Ban on Qaradawi urged by French commission into Islamist radicalisation

Capture by Muslim Brotherhood of elite institutions and grassroots organisations across France aids radicalisation

Yusuf Al Qaradawi is a leading Muslim Brotherhood figurehead based in Qatar. Reuters
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A French commission of inquiry has called for the leading Muslim Brotherhood ideologue Yusuf Al Qaradawi and his supporters to be barred from France, as it puts forward recommendations to reduce the group's influence.

The 44 recommendations in the report on Islamist radicalisation, presented to the French Senate, addressed the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy of infiltration to control organisations, societies and even state-funded institutions such as schools.

The second-largest faith in France was not the focus of the report. It said it insisted on making a distinction from the ideology of "l'islamisme" as its central challenge.

"Islamist radicalisation is driven in particular by a political project, 'Islamism', supported by states, groups or individuals," it said.

The growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was believed to control about 150 French mosques and hundreds of other institutions, posed a particular threat.

It said the group drew support from Qatar and Turkey as it expanded its activities.

The recommendation under the headline "Know, Track and Avoid the Activities of Radical Islam" related to Al Qaradawi in Doha.

"To fight against the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood, there should be a review by the minister of the interior of the possibility of pronouncing an administrative ban on territory against Yusuf Al Qaradawi and the ideologists of this movement," it said.

The ban would severely limit the activities of those deemed to be working with Al Qaradawi and allow restrictions against the publication of his writings.

Author and witness Emmanuel Razavi, said action would have to go wider than the Muslim Brotherhood leadership to address community groups under its control.

“I am not a legislator but we must start by closing the 600 associations under the 1901 law linked to the Muslim Brotherhood in France, which form the other end of the terrorist chain," Mr Razavi said.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said a major policy initiative is in the works to ensure that France is not divided between communities, where some segments of society become closed off from the mainstream.

While the Muslim Brotherhood exploits feelings of victimisation and inequality, it also seeks to recruit elite followers who can exert powerful influence over state-backed bodies.

"Everywhere, we have to look at who is doing what in this country, to make sure to stop this organisation at the grass roots," said Jacqueline Eustache-Brinio, a centre-right senator who was rapporteur for the inquiry.

"For the municipal authorities, we have seen the entryism of a certain number of activists who came there to bring voices on behalf of a community and we must fight against that.”

The inquiry indicated that the establishment of the Muslim council (Conseil Francais du Culte Musulman) had been a mistake as it provided a platform for Brotherhood influence at a national and departmental level.

In particular the collective campaign on Islamophobia by the council promoted the Brotherhood.

"Under the guise of Islamophobia, political Islam has been able to prosper by the make-belief that it could be non-violent," witness Mohammed Sifaoui told the inquiry.

Sounding an alarm call for France's young, the report said the state needed to respond to the situation in schools, sports clubs and youth groups.

"France is fortunate to be able to rely on 1.5 million associations, mobilising between 16 and 20 million volunteers," it said. "In many ways, they are irreplaceable, especially in the youth field."

It said the misconception that sports associations were a bulwark against radicalisation should be demolished.

"Until recently, the issue of radicalisation and community and religious separatism was not a big factor in the sporting world either for the state, federations or even professional and associative clubs," the report said.

"The commission of inquiry notes that despite the progress made in terms of training to fight radicalisation and religious separatism, it remains insufficient facing players involved in sports."

The report also expressed concern over the rising number of children engaged in schooling at home, outside the regulated national curriculum, which rose by 20 per cent in the 2018-2019 school year – even before the pandemic hit.

It said there was growing mistrust in the state shown by parents and some wanted to detach their children from the national system.

The French Education Minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said the seeds of future danger could be sown in the trend.

“The 2010s saw a sharp increase in the number of requests to open schools outside the system," Mr Blanquer said.

"We must remain very vigilant about the quality of education and the risks of Islamist radicalisation or sectarian drift."