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Exclusive: Prominent Austrian Islamophobia Researcher with Muslim Brotherhood Ties Relocates to US

February 2nd, 2022 16:08

On 17 Sep­tem­ber 2021, promi­nent Aus­tri­an Islam­o­pho­bia researcher Farid Hafez, who has been an estab­lished mem­ber of the US aca­d­e­m­ic com­mu­ni­ty for sev­er­al years, pub­lished a Face­book post announc­ing he had recent­ly relo­cat­ed to Williamstown, Mass­a­chu­setts to take up a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor­ship at the local Williams Col­lege. An inves­ti­ga­tion by the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report (GIOR) has found that Hafez, who had been accused of being a mem­ber of the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in his home coun­try, has net­worked with sev­er­al US aca­d­e­m­ic orga­ni­za­tions to pub­lish a con­tro­ver­sial report on Islam­o­pho­bia in the Euro­pean Union, includ­ing some tied to a known US Hamas sup­port­ers. Accord­ing to his Face­book post:

Next chap­ter Williams Col­lege  Look­ing for­ward to teach­ing as Vis­it­ing Pro­fes­sor of Inter­na­tion­al Stud­ies || Massachusetts 🇺🇸

Read the post here.

Hafez is cur­rent­ly teach­ing two cours­es on Reli­gion, Pol­i­tics, and anti-Mus­lim Racism as part of the col­lege’s Glob­al Stud­ies Pro­gram. In the com­ing months, Hafez is sched­uled to par­tic­i­pate in sev­er­al US aca­d­e­m­ic pan­els, includ­ing a March 2022 Holo­caust Remem­brance Day event at the Man­hat­tan Col­lege deal­ing with the rise of vio­lence against Jews and Mus­lims across Europe.

Farid Hafez is a found­ing mem­ber of the Mus­lim­is­che Jugend Öster­re­ich, an Aus­tri­an Mus­lim youth orga­ni­za­tion known to have been a mem­ber of the Forum of Euro­pean Mus­lim Youth and Stu­dent Orga­ni­za­tions, the youth/ stu­dent Glob­al Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in Europe. He has been a vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of Aus­tri­an-Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley and in spring 2017, gained aca­d­e­m­ic atten­tion as a senior non-res­i­dent researcher at the George­town Uni­ver­si­ty’s Bridge Ini­tia­tive. The Ini­tia­tive’s staff includes mul­ti­ple indi­vid­u­als tied to US Mus­lim Broth­er­hood groups, such as the Coun­cil on Amer­i­can-Islam­ic Rela­tions and the Islam­ic Soci­ety of North Amer­i­ca.

On 3 Jan­u­ary 2022, Hafez announced the pub­li­ca­tion of this year’s edi­tion of the annu­al “Euro­pean Islam­o­pho­bia Report” (EIR), which he co-edits and until recent­ly 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. The EIR  is com­prised of a large num­ber of coun­try-spe­cif­ic Islam­o­pho­bia reports authored by aca­d­e­mics based through­out the con­ti­nent and has been crit­i­cized for not meet­ing sci­en­tif­ic stan­dards and try­ing to silence anti-Islamist activists. This year’s report, whose cov­er dis­plays French Pres­i­dent Emmanuel Macron, warns that the con­ti­nen­t’s polit­i­cal cen­ter had become more “extreme” and that Islam­o­pho­bia had become social­ly accept­able in Europe, point­ing to the Novem­ber 2020 clo­sure by French author­i­ties of the French Islamist influ­ence oper­a­tion Col­lec­tif Con­tre L’Is­lam­o­pho­bie en France (CCIF).

For its 2018 EIR, SETA received more than 120,000 euros from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, which drew crit­i­cism from sev­er­al Euro­pean human rights activists men­tioned in the report. As of this year, the EIR is no longer being pub­lished by SETA for unknown rea­sons. The report iden­ti­fies its new pub­lish­er as Vien­na-based Leopold Weiss Insti­tute, co-head­ed by Hafez.

A GIOR inves­ti­ga­tion found that among the new US coop­er­a­tion part­ners are two orga­ni­za­tions head­ed by Hatem Baz­ian, board chair of the Amer­i­can Mus­lims for Pales­tine, a Pales­tin­ian advo­ca­cy group with strong ties to both the US Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and to the Hamas sup­port infra­struc­ture in the US:

  • Inter­na­tion­al Islam­o­pho­bia Stud­ies Research Asso­ci­a­tion, a Berkley-based research body incor­po­rat­ed in 2021 and led sole­ly by Bazian.
  • Islam­o­pho­bia Stud­ies Cen­ter, a Berkley not-for-prof­it research orga­ni­za­tion aimed at “coun­ter­ing the pres­ence of Islam­o­pho­bia in soci­ety” through applied research and education.

Hatem Baz­ian is a co-founder and Pro­fes­sor of Islam­ic Law and The­ol­o­gy at Zay­tu­na Col­lege and a lec­tur­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley. In addi­tion to his aca­d­e­m­ic work, he is also a week­ly colum­nist for the Dai­ly Sabah news­pa­per, a Turk­ish pro-gov­ern­ment pub­li­ca­tion, and a board mem­ber of the Mus­lim Legal Fund of Amer­i­ca, tied to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood in the US. An April 2004 anti­war ral­ly video shows Baz­ian call­ing for an “Intifa­da” in the US. More videos from the same con­fer­ence show Baz­ian talk­ing about the “Arabs who are com­ing to help” in Iraq. Dr. Baz­ian lat­er claimed that his remarks on a US Intifa­da were misunderstood.

In Novem­ber 2020, the GIOR report­ed that Hafez was a key sus­pect in Aus­tri­an police raids tar­get­ing a large num­ber of Islam­ic orga­ni­za­tions and indi­vid­u­als sus­pect­ed of ties to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and Hamas. Hafez sub­se­quent­ly drew media crit­i­cism over author­ing an arti­cle say­ing the raids under­mined the cred­i­bil­i­ty of Aus­tri­an efforts to com­mem­o­rate the 1938 pogroms tar­get­ing Aus­tri­an Jews and stat­ing the coun­try was on a “dan­ger­ous path towards repeat­ing his­to­ry.” In the fol­low­ing year, Aus­tri­an courts ruled that sev­er­al of the raids were unlaw­ful due to non-suf­fi­cient evi­dence pre­sent­ed by the prosecution.

In Jan­u­ary 2021, the GIOR report­ed that a com­mit­tee sup­port­ing Hafez includ­ed two US aca­d­e­mics with a long his­to­ry of sup­port for the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood. In August 2021, the GIOR report­ed that in an Aus­tri­an media inter­view, Islam­ic schol­ar Amir Zei­dan accused Hafez and anoth­er Aus­tri­an Mus­lim youth activist of hav­ing sworn an oath of alle­giance to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood, adding that he felt threat­ened by mes­sages about him that Hafez had cir­cu­lat­ed for tes­ti­fy­ing before the author­i­ties after the Novem­ber 2020 raids. Hafez has pub­licly denied any alle­giance to the Mus­lim Broth­er­hood and oth­er Islamist movements.

Cor­rec­tion: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this arti­cle stat­ed that the Euro­pean Islam­o­pho­bia Report received EU fund­ing from 2019–2021, how­ev­er it only received this fund­ing for its 2018 report. The arti­cle also named Enes Bayrak­lı as the SETA Foun­da­tion’s Brus­sels Coor­di­na­tor, how­ev­er, he resigned from the SETA Foun­da­tion in June 2021.