From Toulouse to Cairo
Last week, French security forces arrested 19 radical Islamic activists in Paris and four other French cities, including Toulouse, where a French Muslim, who identified with al-Qaida, killed Rabbi Yonatan Sandler and three Jewish school children on March 19. Weapons were also seized in the raid. President Nicolas Sarkozy bluntly gave the general reason for the arrests: “It’s in connection with a form of Islamist radicalism.”
The French were not using the politically correct language used in the U.S. in recent years where officials talk about a war on terrorism, but are reluctant to single out radical Islam by name.
Among the measures that the French government proposed was banning entry into France for radical clerics who are Palestinian, Saudi and Egyptian, and who wanted to attend a conference on April 6 held by the Union des Organizations Islamiques de France (UOIF).
One of those barred was Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, who is known as the spiritual head of the global Muslim Brotherhood. Sarkozy himself appeared to identify one of the underlying causes of Islamic militancy in France: the dangerous ideologies that French Muslim youth were absorbing.
As a result, one of the first measures Sarkozy took after the Toulouse attacks was a decision that the French government would prosecute people who regularly consulted jihadi websites or who had traveled abroad for radical Islamist indoctrination.
How did France get into this position in the first place? It is extremely important to examine the main organizations that have assumed a leading position among French Muslims, like the UOIF. While the group presented itself to French authorities as a moderating force among alienated Muslim youth in France in the 1990s, it is important to remember that the UOIF was really the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Lorenzo Vidino, an academic and security expert who specializes in Islamism and political violence in Europe and North America, has carefully examined the ideology of the European branches of the Muslim Brotherhood. He notes that while its representatives have been formally condemning violence since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, they have a different interpretation of what constitutes terrorism. He points out that Qaradawi has written about cases in which “terrorism that is permitted by Islamic law,” particularly when Islamic territories are under occupation, like Chechnya, Kashmir, or Iraq for most of the last 10 years, as well as the territories claimed by the Palestinians.
In Israel, the Muslim Brotherhood movement is largely perceived in the context of Egypt, where it was founded, and the rest of the Middle East. However, the group has a network of active branches that have grown in major European countries, like Britain, Germany, and France.
Part of Europe’s current problem has been a tendency to underestimate the deep hostility of the Muslim Brotherhood toward the European states that are hosting it. Qaradawi has been a guest in London in the past, while al-Banna’s grandson, the Swiss-born Tariq Ramadan, teaches at Oxford University. The French government expressed its regret that the UOIF had invited Ramadan to the same event with the radical clerics, though it did not bar him from entering France.
Few pay attention to the movement’s expansionist orientation toward the West and its calls, voiced in the past and present, for re-establishing an Islamic empire. Hassan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood demanded:
“We want the Islamic flag to be hoisted once again on high, fluttering in the wind … Thus Andalusia, Sicily, the Balkans, the Italian coast, as well as the islands of the Mediterranean, are all of them Muslim Mediterranean colonies and they must return to the Islamic fold.”
The French should recall that the Islamic conquests expanded north of Spain, when much of southern France was subdued up until the town of Poitiers. Although it has not been forgotten by the Muslim Brotherhood, there are those who prefer to ignore this history. They also prefer to ignore the fact that the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood, which appears on its publications, includes the words: “Jihad is our path; martyrdom is our aspiration.”
More recently, Sheik Qaradawi himself declared: “Constantinople was conquered in 1453 by a 23-year-old Ottoman named Muhammad ibn Murad, whom we call Muhammad the Conqueror. Now what remains is to conquer Rome. That is what we wish for, and that is what we believe in. After having been expelled twice, Islam will be victorious and reconquer Europe … I am certain that this time, victory will be won not by the sword but by preaching.” The UOIF, it should be pointed out, has a chateau in France where it trains imams under Sheik Qaradawi.
This past weekend, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood announced that its deputy supreme guide, Khairet al-Shater, would be running in the Egyptian presidential elections. Should the Muslim Brotherhood control the presidency of Egypt, this would have profound implications not only for the security of Israel, but for European states as well.
A Muslim Brotherhood-controlled Egypt would be well-placed for channeling its ideology and resources on behalf of radical Islam to France and the rest of Europe. By controlling the Islamic legal opinions coming out of al-Azhar University in Cairo, the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood could influence the entire Sunni Muslim world.
By taking a liberal stand on the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Middle East, European states will be pursuing a self-defeating policy. They would, in effect, be strengthening the movements that are currently undermining their internal security most directly.
This article was originally published by Israel Hayom.