2 Nov 2020

Finance network of Muslim Brotherhood in the West: forms and manifestation

Noora Nassir Al-Habsi

The recent increase in terrorist attacks in the West have led to a growing debate about the dangers posed by Muslim Brotherhood ways of fighting the organization. In this context, it is important to shed light on the finance and business networks belonging to the Brotherhood in the West and how they work. There is wider recognition now in Europe and the US about the ideological, and sometimes organizational, links between the Brotherhood and what motivates the “lone wolves” to carry out terrorist attacks.

Researching the Brotherhood’s economic ventures is an uphill task, given the intricate precautionary measures practiced by the group in order to remove every trace of its sources of finance and the way it manages and spends its financial wealth. The group has mastered the practice of evading government oversight by virtue of its extended historical experiences in clandestine activities and strained relations with governments.

Brotherhood’s economic system

The state of the economy is exceptionally important for the Brotherhood. It is a source of strength for the group in implementing its ideological and political project. But then, the Brotherhood also uses its wealth to build a supportive social arm by providing aid and service projects to attract different social segments, especially the poor and marginalized. Then the group utilizes these social segments as a back-up force and exploits them politically in times of elections.

The Brotherhood’s economic interest has always been hand-in-hand with its da’wah (invitation to embrace Islam) and political interests. Along with the da’wah and political orientations, the economic factor has become one of the main dimensions in formulating the group’s ideological vision. Eventually, businessmen and financiers dominated the group in almost every aspect. As one of its dissident leaders said, the group “is led by money changers and bankers instead of preacher-scholars”.[1]

The Brotherhood’s economy is directed to serving the group’s ideological and political project. This economy is adaptable to different political systems. It is politicized, with a leaning toward religiosity as the group has sought to manipulate religion to build up its financial resources and establish its economic empire. It’s also a service economy aimed at penetrating society, as well as a family economy built upon kinship and marriage ties among members and leaders of the group.

The Brotherhood’s economic system can be described as investing in quick-profit consumption business and averting investment in capital goods that would help build a strong national economy. It is also a globalized economy which allows the group to make use of some safe havens in a way to bolster its economic capabilities.

The interest of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West dates back to the 1950s, specifically after the “Manshiyya” incident in 1954 and the consequent legal ban imposed on the group, the arrest campaign among its ranks, and the seizure of its money and property. That incident was a strong turning point for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood which forced its members to escape and pursue their activities abroad, starting from the Gulf countries.

Subsequently, the group developed a strategic vision to “invade” the rest of the Arab countries and reach European countries and the Unites States. Western countries have become a safe haven for its totalitarian project, taking advantage of the freedom in the West by using a pragmatic discourse to entrench itself among Muslim communities there. Economic investment has been one of the main tools for the group to flourish in these countries. It has relied in this on two main elements: the formation of influential economic elite groups and the establishment of financial institutions in Western countries.

The Brotherhood elites

Modelled on its religious and political elites which it created in order to formulate an ideological discourse that employs religion to serve its political ends, the group has created a strong economic elite group to operate in the fields of financial investment and business. Some members of this economic elite group have become well known at the global level. Three key examples are cited below.

Yousuf Nada

Yousuf Nada is an Egyptian businessman who holds several nationalities including that of Libya, Tunisia and Italy. He was the financial and diplomatic representative of the Muslim Brotherhood abroad,[2] and often described as the “Brotherhood’s Finance Minister”. He was also nicknamed “the prince” due to his extensive relations with many European intelligence agencies[3] and prominent political figures, including the former Tunisian president Habib Bourguiba who granted him Tunisian citizenship.

The Tunisian citizenship enabled Yousuf Nada to travel with ease across Europe and obtained a ten-year entry visa to the Unites States.[4] He also married the daughter of former Syrian president, Adib Shishakli, who was closely linked to the British intelligence agencies,[5] while Yousuf’s daughter married the son of the Supreme Guide of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Issam Al-Attar.[6]

Before building his renowned financial empire,[7] Yousuf Nada had only a dairy laboratory when he left Egypt. However, in 1988 he founded “Al-Taqwa Bank”, which was the first Islamic bank operating outside the Muslim world. The bank is based in the Bahamas, which allows investment and banking activities outside the government oversight according to the “offshore” system. Some estimates say the bank’s initial capital was US$229 million as of December 31, 1994, and its budget reached US $258,667,162.[8]

He also set up many branches of the Al-Taqwa Bank in Liechtenstein and Britain,[9] and established “Nada International Concrete” and “Al-Taqwa Management” companies, which were liquidated in February 2004[10] after the American administration accused Al-Taqwa Group of supporting terrorism following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.[11]

Ibrahim Al-Zayat

Ibrahim Al-Zayat was born in 1968 of Egyptian descent and holds German nationality. He is one of the key leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood. His father, Farouk Al-Zayat, was a former Brotherhood leader and a former imam of Hamburg mosque. His brother, Bilal Al-Zayat, was one of the co-founders of “German Muslim Youth Organization”. His sister, Manal, is married to the son of Kamal Al-Helbawy, a former member of the counseling office and spokesman of the Brotherhood before his resignation, and she supervises a number of Islamic organizations in European countries.[12]

Ibrahim Al-Zayat headed a number of Islamic activities in the West such as the “Islamic Community of Germany”, the “Islamic Centre of Munich”,[13] the “Islamic Center in Cologne”, and the “Islamic Endowment in Britain”. He also held key managerial positions in the “Islamic Relief in Britain”, the “World Forum of Muslim Youth”, and the “Muslim World League”.[14] He was the founder of the Brussels-based “Federation of Muslim Youth and Student Organizations” which leads a hostile campaign against the current Egyptian regime and strongly supports the Muslim Brotherhood since the overthrow of Muhammad Mursi in 2013.[15]

Being married to Sabiha Erbakan, the daughter of the Turkish Islamic leader Necmettin Erbakan’s brother, he is a member of the board of trustees of the Turkish organization Millî Görüş, which is known for collecting donations and zakat from Turkish Muslims in Germany and other European countries. He also established many Brotherhood-affiliated investment and real estate companies in Germany.[16]

Despite the success of Ibrahim Al-Zayat in building strong ties with a number of research institutions and think-tanks in Europe, such as the European Institute of Social Sciences, the German Parliament (Bundestag), and the European Parliament, many suspicions were raised about him in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was also strongly suspected of being involved in embezzlement and money laundering in Germany.[17]

Issam Al-Haddad

Issam Al-Haddad was one of the most important figures in funding the Muslim Brotherhood in London.[18] He was a presidential assistant in the government of the ousted President Muhammad Mursi with responsibility for foreign relations, and was the leader of Mursi’s presidential election campaign. Al-Haddad’s prominent economic role in Egypt and abroad is well-known as he was the link between the Brotherhood’s businessmen and their foreign associates.[19]

He belongs to a wealthy family that has many investments in London in partnership with some Pakistani Muslim businessmen residing in the UK.[20] His brother, Midhat Al-Haddad, is a famous businessman and the founder of a group of joint stock companies and private companies operating in the fields of contracting, real estate investment, exhibition business, and import and export activities.[21] His other brother, Hisham Al-Haddad, is a prominent leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in Alexandria, and the father of Jihad Al-Haddad who was the most recognized Brotherhood activist and was in charge of foreign relations in the group’s “renaissance project”.[22]

Issam Al-Haddad was the director of the Islamic Relief Foundation but performed his duties covertly during the era of President Husni Mubarak due to personal security reasons because his appearance would have enabled government intelligence services to track the Brotherhood’s finances. However, he had appeared publicly when the Brotherhood took power in Egypt and he was appointed as presidential assistant for foreign affairs.

On July 12, 2013, Issam Al-Haddad resigned from his post as director of the controversial Islamic Relief Foundation only nine days after the overthrow of Mursi, fearing that “the group’s finances would be tracked, confiscated or frozen”, according to Dr. Samir Ghattas, head of the Middle East Forum for Strategic Studies and expert in Islamic groups affairs.[23]

Dr. Ghattas also reveals that Issam was in charge of supervising the coordination between 64 associations across the world and that this task required working secretively. Issam shouldered this responsibility because of his experience in coordinating between the associations and chapters of the group abroad, in addition to his mastery of English language.[24]

Brotherhood’s financial institutions in the West

Since the 1950s, the Muslim Brotherhood managed to find its way into a number of European countries by infiltrating the Muslim communities there and establishing organizational bodies to initially oversee places of worship, such as the Munich Mosque, and present a kind of religiosity that is seemingly compatible with coexistence in the West. Then these organizational bodies penetrated the Muslim communities deeper, especially at the beginning of the 1990s when a number of Brotherhood-dominated Islamic organizations were founded.

In addition to the intensive cultural and social presence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Western countries in the form of independent associations, it set up organizations which are nothing more than “facades for a global current with deliberate political dimensions”,[25] according to American journalist Steven G. Merley. The group also uses “halal trade” as a commercial vehicle to strengthen its expansion among the European Muslim communities.

According to a report published by the American journal “INSIDER”, the annual value of halal meat trade alone was estimated at US $2.3 trillion and expected to reach US $6.4 trillion by 2020.[26] The report said that the global halal food and beverage market size is expected to reach US $739.59 billion by 2025.

According to a recent report by Grand View Research, the global halal food industry is expected to witness significant growth as Muslim population and their food expenditure increase substantially. The Muslim population is expected to increase from 23 percent to around 30 percent of the world population by 2030.[27]

According to observers, halal meat is certified and supervised by a number of bodies belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood or infiltrated by it, such as the Islamic Cultural Center in Geneva, the Islamic Community of Germany (IGD), the Central Council of Muslims in Germany, the Union of Islamic Organizations of France (now known as French Muslims), and the Union of Islamic Communities and Organizations in Italy. Through this trade, they gain millions of dollars which they later spend on funding the international Brotherhood organization.[28]

The Halal Accreditation Agency (HAK) was established to provide halal accreditation services to the halal conformity assessment bodies located both in Turkey and abroad, to determine and apply the criteria and measures related to halal accreditation, and to sign bilateral or multilateral mutual recognition agreements.[29]

The halal trade is no longer limited to food. It now includes other sectors, such as cosmetics, household and medical equipment, tourism and banking, with an estimated capital of US $2300 billion in 2017 across the world.[30] Worldwide halal tourism grew by 30 percent in 2016. A recent joint study by Mastercard and Crescent Rating projects that over the next decade halal tourism sector’s contribution to the global economy will jump from US $180 billion to US $300 billion.[31]

In Europe, the Muslim Brotherhood oversees a number of associations as cultural or religious bodies that are effective tools for collecting and managing the group’s funds. They include:

Islamic Relief Foundation: Based in London, the foundation was established in 1984 by Brotherhood leaders Ibrahim Al-Zayat, Hani Al-Banna and the Egyptian-British businessman Umar Al-Alfi.[32] Its declared scope of activity is social work. Issam Al-Haddad is the director of the foundation. Muslim Brotherhood leaders Ahmad Kazim Al-Rawi and Hani Abdul-Jawad Al-Banna Al-Mansouri are also part of the foundation .[33]

The revenues of the Foundation reached £130 million in 2012. Since 2008, it made a total of more than £456 million.[34] The largest portion of its funding comes from donations inside Britain (about 46 percent) and the rest is generated through grants from partners (about 22 percent) and donors from outside Britain.[35]

Citing the foundation’s documents and budgets, another report estimates that the share of the main contributors to the foundation reached £39.2 million, its assets value amounted to £42.2 million and its financial liquidity is about £21.4 million.[36] The report also uncovered that the foundation receives financial support from the Islamic Development Bank, the Arab Doctors Union and the United Nations.[37]

In his study on the Brotherhood’s economy, Abdul-Khaliq Farooq concludes that the international Brotherhood organization controls the declared funds of the Islamic Relief Foundation, which means that it does not include its resources and expenditures in the annual report presented in line with the British charities law. Farooq estimates these funds at about US $200 to US $250 million annually which are used in expanding the international Brotherhood organization under the guise of humanitarian and relief activities.[38]

The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe: The federation was founded in Brussels in 1989 in order to unite and coordinate between chapters of the Muslim Brotherhood in more than 20 countries.[39] Some observers estimate that through this federation the Muslim Brotherhood established 500 institutions in 28 European countries.[40] In his study “The Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe” published in October 2008, American journalist and counterterrorism specialist Steve G. Merley concluded that the federation is financially strong enough to secure its future with its roughly 400,000 members and a capital of £900 million (about US $1.5 billion), and real estate investments in Britain, Germany, Greece, Romania and others.[41]

The European Council for Fatwa and Research: This Dublin-based foundation was established  as an initiative of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe. Its stated goal is to issue fatwas that serve the needs of Muslims in Europe.[42] It was established by Ibrahim Muneer and some of his aides in order to be used as a religious cover for collecting zakat and donations. It is presided over by Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Egypt, Qatar), with Faisal Maulawi, Vice-President (Lebanon), Rashid Al-Ghannushi, member (Tunisia), Abdul Raheem Al-Taweel, member (Spain), and Dr. Muhammed Al-Hawari, member (Germany).[43]

The European Institute of Human Sciences: The institute trains imams in three universities in France and Wales, in addition to a number of economic entities that deliver funds to Brotherhood-affiliated organizations and movements in order to expand the construction activities of mosques across Europe.[44]

According to Nathan Brown, specialist in Islamist movements, the Muslim Brotherhood has also succeeded in Europe in establishing “other organizations besides the international Brotherhood, such as the International Forum for Islamist Parliamentarians, that are informally associated with the Brotherhood and work to gather members from Brotherhood chapters and Brotherhood-type movements in various countries.”[45]

Nathan Brown notes that despite their different names and fields of activities, all these organizations eventually come under the control of the Muslim Brotherhood through a network of advisors, notably Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, and they receive lavish funding from a host of foreign bodies.[46]

Conclusion

The growing financial muscles of the Brotherhood in Western countries must raise the question as to why Western governments turn a blind eye.  The size of the funds and the way they are moved and spent should be a matter of serious concern, whether they are inside the European Muslim communities or in Arab and Muslim countries, or whether they are related to halal trade revenues or any other form of income-generating activities. It is worth noting that one of the Brotherhood’s fatwas prohibited any transfer of zakat funds from European Muslims to the poor in their countries of origin.[47]

This fatwa bluntly calls for the spending of zakat funds on the Brotherhood’s organizations in the West. The issuer of the fatwa said: “It has become a duty in our time to use the zakat funds to support and finance the existing and the would-be established Islamic institutions that are necessary for the Islamic presence in Europe. This will only be achieved by stopping the transfer of zakat outside of Europe.”[48]

Undoubtedly, this fatwa reveals that Western countries have been used by the Brotherhood for decades as a fertile ground for its financial activities and a haven for its economic elites. It is time to seriously think about the future of all forms of the Brotherhood’s activity in the West and focus on drying up its financial sources as a first step toward uprooting terrorism.

[1] Al-Sayyid Abdul-Sattar, “My Experience with Brotherhood from Da’wah to Secret Apparatus”, ikhwanwiki, https://bit.ly/3cMrPpI. [in Arabic]

[2] Muhammad Al-Dabooli, “The Brotherhood’s Economy … from Al-Banna Company to Al-Shatir Commercial Complexes”, June 27, 2018, almajie website, https://www.almarjie-paris.com/2084 [in Arabic].

[3] “Know the Prominent Financial Centers of the Brotherhood in Europe and the West”, June 11, 2019, European Centre for Counter terrorism and Intelligence Studies, https://bit.ly/35U5oMN [in Arabic].

[4] “The Complete Story of the Mysterious Billionaire Youssef Nada … the Builder of the Brotherhood’s International Financial Empire”, June 3, 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ObQ3zWPmb0g. [in Arabic].

[5] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “How has the Brotherhood Built its Organizational and Financial Empire? Mechanisms of Penetrating and Spreading in the Diaspora (4)”, January 11, 2018, masrawi website, https://bit.ly/3cuU0cv [in Arabic].

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ahmad Ban, “Brotherhood’s Finance in Egypt … Creed and Money’, July 02, 2015, Middle East online, https://bit.ly/2WsTxSU [in Arabic].

[8] Center for Historical Studies, “the Brotherhood and the Economic File during the Era of Mubarak”, ikhwanwiki, https://bit.ly/35VlWUK [in Arabic].

[9] “Know the Prominent Financial Centers of the Brotherhood in Europe and the West”, op. cit.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Center for Historical Studies, “the Brotherhood and the Economic File during the Era of Mubarak”, op. cit

[12] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “How has the Brotherhood Built its Organizational and Financial Empire? Mechanisms of Penetrating and Spreading in the Diaspora (2)”, December 28, 2017, Masrawi website, https://bit.ly/2LlrG0v. [in Arabic].

[13] Samir Amghar, “The Brotherhood in Europe: An Analytical Study”, translated into Arabic by Dina Mohamed, Marased Series, Vol 10, Alexandria Library, 2012, p. 9.

[14] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “How has the Brotherhood Built its Organizational and Financial Empire? Mechanisms of Penetrating and Spreading in the Diaspora (2)”, op. cit.

[15] Ibid.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Abdul-Rahman Shalabi and Muhammad Zaidan, “The Brotherhood Runs a Secret Financial Empire with a Capital of £100 million in Britain and Switzerland”, April 07, 2014, HattPost website, https://bit.ly/2SIXyjv. [in Arabic].

[19] Adil Amir, “Brotherhood Businessmen in Egypt”, op. cit.

[20] Abdul-Rahman Shalabi and Muhammad Zaidan, “The Brotherhood Runs a Secret Financial Empire with a Capital of £100 million in Britain and Switzerland”, op. cit.

[21] “Midhat Al-Haddad”, March 05, 2007, Ikhwan online, https://bit.ly/2Nlhk1r. [in Arabic].

[22] Ibid.

[23] Abdul-Rahman Shalabi and Muhammad Zaidan, “The Brotherhood Runs a Secret Financial Empire with a Capital of £100 million in Britain and Switzerland”, op. cit.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Imad Al-Deen Al-Juboori, “A Western View of International Brotherhood (1-2)” September 07, 2013, aljarida, https://www.aljarida.com/ext/articles/print/1462206291441371600/ [in Arabic].

[26] Mahir Farghali, “Do Muslim Brotherhood Monopolize the “Halal” Economy in Europe?”, January 20, 2019, hafryat website, https://bit.ly/2AOeKOL .[in Arabic].

[27] Halal Food Market Size Worth $739.59 billion By 2025, Grand View Research, February 2018, https://www.grandviewresearch.com/press-release/global-halal-food-market.

[28] Ibid.

[29] Halal Accreditation Agency, Republic of Turkey, https://english.hak.gov.tr/about-us/history.

[30] Mahir Farghali, “Do Muslim Brotherhood Monopolize the “Halal” Economy in Europe?”, op. cit.

Global market value of halal cosmetics alone is expected to reach US $54.16 billion by 2022, see: M. Shahbandeh, Global Muslim food and beverage market value 2015-2023, Statista, Feb 5, 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/737151/global-muslim-food-and-beverage-market.

[31] Debra Kamin, The Rise of Halal Tourism, January 18, 2019, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/18/travel/the-rise-of-halal-tourism.html.

[32] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “Brotherhood’s Economy in Egypt and the World: An Initial Estimate”, op. cit. p. 155.

[33] Abdul-Rahman Shalabi and Muhammad Zaidan, “The Brotherhood Runs a Secret Financial Empire with a Capital of £100 million in Britain and Switzerland”, op. cit.

[34] Ibid.

[35] Ibid.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Ibid.

[38] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “Brotherhood’s Economy in Egypt and the World: An Initial Estimate”, op. cit. pp. 159-160.

[39] Haitham Muzahim, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”, July 07 2015, Beirut News Arabic, https://www.beirutme.com/?p=12639. [in Arabic].

[40] Samir Amghar, “The Brotherhood in Europe: An Analytical Study”, op. cit, p. 9.

[41] Imad Al-Deen Al-Juboori, “A Western View of International Brotherhood (1-2)”, op. cit.

[42] Haitham Muzahim, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”, op. cit.

[43] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “How has the Brotherhood Built its Organizational and Financial Empire? Mechanisms of Penetrating and Spreading in the Diaspora (4)”, op. cit.

[44] Haitham Muzahim, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”, op. cit.

[45] Abdul-Khaliq Farooq, “Brotherhood’s Economy in Egypt and the World: An Initial Estimate”, op. cit. p. 78.

[46] Haitham Muzahim, “The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe”, op. cit.

[47] The fatwa was issued by Khalid Hanafi, one of the Brotherhood’s muftis in Europe.

[48]: See: “Ruling on the Transfer of Zakat Outside of Europe”, June 04, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yhq61UT5c6w. [in Arabic].

Extremism Muslim_Brotherhood

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