The ideological roots of Jihadist Terror "Political Islam" is a term for all ideological and political currents that aim to establish a state (caliphate) based on the principles of Islam, whether at the state level or at the community level. Today, "political Islam" is mostly used in Islamism and thus religious radicalism and terrorism.
The irony is that political Islam is a concept that arose in the seventies and eighties of the twentieth century to describe the phenomenon of the return of religion to the political sphere, as a response to secular authoritarian regimes by calling for a return to Sharia and the establishment of an Islamic state.
A step towards confronting extremism
From early 2021, there was a new imam training course in Germany, as announced by the "Islam College Deutschland" (IKD) in Berlin and around 30 participants trained since April/ 2021. The training was conducted in German language only.
The project is funded by the German Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Science in Lower Saxony. The founding members of the College of Islam include Islamic scholars, public figures and Islamic bodies such as the Central Council of Muslims in Germany.
Nice and Vienna witness terror attacks
Along with the trial of those involved in the attack on the newspaper "Charlie Hebdo" in September 2020, and the attacks in Nice and Vienna, the issue of radicalization of Islamist terrorist groups in Europe has once again occupied the Agenda of the European Commission. Thus, the police and intelligence services have put themselves on alert, given the capabilities of the "ISIS" and "Al-Qaeda" to reorganize themselves. Only some hours after a terrorist attack in Vienna Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz called on the European Union to combat "political Islam", considering it an "ideology" that poses a "threat to the European model of living".
The Austrian chancellor explained in an interview with the German newspaper "Die Welt" on Nov. 3, 2020: "The European Union should focus more on the problem of political Islam in the future," indicating his conviction that the issue of combating political Islam will impose itself as a main topic in the upcoming European summits. He added, "I expect the end of tolerance, which is misunderstood and all European countries are aware of the danger that the ideology of political Islam poses to our freedom and the European model of living."
The “Telepolis” website published a report by the writer “Alka Dangalite” that talked about the dangers of political Islam to Europe and the apparent unrest by political parties, especially on the German scene, with regard to confronting the dangers of these currents exploiting organizations and mosques to create parallel societies, and eliminating the pillars of security and stability in societies.
Modern Constitutional Democracy in the Old Continent
The terrorist attacks in Austria and France during the last quarter of 2020 raised serious questions about the models adopted to combat the scourge of extremism in European countries that are most affected by the attacks of terrorist groups backed by political Islam organizations.
Terrorist attacks did not stop despite the measures taken in those countries, but they declined thanks to local policies that eventually led to curbing the escalation of these attacks, which feed on “lone wolf” elements, who in turn carry out terrorist attacks in an attempt by extremist groups to prove their existence.
Austria announced, on July 8, 2021, the expansion of sanctions against the "Muslim Brotherhood" and the rest of the extremist groups, the fascist Croatian Ustasha movement and all other entities listed by the European Union as terrorist groups. The background to the decision goes back to 1st March, 2019 and possibly the 2015 decision. The ban is intended as an attempt to reduce the role of civil society organizations in Austrian political life.
It appears that Austrian Muslim organizations act as a major driver for the implementation of more radical policies. Prior to this expansion, the law clearly prohibited the symbols of each of the following organizations: ISIS, the Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, the Turkish Gray Wolves, the Kurdistan Workers Party, Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah militia, and Hizb al-Tahrir.
Germany warned Against danger of MB
Germany said during the month of May 2021 that it would not allow its territory to be made a safe haven for any extremist groups, especially the Muslim Brotherhood. It said that it would not allow the organization to engage in any activity that could be classified as "illegal", or that contributes to the spread of extremist ideology and incites violence. The German statements came after security and intelligence reports had warned earlier of the danger of the Brotherhood's spread inside the country and its relationship to the increase in violence and extremism. The new German move comes hours after Austria passed a new law to combat terrorism and extremism
Switzerland combating MB
Switzerland has been involved in combating Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamic organizations in recent months, taking steps against the terrorist network including the “MB”. The Swiss newspaper "Zuercher Unterlander" revealed that there are strong steps within the Swiss parliament against the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam groups in general, in light of the rising threat of terrorism and extremism in Europe.
The newspaper was referring to the draft law on political Islam submitted by prominent MP Lorenzo Quadri, in December 2020. The bill, which was discussed by the Parliament's Justice Committee, calls for the introduction of a new criminal offense under the name "political Islam" to protect internal security, banning associations that adopt this ideology and closing their mosques and cultural centers in Switzerland.
"The Swiss government wants to introduce a new criminal offense (against) political Islam, an ideology that paves the way to terrorism," the project's introduction said. "Switzerland can no longer pretend to be an island; in two months there were two terrorist attacks in Morges and Lugano in Switzerland," the project continued, adding that "the legal tools available in Switzerland today to combat Islamic extremism are insufficient."
The Risks of External Financing
"Erdogan's extremist network poses a threat to public security in Germany and should be dismantled instead of supporting it," said Sevim Dagdelin, a German MP for the Left Party, in October 2020, referring to the financing of mosques run by the Turkish Islamic Union "Ditib" with taxpayers' money in some German states.
Armin Laschet, Prime Minister of Germany’s Rhine state, explained in November 2020 that “Erdogan’s policy has reached mosques and has become more dangerous and unacceptable things have happened.”
“What happened is not because of people’s extremism towards terrorism, but because of Turkish policy. There are a lot of shortcomings in the European Union," says Markus Ferber, finance spokesman for the Christian Democratic bloc in the European Parliament, “Money launderers and their aides take advantage of the fact that EU member states do not strictly enforce regulations, do not coordinate among themselves, and there is no European oversight with a real mandate to intervene,” Ferber adds.
On March 25, 2021, Britain witnessed an integrated review of the UK's security, defense, development and foreign policy. The review presents a global Britain taking a "stronger stance" on security and defense and committed to working alongside friends and allies to defend openness, human rights and democratic ideals around the world.
Boris Johnson described the review as the largest of its kind since the Cold War. Much has, of course, changed since then. The democratic values and ideals that Britain swore to defend are now as threatened as they were when the Berlin Wall separated the East from the West.
The Cabinet Office was drafting the first revision of the CONTEST strategy in 2002, and Prevent, the first policy of its kind that would boost the UK's reputation as an industry leader, was already shaping up to be a key part of it. Although thinking about each component of the strategy has evolved significantly since then, the original quartet of Prevent, Tracing, Protect, and Prepare are still there.
EU new policies to counter “Political Islam”
French President Emmanuel Macron declared on October 2, 2020, that France should "confront Islamic isolationism" aimed at "establishing a parallel regime" and "against the republic". President Macron's speech was during his visit to Les Moreaus, a neighborhood in the Paris suburb. Macron said there is a radical Islamic tendency (...) a declared determination to establish a systematic structure to circumvent the laws of the republic and establish a parallel system based on different values, and develop a different organization of society," considering that Islam "is a religion that is experiencing a crisis today everywhere in the world." Macron considered that the authorities bear part of the responsibility for the development of the phenomenon of "the transformation of neighborhoods into ghettos".
He said, "We grouped the population according to their origins. We did not intend to create enough mixing, nor enough to enable them to achieve economic and social progress," stressing that they (the Islamists) "built their project on our retreat and failure."
Macron introduced a set of measures such as requiring any association that requests state assistance to sign a charter of secularism, imposing strict supervision on private religious schools and strictly limiting home schooling
On December 9, 2020, French Prime Minister Jean Castix asserted that the law "which reinforces the principles of the French Republic" and which was introduced is not "against religions" but targets "extremist pernicious thought". The project, which includes about 50 articles, is one of the major bills under Macron, to respond to the French fears of terrorist operations carried out by extremists fuelled by the assassination of the French teacher Samuel by beheading in mid- October 2020, after he showed his students caricatures insulting to the Prophet Muhammad and the attack on a cathedral in Nice. It took a series of measures to combat extremism, which led to the closure of 400 associations, mosques, sports halls and other sites.
Security cooperation within the EU
Security cooperation and coordination within the European Union is among the most important priorities set by the European Commission, after the increasing dangers of religious and ideological extremism. The European Commission has made great efforts to establish real and effective cooperation between the countries of the European Union.
The European security and intelligence services include all parties that play a role in the intelligence missions and enforcement of anti-terror laws in the European Union. It includes national and European parties such as national intelligence agencies, security agencies and national police agencies.
As for the European parties, they include the European Union Intelligence and Operations Center INTDIV, the EUMS Military Staff, the European Union Operations Center SitCen, Europol, the EUSC, the European Council and the European Commission, and the various bilateral and multilateral task forces, the European Commission on Counter-Terrorism, the European Judicial Cooperation Unit, Interpol, the European Police Institute, the heads of the task force consisting of the police and Frontex. Each agency cooperates to counter terrorism, focusing on the following objectives: Elimination of terrorists and their organizations, ending state sponsorship of terrorism, Interception and obstruction of material support for terrorists, Elimination of safe havens for terrorists
Counter -terror laws efforts in Europe in 2021
On 15th June, 2021, the European Union adopted three proposals for financing internal affairs policies, within the framework of the multi-year fiscal budget covering the years 2021-2027.
The proposals strengthen the Internal Security Fund and intensify efforts to deter forms of terrorism, extremism, serious and organized crime, and cybercrime.
Improving information exchange and cooperation
On 29 April, 2021, the European Parliament imposed severe restrictions on online platforms, for the year 2022 in the European Union regarding the removal of “terrorist content” on the Internet and the removal of messages, photos and videos “of a terrorist nature” within an hour.
Exceptions apply to content posted for educational, journalistic, artistic or research purposes. "This legislation will make it more difficult for terrorists to exploit the web for online recruitment, incitement to online attacks and the glorification of their atrocities online," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
In May 2018, the European Commission welcomed the decision of the company operating the “Snapchat” application, to join the European Code of Conduct to combat hate speech and extremist content on the Internet.
The decision of “Snapchat” brings the number of information technology platforms under the umbrella of the European Code of Conduct to seven, and on the other hand seventy percent of extremist content was removed out of more than eighty-one percent of cases within 24 hours, after pressure from the European Commission on social media companies to delete extremist content. In matters of justice, the companies that joined the code are working to implement it on a growing basis, and that the monitoring operations carried out in cooperation with non-governmental organizations have shown positive results.
In addition, there is also extremist propaganda on the Internet, as well as extremist fatwas emanating from some mosques associated with countries that support extremism and terrorism, or by groups organizationally linked to “Salafist jihadism,” the Muslim Brotherhood, and extremist groups.
What should be done?
The danger of political Islam to the security of Europe is more dangerous than ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and this is due to the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam groups of all kinds adopted soft policies to penetrate society and get closer to state institutions, in order to present themselves as a “representative” to Muslim communities, in Europe, and then to achieve political interests and spread their extremist ideology instead of providing services to Muslim communities.
Here it is important for European countries to review laws and policies, especially in combating extremism locally, in order to limit the influence of political Islam in Europe and reduce the symbols of political Islam, in order to lower the morale of its supporters and reduce sources of funding and recruitment.
Jassim Mohamad is a researcher who focuses on international security & counter-terrorism; his work covers Europe, Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Iran and Yemen), and African Sahel. He is the Head of the European Centre for Counterterrorism and Intelligence Studies ECCI.