After having previously written two books about the less brilliant aspects of Qatari politics, entitled “Qatar, The Secrets of The Safe” (Michel Lafon, 2013) and “Our Very Dear Emirs” (Michel Lafon, 2016), Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot return with a hard-hitting book entitled “Qatar Papers”.
Interview by Atmane TAZAGHART & Nicolas CHENE
– What surprised you most about your survey on the QatarCharityGate?
– Christian Chesnot: What surprised and even astonished us was the extent of the funding granted by Qatar to the Muslim Brotherhood network. Tens of millions of euros throughout Europe, including 25 million in France. We drew a precise and very extensive mapping, which goes from Spain, Italy and up to Norway and Sweden. It passes through very improbable places, such as Jersey, Lugano or Luxembourg, and all this constitutes a very vast spider’s web, which enamels every European continent.
We are obviously asking ourselves questions: why? and for whose benefit? And we can see that Qatari funding goes almost exclusively to the Muslim Brotherhood, through associations and personalities who are subordinated to them throughout Europe. Unlike other countries that finance Islamic associations in Europe, Qatar has no human resources. It has a lot of money but very little human support. So he connected to the Muslim Brotherhood networks established in Europe since the 1950s. Our investigation shows that there is a real connection between the two. In addition, the Muslim Brotherhood is at the heart of Qatar’s political-religious DNA. Not only in Europe, but all over the world. With Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi as the figurehead.
As for the question of why, it is clear from the documents published in the book that Qatar is seeking to buy influence from Muslim communities in Europe, with the aim of re-Islamising these communities. In this respect, Qatar’s objectives are in line with the Muslim Brotherhood’s global strategy, as it has been since the first writings of its founder, Hassan al-Banna. This connection is at the heart of the investigation that we conducted in this book and the documentary film, which we made at the same time, and which will be broadcast at the beginning of the school year.
– Unlike Qatar’s other areas of “investment”, such as sport, luxury trade or political lobbying, the goal sought through the financing of the Muslim Brotherhood is not only to seek visibility or influence, but also a political and ideological project clearly linked to Islamism?
– Georges Malbrunot: Indeed, behind the entryism operated by Qatar Charity, within the Muslim communities in Europe, there is not only a search for influence, but also a desire to influence the chessboard of European Islam where, until then, the main operators were Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, enemy of Qatar, but also Turkey, great ally of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Behind all this, there is an objective which aims – as we see written in black and white in the Qatar Charity internal documents we publish – to strengthen the Islamic identity of Muslim minorities in Europe, to support the work of the Daâwa (preaching), to re-educate Muslim youth, to make them an Islamic elite able to take its part of influence in the societies where Muslim minorities in Europe live. And on all these objectives, as can be seen in the documents that the book reveals, there is a direct relationship between Qatar and the “political Islam” [Islamism] of the Muslim Brotherhood.
It is not only noted that more than 90% of Qatari funding goes to associations close to the Muslim Brotherhood movement. But there is also the desire to build Islamic centres always on the same model. That is, a prayer room for men, a prayer room for women, a shopping mall nearby, classrooms, a cultural space and sometimes a swimming pool or even a morgue!
This corresponds to the doctrine of “global Islam”, as Hassan al-Banna theorized, from his first writings, which consists in taking charge of the Muslim individual from birth to death! So, we are in a scheme that aims to transpose and export the “political Islam” of the Muslim Brotherhood to Muslim communities in Europe.
– You say in your book that the financing granted by Qatar to the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe does not fall within the scope of terrorist financing. Yet you cite examples of connections between the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadist terrorism, such as the case of Hanan Abu al-Hanna in Mulhouse?
– Georges Malbrunot: Indeed, we are not in the financing of terrorism, strictly speaking, because the financing of Qatar Charity is not illegal, as long as the associations financed in Europe do not carry out attacks. However, there is sometimes – and we have noted this in the book – the porosity between the neo-Islamic ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood and jihadism. There is indeed the case of this woman in Mulhouse, Hanane Abu al-Hanna, who was the assistant director of the association responsible for the great mosque financed by Qatar Charity. She was killed in the RAID police assault on the prison where she introduced a knife that her radicalized companion used to stab two guards.
There are therefore, here and there, porosities between the Muslim Brotherhood movement and jihadist terrorism. Moreover, historically, this is not a new phenomenon. The current leaders of al-Qaida and Daesh, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, are both from the Muslim Brotherhood, and there are many other examples, the most illustrious of which is the Arab Mujahideen leader during the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan, Abdellah Azzam.