In an interview with Austrian media, Islamic scholar Amir Zeidan has alleged that the co-founders of Austria’s Muslimische Jugend Österreich (MJÖ), the main Austrian Muslim youth organization, include two members of the Muslim Brotherhood and that the country’s recent efforts to investigate individuals suspected of Islamist ties were justified. According to an article by Exxpress.at:
July 22, 2021 Islamic scholar Amir Zaidan breaks his silence for the first time: He names Muslim Brothers on the board of the Muslim Youth in Austria (MJÖ) […], including political scientist Farid Hafez. Zaidan also explains why he considers the investigations currently underway against the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood to be justified. [Translated from German]
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In the interview, Zeidan alleged MJÖ co-founder Farid Hafez, a prominent Austrian Islamophobia researcher, together with early MJÖ leader Alexander Osman, had sworn an oath of allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood. According to Zeidan, Hafez and Osman closely worked together with then MJÖ leader Ammar Shakir in setting up the organization, describing Shakir as Hafez’s “mentor.” From 2003 to 2005, the MJÖ was an associate member of the Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations, the youth/student arm of the GMB in Europe.
Amir Zeidan, of Syrian origin, is a former leader of the Austrian educational institution for Islamic religious teachers and himself has multiple past GMB ties, including in 2002 having headed a Muslim scientists association with German Global Muslim Brotherhood (GMB) leader Ibrahim El-Zayat and from 1993 to 1996 having studied at the Institut Européen des Sciences Humaines.
In the interview, Zeidan said he felt threatened by messages about him that Hafez had circulated for testifying before the authorities after a November 2020 crackdown by Austrian police on a large number of Islamic organizations and individuals suspected of ties to the GMB and Hamas. The Global Influence Operations Report (GIOR) previously reported that Hafez was a key suspect in police raids targeting those same groups. In 2021, several defendants filed successful legal complaints about the searches.
Farid Hafez is a senior researcher at the Georgetown University’s Bridge Initiative, headed by long-time Muslim Brotherhood supporter Dr. John Esposito and whose staff have included multiple individuals tied to US Muslim Brotherhood groups. Hafez also co-edits the annual ‘European Islamophobia Report’ published by the SETA Foundation for Political, Economic, and Social Research, a Turkish think-tank part of the Turkish influence network and closely linked to President Erdoğan. Hafez has publicly denied any ties to Islamism and the Muslim Brotherhood.
In January 2021, the GIOR reported Hafez drew media criticism over authoring an article saying the police raids against him undermined the credibility of Austrian efforts to commemorate the 1938 Reichskristallnacht pogroms and stating the country was on a “dangerous path towards repeating history.” Prior reporting by the GIOR about Hafez has also included:
- A November 2020 report that Hafez was among the panelists of a virtual panel discussion hosted by SETA that accused France of Islamophobia and featured several other speakers with GMB ties.
- A January 2021 report that prominent US academics, including John Esposito, were part of an organization supporting Hafez.