Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Can a Single Politician Cut EU Funding to Islamists?

ResearchGovernment Funding of IslamismCan a Single Politician Cut EU Funding to Islamists?

A Swedish lawmaker is gaining traction in the uphill battle to force the European Union to bring an end to the public funding of Islamist groups in the bloc. Senior EU leaders, facing relentless pressure from Member of the European Parliament Charlie Weimers, have begrudgingly acknowledged that the EU’s systematic financing of Islamism is a problem that must be addressed. The bureaucratic turn shows that the fight against Islamism in Europe is gathering steam.

“You might think the European Union would be a natural opponent of Islamism. But you would be wrong.”

Charlie Weimers, Swedish Representative to the European Parliament.

Since entering the European Parliament in July 2019, Weimers, of the Sweden Democrats, has led a vocal crusade against Islamism in Europe. He uncovered that the EU has handed tens of millions of euros to organizations with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups whose final goal is a state based on Sharia law. His two-year odyssey to penetrate the EU’s labyrinthine bureaucracy was recently documented in the film, “Islamism Funded by the European Union.” The documentary is based on a landmark report, “Network of Networks: The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.”

“You might think the European Union would be a natural opponent of Islamism,” Weimers said. “But you would be wrong. The desire to defend Europe’s Muslim minorities from real and supposed occurrences of individual and collective bigotry has opened the doors for dangerous ideological actors.”

A case in point: The European Commission has generously funded annual European “Islamophobia” reports (EIRs) published by SETA, an Ankara-based think tank linked to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Between 2015 and 2017, the EU gave more than 130,000 euros to fund these reports, which conflated legitimate criticism of Islam or Islamism with bigotry.

Weimers has worked to educate his colleagues about how the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrates the EU by establishing alliances with progressive movements. It does so through political activism at local, national, and supranational levels by using the mantra of religious freedom combined with claims of community representation and multiculturalism, according to Weimers.

In late 2021, the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group produced an extensive report about how state institutions have facilitated Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts to gain political power.

In the documentary highlighting Weimers’s work, Islamism expert Lorenzo Vidino notes that the Muslim Brotherhood’s objective is to be “entrusted by European governments with administering all aspects of Muslim life in each country.” This position allows the Brotherhood to be “the de facto official Muslim voice in public debates and in the media, overshadowing competing forces.” As a result, European establishments often view Brotherhood groups as “moderate partners” even though they oppose liberal democracy and Western values, he reports.

Weimers says that the European Commission, the EU’s powerful administrative arm, has fallen into this trap. It frequently engages with the Muslim Brotherhood as representatives of the local Muslim communities and has, directly or indirectly, disbursed large amounts of money to empower them and their members.

A key beneficiary of the EU’s largesse is the scandal-ridden Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), a UK-based “independent humanitarian and development organization” that is closely tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. Over the past decade, IRW has received more than 40 million euros from the EU, according to the European Commission’s Financial Transparency System.

The European Union has also given approximately 300,000 euros to the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations (FEMYSO), a Brussels-based “anti-Islamophobia” group that encourages Muslim separatism and gender segregation.

Other Muslim Brotherhood-related organizations financed by the EU include the Hamas-controlled Islamic University of Gaza, the UK-based Lokahi Foundation, and the Muslim Association of Ireland, which was awarded nearly 500,000 euros for a “Sharia-based project” to fight terrorism in the EU.

Weimers has exposed the apparent ignorance of European officials about the groups they are funding. In 2020, for instance, Weimers asked the Commissioner for Promoting our European Way of Life, Margaritis Schinas, if he could guarantee that the EU was financing only groups that uphold European values. Schinas replied: “The European Commission does not finance extremists. On the contrary, we have very strong oversight and audit of our financing intervention. If you have evidence to the contrary, I would be very interested to have it.”

In January 2022, Weimers asked France’s Justice Minister, Éric Dupond-Moretti, if he was aware that the European Commission was financing groups that promote Islamic separatism. He replied that he was unaware of such funding and vowed to be “extremely vigilant” about the issue.

Weimers also asked France’s Interior Minister, Gérald Darmanin, if he was prepared to start a debate to stop sending taxpayers’ money to Islamic separatists. He replied that he would raise the issue with the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders. Shortly thereafter, the French government, in a letter, called on all EU member states to exercise “particular vigilance” over funding groups affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

In June 2022, Reynders dismissed concerns that the EU was funding Islamist groups. The Commission, he said, “selects the recipients of grants rigorously, in particular by subjecting them to several different checks based on objective criteria.” In addition, he said, the standard grant agreement used by the Commission for awarding funds specifies that beneficiaries must “respect the values ​​of the Union such as respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, rule of law and human rights, including minority rights.”

A turning point occurred in July 2022, when Weimers presented Schinas with proof that the European Union was funding Islamist groups and asked him if he would consider a review. In a small but important step forward, Schinas acknowledged “the need to introduce a more stringent evaluation procedure for this sort of funding.”

Weimers said the move was a step in the right direction. “From denial and ignorance to acknowledging the problem and a stated desire to fight Islamism. Much has happened since Sweden Democrats raised this issue for the first time. We will not stop until tax money to Islamists is stopped.”

As a result of Weimers’s persistence, other lawmakers have taken up the cause. In a September letter, Czech MEP Tomáš Zdechovský and 20 other MEPs called on Czech Interior Minister Vít Rakušan, the representative of the Czech Presidency of the European Union, to introduce “EU-wide initiatives” to stop funding Islamist groups. The letter noted that Members of European Parliament had asked the European Commission “at least 42 times” about its support for different radical groups. Rakušan pledged that the Czech Presidency would focus on the issue.

Zdechovský, an ally of Weimers, warned that the Muslim Brotherhood’s goal is to “undermine and destroy Western democracy” and that continued EU funding of the group was an “absurd but sure quest of Europe to self-destruction.” He concluded: “Assigning EU funds to people who want to destroy our freedom is ridiculous. We cannot ignore this danger anymore because the future of liberty in entire Europe is at stake.”

Soeren Kern is a contributor to Focus on Western Islamism.

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