Will France foil Qatar's plan to empower Muslim Brotherhood?

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Another report has been reiterating the Muslim Brotherhood’s ambitious global project in France. In early August, the Investigative Journal published an in-depth piece by Pakistani journalist Taha Siddiqui, who revealed that every part of Islam in France, from local mosques, NGOs, to representation before the authorities is monopolized by the group. 

By entrenching their rule in Muslim-majority states and establishing an outreach among Muslim communities in the west, the Islamic group was closer than ever to its goal in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. They were dealt a massive blow in Egypt when their regime was overthrown in 2013, infuriating Qatar and Turkey who back the most driven and widespread Islamist group worldwide after decades of dedication since inception in 1928 in Egypt, the very country that ousted them and executed their beloved theorist, Sayyid Qutb, who until this day inspires the deadliest terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaeda, the Islamic Jihad and ISIS

The MB has existed in France for decades, but since the heavy financial and political support the group has enjoyed for many years now, France has witnessed a spate of Islamist violence, prompting the authorities to counter the radicalization spiral instead of leaving the matter to foreign powers. 

Siddiqui sets the Muslims of France (MDF) as an example of the face of the MB in France. It boasts 1,600 members and over 600 affiliated NGOs. It was once called the Union of Islamic Organisations of France, but reinvented itself in 2017 to be MDF after the UAE designated it as a terrorist organization due to its close links to the MB. 

The MB is designated as terrorist by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The Trump administration did not follow suit because “the criteria for designating a terrorist organization are not a good fit for the Muslim Brotherhood, which is less a coherent body than a loose-knit movement with chapters in different countries,” Siddiqui said. 

That may be the case with the MB, but that also leaves countries designating every emerging violent Islamist group as terrorist, one after another that crumbled, changed its name or whose members joined another group, while all those groups are essentially affiliated to the MB and continue to reinvent themselves based on the MB ideology on the theoretical aspect, at least. 

The Mb denies violence but many members and offshoots have created terrorist organizations or committed terrorist acts, most notably Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s second leader. 

The Investigative Journal interviews Mohamed Louizi, a former MDF associate, who revealed that the group is still linked to MB and is also a “hub for spreading Islamic radicalization in France,” as well as l’Association France Plurielle (Pluralist France). 

Louizi says the MB also controls many mosques in France, to the extent of “banning” him from his local mosque. 

”[A]nd then Qatar came into the picture, and starting pumping money into mdf in via Qatar Charity, as also proven by the recent book – Qatar Papers – How the State Finances Islam in France and Europe,” Louizi adds. 

French journalists Georges Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, investigate the Qatari funding of Muslim Brotherhood affiliated organizations in Europe in Qatar Papers, providing cheques, official documents and testimonials, according to the Investigative Journal. 

Turkey also plays a significant role in supporting the MB across Europe. Foreign imams in France are numerous, as opposed to France born imams who presumably understand young French Muslims more. Some 151 imams have been sent by Turkey 120 by Algeria, and 30 by Morocco, the Investigative Journal reports the French Interior Ministry as saying. 

“The French President wants to ensure that there is no foreign funding within the Muslim organizations operating in France. He has also suggested training clerics/Imams at home rather than abroad and wants more transparency with the issue of collecting charity from French Muslims,” The Investigative Journal says. 

On France’s actions towards the issue, journalist and activist Zineb el-Rhazoui told the Investigative Journal “the French government needs to apply the law. No religious place can host a political meeting and many of these NGOs are violating that.” 

Rhazoui and a team of volunteers try to help the government by collecting information on radical speeches by Muslim thinkers in France, according to the report. 

As expected, the speeches, according to Rhazoui, are dominated by the ideas of the MB founder, Hassan al-Banna and its major preacher, Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian who lives in Qatar. Even though Qaradawi is banned from entering France, his books are widespread in the European country, through the MDF, for example, the report writer Siddiqui says. 

Head of the Muslim Association for a French Islam, an NGO set to compete with the numerous MB counterparts, Hakim El Karoui, told Siddiqui “[t]hese organizations that had links with the Muslim Brotherhood had a public message of integration but they also have a secret agenda which goes against integration.” 

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