Political Islam in the UK

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TIME: 12:30-13:30, Thursday 21st July 2016

VENUE: Committee Room 3A, House of Lords, Houses of Parliament, London, SW1A 0AA

SPEAKER: Steven Merley, Editor, Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch

Chair: Davis Lewin, HJS

Davis Lewin

Understand that Black Rod, I mean the sergeant at arms, has given us the permission to film. Can I be absolutely strictly clear that nobody else other than the sanctioned camera crew is to take any pictures or our guest today. Mr. Merley does not want to have his pictures taken and I ask you to respect that and if I do see anybody I will ask you to delete, so don’t do it. Yes. I hope I was emphatic enough about that.

Other than that it remains for me to say… just to thank Jonathan Lord MP who, I hope, will be with us shortly and we will start since it’s hot and late. I am absolutely delighted to be hosting Steven once again. We’ve had him before in this august location. He’s the editor of Global Muslim Brotherhood Watch and will be discussing Political Islam and the impact this has on Western law and human rights and I suspect he may be discussing some themes of his own underneath that … I do have a bio here listing all of his particular achievements. I won’t go through all of it, but I will tell you this, I know this field very very well. It’s a field that my organisation is deeply involved in and you could have no better ambassador for the knowledge of the intricacies and sheer almost unbelievableness of the realities of what goes on when it comes to this topic. So I will not read out his full credentials in that way. He is of course an investigator and intelligence specialist, who specialises in the investigations of political extremism, and has worked with all of the usual suspects you would imagine and probably quite a few more. But all that remains for me to say it’s always a huge privilege, he knows more than anybody on this topic. He really does and I don’t say this about our guest that often. In this case it is true. Ladies and gentlemen, Steven Merley.

Steven Merley

Let me say a couple if things first. If I know more than anyone on this subject it’s because there is not that many people working in the area. So I don’t have that much competition. Secondly, I speak really really fast and it gets worse as time goes on, so if you don’t understand what I’m talking about because I’m speaking too fast just put your hand up, I’ll try to slow down. Thirdly, I’m sorry that the title of the talk is not actually the title as it was billed, ‘Political Islamism in the UK’, but it does come together I think. Please reserve judgement till it’s done.

First I have to answer the question who am I. This is not an existential question and it’s not ego either. It’s because I think it’s important to understand who I am to understand how I come to the conclusions that I do. I got my start here, in the United States, if you’ve been to this part of the United States you will know where that is. Otherwise you can use your imagination. I was originally trained as a private investigator and this slide shows some of the things that private investigators do. We won’t linger here. Most private investigators come from the law enforcement or from the military. I was one of the small minority who had private training and that’s how I got my start. Most private investigators work for law firms or private individuals or private companies. I’m also unusual in the kind of work that I do. This is how Americans view private investigators. This was Magnum PI, a famous TV show from the 70s. He ran around with fast cars and lovely women. I am sorry to report that is not exactly my life. The reality in my life was I got my investigator training starting with a telephone book where my mentor slapped me: ‘this is where the private investigation starts’. Not much for television. My first case that I ever worked on was a very complex murder case in the South West of the United States involving Vietnamese organised crime that later became a best-selling book in the United States. Later I went on to develop especially in US right-wing extremism in the 1990s in all of its various forms. All of that changed on September 11, as it did for many of us, And I began an investigation the day after 9/11 of something I later came to call the Global Muslim Brotherhood.

To understand the Global Muslim Brotherhood you need to understand the original Muslim Brotherhood and my last talk in the House of Commons was on this so I didn’t want to bore some of the repeat visitors with the same material from the last time. But I do need to just very quickly explain just a few things about the Muslim Brotherhood, although I assume many of you here is somewhat familiar with the organisation. Founded by Hassan Al-Banna in 1928, it specialises in very sophisticated building of institutions, it had its base in the lower middle classes, its branches all over Egypt. It was concerned with social issues, alleviating poverty, issues of the Islamic world and specifically issues relating to Palestine. It was the first major organisation to combine what I call religious piety with political fervour. That was not something that was known before that and even though it was based on the lower middle classes it recruited heavily from professionals, such as doctors, layers, and engineers. Which is something you also see today. The experiment did not end well for them. They developed something called the secret apparatus. Who is believed murdered the prime minister of Egypt in 1948. In return the government probably assassinated al-Banna. And the Muslim Brotherhood was driven underground. They came back briefly under Nasser. Didn’t get along well when he came to power. And after the attempted assassination of Nasser in 1954 they dispersed (or were imprisoned and then dispersed) all over the world.

This is me on September 12, 2001 trying to understand what I was looking at. And when I saw…

Davis Lewin

Sorry, Madam, no photos. You weren’t here at the beginning and could you please delete that if you took one.

Steven Merley

I started calling what I was seeing the Global Muslim Brotherhood because I was tired of calling it something that it took me 10 sentences to describe. That’s me, Kuwait. The simple definition of the Global Muslim Brotherhood is as you see it on the screen the global network developed by the Muslim Brothers who fled their countries and settled in Europe, the US and elsewhere and went on to form some of the most prominent Islamic organisations in their new countries.

What I mean by that is a global network. Not a command centre where somebody sits with screens and computers controlling every action of this network around the world. It’s a straw man argument which is sometimes used against me. When people say how I am ever going to know enough to decide for myself, who are and who is not part of the global Muslim brotherhood they use something that I call the duck methodology. If it walks like a duck, talks like duck and acts like a duck it probably is a duck. And the criteria for identifying a duck are for any given organisation, for example, are the founding circumstances of the organisation, the background of its key leaders, the ideology and methodology of the organisation, who funds the organisation, the institutional links that it enjoys and also, very interestingly, the conference circuits that it attends. We assemble all of this information and simply have to make a judgement, because they don’t usually call themselves usually Muslim Brotherhood.

As far as how this network developed in the UK we can look at chiefly the Muslim organisation of Britain has the most representatives of the Muslim brotherhood in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1997 as a dawa or, loosely speaking, organisation to preach it organised famously very large anti-war demos against the Iraq war in 2003. It split in 2007 into two groups, one was called the British Muslim Initiative, over how active the group was to be in politics. With some not wanting to be involved and some wanting to be involved. But this seems to be resolved and it’s now back as one organisation. It’s a member of FIOE which is the Federation of Islamic Organisations of Europe, which is the umbrella group for the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe.

These are some of the key Muslim Association of Britain leaders over time: Kemal Helbawy, very well known. He was the founder of the association was also the official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood in the West. Anas Altikriti whose father is the Iraqi MB very well known in the UK. Mohammad Sawalha former Hamas commander, also a close associate of Anas Altikriti. Azzam Tamimi sometimes described as a Hamas Spokesman. And a less known Zaher Birawi, a Gaza flotilla and Hamas activist in the UK.

Other UK Muslim Brotherhood organisations this is not by any means and exhaustive list. Just to give you an idea of some of the perhaps better known names. But more important is the chart which I suggest you don’t spend too much time trying to understand because no human being could possibly understand this chart. If you want to take anything away from it, if you look up at the upper left you have the country of Turkey, on the right you have Qatar and on the bottom you have UK and you also have a lot of UK flags. What this should tell you is that as far as the Palestinian brotherhood or the Hamas, depending on how you like to refer to it, it is being sponsored as I see it Turkey and Qatar at this point, with its command and control largely in UK. In Qatar, Qatar charity has come to our attention as being a larger group that’s probably more important that I thought previously and there is a lot of transparency shenanigans going on in its UK office, which was open in 2014. I can’t really get into that, cause that gonna be hopefully the subject of a media article shortly.

Britain has been the command and headquarters for this network for a very long time. We are hoping now that with Theresa May as your new Prime Minister, a woman who understands the subject very well, and a new home secretary they will take the opportunity to take yet another look and see what can be done about doing something to dismantle this network. We will see.

You need to understand the difference between how academics, mostly political scientists, and investigators like me approach the brotherhood, because until you do that you won’t be able to understand why I have such a different take on this network. As this slide shows the academic side seem to live in two different worlds. We look at something and we come out with completely different explanations. Why is that? Just to give you some examples. This is a description of the global Muslim Brotherhood network from Nathan Brown a very prominent political scientist in the United States, where he says: ‘they are basically a group of loosely linked ideological similar movements that swap stories, experience occasional meetings and subscribe happily to an international ideology without giving it priority’. Nonsense, makes it sounds like a sowing circle but that is what he says. Dr John Esposito another well-known political scientist in the US, very well-known, what I call, apologist for the Islamist networks and he identifies what he calls Islamic reformers, such as Youssef Qaradawi, famously among those reformers. One of those reformers Youssef Qaradawi once said that there is disagreement about what should be under Islam with homosexuals, some say we should burn them, some say we should through them off the cliff, those seem to be the only choices. He also said that John Kerry was supported by homosexuals and nudists. This is one of the reformers that is presented by John Esposito.

So why did the discrepancies. Why do political scientists view the world one way and I seem to view it another? And I ask the question ‘who would you hire to catch a cheating spouse?’ That’s of course the fantasy or a stereotype about private investigators do, but it’s a legitimate question. If you hire a political scientist to hire a cheating spouse, he would probably give you a 20 page dissertation on adultery in the modern world. That’s not what you want to understand. You wanna know it he’s cheating on you or not. We use different tools. Investigators you that in my case are 99% open source evidence that are fully sourced. Anybody can check for themselves if it’s true or not. We rely on tools like link analysis charts, which are completely misunderstood, but a valuable tool used by all police and intelligence agencies around the world. We look at what I call large piles of stuff. We look at things like contact information, court records, family relationships, conferences, newspaper articles. Almost anything that’s pertinent to the subject.

One of the things that investigators look at is something like this, which is a spreadsheet, about what I say the US Muslim brotherhood that supposedly doesn’t exist, but the spreadsheet was found outlining all the various committees of the US Muslim Brotherhood and who was in charge of them. And where the spreadsheet was found and by whom? It was found in the barbeque of one of the suspects in a well-known trial of Hamas operatives in the United States and they were attempting to burn the evidence when the FBI came in and seized it from the barbeque. and it was not seized by the political scientists, but seized by investigators. What do political scientists look at? and this always makes political scientists look a little angry, I don’t blame them and in the last conference there were lots of them in the room and they were furious with me, but I said: generally they seem to rely on interviews with people who, I conclude, are probably lying to them. And in any case I have yet to see the transcripts of the interviews that are made so I cannot judge for myself what’sbeing reported to me. I only have a second hand interpretation of what somebody has told allegedly to them. We also have to recognise there is a large degree of political correctness operating in the world and in the part of academics, who don’t have to get into that. But being politically correct doesn’t make you write what should be obvious but is not always obvious.

I say investigators are trained to ferret out truth. That’s what we do. We have the tools, we have the training, we have more importantly the attitude to say that people are not always telling the truth and what actually is the truth in this situation where truth is not easy to get at. I know that academics don’t like to hear that, people were furious at me in the last conference why I don’t know, I can imagine it’s a surprise to anybody in the world that people do lie, but it seems to make people very angry.

So what is the situation with regards the Global Muslim Brotherhood and truth? Do they tell the truth? In which some of you may recognise Diogenes the famous Greek looking in the world for an honest man. I’d say, not about who they are. For example, this is a famous quote form August 2008, the Brotherhood addressing me specifically saying ‘the so-called global Muslim Brotherhood network is a fiction created in the minds of those, as part of their scare-tactics’. Well they were addressing me and I didn’t do it for that reason, but that is what they say. However, two years earlier they said they were in 70 countries in the world, which sounds like a global network to me. A year later former Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Kemal Helbawy whom we already met said there is no country that doesn’t have the Muslim Brotherhood and in 2008 very close to the time when they said it was a Hollywood fiction that I created, they basically gave the explanation of the Global Muslim Brotherhood that I just gave you earlier. You could say it’s a matter of interpretation.

But let’s move on to truth-telling about their leaders and organisations. This is again Anas Altikriti, probably the best known representative of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK. He says ‘I do not have any links to it’ along with his organisation which he now chairs, the Muslim Association of Britain. ‘We have no links to the Muslim Brotherhood’. And I say: no links really? Here are 5 major links all demaskable with public evidence I won’t go through all of them, but to say that there are no links, charitably speaking is a very substantial stretching of the truth. When he was asked by the committee of the parliament investigating political Islam: ‘are you not the member of the brotherhood?’ you can read this answer: ‘basically’ he says ‘the Muslim Brotherhood isn’t here, except there is this organisation which is basically the same and I’m the president of it’. I will call it sophistry at best and you will call it which you like.

Slide moved out of place. OK, can’t do anything about that.

But this is a picture of a very substantial development in my mind, which was the announcing of a Global Muslim Brotherhood formed. The Global Muslim brotherhood councils of the west. This was announced in Washington DC, first arrow is pointing to Nihad Awad, he basically came out of the Hamas infrastructure in the United States and this is curiously standing three persons away from him is yet again Anas Altakridi. This conference was just held February. This astonish me that he would take the stage with these people in the United States, but it is what it is.

So do they tell the truth about what they believe? This first arrow is Mustafa Ceric. Some of you may recognise him, he is the former grand Mufti of Bosnia. And next arrow is a fairly well-known rabbi from the United States, Rabbi Marc Schneier. This is a meeting about inter-faith. Doctor Ceric happens to be a long-time member of the European council for fatwa and research headed by the grandiose of Youssef Qaradawi, arguably the most important leader of this network in the world. This is one of Qaradawis statements about the Jews basically saying ‘do not spare every single one of the them, oh Allah, count the number and kill them down to the very last one’. Not what you would think a proponent of inter-faith would want to be associated with. By the way, Youssef Qaradawi also said that Hitler was a divine punishment for the Jews and their misdeeds, not just talking about Zionist.

I was present in Watford UK 2004 when a council member of the ECFR cited the protocols of the elders of Zion, as some of you may know, a notorious anti-semitic forgery, and the speaker said that this was evidence of a Jewish plot undermining Muslim moral values. Mustafa Ceric was in attendance during this meeting.

OK that was 2004. What is he doing in 2015? This is from Dr Ceric’s twitter feed in 2015, Egypt’s court had just convicted Dr Salah Sultan. He said it was a shame because Dr Salah Sultan is a pride of humanity. Well the pride of humanity on Jews. By the way this guy, also close to Youssef Qaradawi, in 2010 he said that the Jews kidnapped Christians and used them for matzo, he said the protocols of the elders of Zion is evidence of Jewish media distracting Muslim youth with sexual topics, in 2012 he said Jews entered Egypt to deliberately infect Egyptian girls with AIDS and sodomise young boys. This is the pride of humanity according to Dr Mustafa Ceric. I looked for Dr Ceric’s criticisms of Qaradawi or Sultan, this is what I found – nothing. But I will now found that he is a member of Tony Blair’s faith commission, so it would bring him back to the UK.

So they don’t seem to tell the truth about who they are, about their relationships, about what they believe. What about their relationship to terrorism, this is of course the question that everybody wants answered. Well lets look again at Anas Altakridi from the UK. Basically saying we have nothing to do with the salafists. The brotherhood is moderate and peaceful and we are differentiated from the more radical Salafists and other reprehensible terrorist Islamic groups. So is this true? Really? Well there’s a report which I’m having trouble publishing but I hope to be out shortly. It’s complicated, but it’s called ‘The Global Anti-aggression Campaign’ global Muslim Brotherhood, Salafi and Saudi alliance against the West. It was founded in 2003 by people who supported the global jihad against the US and the crusader west, intended to counter the vicious aggression by Zionist and American administration directed at Muslim Umma. Its founders included 495 individuals among them Salafi, Salafi-jihadi, Muslim brotherhood and Hamas leaders. In 2009 they issued a proclamation, basically calling for attacks on the royal navy in the UK if they dare to stop arms funding to Hamas. This guy below Daud Abdullah was the deputy secretary to Muslim Council of Britain at the time he got himself into big trouble over signing that declaration.

Some of the interesting founders of this organisation:

Youssef Qaradawi, Khaled Meshaal the leader of the Hamas political bureau in exile. And this is again our friend Mohammad Sawalha the ex-commander and colleague of Anas Altakridi, who all helped found the organisation.

The Salafis who joined them in the founding:

The well-known Abd Al-Majid Al-Zindani the well-known Muslim Brotherhood leader in Yemen and US designated terrorist. Abdullah al Nafisi who thought it would be a good idea to kill a three hundred thousand Americans in an anthrax attack. And this is inaudible (Abdul Rahman ben Umma al Nuwani) a US-designated Al-Qaeda supporter and the president of GAC at the moment.

Few facts about the organisation. Seven leading GAC figures are designated terrorists by the US or the EU and supporters Al-Qaeda or related groups, three reported to be funders of ISIS and their main activities have been sponsoring a series of conferences, which have included a wide variety of global Brotherhood and Salafists leaders. They have called for violence in the form of supporting Iraqi resistance against the US, opening a third Jihadist front against Israel, and a calling for Sunni Muslims to support the Syrian rebels through every kind of Jihad. People who attended these conferences:

This is Rachid Ghannouchi a well-known head of the basically Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia, called the Enada party, widely believed as moderate, he lived in the UK for many many years. This is Wagdy Ghoneim, I believe he is in jail he thought he thought that US storm that killed lots of Americans was a wonderful thing also said the Israelis spread AIDS. That’s just a few of his interesting statements. And this is Abdul inaudible I misspelled that should have been an i not an L. but he’s in the Al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula fundraiser and a founder of a well-known designated terrorist charity Alkarama.

Purposes of this discussion, what’s important is that a coalition was formed in 2013 and it was formed at the GAC conference. At that conference this coalition included GAC, the Alkarama foundation that founded by Nawami (?) the designated terrorist, several Salafi umbrella bodies, Qaradawi’s international union of Muslim scholar, the Cordoba foundation headed by Anas Altakridi, who says he has nothing to do with radical Salafists and a second group headed by Altakridi who actually moderated a session in the conference. So I will let you decide for yourselves if the Muslim Brotherhood has nothing to do with Salafists.

I’m doing very well on time? OK, I hope I didn’t speak too fast.

What do I conclude from all of this after 15 years of doing this daily like a crazy person? Sorry to say, the global Muslim brotherhood employs lies and deception. It certainly does not mean that they are always lying and deceiving, but I have encountered this on more than one occasion certainly and these are only the few examples that I only provided you. I conclude that investigators are best trained to deal with lies and deception. I am sorry if that sounds self-serving, but I find academics general, not always, simply not trained or equipped to deal with this. Extreme caution should be used when evaluating the statements by Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders. I think this is obvious, you have seen enough examples where truth is not being told by any statement, which should be taken with a large grain of salt. And that means that almost the entire list of the UK parliamentary enquiry is suspect because I think with two exceptions out of thirty names they were almost all Global Muslim Brotherhood leaders of academic apologists. And there was the other two critics one of them was me. So not exactly what I would call a balanced enquiry. I know this was a whirlwind through the global Muslim Brotherhood. And one of the problems with this subject is that if you spend twenty minutes explaining people say ‘you didn’t give enough detail’ if you spend forty minutes explaining people say ‘it’s too complicated’. So I never know what the perfect balance is, but we certainly have enough time for me to fill in any gaps that were left and there is certainly a number of them… so I’ll turn it back over to Davis.

Davis Lewin

well first of all can I thank you for this, as usual, masterful overview, which truly is music to my ears to hear it so clearly laid out, because of course I am deeply familiar with the subject myself. Before people formulate their own questions, I do just want to take you through a couple of angles and just drill you down on this. But my first question is can we just take the basic problem. And the basic problem in my mind I wonder a if you agree is that in the British context there’s a problem of understanding of what you are dealing in the first instance for western audiences. They cannot fathom the nature of this game. There’s also a particular problem in the way the British national character is so nice and therefore there is so much benefit of…

Steven Merley

… That’s no problem, I am in Germany and I love it here. You are so nice.

Davis Lewin

… but if I may pause it, there is a large element of benefit of the doubt, which is particularly conducive when you are playing this game. And I wonder a if you can say something why people have such trouble understanding it, but b where this takes us is this distinction (let’s us assume and then we can indulge in for a moment) from it of the hopes and dreams and the religious realm that maybe unpalatable to us that may be difficult to understand and the ultimate and the result of the terrorism, in whatever form of Islam if it’s a perversion of Islam however you want to call it I’m happy with any formulation but we all see it or not…

Can you say a word on why we find it difficult to understand, and what the truth in your mind about that sliding scale and that distinction is in terms of attending conferences together in terms of there being violent action and so on and so forth?

Steven Merley

As far as why it’s difficult to understand is because it is complicated and I believe that they made it complicated. They are constantly forming and unforming organisation, when you try to investigate people they spell their names in 20 different ways, sometimes they use wrong names. It seems to me, but I can’t prove this, that there is a deliberate effort of obfuscation and deception going on. It’s just complicated. When I first started doing this work and I did my first reports about the nasty things that are happening and thought that all that I needed to do is publish a report and then people would say in horror ‘Oh my God we can’t be dealing with these people’ and then I found that well that certainly isn’t true. In my last conference I talked about a particular person, I think it was Rachid Ghannouchi having to do with GAC and somebody said that being a member of an organisation doesn’t really say anything about who you are. And then I said that if I came up here and suddenly said Mr. Merley belongs to the Ku Klux Klan… would you also make that statement? And clearly not, but there seems to be something about this subject which allows people, forces people, leads people to apply standards that they would never apply in a different circumstance. Perhaps it’s something to do with religion. Nobody in the West (not nobody) but many people in the west don’t like to believe that religious leaders are also engaged in this kind of tactics. I think that’s normal to an extent, but to another extent the question you are asking is beyond me. Because I am one of the people that took the time to understand it. And you are asking me why people don’t understand it. Maybe they just can’t afford to spend the time. And hope that the media for example do a wonderful job of helping to explain. Unfortunately not. UK media is probably the best. The American media is hopeless there hasn’t been an article published on this subject for ten years. Whereas major media like The Times in London here has done pretty good stories on it. So they are trying. I don’t know. Does that answer your question?

Davis Lewin

That’s the first part. What about the second part of the sliding scale between the ostensibly hopes and dreams of the religious realm and violent action, because of course the defenders of the brotherhood make a case that they are not…

Steven Merley

I call it, for the purposes of my work, I call it the ‘not Bin Laden syndrome’, which is if you don’t have a raggedy beard and cloths and live in a cave it’s hard to see you as bad in comparison to that. And I believe the brotherhood has sold itself on that basis: ‘We are the answer if you don’t’ deal with us you are gonna end up dealing with those guys’. I don’t believe that’s true. I don’t think you need to compare Osama Bin Laden with Anas Altikridi to understand that both are problematic in their own ways. But on the other hand I do understand that there is a kind of fatigue when the certain things are so bad in the terrorism realm and seems that people are willing to grasp any hope that somebody could make it better. I don’t know the answer for the question really.

Davis Lewin

To what extent have you seen changes in this network in Europe (of course I am interested in your comments about the UK) In the wake of the events in Egypt they briefly held power, they lost power.

Steven Merley

Huge changes. Before 2013 nobody would even admit to being anywhere near to Muslim brotherhood, since the deposition of Morsi by the military the brotherhood network generally are now portraying themselves as victims and are portraying themselves as defenders of human rights and freedom and we see the newest organisations what they call front organisations are being formed. The people like Altikridi, they always had the names of Human rights, freedom. You saw this coalition of GAC that was the global coordinator for human rights and freedoms. On the other hand you see people coming out the closet and some admitting that they are Muslim brotherhood. They can’t just denying they were people who before the Arab spring said ‘we have nothing to do with the Muslim Brotherhood’ and all of a sudden they were part of the Morsi government. So it became undeniable in some cases that they had something to do with the Brotherhood. Also I think that Hamas in Gaza and to a lesser extent Tunisia are kind of the last men standing for political Islam in terms of having any kind of representation in government so there is a vast effort being made to defend and or rehabilitate the images of these actors.

Davis Lewin

And what in your view is this movement working towards in Europe? As opposed to in the Middle East

Steven Merley

You know it’s very often said about the brotherhood that they are working towards and Islamic state. I don’t believe these guys are not dumb. I don’t believe that any of them actually believe that they are going to see an Islamic state in the UK of Germany in any foreseeable time frame if ever. And also I have to say as to what they want you really gonna have to ask them, but since they don’t tell the truth it kind of presents a quandary. Someone once asked me so if they are lying how do we find, can’t we ask them what they are really up to. Not actually. But I would say that they do what they can wherever they find themselves. They found themselves in the UK which offered them kind of a sanctuary to do almost whatever they wanted so they do whatever they can here to support cause I think that is true everywhere. Which is what I am trying to get people to understand, which is if you support the brotherhood in Finland, which there is a Muslim brotherhood in Finland which is not many, but they are there. So if you support them there you essentially support them everywhere because it is network. I don’t think you can look at them in isolation. They don’t look at themselves in isolation, they view themselves as part of the imagined Muslim umma and they do what they can for each other wherever they are.

Davis Lewin

And continuing on a theme you briefly mentioned the parliament’s committee enquiry but what did you make of the British government enquiry I think last year.

Steven Merley

The Jenkins report?

Davis Lewin

Correct.

Steven Merley

Jenkins report was good. But I don’t think it went far enough on terrorism, because they didn’t have the GAC evidence. And blame it on me for not getting it out. Blame somebody, I’m here so blame me. I think that the evidence coming from that report is showing a much closer relationship between major Muslim Brotherhood leaders around the world and terrorism than anybody knew. Maybe the people always say well I’m sure the secret services know. They are kind of like liars. Not that they lie, but that you don’t know what they know so kind can’t address that. but the Jenkins commission… their statement on the Muslim Brotherhood’s problematic relationship to terrorism while good, didn’t go far enough in my opinion.

Davis Lewin

Ok before I go to the audience questions I want to take a slight tangent just for a moment because I feel it’s unavoidable the direction where Trump might take this conversation. Can you just say something? I know you have strong views about how this conversation must be had. Can you just say a little bit about the playing America perhaps elsewhere in terms of the…

Steven Merley

Alright, let’s put the heat…

Davis Lewin

That is in the conversation.

Steven Merley

Without forcing me to address the topic of Donald Trump. Just please, don’t make me do that. I would say that the state of discourse in the United States for many years has been – on the right, You have lunatics on the right, who are shrieking and screaming about sharia coming to the United States who are unprincipled but well-funded who will anything and will blame Muslims I mean if a Muslim drops its pen and the ink spills and somebody slips then it’s pen jihad. That’s really about as bad as it’s gotten in the United States, so at the point I am happy I am not there and I am not trying to work there. And on the other side you have the left of things. Where, at best, all they want to deal is operational terrorism, they won’t even address the ideological part of it and, at the worst, they say that every criticism of anything to do with anything Islamic, including the Muslim brotherhood is islamophobia. I believe islamophobia exists, I’m not gonna be a sophist here and say well it’s not irrational to be afraid of Muslims. It’s nonsense it’s the same as saying I can’t be an anti-semit because I’m Semitic. We know what it means and islamophobia means being prejudiced against Musims and that’s just simply wrong and there is a lot of it. Fortunately, I don’t think anyone has ever called me islamophobic, because I don’t make statements about Muslims, I make statements about the Muslim Brotherhood, which does not represent Muslims. Not to mention the fact that I adore the Islamic world and spent many happy months travelling around and would love to spend many more if that was possible under current conditions. But the discourse in the US is impossible and Trump, let’s to put it this way, is not gonna help, it’s not gonna get better it’s gonna get much worse. But hopefully it’s not gonna happen.

Davis Lewin

I will ask you to make questions, not statements and to do state if you are representing and organisation and I’ll start with the gentlemen in the back. Thank you.

Guest 1

No organisation in particular, just myself. How is your research funded?

Steven Merley

Well to some extent I have to say I am a private investigator, so if I tell you my funds it would no longer be private, I would be a public investigator but to some extent it has been funded throughout the years by a wide variety of think tanks, newspapers, documentary film makers, NGOs you can see all my public reports have an organisational imprimatur and it tells you who paid you for the report.

Davis Lewin

I can tell you from my experience… I can I welcome the Lord MP in and thank him again for joining us, making it possible for us to have this conversation here. But let me tell you, I know from experience how difficult it is to fund this work. We would happily talk to anybody afterwards, who would want to support such work. It is not a way to get rich, that’s for sure. If you want to work on the other side, that’s a different conversation. But this is one is not a way to get rich.

Sorry, gentleman over here.

Guest 2

I have a question inaudible. A book came out recently, few months ago in the states, called ‘Islamic exceptionalism’ it was by a fellow at Brookings institution…

Steven Merley

Shadi Hamid

Guest 2

Yes, and I was rather intrigued and somewhat worried when I was reading round it to discover that the Brookings institute which is the largest and oldest think tank in America would receive money and endowments from Qatar and was holding seminars joining also in Qatar which, at this is the most disturbing part, state department officials of the highest level and then I think administration of the president Obama were attending and rubbing shoulders with a lot of these suspect characters whom you have just mentioned. The question I want to put to you is should we be concerned that… when you say you wonder what their agenda is… they do seem to be infiltrating and being able to operate at the highest levels of inaudible…

Steven Merley

I don’t wonder what their agenda is I wonder about the personal motivations of the activists, understanding that they are not gonna achieve the Islamic state in the West, I believe that is what they thought I was being asked. I think that the agenda of the Muslim Brotherhood is very clear. They wish to eventually produce and Islamic state and in the mean time they wish to promote a kind of Islamic separatism that encourages some degree of participation in the society, but not too much. And it encourages the people to view their entire life through the eyes of religion. Should we be concerned about the Qatari funding? As I said before Qatar is a real problem. And I see it more and more and Qatar charities specifically seem to be engaging in a massive effort to assert its influence around the world. Infiltration is a strange word. It’s sometimes used by the right wing to talk about the people in the Obama administration that have histories or family ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. And I often say they are strange choices of infiltrators, for example Dalia Mogahed, who is a woman who wears a hijab and who openly identifies with Islamism, is not who you send to do an infiltration job. You send in people who don’t look like they’re… so I mean they were brought in deliberately by the Obama administration. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned, we should but it does not mean (double negative)… It doesn’t mean that there aren’t examples where people have infiltrated, but actually if they have done it successfully we don’t know who they are. But should we be concerned? Yeah, I mean everything to do with this subject is of concern. And Brookings is not good on this subject, Shadi Hamid is not good. He himself was an activist for a Muslim student association, I broke that story in a blog. He was a major activist in his student days. Ok people change, it is possible, but it is a low caution.

Davis Lewin

We’ll go to you first, Sir.

Guest 3

David Burns, interestingly coordinating meeting of the brotherhood and their fellow organisations took place in Istanbul the direction that the Prime minister, now president Erdogan has been taking in recent years probably speeded up by the recent failed coup. How would you define the relationship between president Erdogan and the acting party in the Turkey government with the Muslim Brotherhood, including their terrorist activities?

Steven Merley

I would refer you to a 70 page report that I did in 2011 called ‘Turkey, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Gaza flotilla’ where I laid out in great and excruciating detail the relationship between Erdogan and the Muslim Brotherhood. He himself came out of exactly the same milieu as the major Muslim Brotherhood figures. He was part of the World Association of the Muslim Youth. He and the AKP were interacting frequently with Muslim brotherhood organisations in the lead up to the Gaza flotilla. I would basically go on a good limit and say that Erdogan and the AKP is the Turkish manifestation of the Muslim Brotherhood as close as they are gonna get. Although they have organisations that are even more closely tied but they are allied in turn to the AKP. so I don’t know if that quickly answers your question, but that… he is intimately related to that milieu.

Guest 3

Including a couple of these in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood’s activities before they were prescribed.

Steven Merley

I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know what the AKP was doing during Morsi’s reign, which is not something I have looked into. But in terms of the UK you have… if you remember the chart that I showed you of the Palestinian Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, Turkey was one of the major players and if you look… we can go to that chart if anybody wants to look at it. The AKP is in there. They’re definitely… If you look at nothing but the conferences every major conference the brotherhood has held in the last years since the Arab spring has been in Istanbul and that’s not a coincidence.

Guest 4

Ok thank you. My names is Mike Lloyd I run a blog on politics. While I am concerned as we all are about terrorism and the actions that are conducted. I am more concerned about the oppression of females, which clearly covers over a billion people. How can we make the West more aware of that as a really insidious danger compared with the time-to-time terrorist activities?

Steven Merley

Not really my area I can speak to the Muslim Brotherhood and their relationship with women because they sometimes point to themselves as a model for how women are treated under Islam, I don’t really consider that to be true. All of the major leaders are men, there are no leaders of this network anytime, anywhere that are women. That should tell you something. It’s not the same as in other countries in the Gulf. I mean, they are not closeted away at home or unable to drive, for example, yet I would not say that the Brotherhood has a fully enlightened position towards women.

Guest 5

My name is inaudible I am a journalist in a magazine here in London.

Steven Merley

Which magazine?

Guest 5

Kayhan

Steven Merley

Ok

Guest 5

We have Wahhabism, Salafism, inaudible, jihadism that are carrying the caliphate flag … inaudible … but we put back the Shia idea. Did the Muslim brotherhood… did you see any? Just a translation… There is a different translation on a book or is it political or ideological between these groups or is it similarity and just the name that is different?

Steven Merley

If you look at the GAC report when it comes out the thing that struck me was the statement that I myself made which was their religious differences don’t prevent political cooperation. There are serious religious differences between Shia and Sunni between Salafists and brotherhood. that to me is not of interest. I’m not a religious scholar and frankly whenever it comes to intense analysis of religious ideology I give it to a colleague because I can’t just can’t go through it. But I am interested in the political aspects of it. Some people say that politically the brotherhood is exactly the same as Al-Qaeda only the tactics differ. Clearly the brotherhood is not out building bombs in their garages but in terms… so they do have a different methodology in accomplishing their goals but I think the GAC paper shows all those differences don’t prevent them from cooperating when they see it in their advantage. I don’t know if that answers your question.

Guest 6

Have you experienced any personal difficulties and the threats…

Steven Merley

Just my girlfriend…

Guest 6

As a result of your work? You are exposed to all of these organisations.

Steven Merley

Not really… no, no, no. There have been a couple of I would say half-hearted attacks. There has been a group in the UK, who have found a webpage that I was an expert for the Hudson institute in the United States. And the Hudson institute had some funding from a right-wing woman that I’m not crazy about but I … they put that up because I wrote a report that they commissioned.

Guest 6

But for your personal safety…

Steven Merley

No no no no. nobody has ever called me an islamophobe because I’m not and some half-hearted smear attempts… Look, there are much bigger targets than me in terms of being egregiously terrible. Why pick on me? I hope that this continues.

Davis Lewin

Do you have another question? Gentleman at the back.

Guest 7

inaudible … from the Telegraph. I just wondered if you could expand on your understanding of the brotherhood’s current structures in this country…

Steven Merley

That’s complicated that’s gonna take a long time there’s myriads of organisations. There’s… you can start with the Muslim Council of Britain the umbrella group, which I don’t think it’s accurate to call a Muslim Brotherhood group per se, although it has a massive Muslim Brotherhood influence within it. And the new deputy secretary general of the MCB happens to be the president of the MAB, which tells something about that. Of course you have the Muslim Association of Britain. You have Interpal being the major charity supporting the Palestinians, you have the Palestinian Forum of Britain which is a lesser known but major player particularly in the Hamas Palestinian brotherhood networks. Yeah who else… Anas Altikridi himself has own organisations, the Cordoba foundation is kind of a Brotherhood think tank, you have media groups like the Middle East Eye that we probably think were probably set up with Qatari funding and was set up with help from the Altakridi family. That’s an interesting story to which not that many people seem to have been paying attention to. But to do a complete analysis of all groups would take more time than we have. But glad to meet with you privately or have a telephone call if you like.

Guest 7

Could you comment on the influence that the Brotherhood has on the so-called ‘stop the war’ coalition and by extension to the current leadership of the labour party?

Steven Merley

Of course the MAB was in a coalition with ‘Stop the war’ for many many years. It hasn’t been as visible a thing lately as far as I can see. And I don’t know what influence they had, but one does wonder what the left is doing in any coalition with the Muslim Brotherhood since in leftist terms one could only see them to be highly reactionary. This is a phenomenon none of us really understand, except maybe hatred of Israel might trump radical left values. I don’t understand it but you see it everywhere. I’m not sure that’s answering your question. I don’t if they had influence on each other but they saw themselves as convenient bed fellows.

Davis Lewin

While people formulate more questions, I’m going to ask one myself again. Let’s assume that the prime minister, the new prime minister understands this issue well on the basis of what we have seen and let’s assume that she accepts that these networks exist in that way. What would you’re advice be given the current legal context, given the current political context which is not easy as you know in terms of beginning to tackle these networks more effectively.

Steven Merley

I have to believe it’s a question of political will, and I cannot continue to be seemingly the only investigative voice on this subject. I would advise her… how can you advice somebody to have the political will to do what needs to be done? I can’t really advise that. But assuming that a decision was made to finally do something about the UK as a centre for all for all this activity all I can say is there should be a full outlaw enforcement, intelligence-led investigation of these networks. I cannot help but believe that people with better access to data than I have are going to find prosecutable offences that can take out some of these organisations. In the US that was done in … when was that? in the mid-2000s I believe. There was something called the Holy land foundation. Which was pretty much the counterpart of Interpal in the UK. The FBI decided to take them seriously, I got an enquiry about them from the FBI in 1997 when I had never even heard of anything to do with Islam when I was doing right-wing stuff. And they have been interested in them for a long time, they had the political will, they put them in jail. It took them two prosecutions to do it, but they did do that. But afterwards it’s pretty much the consensus that the word came down ‘no more prosecutions’, because the FBI agents that I talked to said that there are many other leaders to go after, but they were told that’s enough, we are not going to go any further. None of this has happened in the US (or UK) I’m sorry John Ware isn’t here from the BBC because he could talk about the Interpal. It is absolutely not-understandable in here that the Interpal is allowed to operate. They have the charity commission doing three incompetent investigations. They finally came out with their dramatic action, they told this to Youssef the head of the Interpal and also the ‘union of good’, which is the Qaradawi-led Hamas fundraising coalition. They said: ‘oh by the way, you can’t be head of both’. That’s what they decided after 10 years of investigation so he waved his magic wand and said: ‘ok I’m not part of both anymore’ and he continued carrying on doing exactly the same things he was already doing, except under other names. So again once the political will is there I cannot believe there aren’t ways to put some of these people in jail for what they have been doing.

Davis Lewin

The lady here

Guest 8

There is a notice here that it’s the same one… and it states that there’s a debate taking place about the conditions under which Palestinian children are living. And presumably it’s taking place here, now. And I’d be interested to know who do you think are involved promoting this and what the implications are?

Steven Merley

Sorry I don’t have the slightest idea.

Guest 8

It’s interesting because it’s taking place while you’re talking all of this.

Davis Lewin

Anyone… Gentleman over here.

Guest 9

Who do you would set out? Which other European countries a would be providing, in your opinion, the best legal and political resistance to the routine of the MB in their respective country and which country, it may well be the United Kingdom, that has done least.

Steven Merley

United Kingdom is such an interesting place in so many ways cause it’s done the least and the most. As I said it has the biggest problem, it has engaged in the biggest effort, it has the best media on the subject, yet it still goes on. I live in Germany and Germans have a completely different take on extremism because they have a domestic intelligence agency which every year issues a report which says ‘you’re and extremist, you’re and extremist, you’re and extremist’ and once you’re in that report it’s very hard for you to go much further into the society. And every year they name Die Islamische Gemeinschaft Deutschland (the Islamic Society of Germany) as the Muslim Brotherhood, names their leaders that kind of circumscribes them. But I think Germany because of all the special history is a hard country to emulate. Other countries, I’m afraid I cannot give you a positive example where it has been done right. I wish I could

Guest 9

France?

Steven Merley

… France you gotta, maybe to an extent it’s in UK, but the big Brotherhood organisation UOIF continues to operate. The Muslim Brotherhood Hamas charities that were designated by the US and by Germany and by Netherlands were never designated in France. So I would say France is a very mixed picture, but they also have big problems.

Davis Lewin

The lady over here

Guest 10

Can you say anything about the influence of the Brotherhood on EU structures?

Steven Merley

Disturbingly the group that seems to have gone furthest at the EU level is the federal forum of Muslim Youth and Student organisations which was a spin off, although they deny it. More obfuscation they say they were never a part of the federation of the Islamic organisations in Europe, even though they were and even though all of their leaders are children of major Muslim Brotherhood leaders. For example, Rachid Ghannouchi’s daughter is a leader, the president is Youssef Himmat his father was the guy who formed the Muslim Brotherhood in Germany. It’s clearly a Muslim Brotherhood organisation. Yet the EU funds all over them. They are all over the place. As a project you can take on as a hobby what can we do about that. So from my experience speaking at the EU I see no serious opposition to the brotherhood going on at the EU level at this point and I see organisations engaging with them that shouldn’t be engaging with them. That’s the best I can say.

Davis Lewin

Lady at the back.

Guest 11

Hi Steven, do you think that universities in the UK and around the world are the most fertile, let’s say, breeding grounds for the future Muslim Brotherhood membership?

Steven Merley

I don’t know about most fertile, but certainly students have always been very important and I think I underestimated this form of Muslim and student youth organisation, because they were students and as an old guy I tended to look at students and think ‘oh they’re just students, they can’t really be serious about them’. But this whole network started as students, the Muslim Brotherhood came to the US as the Muslim student society in 1963 at the University of Illinois, they came to the UK as a student group. They formed a… many of the organisations started as student groups. So I would say yes. I don’t know about most fertile, but certainly a very fertile area for training new cadre and very important to look at.

Guest 12

Thanks for a very interesting talk on a super important subject. One question and one very brief observation. I get the impression from your talk that you don’t really get much support in the United States media.

Steven Merley

None

Guest 12

Or I can imagine also in Germany. And also I was wondering do you see any improvement with regard to that. And secondly, regarding what you say one can’t quite understand why they get away with it all the time. I think it’s super easy, it’s because the left-wing have placed their people in every part of the society, whether… particularly in the UK, but also, for instance, where I come from, Norway, which unfortunately peaked on one of the maps prominently. They are absolutely everywhere and if you dare to voice any of such issues (that’s why I am grateful to the Henry Jackson society for having this kind of talks) you are immediately branded as racist or an islamophobe.

Davis Lewin

You should google us.

Steven Merley

I think what you are saying is absolutely correct, but I blame the right as well, because when the right tries to fight the left they do it in such an god awful way that it’s hard for decent people to take them seriously. That’s true in the United States in particular, it’s not as bad in the UK because the UK has not yet descended into the level of incivility that the United States has descended into. But in terms of the media. No it’s not getting any better, in the entire history of major US media there have probably been five articles done on the subject. I helped write some of them, when the Wall Street Journal did a series on the European Muslim Brotherhood in 2005. But since about 2006 there hasn’t been a single article on the subject. The New York Times never has touched the subject. They’ve lost all of their good investigative reporters in the US. The papers don’t employ them anymore there seems to be no… and plus again the right has made this such a toxic subject in the United States and the media is afraid to touch it. That’s all I can say.

Davis Lewin

But is it not the case that there is a third element to that, which is that they are extraordinary litigious

Steven Merley

Not in the US.

Davis Lewin

But in the UK.

Steven Merley

In the UK, absolutely… please do something about this

Davis Lewin

And have intimidated many media organisations.

Steven Merley

Please do something about the media laws here, I mean, it’s just awful. As an American citizen I have an unusual protection, and you can’t sew me unless the law meets US constitutional standards, which will never happen outside of the United States. But it’s not true of journalists in the UK. And it’s awful. But in the US they don’t have to worry about that, so it’s not the fear of law suits that’s stopping them.

Guest 13

The New Yorker recently had the courage to say things about the history and the provision of the IRA and who is involved which no British publication would have really the courage to do. Why can’t the New Yorker look at the Muslim Brotherhood in the same way?

Steven Merley

No. I know somebody who writes for the New Yorker and they say no, they’re no gonna write about it. He can’t get past the editors.

Davis Lewin

So final question.

Guest 14

I wonder in the UK context. Could you comment on the findings of the radio 4 today program opinion poll on Islamism in the UK that was done in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack?

Steven Merley

I could if you told me what the findings were.

Guest 14

In that case … inaudible

Steven Merley

Sorry, that has escaped me.

Guest 15

Could I just make a comment that this lady here mentioned the thing on the screens about the debate. Thursday is a day when ordinary members can put debates down, so it’s been put down by an individual, primarily from a humanitarian point of view and it has nothing to do with the government. Just an individual has put a motion down for a general debate, but it’s not part government business, and it’s not sponsored by government. … it’s just a humanitarian thing.

Well it’s decided maybe several weeks in advance.

Davis Lewin

May I take the opportunity to not only thank Steven, you know I joked with the gentleman from Norway that he should google us, when you find an organisation that soon you’ll find that on the other hand we are a very close partner to the government and indeed to the opposition on those parts where opposition are able to engage with us on normal terms, because the nature of the subject matter is deeply complicated and vitally important for the national security of this country. On the other you’ll find us as an evil global conspiratorial potentially CIA funded (I would love to have that money, if they can send it) online in the more gutter elements of the online world what you have to understand about this and why do I say this that the people driving that narrative are people who are doing so not on the basis of things that we have done but on the basis that they do not want that this conversation to be had. Because they are part of the network that ultimately however directly or whether ideologically or more directly supports the kind of ideology that we are discussing here … and I think it is very important that one of the things I love specifically about Steven that he is one of the few people who understands this stuff in great detail, which can drive you crazy. You will see just how unbelievably nefarious it can get but at the same time it’s always balanced about what it means in terms of the religion of Islam in general, about the people on the side of what I would broadly call us that trying to do something about this nefarious ideas, who have gone way too far off the reservation and it had some very inaudible words for the right wing in America in some cases. But to keep your head on the topic and to go as deeply as he does is very very rare and I mean this is the bread of my daily work and you don’t see it often. And I think I just want to commend him in what, and I don’t think anyone can understand here what kind of a lonely struggle it is, given what you are up against in that regard. I have a whole organisation that helps me defend us from this, he has been doing it for probably longer than since I’ve been alive. So I do just want to thank… I am younger than I look.

So I do want to thank from the bottom of my heart for the work that protects all of us and all of our children ultimately and recommend him very strongly, and also to thank the Lord MP for enabling us to have this conversation. Thank you very much, Steven Merley.

HJS



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