CREDITSCentre for European StudiesDesign: RARO S.L.Printed in Brussels by Drukkerij Jo VandenbulckeBrusselsCentre for Euro...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanTable of ContentsIntroduction ................................................
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanIntroductionPolitical Islam is increasingly important to Europeanpolitician...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean The paper by Walid Phares gives a general overview ofIslamic politics in...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Irrespective of their differing recommendations, all threeauthors in this...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanWalid PharesPolitical Islam in theMediterranean Basin:Defining EuropeanStrat...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Of these, the first two types are organised as parties whilethe third is...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneansocio-political life, have immersed themselves in research inhopes that the...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean countries directly affected by it, and for EU and US governments...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanout by self-described jihadist organisations, movements andindividuals in s...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanshariah implementation, gender relations, educational contentand social act...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneandemocratic ideals. Only then will European political partiesbe able to fore...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean‘Islamic constitution’ (Arabic: al-dastur al-Islamee), ‘Islamiclaw’ (Arabic...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanA Comparative Analysis of MuslimPolitical MovementsThe majority of the memb...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanIslamist PartiesIslamist parties (Arabic: al-ahzab al-Islamiyun) are organi...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean According to the broad perspective, political Islamencompasses all polit...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneangenerally espouse the motto, Islaam huwa al-hall (Islam isthe solution). Th...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean ‘Everyone else’ encompasses a broad spectrumcomparable to—but not identic...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanSalafists aim at the re-establishment of a Caliphate and theKhomeinists wan...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanmovement in Egypt before it created branches in every Arabcountry and beyon...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean The Wahhabi school has been able to retain its powerinside the Saudi Kin...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean The second-generation jihadi movements began within theMB/Wahhabi network ...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanSCIRI Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq andthe Mahdi Army.I...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean 4. the spreading of Islamist ideology while East and West were enmeshed...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanjihadist Islamist and the jihadist Salafist, or ‘jihad is a long-term strug...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean international terrorism or as aimed at Western or American interests...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneangroups in the Mediterranean basin. Countries in the Arabworld and greater M...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancriticised terrorist acts by the Islamic Salvation Army (FIS).The MSP captu...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanthe main Islamist group for Shiites in Kuwait. The group isalleged to have ...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanIt was founded in 1982 during the Iran–Iraq war. The grouphas ties to Iran....
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneana movement is not organised around a single unifyingpolitical or ideologica...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanQuestion 2: What information do we need in order tohave an accurate underst...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Islamist movements enter European and other Westernsocieties through imm...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanWestern liberal democratic principles and how willing willthey be to engage...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Moderate Islamic political parties and movements are, forthe most part, ...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanlegitimate political activism. The difference, however, is thatIslamists ca...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanRecommendationsThere are no ‘Muslim Democratic’ parties in theMediterranean...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean promote interest in wider debates within these societies on democracy an...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanLorenzo VidinoPolitical Islam in EuropeSummaryIn most European countries, a...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanheterogeneity of the movement, which arguably embracesgroups that employ ho...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanEuropean Muslims is a disturbing phenomenon that, as aresult of its impact ...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanoffering religious teachings in public schools, building placesof worship o...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancooperation to outright confrontation, though competition isthe normal stat...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanMuslims, particularly among the second and thirdgeneration, have shaped new...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanneeds of their citizens living in Europe. Conceived (andperceived) as the l...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanThe New European BrothersA terminological preface is necessary before proce...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanformalistic approach, it is fair to say that in virtually allEuropean count...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Today the NEBs have become one of the Continent’smost influential Islami...
Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanThe NEBs’ GoalsThe independence under which NEB organisations operateentail...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancompeting Islamic currents operating in Europe puts them inan advantageous ...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanadministering all aspects of Muslim life in each country. Theywould, ideall...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanunlike other movements with which they are often mistakenlylumped, encourag...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneaninterlocutors want to hear. Yet when speaking Arabic, Urdu orTurkish before...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean the Islamic community for the management of Islam. Within this frame...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean itself as a widely supported advocate and legitimate representativ...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneaninternal guidelines sent to all government officials detailinghow NEB organ...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanfor certain parties because local NEB organisations toldthem to, or would t...
Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancommunity in the single digits can deliver large sections ofthe Muslim elec...
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Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean

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  • 1. CREDITSCentre for European StudiesDesign: RARO S.L.Printed in Brussels by Drukkerij Jo VandenbulckeBrusselsCentre for European StudiesRue du Commerce 20Brussels, BE – 1000The Centre for European Studies (CES) is the official think-tank of the European People’s Party (EPP)dedicated to the promotion of Christian democrat, conservative and like-minded political values.For more information please visit:www.thinkingeurope.euThis publication receives funding from the European Parliament.© Centre for European Studies 2011Photos used in this publication: Centre for European Studies 2011The European Parliament and the Centre for European Studies assume no responsibility for facts oropinions expressed in this publication or their subsequent use. Sole responsibility lies on the author ofthis publication.2
  • 2. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanTable of ContentsIntroduction .........................................................................4Political Islam in the Mediterranean Basin: DefiningEuropean StrategiesWalid Phares ..........................................................................7Political Islam in EuropeLorenzo Vidino .....................................................................40The Dynamics of Participation: Islamists in Arab PoliticsAmr Hamzawy......................................................................66 3
  • 3. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanIntroductionPolitical Islam is increasingly important to Europeanpoliticians and policymakers. Europe’s Muslims are growingin numbers, and some form and join political organisationsthat articulate Islamic values in the public sphere. Muslimcountries that neighbour Europe across the Mediterraneanand Black Seas are going through a period of rapid politicalchange, as demonstrated by the anti-authoritarian uprisingsin North African and the Middle East that began inDecember 2010. Although Political Islam was, in mostcases, not at the origin of the protests, it may play a moreimportant role in the region in future. The Centre for European Studies (CES) has a long-termcommitment to promoting debate on the role of religion inpolitics, and the role of political Islam in particular. The CESspecifically contributes to discussions on how Europe’scentre-right should approach Muslim, Islamic and Islamistpolitical organisations. As one of its activities in this area,the CES organised, in cooperation with the PoliticalAcademy of the Austrian People’s Party and InternationalRepublican Institute, ‘The Atlantic Seminar: UnderstandingPolitical Islam’ in Vienna in March 2010. The present publication includes three edited papers fromthis seminar. These papers, by Walid Phares, Lorenzo Vidinoand Amr Hamzawy, differ in their geographical coverage andin their focus on specific parts of the Muslim politicalspectrum. These papers also include different suggestionson how centre-right parties in Europe should respond to andengage with political Islam.4
  • 4. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean The paper by Walid Phares gives a general overview ofIslamic politics in North Africa and the Middle East. Itsuggests that European centre-right politicians need tocreate partnerships with those Muslim and Islamicmovements that embrace the greatest number of liberaldemocratic values, even if these movements are weak andleast influential at present. Nevertheless, Europe and theWest should maintain contacts with all Islamic and non-jihadist movements that do not promote terrorism. Lorenzo Vidino’s paper examines political Islam in Europe,looking in particular at one of its branches, the NewEuropean Brothers. Vidino advocates a cautious approachto the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, stressing theimportance of local conditions. In individual Europeancountries, centre-right politicians need to study theparticular organisations of the Muslim Brotherhood and thesituation in the particular Muslim community before decidingon whether to engage, or rather confront the particularIslamic political organisation. Finally, Amr Hamzawy’s paper offers insights into thoseIslamist movements in Egypt, Morocco and Yemen thatparticipate in their countries’ political systems. Hamzawyshows that that the political practice of these participatoryIslamic movements often differs from their religiousplatforms. In dealing with these Islamist movements, theWest needs to make an effort to distinguish between theirreligious rhetoric on the one hand and their policies on theother hand. The West also needs to recognise the dynamicnature of these movements, which are increasingly adoptingstrategies of political participation while, at the same time,retaining a proselytising role in the religious sphere. 5
  • 5. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Irrespective of their differing recommendations, all threeauthors in this publication emphasise the need for: • a tailored approach with regard to each Islamic political organisation, because political Islam includes elements with varying programmes and agendas; • recognition of internal differentiation and disagreements within individual Muslim political organisations; and • recognition that Islamic organisations change and evolve over time.6
  • 6. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanWalid PharesPolitical Islam in theMediterranean Basin:Defining EuropeanStrategiesSummaryThis paper attempts to describe the phenomenon of politicalIslam in the Muslim-majority countries in the Mediterraneanbasin. It argues that the prevailing understanding of thisconcept is inspired by the West, while historical andgeopolitical reality reveals the existence of several types ofpolitical parties and movements that are tied to Islam buthave different ideological and political perspectives. Three main types of political movements and partiescompete in society and for government: • traditional Islamic parties that claim historical affiliation with Muslim civilisation; • the Islamists: Salafists (Sunni) and Khomeinists (Shia), and • the networks of ‘Muslim democrats’. 7
  • 7. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Of these, the first two types are organised as parties whilethe third is found mainly within non-governmental organisationsand social cadres. This paper asserts that European andWestern Christian Democratic and centre-right parties shoulddevelop strategies of engagement with this phenomenon.Interests that European and Western parties have in Islamicgroups include national security, political development in theMediterranean and social cohesion in the West. Finally, this paper recommends a multi-pronged strategythat includes the following: • partnering with the Muslim democrats; • conducting a dialogue with Islamic traditional parties; and • debating with the Islamists. This brief warns about engagement without understandingthe phenomenon of political Islam, and suggests replacing theconcept of political Islam with more specific concepts thatcan be adapted to the realities of the three streams ofMuslims in politics.Introduction: Identifying the Ideology and GlobalStrategies of Moderate Political Movementswithin Political IslamPolitical Islam is on the ascendency in Europe, North Africaand the Levant. Astute European politicians, knowing theyneed a better understanding of Islam’s political alter ego, itsvariants and the implications for European–Mediterranean8
  • 8. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneansocio-political life, have immersed themselves in research inhopes that their newly acquired knowledge will equip themfor effective outreach to moderate Muslim politicalmovements in the European–Mediterranean region. Political bodies of the EU intend to cultivate cooperativerelationships with Muslim political groups that havedemonstrated a commitment to democratic principles ofgovernment. EU lawmakers hope their research and bridge-building efforts will lead to a common understanding ofpolitical Islam and lay the foundation for a round table ofEuropean political parties, policymakers, prominent politicalthinkers, policy analysts and democratically inclined Muslimpolitical organisers in the Mediterranean basin. They alsohope to assist other like-minded EU and US legislativebodies in their own efforts to do the same.Towards Understanding: the Right QuestionsThese goals combine with a larger effort to define politicalIslam in general and moderate Muslim democraticmovements in particular. With this in mind, Westernpolicymakers will need to answer the following questions: • Why has political Islam (Arabic: al-Islaam al-siyassi) attracted the attention of European and Western policymakers? • What do European leaders need to know and consider before they can claim to understand political Islam? • What are the socio-political implications of political Islam’s emergence as a force to be reckoned with in the 9
  • 9. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean countries directly affected by it, and for EU and US governments as well? • What are the obstacles to improved dialogue and closer relations between Western policymakers and political Islamic movements? • How do political Islam’s ideals stack up against those of European or American political parties and what is the likelihood that those who hold these two world views will be inclined to engage in constructive dialogue?Before EngagementThe European political establishment has long understoodthe importance of forging coalitions with other nations in theMediterranean basin and elsewhere around the globe. Theimpetus behind the interest from Europe, the US and otherliberal democracies in cooperative engagement with politicalIslam is not driven by historical precedent alone. PoliticalIslam’s rise in Europe, North Africa and the Levant addsstrategic significance to the need for engagement as well.Western democracies’ national and international securityinterests and the need to mitigate rapidly emerging urbancrises in their own and other countries make understandingpolitical Islam a matter of socio-political survival.The Engagement Imperative: Four JustificationsJustification one: terrorism. National security provides themost compelling justification for grasping political Islam. Thisis clear from the numerous ongoing acts of terrorism carried10
  • 10. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanout by self-described jihadist organisations, movements andindividuals in several Western democracies. Consider that aportion of the 9/11 terrorists’ preparation took place inEurope and the greater Middle East and that the terroriststrikes in New York, Washington, Madrid and London wereplanned and directed by jihadist ideologues who espousedthe principles of political Islam, and the jihadi-inspiredviolence and urban clashes that have taken place on bothsides of the Atlantic. With that in mind, uncovering possibleconnections between political Islam and terrorism becomesan urgent imperative.Justification two: international security. A secondcompelling justification for European or Western engagementwith political Islam is the fact of European militarydeployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and other potential theatresof operation such as Somalia, the Sahel and alonginternational shipping routes in the Persian Gulf, the Red Seaand the Mediterranean. The self-described jihadists orIslamists that Coalition and NATO forces have beenconfronting in South Central Asia (Afghanistan), Iraq and othertheatres of operation have pledged their lives and fortunes toadvance their radical agenda. Moreover, the indoctrinationand recruitment methods Islamists use in these regions areenabled by the wealth of Islamist literature that portrays theirinsurgent military activities, Islamist agenda and terroristobjectives as facets of the jihadists’ global agenda.Justification three: urban unrest in Europe. Islamistindoctrination and the promotion of political agendas inEurope have in some cases fuelled urban clashes includingthe suburbs incidents in France and lower intensity incidentsin other European cities. Acts of terrorism notwithstanding,confrontations with Islamists over appropriate levels of 11
  • 11. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanshariah implementation, gender relations, educational contentand social activities are prompting European citizens to exertever-increasing pressure on governments to implementstrategies that will prevent more and wider urban crises. Many Europeans believe the promotion and spread ofIslamist ideology in European and Western immigrantcommunities is a result of political Islam’s influence. Manyalso believe political Islam threatens democratic societiesbecause it promotes radicalisation, extremism, racism andxenophobia among some European nations. The recentunrest over France’s ban on the burka, Switzerland’s ban onvisible minarets, the Danish cartoons and the treatment ofMuslim European women by radicalised elements in theircommunities are only a few examples of political Islam’simpact on European culture.Justification 4: socio-political partnerships. A lot is ridingon European policymakers’ plans for European–Mediterranean basin cooperation. Unlike their partnershipswith North America and their former Soviet neighbours, thetrans-Mediterranean partnerships that European legislaturesare working to establish with mostly Muslim and Arabsocieties in North Africa and the Levant are challenged bydifferences in the perceptions of democratic cultures. In summary, there are at least four critical justifications forEuropean and Western governments, politicians andacademics to actively pursue a better understanding ofpolitical Islam, to accurately discern its radical and moderateelements and to distinguish between those that advocateviolence and those that do not, and between groups thathave immersed themselves in the radical stream and thosethat have demonstrated an appreciation for liberal12
  • 12. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneandemocratic ideals. Only then will European political partiesbe able to forecast political Islam’s evolution and determinethe most appropriate course of action.A Lexicon of IslamBefore one embarks on an analysis of political Islam, oneneeds to know the movement’s vocabulary. European andWestern politicians looking for ways to engage with Euro-Mediterranean political parties will need to tailor their termsbased on the specific thing they are looking for. Forinstance, if one is trying to describe a political party orparties that link Islam to a political agenda, one should use‘Muslim political parties’. A party that uses some form ofIslamist ideology should be described as an ‘Islamist party’.Islam (Arabic: al-Islaam). Transliterations: English/Western:Islam; French: l’Islam; Spanish: el Islam.Muslim. A term of identification meaning a person who isMuslim (Arabic: Muslem) or plural, Muslims (Arabic:Muslimuum). A collective of Muslim people (e.g. a Muslimmajority, Muslim culture etc.). A descriptive, identifying termas in ‘he is Muslim’ (Arabic: innahu Muslem) or ‘the Muslims’(Arabic: al-Muslimeen) or ‘a Muslim region’ (Arabic: mintaqaIslamiyya). In this usage, Muslim refers to an individual orgroup dimension (such as spiritual, historical or sociological),not to their identity.Islamic (Arabic: Islamy). A term used to emphasise theidentity of an individual, a collective, an institution or acountry. Examples: ‘Islamic culture’ (Arabic: al-thaqafa al-Islamiyya), ‘Islamic identity’ (Arabic: al-hawiyya al-Islamiyya), 13
  • 13. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean‘Islamic constitution’ (Arabic: al-dastur al-Islamee), ‘Islamiclaw’ (Arabic: al-qanun al-Islamee), ‘Islamic civilisation’(Arabic: al-hadara al-Islamiyya) etc. When used of anindividual, this usage underscores that the subject isconscious of and in agreement with this identity. It is morethan descriptive (‘Muslim’), and represents less thanideological commitment (‘Islamist’).Islamist. A term that refers to an ideology with a specificmeaning and all-encompassing political agenda. The termoriginated in Arabic political culture and was subsequentlyadopted and used by Western experts in the same sense.‘Islamist’ translates almost as the same word, Islamy, but ispronounced with the stress placed on the final letter, as inIslamyy. In Arabic linguistics Islamy is the only term used for‘Islamic’ and ‘Islamist’, hence the confusion among Westernlinguists. ‘Islamist’ refers to the essential qualities andidentity of individual activists or movements that conveyvery specific doctrinal and ideological meanings. Theideology is Islamist; the movement is Islamist; the regime isIslamist; a country, people or culture can be Islamic orMuslim, but not Islamist.Political Islam (Arabic: al-Islaam al-siyassi). A reference tothe political dimension of the Islamic religion (Arabic: literally,of al-Islaam). It describes Islam as a global politicalphenomenon. ‘Political Islam’ carries with it a broadermeaning than ‘Islamist’. Muslims can subscribe to politicalIslam and not be Islamist. Not all Muslims affiliate withpolitical Islam. Political Islam may include Islamist partiesand movements, but is not one and the same with them. Theexpression carries with it the idea that all things related topolitics are political, including individuals who believe thatIslamism belongs to political Islam.14
  • 14. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanA Comparative Analysis of MuslimPolitical MovementsThe majority of the members of the political parties in theMuslim Middle East are Muslims. The phrase ‘Muslimpolitical party’ does not necessarily mean that Islamistideology or the Muslim religion is a group’s most significantdistinction. The parties are simply those movements in theMuslim region which identify themselves with some facet ofMuslim history. Secular political parties such as the Syrianand Iraqi Baath parties, the Socialist Progressive Party andNasserite Movement of Lebanon, the Arab nationalist andpatriotic parties of Jordan, Egypt and North Africa, and theFatah movement of Palestine are organisations that operatein Muslim societies even if some of their members are notMuslims. Individuals within these parties accept the ideathat the nation they belong to has been part of Islamichistory in the same way that secular parties in the Westaccept the idea that they belong to or are products ofJudeo-Christian civilisation and history.Islamic PartiesIslamic parties (Arabic: al-ahzab al-Islamiyya) are Muslimpolitical groups that include ‘Islamic’ in their name, asserttheir historical affiliation with Islamic civilisation and refer toIslam as a religion of their country. Islamic parties are notnecessarily Islamist. While they claim to represent the localMuslim population, creating an Islamist (Wahhabi orKhomeinist) regime is not necessarily their goal. Examplesinclude the Islamic League of Pakistan (Arabic: al-Tajammohal-Islami) in Lebanon, the ruling Lijan al Sha’biyya party inLibya, and al-Mu’tamar al-Watani in Sudan. 15
  • 15. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanIslamist PartiesIslamist parties (Arabic: al-ahzab al-Islamiyun) are organisationsand parties that unambiguously subscribe to an IslamistSalafist or Islamist Khomeinist political agenda. Regardless oftheir standing in the country they operate in, their strategicchoice of jihad, or ‘a way of struggle’, as the purpose for theirparticipation in the political process places them in a categoryby themselves because their ideology and vision transcend thestate and its political system and advocate a globalist future.Islamist parties are naturally Islamic and Muslim but theopposite is not necessarily true. Examples include the MuslimBrotherhood in Egypt and other Arab countries, the NahdaMovement in Tunisia, the National Islamic Front of Sudan andthe Jabhat al-’Amal al-Islami of Jordan.The Jihadist MovementsJihadist movements (Arabic: al-harakat al-jihadiyya) areIslamist movements that have chosen the path of jihad andopenly declare and practise their commitment to ‘thestruggle’ in the here and now. All jihadist movements areIslamist, but not all Islamist parties and movements havechosen to follow all of the stages of jihadism. All Islamistparties acknowledge jihadism as a means of struggle but notall choose to practise it in all of its manifestations. Thejihadists represent one of the stages of Islamist movements.The Western ViewIn the Western view of political Islam, there are twoperspectives: One is broad and the other is narrow.16
  • 16. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean According to the broad perspective, political Islamencompasses all political parties operating within Muslim-majority countries south and east of the Mediterranean. Theonly exceptions would be those political parties thatexpressly espouse non-Islamic ideologies such as Marxismor Communism, or organisations that are non-Muslim, suchas the Christian parties in Lebanon or Iraq. In the broadperspective, all other movements and political entities,including liberal, socialist, patriotic, nationalist, traditionalIslamic and Islamist, would fall under ‘political Islam’ in thewider perspective. The narrow perspective on political Islam, Islamistmovements and political parties includes within politicalIslam the Salafi Sunni and Khomeinist Shia streams and thebroad range of Islamist groups in each country. But thisnarrow perspective of political Islam would also includejihadist Islamists or Islamists who have chosen the path ofviolent insurrectionist jihad. According to this view, there areno fundamental differences between Islamists in general andjihadists in particular except that, for the present time,Islamists are carrying on the struggle through politicalactivism. From both the broad and narrow perspective, the conceptof ‘political Islam’ does not accurately portray the nature ofpolitical parties and groups in Muslim majority countries. Tobegin with, political Islam is a Western notion that is basedon the assumption that there is a political Islam and a non-political Islam. In reality, those who claim an Islamic/Islamistaffiliation in their political platforms reject the concept ofpolitical Islam. Islamists argue that Islamic identity ismutakamila (or ‘comprehensive’ and ‘integrated’). TheMuslim Brotherhood (international) and Salafist groups 17
  • 17. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneangenerally espouse the motto, Islaam huwa al-hall (Islam isthe solution). They seek as their ultimate goal to establish afull-fledged Islamic system based on shariah law. They doreject the idea of pluralist systems that are only influencedby Islamic values and propound the view that the state itselfis Islamic inasmuch as medieval European states weretheologically ‘Christian’. Neither do other movements andparties in the majority-Muslim countries of theMediterranean basin identify themselves as part of politicalIslam. Those groups that define themselves as Marxistsreject religious affiliation, whereas groups that definethemselves as nationalists (Arabic: qawmiyeen) considerIslam to be one of the historical components of theirdoctrines but not the fundamental one. The problem with thenotion of ‘political Islam’ is the linguistic link createdbetween Islam as a religion and classical politics. TheIslamists claim that Islam cannot be divided into categories,and the other movements reject the notion of being affiliatedfundamentally with religion.The Appropriate Summa Divisio: a New CategorisationHow can European and Western political parties examinethe actors within ‘political Islam’ and arrive at a bettersumma divisio? In fact, we propose a new categorisationbased on individual ideology, self-perception, strategies andultimate goals. The most appropriate division lies betweenpolitical parties and movements in the Muslim-majoritycountries that wish to establish an Islamist state (not Islamicor Muslim) as their ultimate goal and those that do not. Inactuality, the distinction is between the Islamists (includingjihadists) and everyone else, both Muslims and minorities.18
  • 18. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean ‘Everyone else’ encompasses a broad spectrumcomparable to—but not identical with—the European, LatinAmerican and Indian spectrums; it includes Marxists,Socialists, Liberals, Conservatives, nationalists, traditionalists,Muslims etc. ‘Everyone else’, in fact, comprises the numericalmajority of civil societies’ organised politics. European and Western political parties need to focus onthe interests of the non-Islamists in the region whilefactoring in the smaller numbers of Islamists who haveachieved influence and power within the political culture.Identifying non-Islamist partners within the political culture ofmajority-Muslim Mediterranean countries is daunting formost European parties, and particularly challenging for thosethat are right of centre, such as the Christian Democrats.(Difficult does not mean impossible, as I will argue later inthis paper.) It is incumbent on European and Westernpolitical parties to understand, as a precondition tostrategising on engagement, the fundamental differences,strategies and historical visions that exist among politicalgroups in the Mediterranean Muslim-majority sphere.The Modern Evolution of Islamist MovementsThe Sunni Salafi and Shia Khomeinist are the two primary‘trees’ of Islamist movements and ideologies in the Muslimworld in general and the Mediterranean basin in particular.The two subscribe to different eschatological visions of afuture global Islamic state and disagree on both thehistorical interpretation of events and on proper methodsand geopolitical priorities. However, both broad movementsare intent on establishing a new regional order and bothhave spawned jihadist movements and organisations. The 19
  • 19. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanSalafists aim at the re-establishment of a Caliphate and theKhomeinists want to erect an Imamate. Both are having asignificant impact on European and Western nation statesand the agendas of democratic political parties. Thisinfluence includes changes in geopolitics through themodification of state structures and borders south and eastof the Mediterranean. It also includes changes insideEuropean countries by attempting to establish areas undershariah law, geographically or legally. It is crucial tounderstand their doctrines and history and, in particular,their modern evolution.The Salafi TreeThe Salafi branch includes the three largest Islamistideological families, among them the Wahhabis (SaudiArabia), the Muslim Brotherhood (initially from Egypt) and theDeobandis (Indian sub-continent). The oldest family ofSalafists, indeed of all Islamist schools of thought, isWahhabism, which was founded by Mohammad Abd-al-Wahhab in Najd Province in Arabia in the late eighteenthcentury. The Wahhabist movement had already acquiredincreasing influence before it allied itself with a local Bedouinconfederation of tribes led by al-Saud, which seized Hejaz1in the mid-1920s and established what could be deemed thefirst Wahhabi/Salafi regime in the region. Founded in March 1928 in Egypt under the leadership ofHassan al-Banna, the Ikhwan al-Muslimeen (MuslimBrotherhood) began as an urban Islamist movement. TheMuslim Brotherhood eventually became the primary Islamist1 A province in today’s Saudi Arabia with Mecca and Medina at its centre.20
  • 20. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanmovement in Egypt before it created branches in every Arabcountry and beyond. The Deobandi movement began, as its name suggests, inDeoband, India, in May 1866 and influenced the thinking ofIslamists on the Indian subcontinent and the rest of SouthAsia. The two main ideological Salafist families that havemost impacted Islamist movements in the Mediterraneanregion have been and remain the MB/Wahhabi movementsand the various offshoots and mutations that have developedsince the 1920s. The relationship of the Muslim Brotherhood with Arabregimes has been a story of struggle and adaptation. TheMuslim Brotherhood and its affiliates have clashed with thegovernments of Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and Jordan overimposing higher levels of shariah and transforming thesecountries into Islamist states and obstructing the peaceprocess with Israel. They have also been at odds with SaudiArabia for more than 50 years. Decades of working inopposition to Arab regimes has taught the MuslimBrotherhood how to run underground organisations andpenetrate institutions. Publicly disseminated MuslimBrotherhood literature and confiscated documents have madeclear what this movement’s long-term strategic goals are.Muslim Brotherhood activities are based on the principle ofistrategiyya al-marhaliyya (transitional strategies) or theacquisition of as much political power as possible by politicalmeans. Their strategic communications and propaganda toolshave historically mutated and adapted to regional and localcircumstances. The overarching message of the MuslimBrotherhood, however, has remained constant while theorganisation’s pragmatic narratives have been adaptable to thespecific circumstances of the countries in which they operate. 21
  • 21. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean The Wahhabi school has been able to retain its powerinside the Saudi Kingdom while it extends its doctrinalinfluence throughout the Arab world, North Africa and theLevant. With no shortage of petrodollars at their disposal,Wahhabi clerical circles have been able to support, and inmany cases direct, the policy of religious, social, socio-cultural, socioeconomic, education and research institutionsin the Middle East and North Africa. Combined MuslimBrotherhood and Wahhabi organisational and financialbacking have provided Salafi Islamist movements andorganisations throughout this region with abundant support,enabling the Islamists to survive and expand throughout thetwentieth and early twenty-first centuries. The Salafi Islamistnetwork, as the ideological ‘mother ship’, has spawnednumerous types of movements and political parties, fromofficial Muslim Brotherhood branches and independentpolitical parties to parties which dominate the politicalregimes in their countries. Please see Table 1 and Table 2.Table 1. First-generation Muslim Brotherhood/Wahhabi offshootsCountry of Origin OffshootEgypt Muslim Brotherhood [Egyptian]Sudan National Islamic FrontAlgeria Front de Salut IslamiqueLebanon Harakat Tawhid Islami22
  • 22. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean The second-generation jihadi movements began within theMB/Wahhabi network before they struck out on their own.Table 2. Second-generation Muslim Brotherhood/Wahhabi offshootsCountry of Origin Spawning Organisation OffshootEgypt Muslim Brotherhood Jama’a Islamiyya, Islamic JihadAlgeria Muslim Brotherhood Groupement Islamique Armes, Group Salafiste de Combat et de DawaLebanon Muslim Brotherhood Harakat Tawhid, later transformed to al Jama’a al-IslamiyyaPalestine Muslim Brotherhood Hamas, Palestinian JihadTurkey Muslim Brotherhood Rafah Party, Najmuddine ErbakanThe Shia Khomeinist TreeIn 1979, the Khomeini revolution in Iran installed an Islamicrepublic (Jumhuriyya Islamiyya) dominated by a Shiafundamentalist Islamist movement, ‘Iran’s Hezbollah’. TheIslamist regime in Tehran developed the Sepah Pasdaran, orIslamic Revolutionary Guard, a political-military organisation,to defend the revolution. In 1981 the Pasdaran was taskedwith helping Khomeinist-loyal militants in the Lebanese Shiacommunity to launch Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militantmilitary organisation. Hezbollah evolved into the dominantShia Islamist organisation in Lebanon and, in cooperationwith the Iranian Pasdaran, extended Shia Islam’s influencewithin the Arabic-speaking Shia communities in easternSaudi Arabia, northern Yemen and central and southern Iraq.Other Shia Islamists in Iraq have been the Dawa Party, the 23
  • 23. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanSCIRI Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq andthe Mahdi Army.Islamists and the Cold WarDuring the Cold War years between 1947 and 1990, SunniIslamists (Salafists) adopted a common global strategy onthe one hand and a variety of national policies on the other.The Muslim Brotherhood introduced different adaptationscountry by country within the various regimes’ domesticpolicy institutions. In Syria, the Muslim Brotherhoodopposed the Baathist Party, launching a military uprisingagainst the Alawi-based Assad regime in the early 1980s. InEgypt, the Muslim Brotherhood oscillated betweensubversion from outside the country and discrete internalopposition, working within the Nasser, Sadat and Mubarakpresidential administrations. In Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia,the Muslim Brotherhood also adopted strategies of politicalsurvival while in Iraq, Algeria and Southern Yemen theyopposed pro-Soviet leaders. Well entrenched inside theSaudi Kingdom, Wahhabis influenced the Saudi governmentin their regional and international relationships. Beyond theirlocal and national survival agendas, Muslim Brotherhoodand Wahhabi Islamists found common ground andcooperated on the following strategic initiatives: 1. the fight against Communists and Soviet influence, 2. an interim alliance with the West against the Soviet atheists, 3. the undermining of secular Arab regimes, and24
  • 24. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean 4. the spreading of Islamist ideology while East and West were enmeshed in the Cold War. During the decades of the Cold War, the Islamist Salafistswaged an ideological campaign in the region and preparedthe ground for the expansion of political movements andparties that eventually sprang up from the same roots. Whenthe Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, the Islamistsgave their support to the mujahedin resistance, leadingmany Salafist militants to volunteer for the fight. Eventually, anew international breed of jihadi emerged from the globalanti-Soviet Afghan Salafist jihad. The anti-Communist jihadirhetoric was based on the Islamists’ world view, it was not arallying cry to support Western causes. Also in 1979, the Islamist Khomeinists seized power inIran and positioned themselves against the US and, to alesser degree, the Soviet Union. Iran’s Islamist regimeproceeded to establish its own system of alliances in theregion separate from the Salafist Islamists.The Islamist-Jihadist Debates of the 1990sAt a conference in Khartoum in 1992, the collapse of theSoviet Union, signs of weakness within Arab secular regimesand the belief that jihadi forces had defeated Communism inthe battlefields of Afghanistan led Sunni Salafist movementsto conclude that the geopolitical tectonic plates had shiftedin their favour and an updated Islamist strategy was needed.From late 1992 to early 1993, proponents of the region’s twomajor Islamist streams were invited to Khartoum by NationalIslamic Front founder Dr Hassan Turabi for a series ofmeetings to discuss next steps. Proponents of both the 25
  • 25. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanjihadist Islamist and the jihadist Salafist, or ‘jihad is a long-term struggle’, views convened in Khartoum for a series ofdeliberations that would prove to be a defining moment forboth, culminating in a new post–Cold War global Islamiststrategy. The jihadist debate in Khartoum spawned two mainapproaches to Islamist action in the region. The more‘Trotskyist’2 jihadist Islamist stream (later affiliated with Osamabin Laden’s al-Qaeda) elected to wage jihad against everynation not under the banner of Islam, including the US. Theirmore deliberative counterparts in the ‘long-term struggle’camp, which included classical Salafists, Wahhabis (MB) andtheir allies, opted for political engagement and legal advocacyto effect societal transformation until socio-political conditionswere conducive to the establishment of Islamist-led states. The Wahhabi–Muslim Brotherhood strategy, whichespouses ideological and political expansion until a balanceof power is achieved with so-called infidel forces, arguesthat several goals must be achieved in preparation for theadvent of a Caliphate, namely: 1. reinforced military and technological capabilities within the Ummah (the global Muslim community); 2. greater influence in international forums; 3. broader and deeper influence in the West; 4. support for ‘jihadist Islamist struggles’ that are not perceived (by, for example, the Khartoum Conference) as2 In the sense of wanting a ‘revolution’ at once across the globe.26
  • 26. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean international terrorism or as aimed at Western or American interests (e.g. the struggles in the Southern Philippines, Sudan, Chechnya, Kashmir and Palestine); and 5. the use of regional and international Islamic organisations, such as the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), to advance Islamist ideology. The doctrine of ‘direct jihad’ argues that the time formilitary struggle (including terrorism) is now, an argumentsupported by the Afghan jihad’s success against the Sovietmilitary. The jihadist Salafists (Arabic: al-jihad’iyyun al-Salafiyya) distinguished themselves from the jihadistIslamists, not on the basis of ideology or long-termobjectives, but on the basis of strategy. The jihadists’struggle involved urban and international terrorism while theIslamists pursued political Islamisation. Despite fundamentaldifferences, the lines of demarcation between the twoapproaches are not always clear or rigid. The amalgam of Islamist streams that emerged in thepost–Cold War era was vast and complex. The primarydivision was between Salafists and Khomeinists. TheSalafists separated into long-term (non-militarised) Islamistmovements and the terror jihadists. Differences andcommonalities in the Islamist web need to be understood byEuropean and Western political parties.Political Islamist Movements with Long-TermStrategic GoalsThe original Muslim Brotherhood and classical Wahhabischools of thought have continued to inspire numerous 27
  • 27. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneangroups in the Mediterranean basin. Countries in the Arabworld and greater Middle East, however, are home to avariety of different types of Islamist movements and parties.The following list illustrates this point:Morocco. The Party for Justice and Development (PJD)emerged in 1997 out of the al-Tawhid wa’l-Islah Islamistmovement that began in the 1960s. Since 2002, the grouphas become more involved in Morocco’s social andeconomic problems and less theologically and ideologicallyoriented. In the 2007 Moroccan elections, PJD garnered 14%of the popular vote and captured 46 seats in Morocco’snational Parliament, second in number only to the Istiqlal orIndependence Party. The PJD adopted a policy of non-aggression towards the Moroccan monarchy, electing insteadto pursue a strategy of adapting to the surrounding socio-political environment and embedding itself in Moroccansociety. Nevertheless, the PJD’s ideological agenda remainsloyal to the long-term Islamist agenda.Algeria. The Islamic Renaissance Movement (IRM; Arabic:harakat al-nahda al-Islamiyya) is perceived as a moderateIslamist party. Abdallah Djaballah founded the IRM in 1990and served under its auspices in the Algerian Parliament.Djaballah was later expelled from the IRM and founded theNational Reform Movement (NRM) in 1999. The IRM partywon only three seats in the 2007 parliamentary elections.Abdallah Djaballah eventually left the NRM party over internalconflict.The Movement of Society for Peace (MSP) was founded in1990 under the name Movement for an Islamic Society(formerly called Hamas). The MSP supported thegovernment’s decision to end elections in 1992 and has28
  • 28. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancriticised terrorist acts by the Islamic Salvation Army (FIS).The MSP captured 52 seats in the 2007 Algerianparliamentary elections.Tunisia. There are no legally recognised Islamist politicalparties in Tunisia.Jordan. The Islamic Action Front (IAF) was founded on 7December 1992 with an initial membership of 350 throughthe efforts of Ahmed Azaida, Dr Ishaq Farhan and Dr AbdulLatif Arabiyat. Abdul Latif Arabiyat is the group’s currentSecretary-General. The IAF is the political wing of theMuslim Brotherhood in Jordan. The group won only six seatsin the House of Deputies in the 2007 parliamentaryelections, the group’s lowest showing after the resumptionof parliamentary life in Jordan in 1989.Yemen. The Islah Party—also known as the YemeniCongregation for Reform—was founded in 1990 and is partof the Joint Meeting Parties opposition coalition. The partywon 46 seats in the parliamentary elections of 2003. The Al-Haqq or Truth Party is a Zaydi Islamist party. Founded in1990, Al-Haqq is part of the Joint Meeting Parties oppositioncoalition. Al-Haqq has not won a seat in the YemeniParliament since 1993.Kuwait. Political parties are illegal in Kuwait but there aremajor political groups including the Islamic ConstitutionalMovement (HADAS). Inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood,HADAS has been pushing for the legalisation of politicalparties since its formation in 1991. The Islamic SalafiAlliance is affiliated with the Heritage Revival Society; thegroup believes in enforcing shariah law in Kuwait. TheNational Islamic Alliance is a hard-line political party in and 29
  • 29. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanthe main Islamist group for Shiites in Kuwait. The group isalleged to have links with Iran and Hezbollah. Two of the 50elected members of the National Assembly of Kuwait belongto the National Islamic Alliance.Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood organisation is banned inEgypt; however, many of its members run as independentcandidates for seats in the Egyptian Parliament. In the 2005Egyptian parliamentary elections, the group is reported tohave won one out of five seats by running its members asindependent candidates.Libya. There are no formal political parties in Libya. TheLiyan Islamic Group (Al-Jama’a al-Islamiya al-Libyia) is thelocal wing of the Muslim Brotherhood in Libya.Syria. There are no licensed Islamist parties in Syria. TheMuslim Brotherhood was established in Syria in the 1940s.After the Baathist Party took over in 1963, the group wasbanned. When it tried to rebel in 1982, the military crushedthe group at Hama. Since then, the Syrian government hascontinued to suppress the group.Sudan. The National Islamic Front is the MuslimBrotherhood party in Sudan. It has ruled Sudan since itsmembers overthrew the Sudanese government in 1989.Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir is the party’s leader.Founded in 1945, the Ummah Party was the largest politicalparty in Sudan before the Bashir coup d’état and is thepolitical wing of the Islamic Ansar Movement.Post-Saddam Iraq. Shia parties include the IslamicSupreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) (previously known as theSupreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq or SCIRI).30
  • 30. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanIt was founded in 1982 during the Iran–Iraq war. The grouphas ties to Iran. Ammar al-Hakim is the group’s currentleader. The group took 7.7% of the vote in the 2009provincial elections. It has been a member of the IraqiNational Alliance since that group’s founding in 2005. TheAl-Sadr movement is led by Muqtada al-Sadr and is thepolitical wing of al-Sadr’s armed militia. After his militia wasdefeated by the Iraqi army in Basra in 2008, al-Sadrretreated from public life. Among the Sunni parties are theIraqi Islamic Party (IIP). Led by current Vice-President Tariqal-Hashimi, the group had been a part of an alliance with theal-Tawafuq, or the Accord Front, but has since fallen apart.Answering Europe’s QuestionsFrom this summary of (what is perceived as) ‘political Islam’in Europe and the West let us try to answer our questions:Question 1: Why has political Islam become so important?This question has a two-part answer. First, some expertadvice provided to European decision-makers presentedpolitical Islam as a large monolithic group of Islamicmovements and parties comprising a majority of politicallyactive citizens in Muslim-majority countries in theMediterranean region, hence coining it as ‘political Islam’instead of Islamic and Islamist parties and movements. As aresult, the prevailing European (and Western, to a degree)perspective, regarded as incontrovertible, views politicalIslam as determinative of future political movements in theregion. Our research reveals, however, that political Islam as 31
  • 31. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneana movement is not organised around a single unifyingpolitical or ideological principle. Rather, regional politicalparties that identify themselves as religiously orsociologically Islamic are broadly diverse and in most caseshold opposing views. While it is correct to assume that theseIslamic political parties will have a significant impact on theregion’s social, political and economic future, it is notaccurate to characterise political Islam as a monolithic groupof movements, ideological uniformity among Islamistpolitical parties notwithstanding. Second, unlike most other political forces in the region,the Islamist movements and parties are a tightly organisednetwork that coordinates activities on a regional level. Thisstrongly suggests that Islamist movements and parties in theregion possess the ability, now, to organise as a regionalpolitical alliance for the purpose of pursuing transnationalstrategies such as coordinating campaigns of protest acrossthe continent, indoctrination processes and unifiedpressures on Western and European foreign policiesregarding specific issues such as the Arab Israeli conflict,Afghanistan and Islamophobia. Currently the Islamists are,relative to other political forces in the region, the best-coordinated force within political Islam. In summary, European political parties must understandthe advantageous position held by Islamist political groupsin the region as well as the significant influence they wieldwith respect to Euro-Mediterranean political initiatives andrelations.32
  • 32. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanQuestion 2: What information do we need in order tohave an accurate understanding of political Islam?We must understand the following: 1. Political Islam is not a socially or politically monolithic group of movements, but a diverse association of groups with differing views. 2. Political Islam is embroiled in its own intellectual and political debate. Therefore, descriptions that assume ideological and political uniformity are unreliable. This view should be replaced with analyses of the various types of political movements and parties in the region. 3. The globally networked Islamist movement is ‘the system’ we must study and engage. European and Western political parties must be aware of the Islamist ‘nebula’ that encompasses the Islamists as well as other forces, and subsystems within the global Islamist nebula, with its countless branches and offshoots.Question 3: What are the implications of this Islamistnebula’s influence in the domestic politics of countriesin the European–Mediterranean basin, and for the EUand US?The rise of the Islamist movements in Arab and Muslim-majority countries in the Mediterranean region has a directimpact on the domestic politics of the European Union, theUS, Canada, Australia and other liberal democracies. 33
  • 33. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Islamist movements enter European and other Westernsocieties through immigrants who, once settled, establishindoctrination and recruitment bases in their host societies. The most pressing concern for European and Westerndemocracies is the ideological impact the most radicalIslamists (i.e., the jihadists) are having within their hostsocieties through the use of terrorism. Islamist ideology is themechanism whereby jihadists extend their bases in the West. The Islamists are among the most active, well-organisedand focused emigrant-producing organisations in southernand eastern Mediterranean countries. Dissident, liberal, democratic and secular groups that arealso relocating to the West represent the Islamists’ strongestopposition. The Muslim democrats and the Islamistsencounter each other within Western democracies as well. Ironically, the number of Islamists in the West is growingrapidly as they indoctrinate others in Islamist ideology, whichis spreading at an equally brisk pace. The number ofjihadists among the Islamists is exploding in Westerncountries, and dissident, liberal Muslim voices are becomingmore outspoken in their opposition to it as a result.Question 4: What are the obstacles and opportunities forWestern political groups as they seek to enter intodialogue and establish closer ties with parties andmovements under the umbrella of political Islam thathave shown a commitment to Western liberaldemocratic ideals? And, assuming they exist, how do‘moderate’ elements within political Islam relate to34
  • 34. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanWestern liberal democratic principles and how willing willthey be to engage in a dialogue with European andAmerican political parties?The key issue here is whether Western political leaders andorganisers understand the diversity of political and ideologicalopinion that exists within political Islam. Assuming that allpolitical forces and movements that appear ‘Islamic’ shouldbe lumped together under the banner of political Islam andaddressed as one collective would lead to certain failure.Political Islam as it is typically thought of in the Westernpolitical community does not exist. Instead, there are multiplepolitical forces within Muslim-majority countries which need tobe engaged separately. If Western political parties can agreeon a proper understanding of political Islam, they can thendevise an effective strategy of engagement withdemocratically inclined Muslim political forces in the region. Again, the greatest obstacle to effective Euro-Mediterraneanpolitical dialogue and partnerships in the region is theassumption of homogeneity within the Muslim political ethos.Question 5: Can we identify and clearly define groupswithin political Islam that are moderate? Political parties and movements within political Islambelong to one of the following three streams: 1. Muslim/Islamic (but not Islamist) parties, 2. Islamist movements, and 3. Muslim reformist networks. 35
  • 35. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Moderate Islamic political parties and movements are, forthe most part, from streams 1 and 2. They formallyrecognise international law, international organisations andhuman rights. Islamist groups, on the other hand, are able toadopt a ‘moderate’ position while they maintain theirfundamentalist agenda. A comprehensive map ofmovements and parties can be established using thesedistinctions.Question 6: Do the ‘moderate’ movements and partiesrepresent the seeds of a generally democratic movementwithin the politics of their countries and of the region?There are three types of moderates: 1. those who pretend to be moderate only until they achieve their strategic goals, 2. those who are moderates because they wish to maintain the status quo but not move towards reform, and 3. the reformists.Question 7: Does the current ideological profile ofmoderate Islamic political groups exhibit any of thecharacteristics of Christian Democracy as it iscommonly understood among Western political groups?If so, what are these characteristics?Non-jihadist Islamist movements are often compared withfundamentalist Christian groups who ostensibly seek toestablish a theocratic government, but only through36
  • 36. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanlegitimate political activism. The difference, however, is thatIslamists can mutate into jihadists at the discretion of theirleaders and strategists. The traditional Islamic/Muslim parties are similar in somerespects to Christian Democrats, but they are not identical.The Islamic political agenda is to the right of EuropeanChristian Democrats’ agenda. While ‘Muslim Democrats’ may be comparable in somerespects to various European Christian Democratic streams,they may also incorporate elements that are left of centre.Question 8: If parallels exist between moderate Muslimand Christian Democratic perspectives and if they aresignificant, can they be used to lay a foundation forEuropean centre-right and Christian Democratic partiesto enter into dialogue and cooperate with similar partiesand movements within political Islam?The natural and immediate partners of the European centre-right, the Christian Democratic and People’s parties are theliberal democrats in the region. The next category, closest tothe European centre-right, are the traditional Muslim parties,if they will embrace a secular understanding with respect tothe separation of religion and state. The most distantcategory is the Islamists. Thus European engagement withthese three streams must be based on three tailoredapproaches. 37
  • 37. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanRecommendationsThere are no ‘Muslim Democratic’ parties in theMediterranean basin that correspond to European ChristianDemocratic or centre-right movements such as exist in LatinAmerica and that existed in Eastern Europe after the SovietUnion’s collapse. But since there are political forces,networks, cadres, intellectuals, legislators and politicians inthe Mediterranean Muslim-majority countries who share thefundamental views of their European counterparts, ourstrategic recommendations are as follows: 1. Give priority to partnerships with networks of dispersed entities and cadres in the region that embrace the greatest number of liberal democratic values and long- term goals, with a view to building national organisations that will partner with Christian Democratic parties, People’s parties and centre-right groups in Europe and their counterparts in other Western democracies. Choose to partner with groups whose values are most convergent with democratic values, even if those groups are the weakest, least organised and least influential at the present time. 2. Seek to establish dialogue with Muslim/Islamic traditional parties and politicians for the purpose of encouraging them to align more closely with international values and principles, in order to legitimate the formation of partnerships in the near future. 3. Invite non-jihadist Islamist groups to participate in forums where salient issues are debated and discussed in hopes that these forums will generate interest in gradual reform and change in their platforms, and will38
  • 38. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean promote interest in wider debates within these societies on democracy and pluralism.4. Devise different engagement strategies for the three major streams within political Islam. Naturally, priority must be given to partnerships with like-minded Muslim democrats, while at the same time pursuing robust engagement with more traditional Islamic and non- jihadist Islamist movements. 39
  • 39. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanLorenzo VidinoPolitical Islam in EuropeSummaryIn most European countries, active organisations exist thattrace their historical and ideological roots to the MuslimBrotherhood and other participationist, non-violent Islamistmovements, although these organisations act, for the mostpart, independently of those movements. Thanks to theiractivism, ample resources and political skills, and despitetheir small numbers, these organisations have oftenachieved a disproportionate influence, both within theMuslim community and in their interactions withgovernments and media. They are aided in this by the poororganisation of competing Islamic trends. The first part ofthis report seeks to provide a general understanding of thehistory, evolution, methods and aims of these networks,which the report terms New European Brothers (NEBs). Thesecond part of the report analyses the influence of the NEBson voting patterns within European Muslim communities andoutlines possible scenarios of a hypothetical engagement ofNEB networks by European centre-right parties.IntroductionPolitical Islam, or Islamism, can be described as anideology that rejects the view that Islam should be simply afaith and an individual matter, and instead promotes aninterpretation that encompasses religion and politics,presenting Islam as a complete system (nizam Islami)regulating all aspects of private and public life. The40
  • 40. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanheterogeneity of the movement, which arguably embracesgroups that employ horrifying violence to further amillenarian view of society as well as modern politicalorganisations that participate in the democratic process andpublicly reject violence, has made political Islam particularlydifficult to grapple with. Clearly no single assessment canbe applied to all, and any analysis must take intoconsideration the philosophical and tactical nuances thatcharacterise such diverse forces. Over the past few years, most of the debate related topolitical Islam in Europe has focused on the threat ofterrorism and the issue of radicalisation among segments ofthe European Muslim population. While these problems areunquestionably extremely important, an analysis focusingsolely on the security aspects of a phenomenon as complex,diverse and multilayered as political Islam in Europe isinevitably incomplete. With a necessary oversimplification, itis possible to divide Islamist tendencies in Europe intogroups of violent rejectionists, non-violent rejectionists andparticipationists. Violent rejectionists are individuals andnetworks that, often linked to or inspired by al-Qaeda, rejectparticipation in the democratic system and use violence toadvance their goals. Non-violent rejectionists are groups,such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, that openly reject the legitimacy ofany system of government not based on Islamic law(shariah), but do not, at least publicly and openly, advocatethe use of violence to further their goals. While often the preferred subjects of headlines and publicdebates because of their violent actions and incendiarypositions, violent and non-violent rejectionists represent astatistically insignificant force within European Muslimcommunities. Their appeal to even a small number of 41
  • 41. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanEuropean Muslims is a disturbing phenomenon that, as aresult of its impact on security and social cohesion, shouldbe studied and addressed with the appropriate repressiveand preventive means. Yet in the grand scheme of things,rejectionist Islamist groups hardly constitute a massmovement, and their ideas influence only a small niche ofEuropean Muslims. At the same time, little attention has been devoted to athird sub-group of what can be considered political Islam inEurope: participationists. Participationist Islamists are thoseindividuals and groups that adhere to the strand of Islamismthat advocates interaction with society at large, both at themicro-level through grassroots activism, and at the macro-level through participation in public life and the democraticprocess. In Europe, as in the rest of the world, thesenetworks are significantly more powerful in terms ofnumbers, funds, appeal to fellow Muslims and politicalcapabilities than those of the rejectionists. Yet despite theirrelevance, they are often less studied and talked about. Thispaper seeks to provide a modest contribution to overcomingthis important knowledge deficit. The presence of participationist Islamists has particularrelevance for European policymakers. Over the past 20years, once it was commonly understood that a significantnumber of Muslim immigrants had created a stable presenceon the Continent, most governments started feeling theneed to identify individuals and organisations that could berepresentatives of these new communities. Europeangovernments need to engage their Muslim communities forvarious reasons. Policymakers have therefore sought acounterpart in their efforts to extend the legal and financialbenefits long granted to other religious groups, such as42
  • 42. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanoffering religious teachings in public schools, building placesof worship or appointing chaplains in public institutions. Butthe issue of finding representative and reliable interlocutorswithin the Muslim community has become more urgent inthe post–9/11 environment, where integration and securityissues have become a priority. It is now widely understoodamong European policymakers that it is crucial for thesecurity of their countries to improve relations with their ownMuslim population, and that to do so they must findcounterparts who not only represent the Muslim communitybut who can also help governments decrease radicalisationand alienation within it. The task of finding these partners has been anexcruciatingly difficult one. Most Muslim communities,internally divided by ethnicity, national origin, language, sectand political opinions, have been unable to produce acommon leadership. Most governments have foundthemselves dealing with a vast array of organisations whoviciously fight each other to become the anointedrepresentatives of the Muslim community and who areunwilling to share the position with their competitors. As onecommentator stated, ‘When government officials look for aresponsible interlocutor, they find that the Muslim voice is acacophony rather than a chorus’ (Klausen 2005, 81) The majority of Muslim organisations operating in Europeis not Islamist, but rather reflects the many splits thatcharacterise the community. Some are secularist, and oftenstaunchly so. Others represent minority religious trends, suchas the Shiites or Ahmadiya, or sub-currents of Sunni Islam.Many unite Muslim communities on the basis of theirethnicity. The dynamics of the relationships among thesediverse organisations are complex, ranging from occasional 43
  • 43. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancooperation to outright confrontation, though competition isthe normal state of affairs. Europe is a new religious market forIslam, and organisations vie for influence both within theMuslim community and with European establishments. Thispanorama is ever-changing, as the importance and visibility ofthe organisations rise and fall, reflecting not necessarily thenumbers of their adherents but rather the means they possess. Indeed, the vast majority of European Muslims are notconnected to any Muslim organisation. Separate studiesconducted in several countries have consistently found thatno more than 10–12% of Muslims are actively engaged in oreven belong to Muslim organisations, indicating the presenceof a silent majority who do not feel represented by any of thecompeting organisations (Maréchal 2003, 100; Godard andTaussig 2007, 35).3 Moreover, while exact numbers andpercentages cannot be determined, studies suggest thatmost European Muslims can be categorised as ‘cultural’ or‘sociological’ Muslims (Maréchal 2003, 9–10). SociologicalMuslims interpret their faith much as do most contemporaryEuropeans: they view their religious affiliation as purelycultural, a family tradition and a source of identity, but not asthe centre of their lives. Some might be agnostics; otherscould be indifferent to religion or simply accept that Islamshapes some rites of passage (such as marriage) withoutexerting a general influence on their life. But many religious and practising Muslims also remainindependent of religious organisations. Many European3 A 2007 survey conducted in Denmark, for example, showed that only 5% of DanishMuslims went to a mosque or spoke with an imam at least once a month, and half seldom ornever participated in religious ceremonies (Nilsson 2007). A 2008 survey of young DutchMuslims of Moroccan descent revealed that 72% rarely or never visited a mosque(EenVandaag 2008).44
  • 44. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanMuslims, particularly among the second and thirdgeneration, have shaped new, individualised ways of livingtheir faith; these hybrid forms often merge traditionalelements of Islam with aspects of European life and arecompletely independent of any structure (Cesari 2001, 41–2). Others practise more orthodox forms of Islam and mightregularly frequent a mosque of their choosing, but they donot recognise themselves in any of the Muslim organisationsoperating in Europe. Given this ultra-fragmented environment, the two types oforganisations that in most countries compete for the statusof main government interlocutors are those backed byMuslim-majority governments and those linked toparticipationist Islamist movements. Neither has the generalsupport that would even remotely qualify them to serve assole representatives of the larger Muslim community; yetthey alone have the organisational apparatus and controlover a network of mosques that give them at least theappearance of possessing a nationwide following in mostEuropean countries. Other organisations, in fact, tend to besmall, underfunded and operate only at the local level; theyare therefore often unable to compete with the moresophisticated structures created by ‘embassy Islam’ andparticipationist Islamist movements. ‘Embassy Islam’ is the term often used to describe thenetworks established by the governments of a handful ofMuslim-majority countries that have seen millions of theircitizens migrate to Europe. Eager for political, financial andsecurity reasons to maintain control over their expatriatecommunities, the governments of Turkey, Algeria, Moroccoand, to a lesser extent, Tunisia and Egypt, have createdinstitutions to serve the cultural, educational and religious 45
  • 45. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanneeds of their citizens living in Europe. Conceived (andperceived) as the longae manus of the government, suchinstitutions generally preach what is widely considered amoderate interpretation of Islam and attempt to reinforce thebelievers’ links to their homeland. For many years several European governments haveformally or informally relied on ‘embassy Islam’ for variousaspects of the governance of Islam in Europe, from Islamiceducation in public schools to the administration ofmosques. But as European governments have been seekingto foster a European form of Islam over the past few years,the idea of relying on such organisations has increasinglyseemed inappropriate. Many of today’s European Muslimsare European citizens: how could they be represented by theemployees or the ambassadors of a foreign country? Eventhough the moderate and often secularist interpretation ofIslam generally espoused by these organisations isappreciated by most European governments, there is agrowing understanding that only authentically EuropeanMuslim organisations that act independently of foreigninfluences can become valid representatives of Europe’sMuslim communities. This intrinsic unsuitability of ‘embassy Islam’ has ledmany policymakers to turn their attention to the othercandidates. Given the deficiencies of their competition,participationist Islamist organisations are by default the maincandidates to become the privileged interlocutors ofEuropean governments. Understanding their history, natureand aims is therefore crucial.46
  • 46. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanThe New European BrothersA terminological preface is necessary before proceeding. Inwhat follows, I will refer to the participationist Islamistorganisations operating in Europe as New EuropeanBrothers (NEBs). The term requires some clarification. Theword ‘Brothers’ indicates that these networks haveconnections to the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s oldestand most influential Islamist group. This in no way indicatesthat the organisations operating in Europe are linked by adependant relationship to the Egyptian or any other MiddleEastern branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. ‘New’ indicatesthat these networks subscribe to the gradualist,participationist line adopted by the Egyptian MuslimBrotherhood around the 1970s, when it substitutedparticipation in the secular regime for violent confrontationwith it, seeking to slowly change society from the ground uprather than seizing power through violence. Finally, the word‘European’ encapsulates the geographic peculiarity ofparticipationist Islamist organisations operating in Europe.While drawing significantly from the intellectual heritage ofthe Muslim Brotherhood, these networks operateindependently, having adapted their goals and modusoperandi to their particular environment, understanding thatblindly adopting aims and tactics crafted for Muslim-majoritysocieties makes little sense. In essence, there is no formal Muslim Brotherhoodorganisation in any European country. It is also technicallyincorrect to speak of organisations such as the Union ofIslamic Organizations in France (UOIF), the Islamic Society ofGermany (IGD) or the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) asMuslim Brotherhood organisations and their leaders asmembers of the Muslim Brotherhood. Yet taking a non- 47
  • 47. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanformalistic approach, it is fair to say that in virtually allEuropean countries there operate organisations and networkswith historical, financial, personal, organisational andideological ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamicrevivalist movements worldwide (Jamaat-e-Islami and MilliGörüs¸ for the South Asian and Turkish diaspora communities,respectively). These are what I refer to as NEBs. While mostNEB organisations are united under a pan-European umbrellaorganisation, the Brussels-based Federation of Islamic inOrganizations in Europe (FIOE), each operates independently,in constant contact with parallel organisations in otherEuropean countries and in the Middle East, but completelyfree to choose tactics and aims according to thecircumstances of the country in which it operates. Following a similar pattern in most European countries,NEB organisations started as small groups in the 1960s and1970s, the fruit of the interaction between a small number ofsenior Islamist activists who had sought refuge in variousEuropean countries from the persecution they faced in theirhome countries and a larger number of Muslim studentsstudying at European universities. The interaction of thesecharismatic refugees with many enthusiastic newsympathisers bore unforeseeable fruit. By the late 1970s thefounders of such groups who had decided to stay in Europeunderstood the necessity of creating new organisations thatcould fulfil the needs of the growing Muslim population ofEurope, and the small organisations they had formed soondeveloped beyond their most optimistic expectations.Thanks to their remarkable activism and abundant fundingcoming mainly from the Arab Gulf, they steadily foundedscores of organisations, establishing branches for youth andwomen, magazines, propaganda committees, schools andthink tanks.48
  • 48. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean Today the NEBs have become one of the Continent’smost influential Islamic movements. Thanks to acombination of unrelenting activism, unrivalled access tofunds, superior political mobilisation skills, remarkableflexibility in changing their positions according to thecircumstances, and the poor organisation of competingtrends, NEB networks have grown exponentially. Althoughtheir membership has remained fairly small, in mostEuropean countries the NEBs have shown an enormousability to monopolise the Islamic discourse and overshadowmost other Muslim organisations. Moreover, the NEBs have positioned themselves at theforefront of the competition to be the main interlocutors ofEuropean establishments. Although circumstances vary fromcountry to country, today, when European governments ormedia attempt to reach out to the Muslim community, it isquite likely that many, if not all, of the organisations orindividuals that are engaged belong, albeit with varyingdegrees of intensity, to the NEB network. It is not uncommonto find exceptions to this situation, and things have changedin various countries over the past few years, but overall, it isapparent that no other Islamic movement has the visibility,political influence and access to European elites that theNEBs have obtained over the past 20 years. In light of thesefacts, it is fair to portray the competition for therepresentation of European Muslims as having produced therelative victory of a well-organised minority over other, less-organised minorities for the voice of a silent majority. 49
  • 49. Political Islam in Europe and the MediterraneanThe NEBs’ GoalsThe independence under which NEB organisations operateentails that each chooses its goals and priorities accordingto the circumstances. Despite these differences fromcountry to country, it is nevertheless possible to identifysome goals that are common to all NEB organisations.Foremost among them is the preservation (or creation) of astrong Islamic identity among European Muslims. The NEBs,like any religiously conservative movement, are concernedwith maintaining the morality and piety of their communities,fearing that they could lose their Islamic identity and beabsorbed by the non-Muslim majority. The NEBs thereforesee themselves as the guides of European Muslimcommunities, self-appointed guardians of Islamic orthodoxyspreading their interpretation of Islam through their capillarynetworks. Yet unlike the Salafists and other Islamic trendsthat similarly seek to strengthen the Islamic identity ofEuropean Muslims, the NEBs do not advocate isolation frommainstream society. On the contrary, they urge Muslims toactively participate in it. While concerned about the loss of Islamic identity suchparticipation might trigger, the NEBs at the same time seethe historically unprecedented large Muslim presence inWestern Europe as an opportunity for themselves to ‘playthe role of the missing leadership of the Muslim nation withall its trends and groups’ (al Qaradawi 2000). While inMuslim countries Islamist movements can exercise onlylimited influence, as they are kept in check by regimes thatoppose them, no such obstacle prevents them fromoperating in the free and democratic West. Moreover, if theguarantees of Western political systems allow the NEBs tocarry out their activities freely, the poor organisation of50
  • 50. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancompeting Islamic currents operating in Europe puts them inan advantageous position. Finally, the masses of Muslimexpatriates, disoriented by the impact of life in non-Muslimsocieties and often lacking the most basic knowledge aboutIslam, represent an ideally receptive audience for themovement’s propaganda. The combination of these factorsleads the NEB leadership to conclude that the Islamistmovement can and should play a key role in the life ofEuropean Muslims. Europe is a sort of Islamic tabula rasa, avirgin territory where the socio-religious structures and limitsof the Muslim world do not exist and where Islamists canovercome competition with their unparalleled means andorganisational skills. Parallel to their aim of becoming the leaders of EuropeanMuslim communities is the NEBs’ desire to become theofficial or de facto representatives of the Muslim communityof their countries when dealing with Europeanestablishments, the go-to organisations for elites seeking toengage European Muslims. The reasons for this second goalare functional to the first. Despite their unrelenting activismand ample resources, in fact, the NEBs have not been ableto create a mass movement and attract the allegiance oflarge numbers of European Muslims. While concepts, issuesand frameworks introduced by the NEBs have reached manyof them, most European Muslims either actively resist theNEBs’ influence or simply ignore it. The NEBs understandthat a preferential relationship with European elites couldprovide them with the financial and political capital thatwould allow them to significantly expand their reach andinfluence inside the community. By leveraging such relationships, in fact, the NEBs aim atbeing entrusted by European governments with 51
  • 51. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanadministering all aspects of Muslim life in each country. Theywould, ideally, become those whom governments task withpreparing the curricula and selecting the teachers for Islamiceducation in public schools, appointing imams in publicinstitutions such as the military, the police or prisons andreceiving subsidies to administer various social services.This position would also allow them to be the de factoofficial Muslim voice in public debates and in the media,overshadowing competing forces. The powers andlegitimacy bestowed upon them by European governmentswould allow them to exert significantly increased influenceover the Muslim community. Making a clever politicalcalculation, the NEBs are attempting to turn their leadershipbid into a self-fulfilling prophecy, seeking to be recognisedas representatives of the Muslim community in order toactually become it. Moreover, their designation as official or unofficialrepresentatives of the Muslim community would allow theNEBs to influence public debate and policymaking on anyIslam-related issue, whether domestic or related to foreignpolicy. This position of primacy would allow them to be atthe forefront when governments or the media seek out the‘Muslim perspective’ on issues ranging from the hijabdebate to the war in Afghanistan.Assessing the NEBsThe debate over the nature of the NEBs has been raging forthe past few years, mirroring the discussion over the Islamistmovement worldwide and splitting analysts between whatwe could term optimists and pessimists. Optimists arguethat the NEBs make up a socially conservative force that,52
  • 52. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanunlike other movements with which they are often mistakenlylumped, encourages the integration of European Muslimcommunities, striving to offer a model in which EuropeanMuslims can live their faith fully and maintain a strong Islamicidentity while becoming actively engaged citizens (Roy 2007,94–8). The NEBs, argue the optimists, provide youngMuslims with a positive affirmation of self-confidence, urgingthem to channel their energy and frustration into the politicalprocess rather than into violence or extremism. Moreover,the reins of the organisations created by Islamist activists inthe 1960s and 1970s have been or are in the process ofbeing taken over by a new generation of European-bornleaders. These new leaders, argue the optimists, have shedsome of the more extreme views of their predecessors andfully embrace Western values. Pessimists, on the other hand, see a much more sinisternature in the aims of the NEBs. Thanks to their resources andthe naiveté of most Europeans, argue the pessimists, theNEBs are engaged in a slow but steady social engineeringprogram, aiming at Islamicising European Muslims andultimately competing with European governments for theirallegiance. In a nutshell, pessimists accuse the NEBs ofbeing modern-day Trojan horses, engaged in a sort of stealthsubversion aimed at weakening European society fromwithin, patiently laying the foundations for its replacementwith an Islamic order.4 Pessimists also point to a constantdiscrepancy between the NEBs’ internal and externaldiscourses as a sign of their duplicitous nature. In the mediaand in dialogues with European governments, NEB leaderspublicly avow the group’s dedication to integration anddemocracy, tailoring their rhetoric to what they know their4 The expression ‘Trojan horses’ is used, for example, by British MP Michael Gove (2006, 84–113). 53
  • 53. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneaninterlocutors want to hear. Yet when speaking Arabic, Urdu orTurkish before fellow Muslims, the NEBs often drop theveneer and foster an ‘us versus them’ mentality that is theantithesis of integration and tolerance. Even as NEBrepresentatives speak about interfaith dialogue andintegration on television, the movement’s mosques preachhate and warn worshippers about the evils of Westernsociety. In the words of Alain Chouet, former head of Frenchforeign intelligence, ‘Like every fascist movement on the trailof power, the Brotherhood has achieved perfect fluency indouble-speak’ (Chouet 2006). Chouet’s position seems to encapsulate the viewsexpressed, whether publicly or privately, by most intelligenceand security agencies throughout continental Europe. TheSûreté de l’État, Belgium’s domestic intelligence agency, forexample, described the activities of Muslim Brotherhoodoffshoots in that country this way: The Sûreté de l’État has been following the activities of the Internationalist Muslim Brothers in Belgium since 1982. The Internationalist Muslim Brothers have possessed a clandestine structure in Belgium for more than 20 years. The identity of the members is secret; they operate in the greatest discretion. They seek to spread their ideology within Belgium’s Muslim community and they aim in particular at young, second and third generation immigrants. In Belgium as in other European countries, they seek to take control of sport, religious and social associations, and they seek to establish themselves as privileged interlocutors of national and even European authorities in order to manage Islamic affairs. The Muslim Brothers estimate that national authorities will increasingly rely on the representatives of54
  • 54. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean the Islamic community for the management of Islam. Within this framework, they try to impose the designation of people influenced by their ideology in representative bodies. In order to do so they were very active in the electoral process for the members of the body for the management of Islam [in Belgium]. Another aspect of this strategy is to cause or maintain tensions in which they consider that a Muslim or a Muslim organisation is victim of Western values, hence the affair over the Muslim headscarf in public schools (Rapport 2002).5 The AIVD, the Netherlands’ domestic intelligence agency,is even more specific in its analysis of the NEBs’ tactics andaims: Not all Muslim Brothers or their sympathisers are recognisable as such. They do not always reveal their religious loyalties and ultra-orthodox agenda to outsiders. Apparently co-operative and moderate in their attitude to Western society, they certainly have no violent intent. But they are trying to pave the way for ultra-orthodox Islam to play a greater role in the Western world by exercising religious influence over Muslim immigrant communities and by forging good relations with relevant opinion leaders: politicians, civil servants, mainstream social organisations, non-Islamic clerics, academics, journalists and so on. This policy of engagement has been more noticeable in recent years, and might possibly herald a certain liberalisation of the movement’s ideas. It presents5 It could be argued that informal alliances at the local level between Union pour unMouvement Populaire (UMP) officials and leaders of the UOIF, France’s NEB organisation,constitute an example of such a phenomenon. Interestingly, in the United States in the late1990s, Brotherhood-inspired networks worked with the Republican Party and were extremelyactive in supporting George W. Bush in the 2000 elections. These dynamics changedcompletely after the 9/11 attacks. 55
  • 55. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterranean itself as a widely supported advocate and legitimate representative of the Islamic community. But the ultimate aim—although never stated openly—is to create, then implant and expand, an ultra-orthodox Muslim bloc inside Western Europe. (AIVD 2007, 51) The Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, Germany’s federaldomestic intelligence agency, has a similarly negative take: These ‘legalistic’ Islamist groups represent an especialthreat to the internal cohesion of our society. Among otherthings, their wide range of Islamist-oriented educational andsupport activities, especially for children and adolescentsfrom immigrant families, are used to promote the creationand proliferation of an Islamist milieu in Germany. Theseendeavours run counter to the efforts undertaken by thefederal administration and the Länder to integrateimmigrants. There is the risk that such milieus could alsoform the breeding ground for further radicalisation. (BfV2005, 190) The position of most continental European intelligenceagencies (British authorities slightly differ in theirassessment) on the NEBs is clear. But governments,lawmakers and bureaucrats at all levels are not bound by theassessment of their countries’ intelligence agencies and notinfrequently, in fact, espouse different ideas. Experts withinand outside government who have opposing ideas ofteninfluence the policymakers’ opinions, leading to a complex,often chaotic, situation in which institutions swing erraticallybetween actions that reflect first the optimists’ and then thepessimists’ views. In essence, no European country hasadopted a cohesive assessment followed by all branches ofits government. There is no centrally issued white paper or56
  • 56. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneaninternal guidelines sent to all government officials detailinghow NEB organisations should be identified, assessed and,eventually, engaged. This situation leads to hugeinconsistencies in policies, not only from one country toanother but also within each country, where positionsdiverge from ministry to ministry and even from office tooffice of the same body.Political Islam and the Muslim vote in EuropeAssessing the nature of a movement as large,heterogeneous and ever-evolving as the NEBs is a highlycomplex endeavour with enormous repercussions, not justfor academics but most importantly, for policymakers. Thispaper has attempted to contribute to the debate bydescribing the NEBs as a tight-knit network of activistsoperating as rational actors within the democratic frameworkto obtain their socio/religious/political goals and as maincandidates, thanks to their resources and activism, for therole of representatives of European Muslim communities. One additional aspect that needs to be analysed is therelationship between the NEBs and electoral politics inEurope. Any commentary on the issue must inevitably startfrom two undeniable facts: 1) European Muslims havetraditionally voted predominantly for parties of the left orcentre-left; and 2) the NEBs have traditionally partnered,albeit with various degrees of intensity from country tocountry, with parties of the left or centre-left. What iscontested is whether a causal relationship between the twofacts exists: have European Muslims traditionally voted leftor centre-left because of NEB relationships with thoseforces? In other terms, have European Muslims voted largely 57
  • 57. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneanfor certain parties because local NEB organisations toldthem to, or would they have made that choice in any case? Understandably, NEB leaders are likely to answer the firstquestion in the affirmative in order to highlight theimportance of their organisations and increase their appealin the eyes of European policymakers. Yet there seems to belimited evidence to conclusively support the view that theNEBs can deliver the Muslim vote. Many question theexistence of a monolithic ‘Muslim vote’. UndoubtedlyMuslims in Europe have traditionally voted for parties of theleft. But that seems to be a tendency common to mostimmigrant groups. It is fair to say that Muslims, like any othergroup, do not necessarily vote as a predetermined block,blindly casting their ballots as their co-religionists do. Rather,their political preferences mirror the socio-political diversityof their communities. And it is likely that second- and third-generation European Muslims will further diversify their votein the future. The NEBs unquestionably possess significantmobilisation capabilities, particularly when compared withthose of competing Muslim organisations. And in somecases, particularly at the local level, their efforts have indeedswayed significant sections of the electorate of Muslimbackground. But there is little evidence to support the claimthat the NEBs can consistently affect significant sections ofthe Muslim community of any European country. Moreresearch is needed to show what factors influence Muslimelectorates and what is the role of forces within thecommunity, whether NEB organisations or any others, in theprocess. But it would be premature to believe thatorganisations that, according to polls conducted in severalEuropean countries, measure their support within the Muslim58
  • 58. Political Islam in Europe and the Mediterraneancommunity in the single digits can deliver large sections ofthe Muslim electorate. Perhaps some indications that NEB organisations, despitetheir claims, have only limited leverage within EuropeanMuslim communities come from two political patternswitnessed throughout Europe. The first has to do withMuslim parties. Over the past 20 years there have beenvarious attempts in several European countries to createpolitical parties that, although in very different ways fromone another, sought to present themselves as ‘Muslimparties’ and obtain the votes of the Muslim population inlocal or national elections. All these efforts have been littlemore than the improvised and poorly organised attempts ofisolated individuals or small groupings which, with noexceptions, have completely failed to achieve any successand, in many cases, were dissolved after a few years. It isnoteworthy that the NEBs have not been involved in any ofthese efforts. It can be argued that the NEBs, despite theirpublic claims, know full well that they too would fail toattract widespread support and see the creation of their ownpolitical party as a trap that would call their bluff. Anelectoral fiasco, in fact, would provide the evidence of theirlack of real traction in the community, severely underminingtheir representation bid with European elites. Fullyunderstanding that forming their own party would bepremature and unravel their claims, the NEBs have insteadchosen to work within existing political structures, directlyand indirectly influencing established political parties. Another phenomenon potentially highlighting the NEBs’limited political impact on European Muslims is the absenceof Islamists among European Muslim members ofparliament. In most European countries, in fact, small but 59

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