherhood”. Therefore, the relations (German – Brotherhood) were limited to a number of members of the group’s leaders and the German intelligence services, excluding other government institutions from the relationship.
After the Islamic revolution in Iran – in 1979 CE – the Brotherhood gained more attention from the German government, although many decision-makers were viewing the MB as a backward approach that cannot play any major role in the future, the two worlds (Arab and Islamic). Therefore, the second stage (1979-2011) was, in general, limited to the intelligence side as well.
But in the year 2001 CE, after the September 11 attacks – and in parallel with the security authorities putting “Brotherhood” organizations in Germany under surveillance, the German Foreign Ministry decided to assign the task of contacting Islamist activists all over the world including the Brotherhood to the “Department of Cultural Affairs”, which was then newly born.
As a result, and after it became clear in the year 2011 CE, that Germany would play a major role in the so-called “transition countries” in the Arab world – especially Tunisia and Egypt. It was that Germany was forced to develop a completely new policy on dealing with Islamists and this was the “third stage”.
Steinberg quotes one of the internal intelligence officers who worked to contact the Brotherhood, saying: “We only woke up after 9/11, suddenly… we were asking ourselves many questions about “political Islam” organizations in Germany, and we realized how good that the Brotherhood’s international relations were remarkable”.
We started looking for a network of their relations centered around the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), which is a center for coordinating “Brotherhood” activities in Europe.
The debate over whether the Brotherhood could be accepted as a potential partner – in government initiatives – gained particular importance in the run-up to the “German Islamic Conference”.
The German Islamic Conference (Deutsche Islamkonferenz) was held by the “Federal Ministry of the Interior” in September of the year 2006 CE. The stated goal was to reach a “binding” agreement on guidelines for interaction between Muslims and non-Muslims in Germany.
During this conference, the Brotherhood was represented by five “organizational umbrellas”, through the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), and the group thus obtained official recognition of its participation. These “limited ties” by the German government and the group were confined to the local scene, as the government believed that the Central Council (ZMD) was a key player that could not be ignored.
In general, the “Islamic Assembly”, which is now managed by Samir Al-Falih and the center affiliated with it, “the Munich Center”, were a joint point in drawing the Brotherhood’s movements future inside Europe.
The strength of the “gathering” grew remarkably over the years and now he controls many other Islamic organizations. And he has fallen under his umbrella Islamic centers in more than thirty German cities.
The real strength of the gathering lies in its supervision of a number of youth and student organizations, beside the political influence and control of charity organizations, as the focus came on youth after the arrival of Zayat to the presidency of the group.
The man realized the importance of focusing on the second generation of German Muslims. And he launched recruitment campaigns to organize young Muslims in Islamic organizations. And recently a local report of the German city of Meckenheim warned of the existence of unsuspecting links to Zayat, and many militant organizations in Germany. The Meckenheim police linked Zayat to the European Institute of Humanities, a French institute for the preparation of European Imams.
However, German intelligence agencies see it as a “hatchery” for many extremist clerics . The BND external intelligence agency indicates a link his name is a number of issues, “money laundering” operations.
Although we do not know the extent of the information of German intelligence. However, we see that the association of Zayat with the institute is natural, in line with the context of the public network formed by the “Brotherhood” inside Europe.
The institute was established under the auspices of the “Federation of Islamic Organizations in France” affiliated to the Federation of European Organizations Salamia in Europe (the HQ of the London Secretariat organized by the International Brotherhood), and is subject to the direct supervision of the preacher, who is of Tunisian origin, Ahmed Gaballah.
Also, Sabiha Erbakan the wife of Zayat and a prominent member of the Center for Women ‘s Studies, affiliated with the Institute. The institute was initially established during the year 1992 CE, in parallel with the administration of the Federation of Organizations for a number of mosques, schools, and youth camps, distributed among parts of France, and many of its lessons are given by correspondence, as the union seeks through its “institute” to form imams in accordance with the group’s version of Islam.
The institute includes a section for “Fundamentals of Religion”, and another for “Islamic Sharia”. It contains 12 rooms and a library, two reading rooms and nine study halls.
Among the most famous visitors along with Zayat were Tariq Ramadan Ibn Saeed Ramadan. He holds Swiss citizenship, and is considered one of the prominent actors in the Islamic Assembly in Germany.
What happened in “Germany” is not at all different from what happened in the rest of Europe. The Brotherhood-related organizations have achieved prominent positions throughout the old continent, all.
In France, the “Union of Islamic Organizations in France” has become a prominent organization in the Islamic Council of the government. In Italy, the “Muslim League” is the government’s main partner in dialogue on Islamic issues in “Rome”.
Parallel to the European Union’s endeavors to integrate, the Brotherhood was also seeking to unite their multiple agents in Europe. In the past years, they created a network of organizations throughout Europe, affiliated with the Union of Islamic Organizations.
Despite this “permanent” monitoring by Western intelligence services, and European researchers of the group’s activity and organizational ties within Germany. What they brought out to us – so far – was not everything, as these observations were absent, many details which certainly affirms that the organization succeeded in security disguise, on more than one level so that the fruits of this disguise, in turn, were reflected in the security apparatus in Egypt during the Mubarak regime despite its strength, which was witnessed by many international reports as what was included in the memorandum of investigations of the State Security Investigations in the year 2009 CE, in what was known in the media as the issue of “Brotherhood organization”. The international enough, even though it – at the time – was the biggest blow to the group.
After the bombing of the “State Security” in Egypt, to the issue of “international organization” in the year 2009 AD, it was stipulated that the Investigation Memorandum, when it came to talk about the Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe – the London Secretariat, which has recently become the subject of monitoring of international intelligence services, on the following organizations, namely, The Islamic Center in Frankfurt, Germany, the Islamic Center in Sweden, and the Office of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth in Europe, which is supervised by Ibrahim Al-Zayat, and these organizations are branched from the Federation of Islamic Organizations, and before we continue listing our “accurate” information about the federation, we make it clear, starting with – that there is no such thing as the “World Assembly of Muslim Youth in Europe”, although there is – in fact – the so-called “World Assembly of Muslim Youth” which is a society based mainly in Saudi Arabia, which owns a large number of international branches.
The group has sought over the past years, to coordinate efforts between its various unions and the symposium, especially through the officials of “IFSU”. The precise name of what was targeted by the Investigation Memorandum is the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations or European Forum for Youth and Student Organizations. Also, Al-Zayat was responsible for the union’s public relations department at the time.
According to the information available in front of us – the Union of Islamic Organizations in Europe includes: ten central institutions, ten central divisions, five central committees, and 30 sub-institutions.
Central institutions include:
- The European Institute for the Humanities in Paris and the Chateau Chinon.
- The European Institute in Wales – UK.
- European Forum for Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO).
- The European Endowment Foundation.
- Union of Arab Islamic Schools.
- European Forum for Muslim Women.
- The European Forum of Media Professionals.
- The Holy Quran Foundation in Europe.
- Businessmen Forum.
- The European Council for Fatwa and Research.
The central sections are:
- The General Secretariat.
- Department of Education and Advocacy.
- Department of Planning and Central Institutions.
- Department of Women’s Work.
- Department of Citizenship and Political Affairs.
- Youth and Students Section.
- Training and Human Development Department.
- Department of Public Relations.
- East Europe Division.
- Department of Media.
In addition to these sections: The Finance Department, and the President’s Office.
The tasks of the “Finance Department” are summarized in securing the “budget of the Union” and organizing its finances with the expansion of the circle of donors inside and outside the country, and searching for new investment projects, through four main axes, which are:
- Marketing Union Projects.
- Development of Resources Al-Ittihad.
- Fundraising in Europe.
While the “President’s Office” includes in its membership the employees of the “Stockholm Office” – Sweden – and those working in “Brussels Headquarters”.
Belgium – its tasks are summarized in the follow-up, directing and rationalization of work in the federation bodies at the central level and in European countries according to the goals and strategic directions of the Union.
And the central committees are:
- The Youth Absorption Committee.
- The Jury.
- The Finance Committee.
- The Sharia Committee.
- The Federation’s Board of Trustees.
And the European Union Map shows (7) that the member institutions are:
- Russia – Federation of Islamic Organizations, Russia Branch.
- Romania – Islamic and Cultural Association of Romania.
- Ukraine – Union of Social Institutions of Ukraine.
- Bosnia Culture, Education and Sports Association – “Akos”.
- Bulgaria – Union for Islamic Development and Culture.
- Kosova – Cultural Foundation for Science and Education.
- Macedonia – Sanabel Al Khair Association in Macedonia.
- Moldova – Islamic Cultural Association – “Peace”.
- Hungary – The Islamic Union for Culture.
- The Czech Republic – Muslim Students Union.
- Albania – Future Cultural Association.
- Greece – The Arab Greek Center for Culture and Civilization.
- Poland – Islamic Association for Rehabilitation and Culture.
- Britain – The Muslim League in Britain.
- Switzerland – The Muslim League of Switzerland.
- Norway – The Muslim League in Norway.
- Finland – The Muslim League in Finland.
- Sweden – The Muslim League in Sweden.
- Lithuania – The Muslim League in Lithuania.
- Cyprus – The Muslim League in Cyprus.
- The Netherlands – The Union of Islamic Organizations in the Netherlands.
- Denmark – The Danish Islamic Council.
- Spain – The Islamic Association for Dialogue and Coexistence.
- Austria – The Islamic Cultural Council.
- Belgium – The Muslim League of Belgium.
- Italy – The Muslim League in Italy.
- Turkey – Society Wisdom of Science, Friendship and Cooperation.
- France – Union of Islamic Organizations in France.
- Germany – Islamic Community in Germany.
- Ireland – Islamic Society of Ireland.
But this is not all according to the map showing the federation’s institutions working in the field of planning the international organization from the headquarters of the Union of Social Institutions in Ukraine, which has taken a major position in laying the organizing plans inside Europe, as the map shows that the Foundation operates up to 100% in the field of planning.
Followed by Sanabel Al-Khair Association in Macedonia, with a percentage ranging from 70% to 80%, and Islamic Association for Rehabilitation and Culture in Poland with a percentage ranging from 60% to 70%. The Union for Development and Culture Islam in Bulgaria, and the Islamic Cultural Association – Peace – in Moldova at a rate ranging from 50% to 60% R.
Luxembourg the smallest countries of the continent – at a rate ranging between 30% to 50%. They are all institutions that helped completely in preparing the organization for controlling most of the trends of the Muslim community in Europe.
As for how this image began to shake after the June 30 revolution, this is what we will have with it another article after Eid, God willing.
Khaled Homoud Alshareef holds PhD in Business and he earned Masters in Philosophy. He often writes about Islamism, Islamist factions and modern Terrorism. He tweets under @0khalodi0.