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Winter 2013 | 101
© 2012 Published for the Foreign Policy Research Institute by Elsevier Ltd.
The EU, the Muslim Brotherhood and the
Organization of Islamic Cooperation
by Leslie S. Lebl
Leslie S. Lebl is a Fellow of the American Center for Democracy and Principal of Lebl
Associates. A writer, lecturer and consultant on political and security matters, she is a former
Foreign Service Officer with particular expertise in European political and defense issues,
radical Islam in Europe, Balkan peacekeeping and Russian politics and economy. This article
is drawn from a book that she is writing on the European Union, the Muslim Brotherhood
and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Abstract: The European Union (EU), the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Organization of
Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are locked in a struggle for the future of Europe that encompasses very
different visions. The EU aims for a highly sophisticated Western civilization; the Brotherhood and
OIC see Europe as part of a future global Caliphate, an Islamic empire governed by an Islamist
version of traditional Islamic law, or sharia. This competition extends to the United Nations where
the OIC is seeking to enforce global prohibitions on criticism of Islam. A comparison of the EU’s
actions with those of the U.S. federal government shows that U.S. policymakers, in confronting a
similar challenge, are making many of the same errors as their European counterparts.
n the twenty-first century, the European Union has expanded to include 27
member states, or almost all of Europe. It boasts a population of over 500
million people, unprecedented peace, largely open borders between its
members, and a spreading common currency. Despite the economic crisis, the EU
believes it presents the world with a successful model of “post-national” politics and
society that others will copy. Yet the EU’s political system, societal cohesion and
democratic values are now under attack. This attack is spearheaded from within
Europe by Islamist organizations, in particular the Muslim Brotherhood, and from
without by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Previously the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
© 2012 Published for the Foreign Policy Research Institute by Elsevier Ltd.
102 | Orbis
Like the EU, the Muslim Brotherhood has a vision for Europe. The EU
aims for a highly sophisticated Western civilization that solves problems by
negotiation rather than war, and in which the average person is protected from the
vicissitudes of the market by a wide array of social benefits and from injustice by a
highly-developed set of human and civil rights. The Brotherhood, in contrast, sees
Europe as part of a future global Caliphate, or Islamic empire governed by an
Islamist version of traditional Islamic law, or sharia.
The OIC, an international governmental organization with 56 member
states, plus the Palestinian Authority, shares the vision of a global Caliphate that
implements sharia. It is now the largest voting bloc in the United Nations and an
important EU interlocutor. While from time to time its members may be at odds
with the Muslim Brotherhood, both organizations nevertheless cooperate to
promote mutual objectives with regard to Europe and the EU. As a priority
initiative, the OIC wants a Europe that enforces prohibitions on criticism of Islam.
Few Americans pay attention to the EU, but a comparison of its actions
with those of the U.S. federal government shows U.S. policymakers making the
same errors as their European counterparts.
The Changing Face of Europe
The conflict between the EU, the Muslim Brotherhood and the OIC
derives much of its potency from growing Muslim populations in Europe, which in
2010 accounted for an estimated 3.8 percent of the EU’s total population.
that sounds relatively small, Muslim populations tend to concentrate in certain West
European and Scandinavian countries and, within them, in certain areas and cities,
thus enhancing their influence.
Muslims, like other immigrants, can be expected to shape the society
around them, and in fact they have already begun to wield political influence
through the ballot box. That influence will likely expand in future, given that
Muslim birth rates exceed those of “ethnic” Europeans.
Many Muslims have assimilated into European society, but many others live
apart. Those Muslims living in enclaves or ghettoes may do so because they have
suffered discrimination, prefer “traditional” ways of life (often more “traditional”
than in their country of origin), or, as second and third generation descendants of
immigrants, seek a Muslim identity. Nor is it particularly surprising that many ghetto
inhabitants lack education, employment, a sense of personal responsibility, or suffer
many other deleterious consequences of long-term welfare.
However, there is a huge difference between clustering together to share
culture, traditions or language, and trying to change the legal system of the host
“Muslim” can be difficult to define. Not all immigrants from Muslim countries are Muslim; many
Muslims now have European nationalities; and some countries, such as France, prohibit the collection
of personal data on religious identification. Moreover, the term “Muslim” includes those who are
religiously observant, including European converts, as well as those who are not. The population data
is drawn from EU, UN and Pew Research Center sources.
Winter 2013 | 103
Islam and the Future of Europe
country. The evolution of so-called Muslim parallel societies, with their demand to
apply sharia rather than Western law, is profoundly dangerous for three reasons:
First, imposing sharia means rejecting the laws designed by democratically
elected representatives, thus undercutting the principle on which democracy
is based. The very fact of a separate legal code is in and of itself extremely
destructive. Nor do the proponents of such a change intend to limit it to
Muslim-majority areas. Rather, they aim to expand sharia to cover all of
Second, applying sharia is particularly destructive because its fundamental
concepts are antithetical to Western law. Rather than enshrine the concept
of equality before the law, sharia grants Muslims more rights than non-
Muslims, and men more rights than women. It has no principles
comparable to Western rights of freedom of speech and religion. In general,
it eviscerates human and civil rights.
Third, sharia is based on the Koran which is considered to be the
unalterable word of God. This means that any dispute must, in the final
analysis, be resolved by religious rather than political authorities, a
requirement that nullifies centuries of Western secular development.
Coercion plays a key role in the development of these parallel societies, as described
graphically in recent memoirs by Ed Husain, a British ex-Islamist, and Samira Bellil,
a French woman of Maghreb origin, or novels by Tahar Ben Jelloun or Boualem
Over time, ghetto inhabitants reduce their contacts with the external world.
Non-Muslims are excluded or driven away, and Muslim authorities take control,
turning the ghetto into a so-called parallel society, and perhaps eventually a no-go
zone that European authorities enter at their peril. Nothing in the philosophy, past
history or political structure of the EU helps it to deal with such problems; rather,
what it considers its strengths actually contribute to the problem.
The European Union
As historian Richard Landes has pointed out, the EU in some ways
resembles the medieval Church. It exists as a power center above European nations
and has attracted its own aristocratic elite.
This elite is multinational, cosmopolitan,
and in complete agreement on the overriding priority of “building Europe.” It
includes politicians, bureaucrats, media and educators, more likely than not to the
left of the political spectrum.
See Ed Husain, The Islamist (London: Penguin, 2007), Samira Bellil, Dans l’enfer des tournantes (Paris:
Éditions Flammarion, 2003), Tahar Ben Jelloun, Partir (Paris: Gallimard, 2006) and Boualem Sansal, Le
Village de l’Allemand (Paris: Gallimard, 2008).
Interview with the author.
104 | Orbis
What started as an economic organization of six member states has grown
to include most of Europe. From implementing an agreement on coal and steel
production, it now handles immigration, cultural, foreign and security policies as
well as agricultural, economic and environmental issues – and many more.
Ambitious Europeans can, by means of the EU, exercise influence at a pan-
European level in these sectors far beyond what most of the member states offer at
the national level. This elite seeks to set up a new world order based on “soft
power” and consensus rather than military might; to make the EU a rival power
center that “counterbalances” the United States; to make it the major player at the
United Nations as well as the regional power in the Mediterranean; and to spread its
unique form of governance throughout the world.
Several essential EU characteristics, however, create serious vulnerabilities
vis-à-vis both domestic Islamists and Muslim nations intent on spreading Islamic
rule: the EU’s drive to diminish the authority and role of the member states; its lack
of democratic legitimacy; its embrace of multiculturalism; and its aspiration to be a
global leader in human rights and multilateralism.
Tearing Down the Member States
The EU political and media elite are very proud of the EU’s unique
construction: it is something between an international organization and a state,
containing hopelessly intertwined executive and legislative functions, and blurring
the boundaries between the central institutions and the member state governments.
One result of this system is the gradual, long-term decline in the status and
authority of the 27 member state governments. This process happens subtly, usually
with the concurrence of those governments. “Brussels” (the shorthand for the
central institutions) can never act completely by itself, as cabinet ministers from the
member states must agree to any legal measure. Moreover, the central institutions
have no body of bureaucrats to implement such legislation.
Rather, any laws must be implemented by the member state governments.
Today, at a conservative estimate, more than half of European laws and regulations
are drafted in Brussels.
They are then enacted into law by the 27 national
parliaments, which have devolved from democratic representatives to clerks who
adapt EU directives to cultural traditions, local laws, constitutions— and who have
been known to change those constitutions if they conflict with EU decisions.
Nevertheless, in many key ways the EU is the opponent of the member
states. The last 50 years have seen a slow but steady transfer of power from national
governments to the EU, with never a reverse flow of any significance. Nor is this
accidental: the EU seeks to break down European national identities, supplementing
and maybe eventually replacing them with a European identity.
In 2007, former German president Roman Herzog estimated that the EU affected 84 percent of
German laws; see Honor Mahony, “EU threatening parliamentary democracy, says ex-German
President.” euobserver.com, Jan. 15, 2007. European Parliament President Hans-Gert Pöttering put the
EU-wide number at 75 percent (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_z5H2J4hudE); other
sources, particularly on the left, believe the number is much lower.
Winter 2013 | 105
Islam and the Future of Europe
Perhaps one day this European identity will become powerful enough to
command loyalty from its citizens, but today it is a very thin gruel. Certainly it
cannot inspire those second or third generation Muslims who, alienated both from
the European country where they reside and their country of origin, are drawn to
the Islamic vision of a global umma, or community of believers. Nor can it provide
an inspiration, or even a frame of reference, for Europeans who wish to resist this
While the EU has worked to weaken national identities, its policies have
favored the growth of parallel societies. For decades, central EU institutions
promoted family reunification for immigrants, one of the main sources of
continuing high levels of immigration. They also worked to expand immigrants’
rights to social benefits and to protect their cultural autonomy, key factors that
shape parallel societies. Member states must battle not only centrifugal trends within
their own societies, but EU mandates that promote those trends.
In addition, EU efforts to reduce the sense of loyalty to member states,
whether couched as patriotism or nationalism, have helped to weaken the authority
and legitimacy of the latter. Those efforts are particularly unhelpful now when the
member states are unable, at the most basic level, to maintain law and order in their
Many EU member states appear powerless to solve the problem of no-go
zones: the French government publishes on the Internet a list of over 750 zones
urbaines sensibles, or “sensitive urban zones,” which it recommends that outsiders
avoid. Other European governments may not be so frank, but they too have a
similar list. Nor have they been successful in confronting the criminal behavior of
thugs and gangs that issue forth from these ghetto areas.
The Lack of Democratic Legitimacy
The EU elite recognizes that their new, transnational construction lacks
democratic legitimacy. This elite deplores the EU’s “democratic deficit” yet the EU
cannot function without it. The chosen path to “building Europe” is the so-called
in which seemingly small-gauge technical measures gradually but
inexorably induce political transformations. The assumption is that European
integration would be resisted if people understood what was going on.
European publics that vote against “more EU” are either brought to heel or
subsequently excluded from the decision-making process. For example, in 2005 the
French and Dutch in separate referenda voted down the proposed EU
Constitutional Treaty. As a result, its successor Lisbon Treaty (known as the
Constitutional Treaty Lite) was deliberately written to be unintelligible to the average
voter and by that means to avoid referenda.
Nevertheless, the Irish held a
referendum; voting “no” the first time, they had to vote twice to get it right.
Named after one of the EU founders, Jean Monnet.
See “Valéry Giscard d’Estaing: The EU treaty is the same as the Constitution.” The Independent, Oct.
30, 2007, and Lisbeth Kirk, “Treaty made unreadable to avoid referendums, says Amato,”
euobserver.com, Jul. 16, 2007.
106 | Orbis
The EU’s true founding principle is not democracy but the presumed
inevitability of European integration. EU proponents ascribe a host of virtues to
integration, and the EU funds a range of non-governmental organizations that serve
as proxies for “civil society” and that support its vision. But that vision rests on two
Typically, EU elites credit the organization with replacing war in Europe
with peace and security. This nostalgic view of the past of necessity airbrushes out
the role of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). It reflects not only the
institutional rivalry between the EU and NATO, but also the effort to erase—or at
least greatly reduce—the postwar contribution of the United States to peace and
prosperity in Western Europe. Americans may also note that, from time to time,
various EU actors resort to anti-Americanism, presumably because uniting against
an external foe helps to build group identity.
A second foundational myth is that World War II was caused by European
nationalism and that nationalism, therefore, must be eradicated. This version of
history is of course false: British, Czech, Polish, Danish, Dutch and even German
nationalism did not cause the war. Nazi ideology did—and Hitler sought to destroy
the Germans when they failed to meet his expectations. In fact, in attacking
nationalism, the EU resembles Nazism, which sought to destroy European
nationalism in order to create a pan-European Nazi state.
This is not to say that all Europeans, or even all EU advocates, believe
these myths. But constantly rewriting the past and funding sycophantic supporters
to propagate the rewritten versions creates a hazy, utopian vision of the future in
which world peace will be ushered in by the select few for the benefit of the
(unconsulted) many—a vision remarkably similar to the one, described below, that
is advanced by Islamists. In practical terms, a political and cultural system that bases
itself on mythmaking of this sort rather than on democratic support is poorly
positioned to combat other myths.
Commitment to Multiculturalism
The EU obviously needed some unifying concept to replace centuries of
separate and sometimes hostile European cultures and traditions. The theory of
multiculturalism offered a solution to this problem. Multiculturalism aims to rise
above national particularism (often denounced as nationalism), replacing pride in
national traditions, culture and history while providing a framework for people of
different cultures to live together. But multiculturalism has proven a two-edged
The practice of giving equal weight to non-European cultures has rent the
fabric of European society, loosening its connection to liberal democracy and to
other principles such as women’s rights or equality of all before the law. In theory,
multiculturalism holds that all cultures are equally worthy of respect. A corollary of
this theory is that the values of a minority culture should have a status equal to that
of the majority culture’s values. So anyone attempting to uphold Western values is
Winter 2013 | 107
Islam and the Future of Europe
actually failing to give equal status to the values of other cultures. In practice, at least
in the minds of the EU elites, these principles have fused with the conviction that
Western society is inferior to other cultures—a conviction closely connected to the
guilt that many Europeans feel about their countries’ colonial pasts.
European publics since the 1970s, rather than espousing multiculturalism,
have deplored the loss of their national traditions and culture. Centrist political
parties, however, have refused to address the problem, which has often been
couched in anti-immigrant terms, let alone speak out against multiculturalism. That
pattern appeared to end in late 2010, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK
Prime Minister David Cameron and former French President Nicolas Sarkozy each
announced that multiculturalism had failed.
The EU, however, is very unlikely to abandon its commitment to
multiculturalism or advance tough immigration or assimilation policies.
Unsurprisingly, EU elites deride any new anti-immigration parties that emerge in
member states, labeling them all as far-right extremists regardless of whether that
description is accurate. At the same time, they fail to find practical ways to help
Muslims who wish to assimilate into European society.
Gaining the Moral High Ground
The EU has for decades aspired to be a global human rights champion and
to be a leader of multilateral institutions. These two goals were bound up together:
the EU wanted to take the lead in defending and advancing human and civil rights
within Europe, then in the world. As a multilateral institution, it had a natural
affinity for the United Nations and other multilateral organizations and wanted to
play a deciding role within them.
The battles for EU primacy in the realm of human rights occur in two
spheres. The first is vis-à-vis the EU member states, where the EU’s European
Court of Justice, along with the European Court of Human Rights of the Council of
Europe in Strasbourg, sets standards and norms for all European countries, in the
process allowing citizens of those countries to sue their governments. To uphold its
authority, the EU must appear to adhere to higher human rights standards than the
member states, even if this can be accomplished only by rhetorical flourishes and
In the crucial area of defending Western values vis-à-vis sharia,
however, it is for the most part conspicuously silent.
The second sphere is the transatlantic relationship. In the race for the global
high ground, the EU has typically defined itself in contrast to the United States.
Whether it was the application of the death penalty, the promotion of economic and
social rights or the rights of the child, the EU for years has portrayed the United
See Matthew Weaver, “Angela Merkel: German multiculturalism has ‘utterly failed.’” The Guardian,
Oct. 17, 2010; “Full Transcript:/David Cameron/Speech on radicalisation and Islamic
extremism/Munich/5 February 2011.” New Statesman, Feb. 5, 2011; and “France’s Sarkozy:
Multiculturalism Has Failed.” CBNNews.com, Feb. 11, 2011.
See Jeremy A. Rabkin, Law Without Nations? Why Constitutional Government Requires Sovereign States
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), p. 151.
108 | Orbis
States as chief offender rather than chief ally. The war against terrorism and then the
invasion of Iraq only heightened this dispute, while the Mideast conflict generated a
steady stream of accusations that the United States protected Israel to the detriment
of the Palestinians.
In concentrating on the United States, the EU turned its attention away
from the Islamic world. Yet that is where, particularly in countries ruled by
Islamists, many of the most severe challenges to human rights occur. The EU, like
the West in general, failed to protest when the OIC adopted the Cairo Declaration
of Human Rights in 1990. According to the Declaration, only those rights that do
not conflict with sharia are valid. It thereby eviscerates the UN International
Declaration of Human Rights, which the EU views as a fundamental document, for
a large part of the world.
The Muslim Brotherhood
European Muslims are far from homogeneous: they come from different
countries and different traditions; some are religiously observant, while others see
their connection to Islam only as cultural or as unimportant. Many came for
economic reasons, others to escape the growing pressures from dictatorship or
Islamism in their home country. Some are newly arrived, while others are second or
third generation descendants of immigrants. And some are European converts to
Islam, again with varying experiences and goals.
Despite the patchwork quilt of nationalities and forms of Islam in Europe
today, common behavior patterns are emerging throughout Europe and are
attracting, in particular, the support of young second- and third-generation
immigrants. An important source of commonality among this cohort is Islamism, a
twentieth century creation that combines traditional elements of Islam with modern
totalitarian ideology and organization.
Islamism is a political ideology, based on a religion, the stated aim of which
is to replace Western legal systems with a version of sharia far more brutal than what
is currently applied in most Muslim countries. The application of this sharia regime
worldwide would eventually be guaranteed by a global Caliphate, the head of which
would be not only the supreme Muslim religious leader but also serve as political
The Islamist movement includes both violent (e.g., jihadist) and nonviolent
wings. Traditional Islamic sources identify two basic types of jihad: the “lesser jihad,”
which is war against non-Muslims and the “greater jihad,” defined as “spiritual
warfare against the lower self.” Despite the identifying adjectives, a basic Islamic law
manual such as Reliance of the Traveller dismisses “greater jihad” after one brief
In contrast, “lesser jihad” receives extensive discussion and is supported by
numerous quotations from the Koran. It can take various forms; for example, either
Islamists say they want to restore the historical Caliphate, but that institution never achieved such
Winter 2013 | 109
Islam and the Future of Europe
fighting or supporting fighters with property or money. Its goal of converting or
subduing non-Muslims can be advanced peacefully by means of da’wa, or
proselytization; indeed, war is only to be waged against those who refuse to accept
Typically, the violent Islamist pursues jihad openly, while the nonviolent one
publicly eschews it, except against Israel or Western forces fighting in Muslim
countries. Nonviolent Islamists usually rely instead on da’wa to accomplish their
objective. Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood participate in democratic
institutions, and are often viewed by Western government officials and elites as
having accepted Western values.
Many Islamist organizations mirror underlying ethnic patterns. In
Germany, for example, where the majority of Muslims are of Turkish descent, the
Turkish Islamic Community Millî Görüş (ICMG) is by far the most powerful
Islamic organization. Similarly, the largest Islamist organization in the United
Kingdom is Jamaat-i-Islami, a South Asian organization whose prominence reflects
the preponderance of Muslim immigration from South Asia.
Despite the strength of these organizations, the Muslim Brotherhood,
which has its base in Arab countries, has become the most influential of the
allegedly nonviolent Islamist groups. Regardless of its protestations of commitment
to nonviolence, since its founding in 1928 in Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood has
espoused the stated goal of restoring the Islamic Caliphate, abolished by Turkish
President Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1924, and of pursuing jihad. Its motto was and
“Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is
our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest
The Brotherhood denies that it is an organization per se. Rather, the former
leader of the Egyptian Brotherhood, Muhammad Akif, calls it as “a global
movement whose members cooperate with each other throughout the world, based
on the same religious worldview—the spread of Islam, until it rules the world.”
The Brotherhood has also cooperated successfully with other groups such as Millî
Görüş and Jamaat-i-Islami, successfully leveraging common ideology to expand its
The conspiratorial nature of the group and its lack of an open
organizational structure make it difficult to identify Western adherents of the
Muslim Brotherhood. Often, however, they can be recognized by a combination of
personal and financial ties, as well as ideological statements and actions, especially an
Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri, Reliance of the Traveller: A Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law (Beltsville,
Md: amana publications, 1994), o9.0-9.1, pp. 599-600.
The two crossed scimitars on their seal also suggest that the jihad which interests them is the war
Quoted in Lorenzo Vidino, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe,” in Barry Rubin, ed., The Muslim
Brotherhood (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), p. 111.
110 | Orbis
informal allegiance to Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, considered by many to be the
spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The European Muslim Brotherhood is arguably the EU’s greatest domestic
rival. It has thrived in the environment created, in part, by the EU and has become
adept at exploiting EU vulnerabilities while winning people to its cause. The
Brotherhood advances by driving a wedge between Western human rights and
multiculturalism; by using an indirect approach to obtain its objectives; and by
offering a competing, utopian view of the future.
Human Rights and Multiculturalism
As mentioned above, sharia poses a fundamental challenge to Western
human and civil rights. To vitiate those rights, the Brotherhood relies on arguments
linked to cultural autonomy and multiculturalism. To make its case, the
Brotherhood argues that European Muslims are worthy of special protection
because of the hostility they face: that Westerners are guilty of racism or
“Islamophobia,” defined as the irrational fear of Islam, which functions as a tool to
intimidate and silence critics of Islam or Islamism.
In recent years it has become
widely accepted, despite the lack of concrete evidence to support such allegations
that, for example, Muslims are the primary victims of hate crimes.
Europeans are now well aware that allegations of Islamophobia can be the
first step in a chain of violence and mayhem—not just in Muslim countries, but in
Europe itself. From the murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh and the
violence following publication of the Danish cartoons of Mohammed to the
firebombing of the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris, the consequences of criticizing
Islam—or appearing to influential Islamists to criticize Islam—are obvious.
Rather than act as a bulwark to protect Europe from these depredations,
the EU plays a key role as the one, central location where legislation can be drafted
to implement key aspects of sharia or to advance the concept of imposing criminal
penalties for perceived hate speech. Brotherhood organizations succeed when the
EU limits free speech and grants Muslims a special status.
Islamists are also ideally positioned to exploit the increasingly anti-Zionist
and anti-Semitic climate in Europe. Anti-Semitism is a fundamental principle of all
Islamist organizations; they gain respectability when anti-Semitic speech and actions
become acceptable to mainstream society. Truculent marchers in downtown Berlin
calling for “Jews to the gas” recall the atmosphere of the 1930s, making a mockery
of EU claims to moral superiority over fascist regimes.
Having tolerated and even lauded religious hatred and thuggery directed
against Israel as part of its Mideast policy, the EU and its member state
governments are now hard put to defend themselves from a similar onslaught on
Lorenzo Vidino, The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West (New York: Columbia University Press,
2010), pp. 42-52.
This term apparently appeared first in Iran in the late 1970s (Pascal Bruckner, “The Invention of
Islamophobia,” on signandsight.com, Jan. 1, 2011). British newspapers used it in the 1990s
(Cherdenine Zakalwe, “The Origins of the Term Islamophobia in English-Language Discourse,” Islam
versus Europe blog, Dec. 28, 2011).
Winter 2013 | 111
Islam and the Future of Europe
their own territories.
Yet the connection between domestic security in Europe and
the Mideast conflict, clear from an Islamist perspective, remains obscure to most
Exploiting the Indirect Approach
Like the EU, the Brotherhood is uncomfortable speaking in public about its
true goals. It considers it acceptable to practice taqiyya, a traditional principle that
allows Muslims to lie to non-Muslims if those lies protect Islam or advance the
The Brotherhood can present itself as “moderate” to Westerners desperately
seeking a Muslim interlocutor, or trying to convince themselves that Islam poses no
threat to Western society.
One very large area that remains extremely opaque is the question of
financial flows. The Saudis and Gulf States have contributed significantly, over the
years, to the European Brotherhood, helping them to build mosques and a web of
interlocking organizations and institutions designed to further their cause. In return,
Brotherhood-linked organizations have been accused of generating significant flows
of terrorist finance, charges that they indignantly deny. Researchers and publishers
who write on these topics find themselves subjected to lawsuits and book-banning.
The Brotherhood has been able to exploit the distinction between violent
and nonviolent Islamists despite its frequent reliance on threats of physical violence
and intimidation to accomplish its objectives. The Brotherhood often acts as a
conveyor belt for radicalizing individuals who are later recruited by terrorist
organizations. In reality, the Brotherhood has helped Islamic terrorists make Europe
their global headquarters and logistical center.
Since the attacks of September 11, 2001, organizations linked to the Muslim
Brotherhood have acquired a high profile in Europe, presenting themselves as
Westerners’ best choice of interlocutor with European Muslim communities and
exploiting the multiculturalist tendencies of EU elite interlocutors. Brotherhood
leaders then use their access to European governmental authorities to enhance their
own standing within the Muslim community.
Brotherhood representatives also help shape European counter-terrorism
programs and policies to their liking, exploiting politically-correct thinking about the
root causes of terrorism. EU experts in particular continue to cite economic and
social conditions of Muslims and Western foreign policy as important drivers while
downplaying the role of Islamist ideology.
The EU is poorly placed to combat the indirect approach, as it has spent
decades achieving its objectives by keeping in the shadow. As a result, it lacks the
habits and mind-set, let alone the moral authority, of a more democratic structure.
Indeed, the EU preference for backroom deals with a few key players makes Muslim
For example, see Nidra Poller, “A French Intifada.” Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2011, pp. 25-36.
One justification is provided in Koran, 16:106. See also The Revelation of the Traveller, 8.2, pp. 744-
112 | Orbis
Brotherhood organizations very attractive as a means to deal with the “Muslim
A Shining Future – and a Sordid Present
Islamism, like communism in its day, offers a shining future to the
vanguard of believers who think they will guide the re-established Caliphate. This is
a political siren-call, both for those who feel they fit neither in Europe nor in their
country of origin, and for those craving power over other Muslims, as well as over
non-Muslims. It is also a vision that has no place for nation states or national
Like communists, Islamists have an answer for every question, removing
uncertainty, demanding only obedience from their followers, and surrounding them
with a web of interlocking organizations to ensure that every aspect of life falls
within their purview. They attack Western decadence and corruption, of which there
is plenty, tapping into anti-liberal, anti-capitalist as well as anti-American sentiment.
This vision is realized in so-called parallel societies and no-go zones. The
Muslim Brotherhood did not create these parallel societies and no-go zones single-
handedly, but they are aligned with Islamist goals. Further, because Muslim
Brotherhood leaders often provide this “Muslim community” with leadership, they
profit directly by obtaining ever greater influence within European establishments
that fear the Brotherhood’s ability to instigate disorder and riots if its demands are
The Muslim Brotherhood’s strident views regarding non-Muslims are also
consistent with recent crime patterns. European women and homosexuals, in
particular, are targeted with street violence; occasionally, the media or police admit
that many of these attacks are carried out by young Muslim men. Whether such
hoodlums identify themselves as Muslims is irrelevant; their actions typically serve
to reinforce the Brotherhood’s political standing by engendering fear among their
The European Muslim Brotherhood is likely to enjoy enhanced status if its
sister organizations gain power in various North African and Mideast countries
following the Arab Spring. Its purported commitment to nonviolence may come
under strain as the Egyptian Brotherhood is forced to define its ties to Hamas, the
Brotherhood’s Palestinian wing but, overall, its influence is likely to expand. As part
of that expansion, it may enhance its existing cooperation with the OIC.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation
The OIC is neither a secret organization nor a unique form of transnational
governance. Rather, it is an international organization of 56 Muslim member states
plus the Palestinian Authority. The OIC is dedicated to advancing Muslim interests
worldwide, including those of Muslim minorities in the West. It was established in
the early 1970s in response to an arson attack on the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem;
its headquarters are to be transferred there once Jerusalem is under Palestinian
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For now, the OIC is headquartered in Jeddah, reflecting the fact that Saudi
Arabia was the moving force behind its creation and remains its major source of
funding. Saudi Arabia is the seat of Wahhabism, an intolerant form of Islam out of
which Islamism grew. The cooperation between the two that occurred in the 1960s
when members of the Muslim Brotherhood, fleeing from Egypt, were welcomed to
Saudi Arabia has had far-reaching consequences. In addition to establishing
universities where Brothers could expand and promote their ideology, the Saudis set
up international organizations, among them the OIC, to disseminate it worldwide.
The national interests of OIC members are sometimes at odds, and a
number of them are mortal enemies of the Muslim Brotherhood and/or al Qaeda.
Yet they all share with Islamists the aim of a more powerful global role for Islam, as
laid out in the OIC Charter.
Nor are OIC members opposed to jihad, at least in
principle, as the OIC was founded on the principle of implicit jihad against the State
of Israel. Both within Europe and at the United Nations, the EU faces in the OIC a
formidable, deep-pocketed opponent more than ready to compete with the EU,
both in Europe and globally.
Competing in Europe
Like the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, the OIC wants to
engage actively in issues of European politics, culture, freedom of speech and
religion, interfaith dialogue, and any issues they consider to be connected to the
rights, dignity or culture of Muslim minorities in Europe. Their goals, which dovetail
those of the Muslim Brotherhood, include:
To disseminate, promote and preserve the Islamic teachings and
values based on moderation and tolerance, promote Islamic culture
and safeguard Islamic heritage;
To protect and defend the true image of Islam, to combat
defamation of Islam and encourage dialogue among civilizations
and religions; and
To safeguard the rights, dignity and religious and cultural identity
of Muslim communities and minorities in non-Member States.
The first goal, promoting Islam in European culture, appears to differ from its
Islamist counterpart by emphasizing moderation and tolerance. However, the actual
meaning of those words in an Islamic context differs from Western usage.
“Moderation,” a greatly-abused term rarely defined with any vigor, is for example
often applied not only to genuine moderates but also to individuals who denounce
“Charter of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.” (Amended) Dakar, Mar. 14, 2008.
OIC Amended Charter, Art. 2, paras. 11, 12 and 16.
114 | Orbis
“terrorism,” while supporting terror attacks against Israel or Western forces in Iraq
and Afghanistan. “Tolerance” is similarly ambiguous. Westerners usually define it in
political terms as granting everyone equal standing and rights, but tolerance in Islam,
while it exists, is based on the superiority of Muslims over non-Muslims.
practice, there is little distance between OIC and Islamist objectives vis-à-vis
Now that the OIC, like the Muslim Brotherhood, has opened an office in
Brussels, it is well-positioned to lobby the EU effectively on priority initiatives
related to these goals. One of these is condemning words or actions deemed critical
of Islam. Several years ago, the OIC established an “Observatory of Islamophobia”
which, like the U.S. State Department, produces annual reports related to human
rights. Observatory reports typically criticize Western countries for statements or
incidents that appear to criticize Islam or Muslims, while praising them for steps
they have taken to combat alleged Islamophobia.
This pressure would be largely meaningless were it not for the threat of violence
that lurks behind it. The OIC first demonstrated its power by working with Danish
imams connected to the Muslim Brotherhood to promote international
condemnation—and lethal riots— after the publication of the Mohammed cartoons.
The OIC also derives significant influence from the wealth of its energy-
producing members and the decades of financial flows from these countries into the
West. While the OIC has little ability to exploit any particular transaction, it benefits
indirectly from the deference accorded its richest members.
In addition the OIC has sought to leverage financial inflows to transform
Western financial institutions by developing and applying sharia finance instruments
developed by the Muslim Brotherhood and its close cousin Jamaat-i-Islami. The
new sharia finance sector, is valued at $1 trillion and its proponents expect it to reach
$5 trillion by 2016. European governments and financial institutions are eager to
participate in this expansion.
Sharia finance is a twentieth century invention that offers financial instruments
designed to meet Islamic standards (as defined by Islamists).
and financial institutions favor it because they see it as a means to attract funds from
wealthy Muslim countries. However, sharia finance is also meant to serve as yet
another tool for reinforcing parallel societies, in this case by separating Muslims
from the Western banking system.
Islamic rulers tolerated and protected their non-Muslim subjects as long as the non-Muslims
followed certain strict rules, such as not mentioning something impermissible about Allah, the
Prophet…or Islam (Reliance of the Traveller, o11.10(5), p. 609). Failure to follow those rules meant non-
Muslims could be killed.
This influence was recently demonstrated by the government of Qatar, which offered a cash-
strapped French government a 100-million-euro investment fund to support Muslims in France,
particularly those living in ghettoes. See Peter Martino, “The Qatari Takeover of France.” Gatestone
Institute, Oct. 10, 2012.
See Timur Kuran, Islam & Mammon: The Economic Predicaments of Islamism (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 2004).
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A distinguishing feature of sharia finance is that it prohibits investments in
various sectors, including Western defense industries.
Prohibitions on investing in
Western defense industries do not spring from pacifist tendencies. Rather, the
Islamists who invented sharia finance considered it as a form of jihad that could
accomplish two objectives.
First, the Islamic economy built on the foundation of sharia finance would
supplant the West, paving the way for Muslim political hegemony of the world.
Second, institutions offering sharia financing would help to fund jihad. They are
required to collect and channel a 2.5 percent obligatory zakat, or tithe, on each
transaction. Sheikh Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and
an expert in sharia finance, made clear in a 2006 BBC program that one of the
authorized uses of zakat is to fund jihad. “I don’t like the word ‘donations.’ I like to
call it Jihad with money, because God has ordered us to fight enemies with our lives
and our money.”
There is very little evidence that the EU is even aware of these
negative aspects of sharia finance.
Gaming the Multilateral System
Like the EU, the OIC sees the United Nations as a primary locus for its
diplomacy. While the EU seeks to globalize its human rights and humanitarian
ideals, however, the OIC wants to Islamicize the UN— to exert political influence
in the day-to-day activities of the organization, and over time to change UN policies
and standards to comply with Muslim law and practice. With 56 member states, the
OIC has a distinct advantage in any situation, like the UN General Assembly,
involving bloc voting. By contrast, the EU only controls a potential bloc of
something over 27 votes, i.e. EU member states plus other countries that associate
themselves with EU positions.
The 1990 Cairo Declaration on Human Rights that aimed to shield OIC
countries from Western criticism of human rights abuses also served as the first step
toward fundamentally revising—Islamizing—UN human rights standards. In this
process, the OIC sought not merely to intimidate Westerners into avoiding any
criticism of Islam or of Muslims; it wanted to criminalize, on a global scale, any
See, for example, the explanation on the Hawkeye Wealth Management website, at
http://www.hawkeyewealth.ch/islamic_finance.html. “Finance focuses on the exclusion of immoral
business branches. Sharia-compliant portfolios must be free from adult entertainment, alcohol and
pork production, and the defense industry.”
Jihad can consist of military actions or the use of one’s property; e.g., financial support.
As Kurshid Ahmad, a leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami movement, put it, Muslims’ “dependence upon
the non-Muslim world in all essentials must be changed to a state of economic independence, self-
respect and gradual building-up of strength and power.” Ahmad buttressed his argument with the
Koranic passage, “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power, including
steeds of war, to strike terror into (the hearts of) the enemies of God and others besides whom you
may not know.” Quoted in Patrick Sookdheo, Understanding Shari’a Finance (McLean, VA: Isaac
Publishing, 2008), p. 14.
Quoted in Sookdheo, op. cit., p. 22.
116 | Orbis
thoughts or actions defined by a new concept, “defamation of religion.” In other
words, it sought to universalize Islamic blasphemy laws.
Over a period of ten years, OIC-proposed resolutions adopted by UN
human rights bodies and the UN General Assembly called on countries to
criminalize defamation of religion. These resolutions ran completely counter to
centuries of Western law. In the West only individuals can be defended from
defamation; e.g., from false statements of fact that damage their reputation and
livelihood. The right to freedom of speech or expression covers criticism of
religious ideas or institutions.
Indeed, for centuries, proponents of free speech
battled against blasphemy laws shielding Western religious authorities from
Blasphemy codes in use today in various Muslim countries serve political as
well as religious purposes, targeting reformers, dissenters, religious minorities, or
anyone else who makes statements that governmental or religious authorities
Adopting and criminalizing this concept would severely impinge on the
Western right to freedom of speech and deliver a body blow to Western democracy.
Over time, the OIC resolution garnered fewer and fewer votes in annual
meetings of the UN General Assembly, despite the introduction of watered down
Subsequent statements had made clear, however, that the OIC’s
intention had not changed. For example, in September 2012 it signed a statement
about a 13-minute alleged anti-Islamic movie trailer that called for “an international
consensus on tolerance and full respect of religion, on the basis of UN Human
Rights Council Resolution 16/18.” That resolution, passed in April 2011, calls on
countries to “[adopt] measures to criminalize incitement to imminent violence based
on religion or belief.” To its discredit, the EU (along with the Arab League and the
African Union) also signed the 2012 statement.
The EU announcement was, unfortunately, consistent with its adoption in
2008 of a Framework Decision to criminalize “certain forms and expressions of
racism and xenophobia.” While the Decision contains a clause reaffirming freedom
of expression, its clear impact is to reduce freedom of speech: the remainder of the
text subjects public incitement to violence or hatred, to include disseminating or
distributing tracts, pictures or other materials, as well as other acts to criminal
penalties of up to three years in prison.
Nina Shea, “Fatwa Against Free Speech.” National Review, Oct. 15, 2012, p. 26.
See discussion in “The Dangerous Idea of Protecting Religions from ‘Defamation’: A Threat to
Universal Human Rights Standards.” United States Commission on International Religious Freedom,
Policy Focus, Fall 2009.
Shea, op. cit.
The OIC was joined in its efforts by a U.S. administration eager to reach out to Muslim countries, a
development that will be discussed in the final chapter.
“Joint statement by the European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security
Policy, OIC Secretary General, Arab League Secretary General, and Chairperson of the Commission of
the African Union.” European Union press release A 412/12, Brussels, Sep. 20, 2012.
“Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certain forms
and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law.” Official Journal of the European
Union, L 328/55-58, Dec. 6, 2008.
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he Future of Europe
By caving in to pressure from the OIC and adopting positions that fail to
protect EU citizens, the EU destroys its own authority and credibility. At the same
time, it does not solve its problem. The OIC will not be placated by “hate speech”
codes like the EU one when it is seeking the level of censorship provided only by a
full-blown Islamic blasphemy code.
The EU would do better to take a higher-
profile position with those who criticize the human rights record of OIC
The United States
Many American observers of the changes in Europe express regret for the
loss of traditional European culture while assuming that such things could never
happen in the United States. But they are wrong. There are many striking
similarities between recent developments on both sides of the Atlantic, and between
various actions and policies of the U.S. federal government and those of the EU.
An estimated 2.5 million Muslims now live in the United States,
constituting 0.8 percent of the total population.
Muslim immigrants to the United
States have on the whole done quite well, are better assimilated than are their
counterparts in Europe and, with the exception of enclaves in places like Dearborn,
Michigan, tend not to cluster in Muslim-majority areas. Nevertheless, troubling
trends are evident. When asked in a 2007 Pew study whether they saw themselves as
Americans or Muslims first, 47 percent of respondents replied that they were
Muslims first, and 39 percent of young people
thought Muslims should remain
distinct from U.S. society. Perhaps most troubling, the Pew study reported that 15
percent of American Muslims under age 30 believed that suicide bombing could
often or sometimes be justified.
Those sentiments may be related to what is preached in American mosques.
A random survey of 100 American mosques found that imams in 82 of them
recommended the study of Islamic texts promoting violence. Disturbingly, these
mosques were better attended than those which did not promote violence.
As in Europe, the Muslim Brotherhood has established itself quite firmly in
the United States. Its goals were laid out in a secret 1991 memorandum discovered
by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The memorandum sets out a long-term
strategy for presenting Islam as a “civilization alternative” in North America, calls
for supporting “the global Islamic State wherever it is” and urges the Brothers to
understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in
eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and
‘sabotaging’ its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the
Shea, op. cit.
See Patrick Goodenough, “’Islam Is not Incompatible With Human Rights Standards,’ Islamic Bloc
Insists.” CNS News, Apr. 26, 2012.
“Mapping the Muslim Global Population,” Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life, Oct. 2009, p. 24.
“Muslim Americans: Middle Class and Mostly Mainstream.” Pew Research Center, May 22, 2007.
Mordechai Kedar and David Yerushalmi, “Sharia and Violence in American Mosques.” Middle East
Quarterly, Summer 2011, p. 67.
118 | Orbis
believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over
all other religions.
Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organizations have succeeded in presenting
themselves to U.S. federal authorities as spokesmen for Muslims and as advisors. In
large part, this has been because the U.S. authorities shared the approach of their
European counterparts: they dedicated themselves to combating terrorism, or
violent extremism, rather than Islamist ideology per se.
Various Muslim legal groups that have emerged in the United States in
recent years have promoted the use of sharia law in America. A recent study
identifies 50 cases in which appellate legal cases involved “conflict of law” issues
between sharia and American state law.
To ward off such judgments, over 20 states
have sought to prohibit U.S. courts from applying anything but U.S. law. Several
(Tennessee, Louisiana, Arizona and Kansas) have already passed such legislation.
The states are doing so without any support from the federal government. Rather,
federal officials tend to respond to the concerns of groups like the Council on
American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a Muslim Brotherhood-linked organization that
routinely opposes these initiatives.
In fact, the federal government has on numerous occasions taken steps that
raise questions about the extent of Muslim Brotherhood or OIC influence on its
domestic and foreign policies. These include official speech codes designed to
obscure the connection between Islam and terrorism; efforts to blame the unrest
and violence directed against the United States in September 2012 on an obscure
anti-Mohammed video; and policies that favor the Muslim Brotherhood over its
secular or liberal competitors in Egypt, Syria and other Muslim countries. It is
shocking to see how much ground the federal government has already ceded to the
Islamists, especially in view of the relative advantages the United States enjoys over
Europe in the struggle against Islamism.
The U.S. government, like the EU, has sought closer ties with the OIC.
This cooperation has been the most intense at the UN’s Human Rights Council
since October 2009, when the Obama administration negotiated the compromise
resolution with Egypt regarding defamation of religion. The United States has also
become an active member (as has the EU) of the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations
where the OIC enjoys a great deal of influence.
Muslims, like any other immigrant group, will influence European politics
and society as they increase in numbers. The Muslim Brotherhood and the OIC will
help shape how that happens, and what becomes “the New Normal” in Europe.
They will also shape what happens in the United States.
“An Explanatory Memorandum on the General Strategic Goal for the Group in North America.”
May 22, 1991, pp. 4 and 7. Available at
“Shariah Law and American State Courts: An Assessment of State Appellate Court Cases.” Center
for Security Policy, May 20, 2011.
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Islam and the Future of Europe
Groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood do not speak for all Muslims and
should not be allowed to usurp that role. Nor should the EU and the United States
defer to them or their allies in the OIC on human rights, foreign policy, or any other
issues where there is a conflict with Western values and interests.