A confidential report by a European intelligence agency October 2021 mentions a secret alliance between Qatar and Turkey, sealed during a “coordination meeting” dedicated to strengthening collaboration between the two countries on “support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”.
We reproduce here large excerpts from this edifying report:
Turkey and Qatar started to actively support the European Muslim Brotherhood at the same time: in the second half of the 2000s, after the AKP took full control of the Turkish political scene, holding the presidency and the prime ministerial posts. Around the same time, Qatar, through Qatar Charity, started funding Muslim Brotherhood groups in Europe as well.
Turkey has aligned itself with pro-Hamas/pro-Gaza Islamist groups in Europe and Qatar has started to support the construction of mosques and smaller projects such as sponsoring Islamist summer camps.
In Europe, Turkey and Qatar operated in different ways. Turkey worked through its embassies or its Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and well-organised mosque structures such as DITIB and Milli Görüs in a more political way. By supporting the pro-Gaza/pro-Hamas movement, Turkey has tried to make inroads into Muslim communities of other origins in Europe. Many Muslims can be activated when the Palestinian cause is raised.
Thus, by joining the well-organised pro-Gaza machine of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey gained the respect and support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. At the same time, at a higher level, Turkey has started to host and facilitate the bi-annual and annual meetings of the European Muslim Brotherhood. These coordination conferences have been held, since 2010, almost exclusively in Istanbul. Muslim Brotherhood groups such as the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), renamed the Council of European Muslims (CEM), and the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR) prefer to meet in Istanbul, which is considered a friendly environment and a safe place.
QATAR CHARITY UK
In 2012 Qatar Charity UK (QCUK) was set up to fund Muslim Brotherhood operations. It was launched in 2014, but it wasn’t until 2015 that the Qataris understood how and who they would fund. During 2014, QCUK considered applications for funding from centres in the US, Canada, UK, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Ukraine, Switzerland and Spain. A total of £38 million was sent by Qatar Charity in Doha to QCUK from 2014 to 2020.
QATAR KEEPS A LOW PROFILE IN EUROPE
There is a lot of coordination going on between Turkey and Qatar as well, regarding collaboration with the European Muslim Brotherhood. Although Qatar is a serious funder of the Muslim Brotherhood and Turkey an important facilitator and supporter, more insight is needed. Since 2017, QCUK has not received any significant funding. New projects have not been undertaken.
As Qatar scaled back its operations through the Qatar Charity UK (QCUK) office in the run-up to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there had to be a coordination meeting between Turkey and Qatar regarding support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. Qatar Charity UK was founded in 2012 and quickly came under scrutiny by investigators into the spread of Islamism in Europe.
QCUK was very active in funding the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Europe and with Qatari money the Muslim Brotherhood in many countries was able to establish itself and build schools and mosques (multi-purpose Islamic centres). QCUK has funded the construction of Islamic centres and schools in many countries, including the UK, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden. After much scrutiny, QCUK’s management has changed several times and its name has been changed to Nectar Trust. At present, the Nectar Trust does not appear to be taking on any new projects and only funds long and medium term projects that were agreed upon years ago.
With the 2022 FIFA World Cup approaching, Qatar does not want to be subject to negative publicity related to the financing of Islamism in Europe. Qatari entrepreneurs in Europe are trying to keep the corruption related to the organisation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as quiet as possible. Multiple private investigation firms, PR and communications companies and cyber security firms in Switzerland, France, the UK and the US are working around the clock and invading people’s privacy by hacking, watching and probably intimidating people who have evidence of Qatar’s wrongdoing.
In this context, it is understandable that Qatar is ready to hand over to Turkey. Turkey is eager to become the protector of Europe’s Muslims. The only problem is that most Muslims who are not Turkish denounce the Turkish umbrella. One of the few groups that have been taken under Turkey’s wings since 2008 is the Muslim Brotherhood.
IBRAHIM EL-ZAYAT: THE IDEAL INTERMEDIARY
German Ibrahim El-Zayat. El-Zayat is a former president of the Islamische Gemeinde Deutschland (IGD) and is involved in all things Muslim Brotherhood in Europe, including charity work at Islamic Relief Worldwide, a board member of the European Muslim Brotherhood, the Federation Of Islamic Organisations In Europe (FIOE) and a member of the financial monitoring organisation Europe Trust.
El-Zayat was the president of the Federation Of Muslim Youth And Student Organisations (FEMYSO) and the head of the World Assembly Of Muslim Youth (WAMY) in Europe. Both organisations shared the same building and had adjacent offices in Brussels. All the institutions mentioned in combination with El-Zayat are central organisations of the European Muslim Brotherhood.
Ibrahim El-Zayat is married to Sabiha Erbakan who is a niece of Necmettin Erbakan, the founder of the Islamische Gemeinschaft Milli Görüs (IGMG). Erbakan is considered the father of the Turkish Islamist movement in Europe and Turkey, and has had a lot of influence on the current president Erdogan. el-Zayat’s brother-in-law, Mehmet Sabri Erbakan, has long been a leader of the IGMG.
Mehmet Erbakan was also the director of the organisation that owns all the IGMG-owned mosques in Germany. This organisation, called Europäische Moscheen Bau-und Unterstützungs Gemeinschaft [European Mosque Building Association] (EMUG) had Ibrahim El-Zayat as its director. El-Zayat is also the director of the building organisation IGMG in the Netherlands.
El-Zayat has a rather discreet presence but is probably the most influential member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe. He tries to stay out of the limelight but attended the Turkish-Muslim Brotherhood meeting in January 2019 in el-Zayat’s home town of Cologne.
JANUARY 2019 MEETING IN COLOGNE: A TURKISH TAKEOVER?
The January 2019 meeting in Cologne was the second meeting on the future of Muslims in Europe. It was organised by the Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and the Turkish Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB), the largest umbrella organisation of mosques in Germany. The first meeting in 2014 focused on Muslims in the Balkan countries.
This meeting was attended by over 100 people from at least 17 countries. In contrast to the first meeting, the Muslim Brotherhood appears to have been the only non-Turkish representative of European Muslims at this meeting. Speakers were either Turkish or Muslim Brotherhood representatives.
The third meeting in Cologne consisted of five sessions in which two European Muslim Brotherhood scholars took the lead. The first session, entitled “The Future of Muslims in Europe”: Özcan Hidir (Turkish professor at the Universities of Rotterdam and Istanbul), Khaled Hanafi (Deputy Secretary General of the European Council for Fatwa and Research) and Jasser Auda (professor at Hamad bin Khalifa University in Doha, Qatar).
A second session chaired by a representative of the European Brotherhood was entitled “Negative effects on Muslims of separatist movements with religious connotations” and was led by Hussein Halawa, Secretary General of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. Most of the participants in the meeting represented Turkish organisations or representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Not much came out of the meeting, apart from an official final communiqué, so we don’t really know what coordination took place between the Muslim Brotherhood and Diyanet. The January 2019 meeting was accompanied by a final communiqué which was read by Ali Erbas, the head of DIYANET, who chaired the event. An interesting part of the final communique says: “Terrorist organisations such as FETÖ, IS (DAESCH), PKK, Boko Haram, al- Shabab as elements of confusion, discord and anarchy in the Islamic world abuse Islamic terms and human values.”
In this case, what is interesting is what is not said. The Turks and the Muslim Brotherhood did not mention al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al-Sham as terrorist organisations, but they did mention the Fetullah GÜLEN organisation, FETÖ. In Syria and Libya, Turkey and Qatar work with and support groups linked to al-Qaeda, and even al-Qaeda itself. Thus, mentioning these groups as terrorists that directly involve Turkey was simply left out.
In Europe, the Qatar-Turkey alliance in favour of the Muslim Brotherhood looks more like a handover than an in-depth cooperation between the two groups. Qatar Charity’s operations in Europe have been well-funded but Nectar Trust’s income since 2017 has been almost zero. New projects are not being taken up and the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate DIYANET seems to want to take over support for the Muslim Brotherhood in Western Europe.
There are probably two reasons for the Qatar Charity. The first is the 2022 FIFA World Cup and the second is the fact that less money is better in projects in Africa and Asia. Qatar Charity has compiled a list of projects for operations in Europe and has implemented them. In addition, in Europe, Qatari investments are under greater scrutiny and the Qatar brand is increasingly linked to corruption and scandals. Support for an Islamist current has no place there.
Turkey’s progress with the European Muslim Brotherhood may not be satisfactory, as many non-Turkish Islamists do not like the “Ottoman power game” and see Turkish Islamism as not identical to their brotherhood. It remains to be seen whether Turkey will be able to take over the MB [Muslim Brotherhood] movement in Europe. Although many young Muslim Brothers (converts) see Erdogan as a strong Islamist figure, they are less willing to accept Turkish religious bureaucrats as their religious superiors.
ANNEXE: HOW DID TURKEY BECOME AN INCUBATOR AND SUPPORTER OF ISLAMISM?
In 2002, the Turkish General Staff organised a conference for all Turkish generals and admirals at the General Staff headquarters in Ankara. According to one participant in this conference, the only reason for the conference was to help Turkey enter the European Union. European politicians used the argument that Turkey was not a true democracy because the Turkish armed forces “were the guardians of the state” and had repeatedly intervened in Turkish politics through a coup d’état.
The Turkish generals listened carefully to Europe’s criticism and saw that there was a problem. They came up with a solution to the problem. At the end of the conference, they decided that Turkish democracy was sufficiently secular and robust that they could stand back. So the Turkish generals took the historic decision not to intervene in politics anymore. De facto, the armed forces handed over power to civilian politicians and the Supreme Court.
The decision of the Turkish generals did not make headlines in Europe and went unnoticed in Europe. It did not bring Turkey into the European Union. The Turkish generals did not see the rising tide of populism in Europe. One of the countries experiencing a rise in populism was the Netherlands, where Geert Wilders was gaining ground with his political party, the PVV, and where Pim Fortuyn, if he had not been murdered, would have become prime minister.
On 16 December 2004, the European Council declared that Turkey had sufficiently fulfilled the criteria to open accession negotiations from October 2005. This happened during the Dutch Presidency of the European Council. In December 2006, the first problems between the EU countries and Turkey arose when Turkey refused to apply the Additional Protocol to the Ankara Agreement to Cyprus. The European Council decided that eight chapters of the negotiations could not and would not be opened, thus ending the negotiations for Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
The failure of Europe and Turkey to reach an agreement has allowed Erdogan to strengthen his power and extend his influence in Turkey. Playing the card of nationalism and religion in Turkey, his AK Party took control of the Parliament, was able to form a government, took the seat of Prime Minister and the Presidency. A totally Islamist takeover.
The Turkish armed forces kept their word, but that did not help them to enter Europe.