LONDON: The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates are using well-meaning liberals across Europe to cover and promote their own anti-democratic agenda, experts have warned.
At an event attended by Arab News and hosted by UAE think tank Trends Research and Advisory, experts also warned that despite its relative decline over the past decade, the Brotherhood is adaptive and must be continually countered.
Dr Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Extremism Program at George Washington University, told attendees that the Fellowship uses “awakened” language to “camouflage its true nature” as it settles in Europe. .
“We are witnessing a very widespread loss of popularity (of the brotherhood) among the populations of the Arab world,” he said.
âPeople experienced the ineffectiveness of Brotherhood rule in 2012 and 2013. People became disenchanted with the Brotherhood. “
But in the West, and particularly in Europe, the group’s status is “a more complicated question,” he added.
In the West, it’s a “different brotherhood, with different goals and priorities compared to Muslim countries,” Vidino said.
There is a “coming of age of a second generation of activists born in Europe and extremely well versed in European and Western political discourse”, he added.
âBecause of this, they are able to do what the first generation of pioneers aspired to do but were not really able to do. “
The goal, he said, is to be accepted by mainstream institutions, and they use their native understanding of Western political discourse to achieve that.
âThey don’t look like the Brotherhood,â Vidino said. “They made their political debut in Brotherhood circles, but from their language to the political alliances they maintain, they are not exactly your typical Brotherhood modus operandi.” They adopted “the language of post-colonial theory, a very progressive policy,” he added.
“People started to call them ‘awakened Islamism’, using a lot of the concepts of racism, fanaticism, which are dominant in political discourse in Europe and camouflaging their true nature in a language that makes them much more acceptable, more acceptable, for an ordinary establishment.
For example, said Vidino, “we see these activists working very closely with LGBTQ organizations, with very progressive movements, which they actually have very little in common with if you dig a little deeper.”
He added: “These are tactical alliances with these groups, thanks to their ability to understand the political discourse that rocks the European establishment.”
Dr Nasr Mohamed Aref, professor of political science at Cairo University, said this adaptability is part of what preserves the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood.
The group “has a very great ability to adapt to its environment,” he added. âIt changes ‘color’ depending on its environment to attract members. “
Aref said whether or not prosperity in any given country depends on decisions made at the state level.
“The Muslim Brotherhood is a national decision, a state decision,” he added. âThe existence of the Brotherhood – or its non-existence – is the decision of the State in which it exists. Countries can decide whether it exists or not.
Dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood, and political Islam more broadly, “is the question of the moment,” said Dr. Ziad Munson, professor of sociology at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
But “if it was easy, it would already be done – the way to do it is to think about how, for the vast majority of people, ideology is something that is instantiated in practice and in their daily lives. “, he added.
âSo the key is to break that link between the toxic forms of ideology that exist and the practical everyday activities that people are engaged in. “
For Muslims, this means that the freedom to pray, eat halal food and freely express their religion is preserved and completely separated from engagement in the pursuit of so-called pan-Islamist political goals, Munson said, adding that this problem is not exclusive to the Brotherhood and the Muslims.
“Western governments are facing this problem across the political spectrum with the rise of populism at large, often linked to religious radicalism but not necessarily linked to it,” he said.