The Muslim Brotherhood’s Conquest of Europe

Lorenzo Vidino


Since its founding in 1928, the Muslim Brotherhood (Hizb al-Ikhwan al-Muslimun) has profoundly influenced the political life of the Middle East. Its motto is telling: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Qur’an is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”

While the Brotherhood’s radical ideas have shaped the beliefs of generations of Islamists, over the past two decades, it has lost some of its power and appeal in the Middle East, crushed by harsh repression from local regimes and snubbed by the younger generations of Islamists who often prefer more radical organizations.

But the Middle East is only one part of the Muslim world. Europe has become an incubator for Islamist thought and political development. Since the early 1960s, Muslim Brotherhood members and sympathizers have moved to Europe and slowly but steadily established a wide and well-organized network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organizations. Unlike the larger Islamic community, the Muslim Brotherhood’s ultimate goal may not be simply “to help Muslims be the best citizens they can be,” but rather to extend Islamic law throughout Europe and the United States.[2]

Four decades of teaching and cultivation have paid off. The student refugees who migrated from the Middle East forty years ago and their descendants now lead organizations that represent the local Muslim communities in their engagement with Europe’s political elite. Funded by generous contributors from the Persian Gulf, they preside over a centralized network that spans nearly every European country.

These organizations represent themselves as mainstream, even as they continue to embrace the Brotherhood’s radical views and maintain links to terrorists. With moderate rhetoric and well-spoken German, Dutch, and French, they have gained acceptance among European governments and media alike. Politicians across the political spectrum rush to engage them whenever an issue involving Muslims arises or, more parochially, when they seek the vote of the burgeoning Muslim community.

But, speaking Arabic or Turkish before their fellows Muslims, they drop their facade and embrace radicalism. While their representatives speak about interfaith dialogue and integration on television, their mosques preach hate and warn worshippers about the evils of Western society. While they publicly condemn the murder of commuters in Madrid and school children in Russia, they continue to raise money for Hamas and other terrorist organizations. Europeans, eager to create a dialogue with their increasingly disaffected Muslim minority, overlook this duplicity. The case is particularly visible in Germany, which retains a place of key importance in Europe, not only because of its location at the heart of Europe, but also because it played host to the first major wave of Muslim Brotherhood immigrants and is host to the best-organized Brotherhood presence. The German government’s reaction is also instructive if only to show the dangers of accepting Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric at face value, without looking at the broader scope of its activities.

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