French minister Marlene Schiappa has criticised Malta’s EU commissioner for meeting a youth group with Muslim Brotherhood links, which she claims is "attacking France" and "infiltrating our very institutions".
Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, tweeted about a meeting with the Forum Of European Muslim Youth And Student Organisations (Femyso) last Wednesday.
The daughter of Tunisian Muslim Brotherhood leader Rachid Ghannouchi, Intissar Kherigi, has held the presidency of Femyso, the youth arm of the Council of European Muslims, formerly the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe, and believed to be the Muslim Brotherhood's European branch.
A Femyso campaign this month on hijabs was pulled by the European Commission after a backlash from France, which was the first European country to ban the full-face veil in public places.
Ms Dalli said she met the group to discuss issues of discrimination.
"I had a discussion with @FEMYSO on the situation of young Muslims in Europe and the challenges experienced as a result of stereotyping, discrimination and outright hatred," she tweeted.
"We must challenge all forms of discrimination affecting Europeans."
Ms Schiappa said she would be referring the meeting to the European Commission.
“We’re referring [the matter] to the Commission … in order to fight against these Islamist associations that are attacking France and are infiltrating our very institutions,” she told Europe 1.
A representative for Ms Dalli said the meeting took place after it was requested by Femyso.
“The commissioner spoke about the European Commission’s commitment to address racism as indicated in the anti-racism strategy, including its impacts on Muslims,” the representative told Politico.
French Secretary of State for Europe, Clement Beaune, said the meeting was “absurd” and retweeted a comment accusing Femyso of being a "puppet" of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Femyso denies any ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.
A report last month written by analysts for Austria's Documentation Centre for Political Islam concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood had established vast influence in Europe and public bodies were unwittingly funding its activities. "Leadership positions within FEMYSO are generally occupied by children of some of the most senior leaders of the European Brotherhood milieu," it said.
The report quoted the French scholar Gilles Kepel who attended the meeting that set up the group a quarter of a century ago. “I was surprised to see how the youth conference was controlled by the Islamists,” Mr Kepel told a Swedish newspaper at the time. “They are well-organised, intelligent, and have a built-up contact network throughout Europe. With this, they succeeded in taking control over the youth conference, even though they are in the minority among Muslims in Europe.”1
Founded in Egypt in the 1920s, the Muslim Brotherhood is classed as a terrorist group in several Arab countries but has close ties to Turkey. Its presence in Europe is thought to date back to the 1960s.