IslamismApril 4 2023, 5:34 am

European Anti-Racism Group Under Fire: Fighting Racism or Pushing an Islamist Agenda?

The Euro­pean Par­lia­ment in Brus­sels recent­ly host­ed the sec­ond EU Anti-Racism Week from 20–22 March 2023. Amidst the live­ly con­ver­sa­tions on racial equal­i­ty in Europe, French cen­ter-right MEP François Xavier-Bel­lamy ignit­ed a firestorm by ques­tion­ing the motives and affil­i­a­tions of the Euro­pean Net­work Against Racism (ENAR), one of the even­t’s co-hosts.

Short­ly before the event, Bel­lamy released a Twit­ter video crit­i­ciz­ing the EU Anti-Racism Week and ENAR, high­light­ing for­mer ENAR Direc­tor Michaël Priv­ot’s self-admit­ted affil­i­a­tion with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. He also raised con­cerns about the sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing ENAR has received from var­i­ous Euro­pean Com­mis­sion depart­ments since 2007.

Accord­ing to Bel­lamy, ENAR could be con­sid­ered more of a rad­i­cal group with a divi­sive and ide­o­log­i­cal agen­da rather than a true rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the anti-racist move­ment in Europe. He accused ENAR of under­min­ing Euro­pean val­ues and secu­ri­ty by adopt­ing the com­mu­ni­ca­tion strate­gies of orga­ni­za­tions part of polit­i­cal Islam and shift­ing the mean­ing of “racism” to fit their agen­da. Bel­lamy’s claims struck a nerve, prompt­ing ENAR to dis­miss his accu­sa­tions as base­less and Islam­o­pho­bic and an exam­ple of those mak­ing “incor­rect and irrel­e­vant [sic] links to rad­i­cal extremism.

As Bel­lamy’s video appeared to have been filmed on the premis­es of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment build­ing in Brus­sels, ENAR also claimed this was “detri­men­tal” to the image of the Par­lia­ment and ran counter to its code of con­duct. How­ev­er, the ques­tion remains: are Bel­lamy’s accu­sa­tions jus­ti­fied, or are they mere­ly a ploy to dis­cred­it and silence an orga­ni­za­tion that chal­lenges racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion in Europe?

ENAR describes itself as the only pan-Euro­pean anti-racism net­work com­bin­ing advo­ca­cy for racial equal­i­ty and facil­i­tat­ing coop­er­a­tion among civ­il soci­ety anti-racism actors in Europe. It is com­prised of 150 groups, pri­mar­i­ly civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions but also includ­ing sev­er­al asso­ci­at­ed with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Europe.

As Bel­lamy alleged, from 2010 until 2021, ENAR was led by its direc­tor Michaël PRIVOT, who in 2008 open­ly acknowl­edged that he was a mem­ber of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Priv­ot also served in lead­ing posi­tions in sev­er­al orga­ni­za­tions tied to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Europe, includ­ing as a board mem­ber of ENAR mem­ber the Forum of Mus­lim Youth Orga­ni­za­tions in Europe (FEMYSO), the Euro­pean Mus­lim youth orga­ni­za­tion found­ed by Ibrahim El-Zay­at, essen­tial­ly the leader of the Ger­man Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. Over the years, the FEMYSO lead­er­ship has been drawn from the fam­i­lies of influ­en­tial Euro­pean Mus­lim Broth­er­hood leaders.

Defend­ers of these groups labeled these rela­tion­ships with the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood as “guilt by asso­ci­a­tion.” How­ev­er, posi­tions tak­en by ENAR on coun­tert­er­ror­ism often over­lap with those of Mus­lim Broth­er­hood groups world­wide, known for oppos­ing almost all coun­tert­er­ror­ism leg­is­la­tion pro­posed by gov­ern­ments. For exam­ple, it has demand­ed the EU refrain from using “vague and gen­er­al labels such as Jihadism, Islamism, and polit­i­cal Islam,” argu­ing that their stig­ma­tiz­ing impact out­weighed their ana­lyt­i­cal val­ue. ENAR’s attempt to con­trol the lan­guage used in coun­tert­er­ror­ism efforts is espe­cial­ly telling as such lan­guage has been a con­stant bat­tle­ground over the years, with Islamist groups attempt­ing to pre­vent the using of these terms, clear­ly some­thing they want to accomplish.

This is not the first time ENAR has tried to paint crit­i­cism of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Europe as ille­git­i­mate and “racist”:  In Novem­ber 2021, it pub­lished a state­ment defend­ing FEMYSO over accu­sa­tions of extrem­ist ties by mem­bers of the French gov­ern­ment, accus­ing France of “silenc­ing the voic­es that crit­i­cize its dis­crim­i­na­to­ry poli­cies” and say­ing it engaged in a “full-blown Islam­o­pho­bic Witch Hunt by tar­get­ing racial­ized com­mu­ni­ties and orga­ni­za­tions in Europe.”

ENAR also strong­ly sup­port­ed its mem­ber, the Col­lec­tive Against Islam­o­pho­bia in France (CCIF), when it was dis­solved in Octo­ber 2020, A 2021 court hear­ing large­ly upheld the assess­ment of the French Inte­ri­or Min­istry, which affirmed that CCIF main­tained “close links with sup­port­ers of rad­i­cal Islamism invit­ing the eva­sion of cer­tain laws of the Repub­lic.” A Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) inves­ti­ga­tion revealed that the CCIF was an Islamist influ­ence oper­a­tion with ide­o­log­i­cal prox­im­i­ty and mul­ti­ple per­son­al rela­tion­ships to orga­ni­za­tions part of the Euro­pean Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. In con­trast, ENAR said the gov­ern­men­t’s action against CCIF was a “man­i­fes­ta­tion of struc­tur­al racism tar­get­ing civ­il soci­ety” and accused French politi­cians of using inflam­ma­to­ry rhetoric fuel­ing hatred and intolerance.

The debate ignit­ed by Bel­lamy’s video expos­es the ten­sions sur­round­ing the EU Anti-Racism Week. While some view the event as a cru­cial plat­form for dia­logue and coop­er­a­tion, oth­ers regard it as a threat to Euro­pean iden­ti­ty and secu­ri­ty. The con­tro­ver­sy also under­scores the need for a trans­par­ent and open dis­cus­sion about the affil­i­a­tions and fund­ing sources of orga­ni­za­tions involved in the fight against racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion in Europe, despite their some­times use­ful work.



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