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The Muslim Brotherhood in France
In the National Interest ^ | September 21, 2005 | by Glen Feder

Posted on 10/13/2005 11:54:06 AM PDT by aculeus

In the wake of the recent London attacks, we are once again reminded of a seemingly irresolvable clash, across the Atlantic and in the United States, between secularism and religious fanaticism. Furthermore, nowhere has this debate raged more fiercely than in France, where religious insignia such as the hijab were banned in a law passed by the French Senate in March, 2004. In fact, over the past three decades, there been a struggle over the hearts of a new, rapidly growing, generation of Muslim youth in France. On one side is the largest Islamist organization today- the Muslim Brotherhood- which has spawned notorious terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al Qaeda. The Brotherhood has seen the growth of the Muslim population in France as an opportunity to promote an extreme Salafist interpretation of Islam. The results of the most recent elections among the primary Muslim organizations in France, which took place June 19, 2005, shows that for the second year in a row, the Muslim Brotherhood maintains a strong foothold in France. On the other side there is the French government, who has tried, through democratic elections, to promote a moderate Islam more harmonious with liberal French principles. Thus far, the clear victor has been the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood has taken hold of the most powerful Muslim organization in France today, and is quickly penetrating into the political and social fabric of secular France.

The Growth of the Muslim Community

In the fall of 2004, dozens of top Muslim Brotherhood leaders met in an undisclosed location somewhere near the Persian Gulf.[1] The session, while shadowy, may signal a renewed effort to expand in Europe and even shift the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood from the Middle East to Europe.[2] Increasingly, the Muslim Brotherhood is making France their battlefield in their effort to rollback secularism and assimilation.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s choice of France is largely a byproduct of history. As Arab governments moved to crush the Muslim Brotherhood, its leaders sought to find new territory in which they could operate more freely. France became a popular refuge. After all, the French had colonized Algeria (1830-1962), Morocco (1912-56), Tunisia (1881-1956), Syria (1920-46), and Lebanon (1918-46). Post-World War II labor shortages encouraged the French government to welcome French-speaking migrants from the Arab world. While no firm figures are available because the French law of 1905 separating church and state prohibits government censuses by religion, experts estimate that France’s Muslim population had grown from 100,000 in 1945 to between six and seven million today, about ten percent of the total population.[3]

Until the 1970s, the French government was largely indifferent to the spread of Sunni radicalism, believing its growth to be a temporary phenomenon and an effective counterweight to the communist and revolutionary ideologies of the time.[4] Successive French policy advisors expected that most of the Muslim immigrants who provided fodder for such movements would return to their country of origin once employment levels dropped as reconstruction efforts came to an end.[5] They were wrong. Immigrants realized that they were better off unemployed in Europe than unemployed at home.

After the student protests and cultural upheaval of 1968, many leftists extended their sympathy for what Gilles Kepel, perhaps France’s foremost expert on Islam, calls “Islamic neo-mysticism.”[6] The renewed French affinity for Arab culture began with Napoleon’s 1798 invasion of Egypt. A century of administering Algeria, acting as protector of Maronite Christians, and decades as the Mandatory power in Lebanon and Syria, engendered further sympathy toward Arab society.[7] Aided by Saudi funding, and taking advantage of French democracy and naïve elites, the Muslim Brotherhood spread rapidly in France.

French authorities first began to suspect a problem after the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, Islamist movements, both Sunni and Shia, looked at Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s success with envy, and bolstered their own radicalism. French authorities responded, with some success, by putting pressure on other countries to manage their proxy Islamic institutions in France.[8] The situation slowly changed toward the end of the 1980s. Increasing immigration from the Middle East, Pakistan, and Turkey began to change the character of the French Muslim community.

The fall of the Berlin wall a decade later left an identity vacuum for the disenfranchised once attracted to Marxism.[9] This void coincided with a generational shift in the Muslim community away from traditional Islam, toward more extreme Salafism (Wahabism) and the politics of the Muslim Brotherhood.[10] Fluent in European languages, protected by their newfound French citizenship, and equipped with the fashionable rhetoric of liberation movements, many younger Muslims began to reject assimilation and assert their Muslim identities.

The growth of politicized Islam alarmed the French government. In 1990, Interior Minister Pierre Joxe sought to gain control over the direction of French Islam by starting an umbrella group called Conseil de réflexion sur l’islam de France (Council on the Study of Islam in France), consisting of 15 members appointed by the minister. However, when Charles Pasqua succeeded Joxe in 1993, Pasqua instead bestowed all power to a coalition headed by the Algerian Grande Mosquée de Paris, eliminating the Conseil de réflexion sur l’islam de France.The Grande Mosquée de Paris, however, failed to train moderate imams, gain a monopoly on certification of halal meat, and exert itself on other key issues, allowing more radical groups to expand.

In 1996, the coalition headed by the Algerian Grande Mosquée de Paris collapsed, and French authorities were back to square one. In 1997, interior minister Jean-Pierre Chevènement tried again to create a unified and moderate voice for “French Islam.” Influenced by French Islam expert Jacques Berque[11] and major contributor to the Institut d’Études des Societes Musulmanes (Institute of the Study of Muslim Societies), Chevènement was both sympathetic to Islam and a proponent of Muslim assimilation.[12]

Seeking to centralize communal leadership, Chevènement proposed a new council which would later become known as Le Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (French Council for the Muslim Religion). As a condition for membership, groups would have to sign a document stipulating agreeing to maintain public order and accept the religious neutrality of the French Republic. Nevertheless, deadlock ensued when component groups could not decide on communal leadership, a struggle that only became more pronounced after 9-11.

On December 19thand 20th 2002, the new Minister of Interior Nicolas Sarkozy gave the French Council for the Muslim Religion two days to form a representative body. He demanded that all participants cease communicating with the media during this period, and fixed the meeting at the isolated Château de Nainville-les-Roches- which is property of the Interior Ministry. Those who did not participate risked losing their seat on the new council.

In order to encourage a moderate Islam, French authorities stipulated that the chair would be Dalil Boubakeur, the imam from the predominantly Algerian Great Mosque of Paris. This move by the government to choose the president angered many of the participating groups.[13] However, Sarkozy thought it would be the only way to ensure that the council would remain moderate.There would be two vice presidents- one from the National Federation of French Muslims and the other from the Union of French Islamic Organizations. The imposition of moderates, though, did not lead to any reduction in Islamist influence.

In April 2003, the new Conseil Française du Culte Musluman (French Council for the Muslim Religion) became the official voice for the Muslims in France.

The Islamist Triumph

It leadership shocked the French authorities. With no scientific census possible under French law, the community decided to apportion seats by square meterage of mosques, a system which financed those groups receiving large donations from Saudi Arab and the Persian Gulf emirates. The largely Moroccan Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France won 16 seats, the radical Union des Organisations Islamiques de France won 14 seats, and the more moderate Paris Mosque, attended largely by Algerians, won only six representatives out of 41 total. Two seats went to the Comité de Coordination des Musulmans Turcs de France (Coordinating Committee of Turkish French Muslims) and the other three to independent groups. In this years election, which took place on June 19th, the UOIF slipped slightly by losing 4 more seats to the FNMF. Even without the plurality though, the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France won the most influence in both elections by winning much of the vote in Paris and its suburbs, as well as in the Provence, Alpes, and Côtes-d'Azur.[14] It has also had greater success in recruiting the younger generation of French Muslims, while the Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France has had difficulty exerting a united voice or transcending the generational divide.[15]

President Dalil Boubakeur found himself in a position without power last year and threatened to boycott the most recent elections if procedures do not change. He has repeatedly expressed concern over how the Conseil Française du Culte Musluman has isolated moderate groups in France, and has condemned the increased Islamist connections among the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France and the Fédération Nationale des Musulmans de France whose president, in September 2004, met with Abassi Madani, leader of the Front Islamique du Salut (Islamic Salvation Front).[16]

The Union des Organisations Islamiques de France’s showing is a political victory for the Muslim Brotherhood. With a combined membership of over 100,000 people and more than 200 groups,[17] the Union umbrella encompasses student groups such as the Union de Jeunes Musulmans de France (Young Muslims of France) and the Étudiants Musulmans de France (Muslim Students of France), self-described humanitarian organizations such as the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours à la Palestine (Committee for Palestinian Charity and Aid) and l'Institut Européen de Sciences Humaines (The European Institute for Human Sciences), which trains the next generation of imams.

Founded in 1983, the Union’s leadership has shown a tendency to radicalism. Its spiritual guide, Shaykh Faisal Mawlawi, sits on the European Council for Fatwa and Research with radical Muslim Brotherhood cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi.[18] Both Mawlawi and Qaradawi have expressed hatred for the United States and Israel, and both have praised and encouraged suicide “martyrdom” operations.[19] The Union has hosted both at its annual convention in Le Bourget, and they have been guests of honor among the Union’s affiliate groups.[20] The Union has also hosted Tariq Ramadan, grandson of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al Banna, who has had his American visa revoked by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.[21] In 1995, Pasqua denied Ramadan entrance into France after French authorities linked him to an Algerian terrorist group which carried out attacks in Paris.[22] More recently, the Union asked a French television station to cancel a program critical of Ramadan, and denounced the journalist who produced it.[23] Union officials have also systematically defended Hamas leaders such as the late Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdelaziz Rantissi, and have raised money for Hamas through a French organization called the Comité de Bienfaisance et de Secours aux Palestiniens (The Committee for Palestinian Charity and Aid), which the U.S. Treasury Department has called a “primary fundraiser of Hamas.” [24]

The Union’s two youth organizations remain well-endowed and the bedrock of Muslim Brotherhood activity. In 1989, the Union des Jeunes Musulmans established the al-Tawhid bookshop and press in Lyon.[25] Managed by Tariq Ramadan and his brother Hani, and subsidized by Saudi donations, the press publishes Islamist tracts which have become influential with the poorly assimilated Muslim youth of Lyon.[26] In 1989, current Secretary General of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France Fouad Alaoui founded the Étudiants Musulmans de France, which was formerly called the Union Islamique des Étudiants de France (Islamic Union of French Students) . Despite its radicalism, the Étudiants Musulmans de France has misrepresented itself on elections for seats on large secular student organizations in France such as the Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires (Regional Center for University and Academic Projects) and Fédération des Associations Générales Étudiantes (Federation of General Student Associations).[27] While senior members of the Étudiants Musulmans de France have insisted that it is a “secular” organization in order to win the votes, there has been an outcry even among French public officials.[28]After the Centre Régional des Oeuvres Universitaires et Scolaires elected 11 of its members, Laurent Monjole, a national delegate for the region of Brittany, protested: “We know that in several towns where they are already present, the Étudiants Musulmans de France has insisted on the creation of rooms reserved exclusively for Muslims in university restaurants, who refuse to attend courses given by women, and organize in certain universities conferences by Tariq Ramadan of whose ideas we know. This isn’t just empty accusations but well founded facts.”[29]

Many students indoctrinated by the Union des Jeunes Musulmans and Étudiants Musulmans de France have opted to become imams. Around the small village of Saint-Léger-de-Fougeret sits the beautiful Chateau Chinon, headquarters of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France’s Institut Européen des Sciences Humains. While its director Zuhair Mahmoud, a former Iraqi nuclear scientist sent to France by Saddam Hussein two decades ago as part of a cooperation deal with Paris,[30] has said, “The Muslims have a lot to learn from Europe, if secularism means neutrality and not refusal of religion… We ought to spread the great values of humanity, such as liberty, tolerance and dialogue,”[31] potential contributions to European civilization has been undercut by the use of near exclusive use of Arabic for instruction, denying its students the opportunity to interact in larger European society. The Qur’anic school has no academic prerequisites for admission other than basic Arabic competence. Just three percent of the Institute’s courses address Western civilization; the remainder focuses on Qur’anic studies.[32] Guest lectures like Qaradawi, who has called for the killing of American and Israeli citizens,[33] undercut respect for the “great values of humanity such as tolerance and liberty.” Qaradawi sits on the Scientific Council at the Institute, which meets annually to establish the curriculum.[34]

France’s Islamist Problem

The French government is now aware of the extent of its problem. In a recent newspaper interview, Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said that it was unacceptable that so many imams in France do not speak French and are not educated in subjects like law, history and civics. Villepin stated “Today, out of the 1,200 imams who practice in our country, 75% are not French and one third don’t speak our language. This is unacceptable.” He continued “In France, we ought to have Imams who speak French” Starting in September 2005, Villepin vowed to make such studies obligatory for France’s estimated 1,200 imams.[35]

At present, the French government’s efforts to encourage moderation and Muslim toleration of non-Muslims have backfired. Instead, the Conseil Française du Culte Musluman has marginalized more moderate institutions like the Mosque de Paris in favor of Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated groups. These new groups have cast aside the goals of integration and adherence to French values, and instead are implementing an outside agenda. As Zuhair Mahmood said, “We are pursuing two goals. The first is an authentic Islam, authentic Muslims. The second is to be in conformity with the rules of society, with the laws of the Republic. It is not easy. It is not always possible.”[36] This is partly because their brand of Islam is global in its aspirations, and supports terrorist groups like Hamas as a means of spreading it. Lhaj Thami Breze, president of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France, summed up their stance on religious accommodation within a secular state when he said, “The Qur’an is our constitution,” a saying that is also a motto of the Muslim Brotherhood.[37]

[1] Ash-Sharq al-Awsat (London), November 11, 2004

[2] Reuven Paz, Qaradhawi and the World Association of Muslim Clerics: The New Platform of the Muslim Brotherhood ,Global Research in International Affairs Center, The Project for the Research of Islamist Movements, Volume 2 (2004) Number 4 (November 2004)

[3] “Assimilating Immigrant, Why America can and France cannot,” Robert A. Levine, July 2004 RAND Corporation. Pp. 13-14

[4] Gilles Kepel, Jihad, The Trail of Political Islam, (The Belknat Press of Harvard University, 2002) pp. 193-194.

[5] Ibid, 191-2.

[6] Gilles Kepel, Les banlieus de l'islam, (Paris: Seuil, 1987), pp. 355

[7] Jean-Yves Camus, “Islam in France”, International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, May 10, 2004

[8] Gilles Kepel, Jihad, The Trail of Political Islam, (The Belknat Press of Harvard University, 2002) pp. 194

[9] Gilles Kepel, The War for Muslim Minds, (Harvard University Press, 2004), pp. 253-55

[10] ibid. 259-262

[11] Works by Jacques Berque include L'Islam au défi, (Gallimard, 1980), and his famous translation of the Koran: Le Coran, traduction, (Sindbad, 1991)

[12] Xavier Ternisien, La France des Mosquées (Paris: Editions Albin Michel, 2002),pp. 233

[13] Libération, December 13th, 2002

[14] Le Monde, June 17th, 2003,

[15] “L’échec de l’islam Marocain en France: Le quatre composantes de l’islam de France,”Le Journal Hebdomadaire, #185, December 4-10, 2004

[16] Le Figaro, November 9, 2004

[17] Official Union des Organisations Islamiques de France website:

[18] The Qaradawi Fatwa’s,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2004, Volume XI, Number 3. See also Jean-Yves Camus, “Islam in France,” International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, May 10, 2004.

[19] Doha Qatar Television Service, March 7, 2003. Translated by FBIS, March 7, 2003 and Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), July 19, 2003. as translated by MEMRI Special Dispatch 542, July 24, 2003, "Al-Qaradhawi Speaks In Favor of Suicide Operations at an Islamic Conference in Sweden."

[20] Jean-Yves Camus, Islam in France, International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism, May 10, 2004

[21] Agence France Presse, April 27th, 2000

[22] The New York Sun, August 27th 2004

[23] Official Union des Organisations Islamiques de France website:

[24] Office of Public Affairs, U.S. Department of Treasury, JS-672.

[25] The front page of the official website for the Union des Jeunes Musulmans has links to Al Tawhid library and Islamic Center:,

[26] The official Al Tawhid bookstore website lists books for sale by both Tariq and Hani Ramadan

[27] Jean-Yves Camus,, “Étudiants Musulmans de France,” May 25, 2004

[28] Le Figaro, December 19, 2002.

[29] Aline Gerard,, “REPORTAGE, À Rennes, malgré l'échec des Étudiants musulmans de France au CROUS, les syndicats étudiants s'inquiètent de l'arrivée de listes confessionnelles,” April 6, 2004

[30] Hugh Schofield , “France’s Islamic Heartland”, BBC News UK edition, April 18, 2003

[31] Zuhair Mahmood. “Notre Patrie, C’est La France” Religioscope, May 18 2002

[32]All IESH course requirements may be found on their official webpage at

[33] “The Qaradawi Fatwa’s,” Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2004, Volume XI, Number 3. See also remarks made at a convention on the subject of "Pluralism in Islam" which took place in late August, 2004 at the Egyptian Journalists' Union in Cairo. Translated by MEMRI Special Dispatch 794, October 6th, 2004, “Reactions to Sheikh Al-Qaradhawi's Fatwa Calling for the Abduction and Killing of American Civilians in Iraq.”

[34] See IESH official webpage:

[35] Le Parisien, December 7th, 2004

[36] Zuhair Mahmood. “Notre Patrie, C’est La France” Religioscope, May 18 2002

[37] Le Parisien, February 12, 2003.

Updated 9/21/05

TOPICS: Extended News; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: france

1 posted on 10/13/2005 11:54:09 AM PDT by aculeus
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To: aculeus

When, not if, but when France takes action, it will not be pretty..

2 posted on 10/13/2005 12:10:43 PM PDT by ken5050 (Ann Coulter needs to have children ASAP to pass on her gene pool....any volunteers?)
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To: ken5050


3 posted on 10/13/2005 12:17:45 PM PDT by Khepera (Do not remove by penalty of law!)
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To: Khepera

No...seriously..France has a long history of preferring a strong executive, and a willingness to curtail indiviual liberties..there are no constitutional guarantees as we are used to, and understand the concept...There WILL be an event in France, like the London or Madrid is inevitable, but the response will be astounding..mass arrests...internments, and deportations..

4 posted on 10/13/2005 12:22:16 PM PDT by ken5050 (Ann Coulter needs to have children ASAP to pass on her gene pool....any volunteers?)
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To: Convert from ECUSA; Dajjal


5 posted on 10/13/2005 12:29:22 PM PDT by Pyro7480 (Blessed Pius IX, pray for us!)
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To: ken5050

For example, Nicolas Sarkozy has already begun showing his muscle to "les musselmen"...leaders of strength instead of experience in faux diplomacy (like Chirac) are going to have their day. And soon.

6 posted on 10/13/2005 12:35:06 PM PDT by Dark Skies (" For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. " Matthew 6:21)
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To: Pyro7480

Thanks for the ping -- very interesting!

7 posted on 10/13/2005 7:24:39 PM PDT by Dajjal
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To: aculeus; Vicomte13

Interesting article. Thanks for posting.

Thought you might be interested Vicomte13

8 posted on 10/13/2005 7:57:57 PM PDT by PGalt
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To: Pyro7480

Hmmmmmmm, I'll believe that the appeasing Francistan will act when I see it! I'd almost bet half my next paycheck that they'll let the Islamofascists take over. France isn't known to be much of a friend to the US, and it is certainly no friend of Israel and the Jews.

9 posted on 10/14/2005 5:29:25 AM PDT by Convert from ECUSA (Not a nickel, not a dime, no more money for Hamastine!)
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