88 years after its creation in 1933, the women’s branch of the Muslim Brotherhood remains very marginalized. The Muslim Sisters are most often confined to the role of auxiliaries in the shadow of the Brothers. Paradoxically, we observe an opposite phenomenon in Europe: the Sisters are deliberately put forward as symbols of openness and modernity. They are thus used as an Islamist Trojan horse to better infiltrate civil society and siphon off subsidies from European bodies!By Atmane Tazaghart
At the heart of the Brotherhood’s machine, in charge of implementing its entry strategy, are four main associations: the Forum of European Muslim Young & Student Organisations (FEMYSO), the European Forum of Muslim Women (EFOMW), the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF, which became the Collective Against Islamophobia in Europe after its dissolution in October 2020) and its Belgian avatar (CCIB).
What do these organisations have in common? They all stem from the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), the supreme body of the Muslim Brotherhood on a pan-European scale.
In accordance with the Brotherhood’s doctrine of concealment (Taqiyya), these organisations deny, against all evidence, their affiliation to the Muslim Brotherhood. Acting in a Soviet-style scheme [the Communist Party’s “mass organisations”], they are variations of the FIOE grouping together Brotherhood associations from various European countries, according to their social categories (youth and student associations from 32 European countries in the FEMYSO, women’s collectives from 20 European countries in the EFOMW) or their field of action (the fight against Islamophobia for the CCIB and the CCIE-CCIF).
Another common denominator of these fraternal associative tentacles is the over-representation of women in their management bodies. This is a deliberate choice that aims to give the European branch of the Muslim Brotherhood a facade of modernity and openness, but which is the antithesis of the misogynistic practices that have predominated within the Brotherhood since its creation in 1928.
The Muslim Sisters are reduced to the role of auxiliaries and substitutes for the Brotherhood. They are in charge of charitable missions or support for the families of prisoners and martyrs of the Brotherhood, but they have never been able to reach leadership positions in the Muslim Brotherhood’s bodies established in more than 70 countries around the world.
This European exception, which consists of putting forward an impressive number of women activists, aims to facilitate “the infiltration of European and Belgian institutions that regulate the social fabric”, as the researcher Fadila Maaroufi, author of a research paper on the Islamist indoctrination of women and co-founder (with the anthropologist Florence Bergeaud-Blackler) of the Observatory of Fundamentalisms in Brussels, points out. An Islamist lobbyism with a female face that has allowed Brotherhood associations to develop an impressive money pump, which has siphoned off more than 28 million euros of European subsidies since 2012.
In an interview with Charlie Hebdo, Maaroufi is alarmed by the Brotherhood’s purpose behind this feminine façade. For them, the Muslim Brotherhood is “working to modify Western society, using its democratic values against it”.
The most recent example of this Islamist entryism is the controversial campaign presenting the hijab (Islamic veil) as a “symbol of freedom”, led by the Council of Europe’s Anti-Discrimination Division. Co-funded by the European Commission’s “Awareness Raising for Diversity and Inclusion” programme, this campaign was developed in association with two Muslim Brotherhood NGOs, represented respectively by Hiba Latrèche and Hajar al-Jahidi, two very active Muslim Sisters: the former is vice-president of FEMYSO, the latter a member of the EFOMW board.
As EFOMW is a women’s organisation, it is headed by a myriad of Islamist activists, supposedly feminists, whose action is most often limited to the defence of the veil and criticism of secularism: Noura Jabbalah, founder and president of EFOMW in 2007, is the wife of Ahmed Jaballah, the ex-president of the UOIF, the French branch of the Muslim Brotherhood; Hajar al-Jahidi, associated with the elaboration of the pro-hijab campaign, was received at the Council of Europe, in September 2021, for a conference in which she described France as “a country where Islamophobia is institutionalized”’; other activists, such as Zaïnab Marrakechi, Ouafa Lakhal, Sandra Iman Pertek, carry out fierce anti-secularity lobbying, the most recent example of which is a petition calling for an end to the religious neutrality obligation of public officials.
At the CICB, Layla Azouzi was involved in a recent “training session” organised by the European Federation of Journalists. She made a virulent charge against the propagation of “blasphemous drawings” by the European press. And at the CCIE (former CCIF), Lila Charef and Chafika Attalai took part in the petition against the neutrality of public officials.
In the leadership of FEMYSO, Muslim Sister activists are over-represented: the vice-president, Hiba Latrèche, received a standing ovation last October in the European Parliament for her fiery speech on Islamophobia; Nawal Mustapha, Nadia Khedachi and Hassiba Kechiche were among the signatories of the petition against the neutrality of public officials.
Despite the many scandals and controversies raised by the Muslim Brotherhood’s lobbying, this Islamist entryism remains operational and seems to be bearing fruit. In 2019, the EFOMW was admitted as a consultative member of the United Nations Economic and Social Council. Two years later, Hinde Taner (former EFOMW board member), now the head of FEMYSO, was appointed coordinator of the anti-racism section of the Council of Europe’s Youth Advisory Council.
And to top it all off, at the initiative of the Belgian Green Minister for Equal Opportunities, Sarah Schlitz, the pro-veil activist Ihsane Haouach, founder of “Bruxelloise et voilée” (renamed “Les Cannelles”) has been appointed to the post of commissioner at the Institute for Equal Opportunities between Men and Women.