Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Revealed: Muslim Brotherhood 'Fatwa' app ranks in top 100 downloads in Europe

Condemned as ‘radicalisation tool’, the Euro Fatwa app has not been removed by Apple or Google

Yusuf Al Qaradawi is a leading Muslim Brotherhood figurehead based in Qatar. Reuters
Yusuf Al Qaradawi is a leading Muslim Brotherhood figurehead based in Qatar. Reuters

Google and Apple are under pressure to remove a Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored app that has consistently ranked in the top 100 download charts in their stores across multiple European countries.

The Euro Fatwa app ranked strongly during the pandemic after the platforms failed to respond to government warnings that it had the potential to act as a gateway for extremism.

Officials around Europe have warned about the threat posed by the product and the organisations promoting it. "The app is a building block in the process of radicalisation," Germany’s federal office for the protection of the constitution, the country's domestic intelligence agency, said earlier this year.

Research available to The National shows that the app ranked as the 34th most popular among all downloads in Finland in September and just last week it was 45th in Ireland.

Earlier this month it sat at 55th in the German download charts. In Sweden, which has been contending with extremism issues in recent months, it was listed at number 59 in June.

That the "hate" app is downloaded thousands of times during the rolling Covid-19 lockdowns across the continent has sparked warnings from experts that extremists would take advantage of the pandemic to focus on the young and vulnerable.

Data from Apptweak shows downloads peaked in Germany, France and the Netherlands during the first weeks of their national lockdowns in the spring.

The app was created 18 months ago by the European Council for Fatwa and Research, a private Dublin foundation set up by Yusuf Al Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Despite calls from politicians across Europe for it to be withdrawn from Apple and Google app stores, it is still available in many countries.

Hover over each country to see where they rank in the Euro Fatwa app download chart.

British politician Ian Paisley, who has repeatedly called for the UK to ban the Muslim Brotherhood, said he was “utterly outraged” by the internet companies failure to remove the device.

“These statistics show how insidious Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups are,” Mr Paisley told The National.

“They are exploiting vulnerabilities of social media. There is clearly a complete failing by governments to take action.

"If social media giants do not want to act, then it is the responsibility of governments to act by regulating and imposing massive fines on these platforms.

“The UK government should call a conference with the countries at the top of this list and determine a joint way of exposing, challenging and undermining these extremist groups.”

The UK government has criticised those making the app available for download, saying it would take tough action on social media companies that help to promote hate.

Yet no nation has the powers to prohibit the app, only to impose sanctions on companies from which the Euro Fatwa App is available.

“This clearly shows that social media giants are not taking the threat of extremism and anti-Semitism seriously,” Ghanem Nuseibeh, the chairman of Muslims Against Anti-Semitism, told The National.

“It is only when they are placed under public pressure do those giants act.

"The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the group behind the Euro Fatwa app, is the most potent force in spreading anti-Semitism in Muslim communities in Europe.

“A great deal of damage has already been done and if Google and the other giants want to show they are serious about tacking extremism and anti-Semitism, they need to act immediately.”

Among the statements on the app that have drawn concern is one that European laws do not have to be obeyed should the user believe they contradict Islam.

In one instance, it tells followers in the British Army that they can disobey orders and do not have to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

When it was launched, the app contained an introduction by Al Qaradawi in which he made derogatory references to Jews in regards to historic fatwas.

While the Google store initially pulled the app because it used Al Qaradawi's statement, the developers removed his introduction, leading to its restoration. Critics argue this was a cosmetic change.

“The app was removed once Google was alerted to the fact that Al Qaradawi was the inspiration behind it,” Mr Nuseibeh said.

“The developers then removed him from it but left everything else on it untouched, and Google reinstated it.

"It shows that Google is either unwilling to act against extremism and anti-Semitism, or is not simply capable of doing so.

“For the app developers to essentially dupe Google to have the app reinstated and then have it downloaded so many times across Europe places a huge responsibility on Google and Apple to act immediately.”

Al Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar where the app ranked 64th this year, is banned from the US, UK and France for his extremist views.

French senator and member of the Gulf-French Friendship Committee, Nathalie Goulet, has also led calls for it to be banned and labelled it as “poisonous”.

Earlier this year, Ylva Johansson, on behalf of the European Commission on internal security, said it was for individual states to take action but that the EU advocated the removal of extremist content.

“It is primarily for member states to assess whether the Euro Fatwa app in question infringes law and to take measures, as appropriate,” Ms Johansson said.

“In September 2018, the commission presented a proposal for a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online to ensure that material that incites, encourages or advocates terrorist offences is swiftly identified and removed.

"This proposal for a regulation is currently being negotiated by the European Parliament and the Council.”

Hans-Jakob Schindler, director at the Counter Extremism Project, said tech companies were failing to tackle extremist content.

“The CEP is very critical of the tech industry for its failings to adequately monitor and moderate its products so that they do not cause harm,” Mr Schindler told The National.

“Self-regulation has clearly failed and existing regulations should be strengthened.

"As long as there is not a more stringent regulatory framework, including fines that are significant, and far more transparency in the industry, issues such as the Euro Fatwa App will remain unresolved.”

Google told The National that it orders investigations when issues are brought to its attention.

While we can’t comment on individual apps, we’ll take swift action against any apps that break our policies once we’ve been made aware of them, including those containing hate speech,” it said.

Apple said the app had not breached its guidelines.

"We put great effort into curating the App Store to provide the very best experience for everyone,” it said.

“Our guidelines require that apps don’t contain upsetting or offensive content, ensuring the App Store is a safe marketplace for all.

"We reviewed the app and did not find a violation of our guidelines.”

The Dublin-based developers of the app have not responded to The National’s request for comment.

Updated: October 20, 2020 06:27 PM

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