By Emma Webb
Yesterday evening was Eid al-Fitr, celebrating the end of Ramadan. I was visiting an Indian restaurant in East London. While in their waiting area, I noticed they had a large box of dawa materials. Following the publication of Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing: How Islamists Exploit the UK Charitable Sector earlier this year, the discovery of this unexpected treasure trove was a dark blessing.
The report highlighted how many of the organisations producing dawa materials used in the UK, including Islamic Dawa Centre International (IDCI) and the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), are registered charities with extensive links to Islamist extremism. Much of their literature is authored by well-known extremist figures such as Zakir Naik, Bilal Philips, Sayid Qutb and Abderaheem Green, the founder of iERA.
These leaflets are usually found at dawa stalls, like the one regularly seen in Leicester Square on a Friday night, or on university campuses. This was the first time I had seen iERA and IDCI leaflets in a restaurant. Other leaflets were by One Reason, a dawa organisation connected to iERA and Abderaheem Green.
I have heard the objection that the content of these leaflets are not always extreme. But in fact, the danger is that it introduces the reader to the more extreme statements of its author. One of the leaflets was The Man in Red Underpants by Abderaheem Green, who in the past has said that “Islam teaches its followers to seek death on the battlefield” and that “dying while fighting jihad is one of the surest ways to paradise and Allah’s good pleasure”.
Forget Dar al Harb (Land of War), this Ramadan it is increasingly apparent that ours is the Dar al Dawa. The Islamist charities identified by the report have stepped up their game to raise money this Ramadan, particularly those connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. Anyone who lives in London will have seen the seemingly hundreds of Islamic Relief “For the Love of Allah” campaign posters on the sides of buses, and their billboards have been spotted across the country.
Other charities connected to the Brotherhood have been raising funds through huge numbers of sponsored advertisements on social media, including Muslim Aid, whose members have admitted funding Hamas-linked organisations.
Interestingly, the address on one of the leaflets discovered at the restaurant points to One Reason being stationed in Crown House, off the North Circular Road. This is not insignificant, as three years ago journalist Andrew Gilligan uncovered this property as a hub of the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK, housing numerous problematic organisations, including iERA. Crown House also housed the Muslim Charities Forum, of which Islamic Relief and Muslim Aid are a part. In fact, the Muslim Charities Forum covers at least six charities that were previously involved in the Union of Good, designated by the US Treasury Department as a terrorist organisation created to fund Hamas.
These charities are using Ramadan to raise money and their own profiles. It is likely some of this will be ploughed back into their dawa campaigns and literature production.
Emma Webb is a Research Fellow at the Centre for Radicalisation and Terrorism at The Henry Jackson Society.