“Community Lists” in France: the hand of Qatar?



How did the scandalous idea, carried by the Muslim Brotherhood’s French relays, encourage Muslims in France to present “community lists” to the next municipal elections? Three weeks before the big community march on November 10, the kick-off of this campaign to “knock on the ballot” took place within the walls of CAREP’s Paris headquarters, the main and most influential Qatari Think-Tank. A story of skillfully orchestrated lobbying….

By Atmane Tazaghart

The Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies (CAREP) is the largest Qatari think tank. Its founder is Azmi Bishara, a former Arab MP in the Knesset, who renounced his Israeli nationality in 2007 and became, three years later, one of the most influential advisors to the current Emir of Qatar, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The CAREP, spearhead of the Qatari political influence, has several subsidiaries in the Arab world and the West. In addition to its parent company based in Doha, its two main subsidiaries are a Maghreb branch in Tunis and a European subsidiary based in Paris.

Behind its supposedly neutral academic appearance, the CAREP serves as a showcase for political lobbying by Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood. This is reflected in the profiles of its key executives. Its founder, Azmi Bishara, advocates a renewal of Arab nationalism through a strategic alliance with the “political Islam” dear to the Muslim Brotherhood. The director of the CAREP branch in Tunis, Mehdi Mabrouk, was Minister of Culture in the first government of Ennahda in December 2011. His main feat of arms was the prohibition of a painting exhibition at El Abdelliya’s palace in La Marsa in June 2012, on the pretext that six of the paintings on display “infringe the Sacred”! As for the presidency of the Paris branch of CAREP, it is entrusted to the Islamologist François Burgat, known for his sympathies towards the Muslim Brothers, whose title of the last book summarizes in an unequivocal way the CAREP programme: “Understanding political Islam”!

A “French hysteria!”

On Friday, October 18, 2019, shortly before 7pm, islamologist François Burgat took up residence in the gallery of CAREP’s Paris headquarters, of which he is the chairman, to host a conference entitled “La France face à la radicalisation”. He is being interviewed by Salam Kawakibi, the Executive Director of CAREP-Paris.

Very quickly, the conference took on the appearance of a virulent anti-French charge. Burgat denounces the “French stance against radicalization”, considering that “the anti-Muslim stiffening is spreading throughout Europe. But in this shift, France is in the lead”. Worse still, he castigates “France in the restrictive sense”, considering that, on the field of Islamophobia, “the score that the National Rally plays to us on the drum, the right plays to us on the saxophone and the left on the flute”. So much so that “the anti-Islamic hysteria is becoming a striking feature of France, just like the bread baguette, the camembert and the red vain”!

To explain the reasons for this “anti-Muslim hysteria”, which he describes as “negative French specificity”, the author of “understanding political Islam” evokes an evil which, according to him, goes back to the French revolution and finds its roots in a “frankness that locks us into a relationship with religious belief that we consider antinomic with the process of modernization”. This is why “secular feminists, like Elisabeth Badinter, cannot conceive that a veiled woman can participate in a process of female emancipation”. He added that this “inability to admit that there may be an Islamic feminism” illustrates the “state of intellectual decrepitude of France”.

Hit the polls:           

To analyse the “French evil” that gave rise to this “dialectic of criminalization of Islam”, Burgat embarked on a diatribe with conspiracy overtones, referring to “four registers” that contribute to it: the European “intestinal left” (Sic !); the “native informants” (referents from the Arab world), made up of left-wing Arab elites, unable, according to him, to “give a constructed conception of the Arab world”, because “they are pathetic in the polls” and “tell us, in the language we understand, what we want to hear”; the counter-revolutions orchestrated by the despotic Arab regimes, which “surf on European secularism and Islamophobia”; as well as the “Israeli apparatus of influence” and the “Zionist media” which want to “convince us that if Hamas resists (sic !), it is not because it is crushed under a bestial occupation, but because they are naughty Muslims”!

And to deal with this French “anti-Muslim hysteria”, Burgat calls for a communitarian vote, stating that “all those who do not agree with this process of criminalizing the Muslim community must know that they have 6 million votes at their fingertips”. He therefore recommends to Muslims in France that “you have to hit where it hurts, it makes you hit the polls, it is the most fragile place, and the balance of power is not that bad…”.

The hand of Qatar?

Less than a month after this speech encouraging communitarianism, the Muslim Brotherhood’s relays in France launched the scandalous idea of forming “community lists” at the next municipal elections. And to mobilize their supporters, taking advantage of the new controversy over the veil provoked by an elected official of the National Rally, they launched the idea of a major communitarian march in Paris. A “shame march”, which – to top it all off – was organised on 10 November, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the attacks of 13 November 2015.

Since the Qatar Papers, by Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, we know the full extent of the Qatari influence that the Muslim-brother organizations in France have had. However, can we see a causal link between the Qatari Think-Tank’s incentive conference and the sudden launch of associations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood?

Indeed, one could believe that Burgat’s speech calling for a communitarian vote is the result of the rantings of an old Islamologist who has long since fallen under the fascination of his research subject: political Islam.

Except that one detail, during his conference at CAREP, betrayed the fact that this incitement to communitarianism was premeditated in concert with the Qatari Think-Tank. Because, in his fiery indictment against French Islamophobia, the speaker got carried away. CAREP Director Sallam Kawakibi had to intervene to inform him that the planned time was almost up. Burgat then wanted to conclude on the same theme of anti-Muslim racism. Embarrassed, Kawakibi was forced to tell him publicly: “No, before concluding, you must give us some precepts and modes of action”. Burgat then remembered that he had to, as agreed with his Qatari sponsors, call on the Muslims of France to hit the polls!