Since the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), founded by Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusef Al-Qaradawi, launched an app named Euro Fatwa 18 months ago, its content and purpose have raised concern across Europe. In a short time, Euro Fatwa became one of the 100 most frequently downloaded apps worldwide, particularly in the West. It also attracted numerous youths with seemingly insufficient knowledge or experience to evaluate the app’s content.
Organizations such as the Constitution Protection Commission in Germany, and the Ifta’a Department in Egypt, besides representatives such as French MP Natalie Goulet and British MP Ian Paisley, have raised concerns over the app’s religious content and fatwas (religious edicts) that incite hatred and negatively affect social cohesion among ethnic groups in Europe.
The application has attracted considerable interest during the lockdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. It has been downloaded thousands of times across Europe, particularly in Germany, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, and Ireland. Its appeal has made experts believe that extremists will take advantage of this app to recruit young people. Many organizations urged Google and Apple to ban the app as it was a tool used by the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated radical Islamists to spread violence, hatred, and extremism among the youth.
The furor created over the app led to a ban on the Euro Fatwa. However, Google restored the app on its platform after removing Yusef Al-Qaradawi’s introductory statement. Since then, Euro Fatwa has continued to share ideas that incite violence and extremism and has offered the Muslim Brotherhood a global instrument to spread its radical ideology.
Muslim Brotherhood and the new media
The brutal beheading of Samuel Paty, the 47-year old French history teacher, by Abdullah Anzorov on October 16, 2020 – after he showed cartoons of Prophet Mohammed to his students during a class in a Paris suburb – has sparked anger among the French and the European governments. It has prompted them to confront radical Islamists, review the organizations and their culture, and shape their beliefs about others.
Anzorov, an 18-year old French immigrant of Chechen origin, strongly believed in the ideas of the French activist Abdul Hakim Al-Sefweri, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and founder of the Sheikh Yasin Society, which is affiliated to the Palestinian Hamas. This radical movement, along with other extremist groups that originated from the Muslim Brotherhood, uses technology to spread their ideology and attract many young people to join them with blind obedience.
It is increasingly evident that the growing use of social media networks and applications has helped the Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates worldwide. These groups exploit these tools and networks to carry out their operations and undermine the security of people and societies that oppose their beliefs and reject their extremism.
Social media has given the extremists easy tools to rapidly disseminate their ideas, data, and information to followers, recruit, and carry out terrorist operations. These groups use the swiftness, secrecy, and anonymity of the new media to share their ideas in carefully considered ways, communicate with young people worldwide, and convince them to adopt extremist views. This approach became evident following the fatwa issued by some radical Islamists who called for revenge from Samuel Paty. He had belittled Prophet Mohammed by showing photos and humiliating him.
The Muslim Brotherhood, and its affiliated groups, are aware of the new media’s advantages in spreading their subversive message. They follow in the footsteps of people like Tom Metzger and Dan Gannon in the United States of America. Gannon used the Internet to spread his thoughts about white people’s racial purity in the US. They also learned a lot from the initiative of Don Black in the US in 1995, who developed a website to support Christian minorities worldwide.
The Muslim Brotherhood and radical Islamist groups acknowledge that the new media offers significant confidentiality and privacy to publishers and subscribers. These platforms facilitate social communication of the groups’ activities to their followers worldwide in all languages through smartphones and Internet data. Communication between the app’s users cannot be easily controlled or identified unless otherwise reported or monitored by security officials. Besides, the demand for these apps is enormous among the youth. Moreover, they ensure easy access to reading material and streaming of takfiri (divisive) content.
These apps often become a medium for dialogue that fuel conflict between extremists and traditional thoughts. These platforms also end up giving significant space for incendiary discourse that has the potential to influence young minds. Furthermore, these apps facilitate a coded link between creators of misleading content and their followers, who then receive instructions from their leaders to act as desired by their leaders. These instructions are not presented directly but through fatwas that promote hatred and violence.
The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliated groups are aware of the advantages of the new media apps compared to traditional communication methods. They understand that the new media gives the flexibility to build information networks and promote violence and sabotage remotely without being physically present at the crime scene.
Operating these networks also do not require a large budget. It can be accessed even by low-income groups. The leaders and administrators of these groups do not have to expose themselves to security scrutiny, given the cyber laws in Europe that allow monitor of radical new media applications. Another critical feature of the new media apps is the anonymity it provides to those who seek to brainwash the youth. Such apps suit the Muslim Brotherhood’s plan to continuously disseminate false and misleading information to create a rift in societies and undermine security.
Apps to incite extremism
Euro Fatwa is the latest example of the use of technology to fuel extremism. Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an Islamist theologian and the unofficial chief ideologue of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded the ECFR, the organization behind the app. European officials have repeatedly warned against the app and its promotion of hate and radicalization. Europe’s security officials have also blamed Google and Apple for their failure to remove or ban the app entirely, given a large number of followers it is attracting in Europe. The tech giants refused to take down the app despite its clear ties with an extremist who has called for the murder of Americans, gay people, and Jews worldwide.
Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler, the Senior Director of Counter Extremism Project (CEP), blamed major tech companies for their inability to combat online extremism sustainably. He also called for a more stringent framework, including fines for those who promote hatred and use new media apps like Euro Fatwa. Dr. Schindler also warned against the fatwas issued by Al-Qaradawi, who is on record calling for suicide bombings against Americans, Westerners, and Israelis as “heroic operations of martyrdom.”
Besides his ideological and financial support for the so-called Jihadi groups through the Al-Qaradawi Union of Good Charity, Al-Qaradawi uses his website and verified accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to distribute Euro Fatwa. He publicizes his speeches and writings that justify violence against anyone who refutes their claims and rejects their ideology, theology, and philosophy, regardless of their nationality, gender, or religion. These are examples of Al-Qaradawi’s fatwas on the app, which have still not been removed by Google:
“The Islamization of Europe will be the beginning of the return of the rightly-guided Caliphate, and Islam will return to Europe as a pioneering and victorious force after being expelled from this continent twice.”
“Some Jihadis may blow themselves up if their groups decided this matter.”
“The spread of Islam in the West is a duty for all Muslims, as Europe’s occupation and the defeat of Christianity is inevitable. With the spread of Islam in Europe, it is possible to become strong enough to control the entire continent.”
It is prohibited working in restaurants serving pork or alcoholic drinks and also forbidden to work as police officers in these infidel countries.”
The explicit objective of the Euro Fatwa app is to provide religious commentary on social and economic practices and spell out rules of worship to allow non-Arabic speaking Muslims in the West to identify ways to perform their duties. The app tries to get the attention of non-Muslims on culture-related topics such as polygamy. In some cases, strange fatwas even provoke the curiosity of non-Muslims and encourage them to download. Al-Qaradawi’s fatwas are widely perceived as racist and do not consider the West’s diversity of cultures.
The Euro Fatwa could be far more beneficial if it shares moderate and non-extremist ideas and promotes peace, tolerance, and acceptance. It will serve a bigger purpose if it highlights the truly Islamic principles mentioned in the Holy Quran, such as: “There is no compulsion in religion,” “You have your religion, and I have mine,” and “O humanity! Indeed, we created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you. Allah is truly All-Knowing, All-Aware.”
The Euro Fatwa does not reflect any of these ideals of Islam. It mostly focuses on the controversial issues that are more likely to arouse anger, violence, and disrespect among people of different faiths. The Muslim Brotherhood does not care about the negative consequences of these fatwas. Instead, they rather care more about the extent to which they can achieve their goals and aspirations to control the minds of people worldwide.
European institutions have all the right to ban the application, especially after it was established that some terrorists who perpetrated violence in Europe used them. Laws dealing with cybercrime exist in many countries. However, it is their application that matters. There must be a way to ban the use of such apps worldwide.
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