Monday, October 2, 2023

Qatar Funds Islamist Separatism in Germany

NewsQatar Funds Islamist Separatism in Germany

Qatar Charity and Eid Charity, two Qatari Islamist groups masquerading as humanitarian organizations, have sent millions of euros to finance mosques in Berlin and at least nine other German cities, according to a new trove of previously unpublished documents leaked to German media. The documents, which include financial requests, payment plans, and thank-you letters exchanged between the charities and the mosques, show that Qatar continues to promote Islamic separatism in Germany under the cover of charity work.

In so doing, Qatar is undermining the ability of Germany to assimilate Muslim immigrants into its society. This fits a wider pattern of Qatari efforts to disrupt Western democracies such as the United States where the regime has invested millions to promote its agenda on college campuses.

The greatest beneficiaries of Qatari largesse in Germany appear to have been two Berlin mega-mosques: the so-called Intercultural Center for Dialogue and Education (Interkulturelle Zentrum für Dialog und Bildung, IZDB), and the Neuköllner Meeting Center (Neuköllner Begegnungsstätte, NBS), also known as the Dar-as-Salam Moschee. Together, the institutions, which are close to the Muslim Brotherhood, received millions of euros from the quasi-governmental Qatari charities between 2012 and 2016.

The IZDB, based in Berlin’s Wedding district, received at least €6 million from Qatar Charity, according to the documents. The German newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported that the land and building used by IZDB was paid for by Europe Trust, a United Kingdom-based charity founded by the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), which has been described as “the overarching organization” for Muslim Brotherhood groups in Europe. Europe Trust paid €4 million for the property in December 2012, according to the documents. Since then, senior Islamic leaders have been invited to speak at the mosque. In December 2021, for instance, IZDB hosted Ali al-Qaradaghi, an influential Sunni expert on Sharia law who is the secretary-general of the Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, an organization close to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Among the documents is a letter from Qatar Charity addressed to the IZDB. It includes a financial transfer plan, according to which the IZDB was to receive over €1 million in 2012 and another €5 million between 2013 and 2016.

The NBS, based in Berlin’s Neukölln district, has been surveilled by Berlin’s domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz Berlin) for suspected extremist activities, but its leader, the Tunisian-born Mohamed Taha Sabri, presents himself as a moderate and is well-connected in local politics, especially with the Greens, the Social Democrats and the Left Party. He has been awarded the Berlin Order of Merit, the highest recognition for outstanding service to Berlin.

In a 2017 interview with the television program Kontraste, Sabri was asked if NBS had received donations from abroad. “Our funding is exclusively from our people who attend here, or from a few businesspeople, restaurants or shops,” he responded. “They give something every now and then. Otherwise, we have no other source.” The interviewer asked again: “You have no source of foreign investors?” Sabri: “No.” Interviewer: “Not at all?” Sabri: “No, none.”

A subsequent investigation conducted by a team of reporters from Germany’s ARD television and the weekly newspaper Die Zeit uncovered a series of Arabic videos produced by Qatar Charity and recorded in various German cities in which Sabri admits that Qatar paid for the mosque. In one video, Sheik Ahmed Hammadi, a representative of Qatar Charity, was visiting Sabri in the Neukölln mosque. Sabri states: “This mosque was purchased in 2007, thank Allah, with most of the cost being borne by the Qatari people. May Allah thank them for their deeds.”

While Qatar Charity, which is controlled by members of the Qatari ruling family and operates in more than 30 countries, donates money to charitable and religious causes worldwide, it has also provided financial support to terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Sabri refused to be interviewed by German investigators about the inconsistency of his statements. An NBS spokeswoman said there was nothing to add to previous statements. Qatar Charity also refused to answer questions from German reporters.

The leaked documents indicate that in 2007, a group called the Association of Intercultural Centers (Verband Interkultureller Zentren, VIZ) purchased the property, a former church, on behalf of NBS, for 550,000 euros. The documents also show that in 2007, Eid Charity earmarked 250,000 euros for the VIZ for the “purchase of a church and property.”

In November 2021, the Middle East Forum uncovered documents revealing that between 2004 and 2019, Eid Charity issued more than 45,000 grants totaling over $770 million. Two of those grants — awarded in October 2007 and amounting to a total of 1.8 million Saudi riyals, or approximately 350,000 euros based on the exchange rate at the time — were given to an entity in Berlin called the Federation of Civilization Centers Association for “buying a church and adjacent land to convert it into an Islamic center and building an Islamic school on the land next to it.” The documents indicate that Eid Charity awarded multiple grants to purchase the entire property being used by NBS.

Under German law, it is not illegal for mosques to receive money from Qatar, but the reluctance of IZDB and NBS to be associated with Doha appears to be because of its links with the Muslim Brotherhood, a transnational Islamist movement that seeks to replace democracy worldwide with an Islamic state governed by Sharia law. Islamic extremism expert Lorenzo Vidino has warned that the Muslim Brotherhood’s message to Muslims in Europe is one of Islamist separatism: “The West hates you because of Islam — don’t integrate into society!”

Berlin’s domestic intelligence agency (Verfassungsschutz Berlin) specifically mentioned the IZDB and the NBS by name in its annual reports between 2014 and 2016 due to their links to the Muslim Brotherhood. After the NBS won a lawsuit against Verfassungsschutz Berlin, NBS and IZDB disappeared from the annual report, although it is possible that both groups are still being surveilled.

While Qatar Charity, which is controlled by members of the Qatari ruling family and operates in more than 30 countries, donates money to charitable and religious causes worldwide, it has also provided financial support to terrorist organizations, including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

In an exclusive interview with Kontraste, Qatar’s Foreign Minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, was evasive when asked about Qatari funding of mosques in Germany. “I really have no idea about Muslim Brotherhood mosques in any country or city in Europe,” he said. “Our charities and foundations work in full compliance with governments and respect their regulations,” he added.

The leader of the opposition Christian Democrats in Berlin’s Neukölln district, Falko Liecke, has accused local authorities in Berlin of “naïveté” in their dealings with the IZDB and NBS, and has called on the Berlin Senate to begin cooperating with Verfassungsschutz Berlin to crack down Qatar’s continued support for the mosques. “The connections of the mosques to political Islam, as observed by the security authorities, and their influence on a large number of Muslims throughout Berlin, are a danger,” he concluded.

Soeren Kern is a contributor to Focus on Western Islamism

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