EU Commission accused of giving €52m to groups linked to Muslim Brotherhood

Controversial Islamic Relief Worldwide received €36.2m over 13 years

Islamic Relief Worldwide in Digbeth, Birmingham, England, United Kingdom. Digbeth is an area of Central Birmingham, England. Islamic Relief Worldwide is an international humanitarian organisation that provides development programs and humanitarian relief around the globe, regardless of race, political affiliation, gender or belief. Following the destruction of the Inner Ring Road, Digbeth is now considered a district within Birmingham City Centre. As part of the Big City Plan, Digbeth is undergoing a large redevelopment scheme that will regenerate the old industrial buildings into apartments, retail premises, offices and arts facilities. There is still however much industrial activity in the south of the area. (photo by Mike Kemp/In Pictures via Getty Images Images)

More than €52 million ($57.96m) in European Commission money was directly or indirectly given to organisations with alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood between 2007 and 2020, according to a new report.

The lion's share of funding from the EU's executive branch was received by controversial aid agency Islamic Relief Worldwide, with €36.2m, in a story first reported by French magazine Le Point.

Heshmat Khalifa, the former director of Islamic Relief, quit his role in 2020 after anti-Semitic remarks were discovered on his Facebook profile.

After investigating Islamic Relief, the UK’s Charity Commission concluded the charity “has overseen significant improvements to the recruitment and oversight of trustees and senior staff”. Islamic Relief denies it is linked to the Muslim Brotherhood despite claims to the contrary by some European politicians.

Islamic Relief is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by the UAE and Israel accuses it of having links to Hamas.

Commission data shows that nearly €1 million was given to Islamic Relief Worldwide, its international headquarters, in 2020 – the last year for which figures are available.

In September 2021, responding to a question about Islamic Relief’s branches in Germany and Sweden, the European Commissioner for aid Janez Lenarcic said: “As a matter of principle, the commission does neither discriminate on grounds of religion or beliefs nor classify partner organisations based on religious affiliation.

“The commission takes a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to any misconduct by partner organisations receiving EU funds, including support for terrorism, and will immediately take action should it become aware of any proven evidence in this respect by excluding from union financing entities guilty of terrorism financing or terrorism offences under the Early Detection and Exclusion System.”

Egyptian Essam El Haddad, a co-founder of Islamic Relief, was a senior adviser to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi when he was president of Egypt.

Prominent European politicians such as Nicola Beer, one of the European Parliament’s vice-presidents, have criticised the commission for funding Islamic Relief.

“European funds must not fall into the hands of organisations that are responsible for anti-Semitism or other hatred,” Ms Beer said last year.

Seccours Islamique France – or Islamic Relief France – also received €5.05m from the commission between 2007 and 2020.

The European Network Against Racism (Enar), a grouping of organisations around Europe, was given €7.32m. In 2015, referring to Belgian media reports, MEP Frederique Ries said Enar could be linked to the Muslim Brotherhood. She said she was concerned about the nature of subsidies given to groups such as Enar.

“Since the 1950s, members and supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood have taken up residence in various European countries and have set up numerous associations. The scale of this hidden but highly influential network is unknown and the values it stands for are largely at odds with democratic principles,” the MEP said in a parliamentary question.

Updated: January 27, 2022, 3:52 PM