Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Muslim Brotherhood and Greece, by Andreas Banoutsos

The Muslim Brotherhood (Al-Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen) is a transnational Islamist movement which was founded in Egypt in 1928 by the Islamist scholar Hassan al-Banna. (1) The movement differs from more militant Islamist organizations like Al Qaeda only in tactics not in its goals. Both movements seek to create a Pan-Islamic state, better known as the Caliphate and impose the Shariah law.

The Al- Ikhwan motto is telling: “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.”(2) The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is by definition a radical movement since it is supporting far reaching changes in society which may constitute a threat to the democratic legal order of a liberal democracy. Although it denounces violence as a mean to achieve its goals, it still poses a long term threat to the democratic legal order of Western democracies because of its radical agenda.

Since the early 1960s, MB members and sympathizers have moved to Europe and slowly but steadily established a wide and well-organized network of mosques, charities, and Islamic organizations.(3) The MB operates in most European countries where Muslim immigrants reside. Followers of the MB are mainly Muslim immigrants coming from North Africa and the Middle East. The MB in Greece has not a formal presence like in the UK for example. However, the Muslim Brotherhood has close ties with the Muslim Association of Greece (MAG) which was founded in 2003. The MAG claims to represent all Muslims living in Greece. President of the MAG is Naim El-Ghandour an Egyptian born Muslim who lives in Greece since the early 1970s and has acquired Greek citizenship. His wife Anna Stamou a Greek convert to Islam is a member of the board of advisors of the MAG. She was also administrator of the website. Currently she is responsible for the MAG’s public relations and she also works for the website (in Greek language) which appeals to Greek converts to Islam all over the world.

Another important member of the board of advisors of the MAG is Iman Sotiria Kouvali a Greek-Canadian convert to Islam. She was founder of the website and she is adviser for strategic planning for the MAG. MAG’s official ‘educational’ website is This website was created in early 2010 and seeks to spread knowledge about Islam in Greek language. It is worth noting here that the website is hosting a YouTube video of the prominent Islamist scholar and member of the Muslim Brotherhood Yusuf al Qaradawi stating that “the next conquest of Europe will be the conquest of Dawah and ideas. There is no need for conquest to be by the sword”. (4) Qaradawi in another occasion stated that “while Islam was twice evicted from Europe – from al-Andalus (Spain) and from Greece – it is now in the process of returning.” (5)

A long time before Qaradawi, Hassan al-Banna the founder of the MB declared that: “We want the flag of Islam to fly over those lands again who were lucky enough to be ruled by Islam for a time, and hear the call of the muezzin praise God. Then the light of Islam died out and they returned to disbelief. Andalusia, Sicily, the Balkans, Southern Italy and the Greek islands are all Islamic colonies which have to return to Islam’s embrace. The Mediterranean and the Red Sea have to become internal seas of Islam, as they used to be.”(6) The ties of the MB and the MAG became more apparent in May 2010 when Naim El-Ghandour participated in the MB’s flotilla. (7) The Brotherhood used the flotilla as a propaganda operation with the intention to increase international pressure to Israel to the point that the Jewish state lifts its blockade in Gaza and therefore Hamas which is an offshoot of the MB in the Palestinian territories.(8) Another Muslim organization with ties to the MB is the Greek-Arabic Cultural Centre situated in Athens (Moshato area). The Greek-Arabic Cultural Centre, better known as the Islamic Cultural Centre of Athens, was founded in 2001 in the Athens area of Ambelokipi and was relocated in 2007 in Moshato, an area close to Piraeus port. In December 2006 a Saudi businessman named Al-Fauzan bought an old textile factory building at the price of 2.5 million euros, in order to host the Greek-Arabic Cultural Centre. (9) The building of 1,800 m2 also provides a place where Muslims can pray and serves as an informal mosque. The new building has a capacity to host 3,000 believers. The Greek-Arabic Cultural Centre is a member organization of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.(FIOE)(10) The FIOE claims to be an independent organization representing the interests of Muslims in Europe. However, the FIOE is an umbrella organization that comprises the global MB in Europe. (11)

Finally another ‘organization’ with ties to the MB is a virtual one. The website is an online platform for the MB in Greece. Administrator of the website is Shadi Ayoubi, a Lebanese journalist and correspondent of the Al Jazeera media empire in Athens. (12) One of the most prolific Arab scholars and columnists, Mamoun Fandy, wrote in the London-based Arabic daily Asharq Al-Awsat about the close relationship of the MB with Al-Jazeera. Mr. Fandy calls Al-Jazeera “The MB channel” (13). The website which is designed to appeal mainly to a Greek speaking audience, advocates for the benefits of the implementation of Islamic finance (14), is hosting statements of the FIOE(15), argues that Islam was spread not by the sword but by dawah and it recommends viewers to read the works of the prominent Islamist thinker Syed Abul ala Maududi, founder of the Pakistani Jamaat e-Islami Islamist political movement (16)

In conclusion we may say that the MB is operating in Greece not on a formal basis like in Western Europe, but through a number of organizations which have ties to the global network of the MB. .