Monday, March 30, 2020

Muslim Brotherhood in Belgium (2)

Hat tip Humo and Carel Brendel

This is the second of two translations of articles regarding the Muslim Brotherhood in Belgium. The first was a French language article and this one is in Dutch. The two articles more or less focus on the Walloon (French-speaking part of Belgium) and the Flemish-speaking part of Belgium respectively. (Flemish is a variant of Dutch spoken in Flanders.)

This article was written by Carel Brendel in 2016 and reports more specifically on an article appearing in Humo. Translation by Fousesquawk.

The Belgian Muslim Brotherhood Also Has Their Kuwait Connection
by Carel Brendel, 27 February 2016

The beauty of Blendle is that you came across unexpected articles in the media that are not seen every day. Last week, in the weekly, Humo, I discovered an article about the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Belgium. It reveals that this movement in our southern neighbor (Belgium) can count on support from Kuwait.

Given, the "cup of chocolate" had a rather alarmist tone: "The Muslim Brothers want to take over Europe through Belgium".  I myself, for the time being, am more worried over the near-term goals of the Brothers. The re-Islamicizing of Western Muslims, winning new converts, striving for influential positions in Muslim umbrella organizations, and influencing governments, municipalities, and European institutions, which often, are so naive as to consider Muslim Brotherhood organizations as a mouthpiece for all Muslims.

The Humo article contains striking news. Thus, author Raf Saviller revealed the existence of an organization in Antwerp, in which leading officials from Kuwait cooperate with the leadership of the Belgian MB. That is the European Center for Training and Education (ECTE), a "non-profit association" (vzw) that is located in a back street in the district of Borgerhout.

Humo received no answer from the Kuwaiti embassy to questions about the activities of ECTE. The mayor of Antwerp, Bart De Weyer, also gave no clarification. ECTE has no website and appears to engage in no activities in the area of training and education. That leads to the suspicion that the vzw (non-profit) is primarily established for the building of mosques and to support other MB activities.

The board's composition points in this direction. Humo only named three board members. A document in the Belgische Staatsblad reveals that 6 Kuwaitis and three Belgians were involved in the establishment of ECTE. The nine appointed Adel al-Falah, "undersecretary" of the Ministry of Awqaf (Islamic fund) and chairman of Islamic matters. 

The vice chairman is Khalif al-Ezainah, "assistant undersecretary" for external relations for the same Kuwaiti Ministry of Religious Affairs. The treasurer is Mutlaq Alqarawi, also "assistant undersecretary", but has been retired for a few years. Alqarawi is known here as chairman of Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN), the Muslim Brotherhood's real estate foundation. With support from Kuwait, they built the Blue Mosque in Amsterdam and purchased (a space) for the Social Cultural Center Foundation, Netherlands in the Hague (SSCCN). As known (except for the editors of Nieuwsuur -News Hour), ETN is also owner of the Dawah -Muslim outreach- Center of Middenweg in Rotterdam.

A 4th founder of ECTE was Waleed al-Ammar, head of foreign affairs for the Ministry of Religious Affairs. In 2013 he told Het Parool that Kuwait paid fees to three Dutch citizens involved with ETN: To Jacob van der Blom, leader of Dutch organizations for converts, founder of the De Middenweg Center and since 2014, adjunct director of the Essalam Mosque in Rotterdam; to imam Yassin Elforkani, from 2010-2013 chairman of  ETN; and to Kamis Gacha, ex-treasurer of ETN, leader of SSCCN, and organizer of  European Young Campers, which like the National Convert Day, has counted on Kuwaiti support  over the years.

As for Jafar al-Haddad and Khaled Al Omar, two other founders from Kuwait, nothing further is known.

The founders meeting appointed two Belgians as board members. They were Karim Chemlal, at whose then-residential address ECTE was registered, and Karim Azzouzi. According to the web site of the League of Muslims in Belgium (LMB), the Belgian division of the Muslim Brotherhood, Azzouzi functions as chairman, Chemlal is vice-chairman and spokesperson.

Chemlal and Azzouzi  appear extensively in a report (pdf) produced by expert Steven Merley in 2008 on the Belgian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. The Belgische Staatsblad also revealed  that in 2008, Chemlal was involved with the relocation of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE), the European Muslim Brotherhood, to Brussels. There he acted as the legal representative.

The ninth (person) present, Franck Hensch from Verviers, was the only one who was not on the board. According to Merley, Hensch is also part of the Belgian MB-network. In 2005, he became the Belgian secretary for Al Aqsa, an organization whose assets have been frozen in the Netherlands and Germany due to supposed support from Hamas-jihadists, but who in Belgium were able to continue unhindered.

The Humo article extensively went into the activities of Al Aqsa. Attention was given also to the role of MB-leader Bassam Hatahet, who established a foundation for the support of the Syrian extremist, Haitham Maleh. Humo further suggested that the Muslim Brotherhood (had) a hand in the failure of a Brussels de-radicalization project, in which the enlightened Islam thinker, Rachid Benzine, and Islam expert Michael Privot participated. The two quit because of threats, which, according to Belgian media earlier came from the extreme right as well as the Muslim corner. Privot himself, according to Humo, doesn't think that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the threats, but rather "the man in the street, the conservative Muslims who see their religion threatened and propagate violence as a reaction".

Privot is one of the few who has ever openly admitted to his MB membership. In 2015 he told French-speaking television that he has since broken from the movement. He is not very confident over the current state of affairs, as revealed by a quote in Humo: "Well, there is now some of everything in the Muslim Brotherhood: A minority of liberal thinkers, very many strict conservatives, and indeed, people who are very extreme and adhere to  jihadism. But if true that Mr Hatahet in Belgium is working in collaboration with Haitham Maleh, then I find it very problematic, and I am glad that I am no longer with the Muslim Brotherhood."

Back to the Kuwait connection. The support for MB organizations in Europe is not new. In 2010 and 2011, there were two conferences for European converts in Kuwait City.The  2010  report can be found on the renewed website from the Native European Muslim Assembly, the convert organization of the European MB.

Speakers at this conference were, among others, the Egyptian Fadel Soliman, who as a dawah specialist, enjoys a high regard among Dutch converts, and who recently gave a sermon in the Essalam Mosque, and Tareq Suwaidan, a leader of the Kuwaiti MB. Suwaidan was not allowed to speak at the annual Muslim Fair in 2014 because the government regarded him "a real danger to public safety".

Playing a main role in the Kuwaiti Converts Congress was Jamal al-Shatti of the International Presentation Committee, a Muslim Brotherhood dawah organization, which among others, supported the Dutch Converts Days.

According to this report, Mutlaq Alqarawi came to show his support for the conference. Adel al-Falah attended the closing ceremony. Six years later, we find the high-placed duo back at the head of MB organizations in the Netherlands and Belgium.

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