French ‘Islamist pharmacy’ charity CCIF is forced to close

Muslim Brotherhood founder’s grandsons, Tariq and Hani Ramadan, are linked to the group

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 26, 2016, Swiss Islamologist Tariq Ramadan takes part in a conference on the theme "Live together", in Bordeaux. / AFP / MEHDI FEDOUACH
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A French charity linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and its founder’s grandsons, Tariq and Hani Ramadan, claims it has been forced to close by President Emmanuel Macron’s administration.

There are concerns now about where the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) will be placing its resources after it revealed plans to transfer funds to undisclosed European groups to continue its cause.

The organisation, described as an “Islamist pharmacy” by France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, was forced to dissolve following the backlash over the beheading of French teacher Samuel Paty after he showed students cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson.

It claims it was “reproached” for defending the rights of Muslims.

But Mr Darmanin has called the CCIF an “enemy of the Republic”.

He moved to dissolve the charity but following his announcement the CCIF, one of the largest charities in France, pre-empted the move and voluntarily closed its doors. On Saturday it removed its website and social media accounts.

The CCIF has been closely linked to two grandsons of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hassan al Banna, and both men have represented the group as speakers at various charitable functions.

Hani Ramadan is banned from France and his assets have been frozen. He is accused of having adopted behaviour and made comments "posing a serious threat to public order on French soil".

His brother Tariq, a former professor at Oxford University, is facing five rape charges.

Last month he was fined €3,000 ($3,560), with €2,000 suspended, for repeatedly revealing the name of one of his female accusers.

The CCIF, which offered legal support to Muslims in discrimination cases, has a number of close ties to associations in Europe which have been affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. It denies any involvement with the Muslim Brotherhood.

The charity has announced it will now redeploy "a large part of its activities abroad".

"The assets of our association have been transferred to partner associations which will take over the fight against Islamophobia on a European scale," it said.

One expert on Islamism in Europe and North America told The National he believes the group will opt to fund a "neutral" organisation to escape controversy.

“CCIF is, of course, very deeply embedded in the overlapping Muslim Brotherhood and Turkish Islamist networks throughout Europe,” Lorenzo Vidino said.

“But they might use some other entity for various reasons, [such as] not to be accused of being a Muslim Brotherhood entity and take over some ‘neutral’ entity.”

France launched a crackdown on Islamist groups following the murder of Mr Paty.

President Emmanuel Macron has also banned pro-Hamas group the Cheikh Yassine Collective, named after the founder of Hamas, after it was accused of being directly implicated in the schoolteacher's beheading.

A Paris mosque that shared a denunciation of Mr Paty online has also been closed.

Mr Macron has said he wants to see “tangible results” to combat “an ideology of destruction of the Republic”.

"Our fellow citizens expect actions. These actions will be stepped up,” Mr Macron has said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said authorities were targeting “all associations whose complicity with radical Islamism has been established”.

The CCIF has described its closure as “a terrible message to citizens of the Muslim faith: ‘you do not have the right to defend your rights’”.

Under French law, the Council of Ministers can dissolve an organisation by decree without requiring scrutiny of the decision.

Europe director at Amnesty International, Nils Muiznieks, said ithe move was “extremely” concerning.

“The dissolution of an organisation is an extreme measure that can be justified only in very limited circumstances, such as if it poses a clear and imminent danger to national security or public order,” he said.

“The French authorities have failed to provide to date any evidence that could justify the dissolution of CCIF.

“Amnesty International is extremely concerned about the signal that this sends to NGOs and the fight against discrimination in France. We call on the French authorities to immediately reverse this decision.”

The CCIF was founded in 2003 by Samy Debah and led legal campaigns against the banning of religious symbols in schools and the banning of full-face veils.