The 28 countries of the European Union [EU] are home to about 25 million Muslims. Their presence is currently the basis of controversy, debate, fear and in some parts of Europe, outright hatred. Never before has the European continent witnessed this level of mutual suspicion between mainstream European societies and the Muslims. There is increasing fear and opposition to European Muslims, who are perceived as a threat to national identity, domestic security and the main-stream social fabric. Mainstream society in Europe can be loosely defined as that section of the population which believes in Christianity and its value system.
Historically, Islamic globalisation began as early as the late Middle Ages (500 to 1400–1500 AD), the Muslims’ presence in Europe was only of the fringes of the continent, starting at the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and spreading along the Mediterranean shores to other parts of Southern Europe. Parts of the Ottoman Caliphate’s Balkan territory became Muslim in the early modern period (1440-1500), while Tartar settlers brought Islam to the Baltic region. In the late 19th century, Muslim migration to Western Europe was largely connected to the empires. The first clusters of networks of Muslims emerged after 1918, as a result of the Great War (as World War-1 was known) which brought thousands of Muslims into Europe and institutionalised Islam in the continent. Muslim communities emerged in three spaces — the mosques as religious physical spaces, associations and organisations as legal spaces, and constructive and intellectual spaces, expressed through Islamic newspapers and media. Essentially, these three spaces were occupied by individuals who identified themselves as Muslims, and focused primarily on the formation of Islamic organisations identified by a common religion, rather than diverse ethnic or linguistic backgrounds.
Radicalisation of these Muslim communities in Europe started in the 1960s due to the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. Founded in Egypt in 1928 by Islamic scholar Hassan al-Banna, the Jamāʿat al-Ikhwān al-Muslimīn, also known as Muslim Brotherhood, has spread internationally, influencing various Islamic movements from charitable organisations to political parties. These organisations have different names, but a singular goal – jihad against the world.
While the Brotherhood’s radical ideas have shaped the beliefs of generations of Islamists over the past two decades, it has lost much of its power and appeal in the Middle East, crushed by harsh repression from local Arab regimes and rejected by the younger generation of Islamists. Europe, however, has become an incubator for the Islamist political process. Since the early 1960s, Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathisers have moved to Europe and slowly but steadily established a wide and well-organised network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organisations, with the focus on expanding Islamic law throughout Europe.
Radicalised Islamic students, who migrated to Europe from the Middle-East 45 years ago, their descedents are now leaders of local Muslim communities, who engage with Europe’s mainstream political elite
The radicalised Islamic students who migrated to Europe from the Middle-East 45 years ago and their descedents are now leaders of local Muslim communities who engage with Europe’s mainstream political elite. Funded by generous and constant financial contributions from Qatar and Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi community, they lead and dominate a centralised network of terrorism spread across nearly every European country. With expertise in modern rhetoric and fluent in German, French and Dutch languages, these terrorist masterminds have gained acceptance with members of the European governments and the media. As the Muslim community expands rapidly due to immigration, the mainstream political parties in Europe are engaging with them as potential vote-banks.
During the 1950s and 1960s, thousands of Muslim students left the Middle East to study at German universities, drawn not only by the German institutions’ technical reputations but also by a desire to escape repressive regimes. Beginning in 1954, several members of the Muslim Brotherhood fled Egypt to escape its ruler Gamal Abdel Nasser’s brutal efforts to neutralise them, and West Germany provided a welcome refuge. West Germany’s motivations were not based primarily on compassion for the immigrants. It was based on a political decision whereby West Germany was cutting diplomatic relations with countries who recognised East Germany. [Till November 1989, Germany was divided by the Berlin Wall into two separate countries: West Germany that was influenced by Western democratic values and East Germany that was allied with the Soviet Union]. When Syria and Egypt established diplomatic relationships with the Communist government of East Germany, the West German government decided to welcome political refugees from Syria and Egypt. Many were Muslim Brotherhood members already familiar with Germany, several of whom had cooperated with the Nazis before and during WW2.
Migration of Muslims to Europe
One of the first such members of the Brotherhood was Sa’id Ramadan, the personal secretary to Hasan al-Banna, who founded the organisation. Ramadan founded one of Germany’s three main Muslim organisations, the Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland (Islamic Society of Germany, IGD), over which he presided from 1958 to 1968. He also co-founded the Muslim World League, a well-funded organisation which the Saudi establishment uses to spread its radical interpretation of Islam throughout the world. The US government closely monitors activities of the Muslim World League which has been regularly accused of financing terrorism. In January 2004, the US Senate Finance Committee asked the Internal Revenue Service for its records on the Muslim World League “as part of an investigation into possible links between non-governmental organisations and terrorist financing networks.”
France has been targeted by more jihadi attacks than any other EU member nation since 2014, and that 300 French citizens have been killed in these attacks
After Sa’id Ramadan, Pakistani national FazalYazdani led the IGD for a brief period before he was replaced by GhalebHimmat, a Syrian origin member with Italian citizenship. During his leadership of the IGD (1973-2002) he was under scrutiny by Western intelligence agencies for his connections to terrorism. He was one of the founders of the Bank al-Taqwa aka the ‘Bank of the Muslim Brotherhood’ which has financed terrorism since the mid-1990s, and maybe earlier also. Himmat was helped by Youssef Nada, one of the Brotherhood’s financial masterminds to run Al-Taqwa and a web of companies headquartered in locations such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the Bahamas, which maintain few regulations on monetary origin or destination. Both Himmat and Nada have regularly financed the activities Hamas and the Algerian Islamic Salvation Front and reportedly set-up a line-of-credit for Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda operations.
With many organisations operating under different names, the Muslim Brotherhood fools’ German politicians who believe that they are consulting a spectrum of opinion while in reality it is the radical interpretation of Islam as expressed by the Muslim Brotherhood, and not that of traditional Islam. With an unending access to massive Saudi financing, the Muslim Brotherhood has managed to become the voice of the Muslims in Germany. While the Brotherhood and its Saudi financiers have consolidated their hold in Germany, they have spread like cancer across other European countries. With generous and unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia and Qatar combined with the Brotherhood’s meticulous organisation structure that exploits the weaknesses of the European elites, it has gained prominent positions throughout Europe. In France the extremist Union des OrganisationsIslamiques de France (Union of Islamic Organizations of France) has become the predominant organisation in the government’s Islamic Council. In Italy, the extremist Unionedelle Comunita’ ed Organizzazioni Islamichein Italia (Union of the Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy) is the government’s prime partner in dialogue regarding Italian Islamic issues.
While Germany is being taken over politically through radicalisation of the Muslim population, France has been the top target for Islamic radical attacks. According to official Europol data, France has been targeted by more jihadi attacks than any other EU member nation since 2014, and that 300 French citizens have been killed in these attacks. France is the ‘perfect enemy’ for Islamic Jihadists since it has the largest Muslim population (about 7 per cent of the population), the biggest Jewish population (1 per cent) and a very important legacy of Christianism.
France has been left struggling with the question of why it has become a prime target and how it should respond. As per President Macron, France is being targeted by terrorists because of its “freedom of expression, right to believe, or not, and its way of life.” He claims that a form of “Islamist separatism” has found fertile ground for its ideals in some parts of the country. Over forty years, successive French presidents have sought to manage the state’s relationship with an ethnically and religiously diverse Muslim community. In France, the concept of laïcité(secularism) enjoins a strict delineation between the state and the private sphere of personal beliefs. Designed in origin to protect individuals from state intrusion, and the state from religious influence, it has in recent years been increasingly wielded to do the exact opposite: encroaching evermore into the private sphere of Muslim citizens. From defining dress codes to diet and religious education, the state has sought to influence each of these in recent years, only to be confronted by the strength of a Republican framework where the courts have upheld the original principles of c.
The fact is that almost every country of the European Union has been the target of Islamic radicals. The EU has introduced new policies with the cooperation of its member states to track the radicalisation, funding and sponsorship of terrorism and prevent future attacks, however the EU’s refusal to accept the role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar in funding terrorism is still a hurdle to be overcome.