The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and a Course of Reviews, UK an Example

The Muslim Brotherhood in Europe and a Course of Reviews, UK an Example

Salem Abdul Salam Al Shikhi*


The Muslim Brotherhood Movement has emerged in Europe since the early 1950s. It started to take an organized shape in some western countries like Britain in 1963. The movement was formed in most European countries by some Muslim Brotherhood students coming from the Islamic East along with some of the group”s affiliates who escaped from injustices of some regimes especially during the Muslim Brotherhood ordeal in the era of president Gamal Abd El Nasser in Egypt. This movement moved to Europe through these people, laden with the same characteristics that shaped it in Islamic East, and it arose with the same intellectual, ideological, missionary, activist and organizational components.

As situations of minorities in Europe improved along with the Islamic presence that developed from the stage of identity loss to a stage of identity awareness, leading a stage of awakening from late 1960s to mid 1970s, then to a stage building establishments and gathering efforts that continued till mid 1980s, after which the Islamic presence in Europe moved to the stage of thinking of the need for localizing the mission and localizing Islam, seeking a stage of a positive interaction with components of the European society. With all these developments, a considerable development affected the movement in Europe.

The Germany-based conference on August, 25th, 1985, was held to discuss localizing Islam and the Muslims in Europe was a watershed shift in the history of Islamic action in general and the Muslim Brotherhood Movement in particular. Since then and a little while before it, we can give a chronology of the reviews carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Europe. These reviews were carried out in various fields, the most prominent of which are:

First: reviews on level of targets and policies

As I mentioned above, the Muslim Brotherhood Movement in Europe grew with all components of the Islamic East-based movement, including targets and missionary and activist policies. Since the organization emerged in early 1980s, any researcher finds in the old records of the movement during this period a talk about targets which isn”t so much different from targets of the group in the East. This concerns general targets.

As for special targets, they revolve around the role of supporting Islamic work in the East through contributing to easing the suffering of the movement in many Islamic countries (in late 1960s for example, efforts in this period revolved around supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in its ordeal under Abd Al-Nasser”s regime, and later under other regimes in Iraq, Syria, and Libya, and other countries of the Islamic world). After Muslim minorities in Europe entered the stage of settling down and this issue was seriously discussed, there was a clear review of targets to cope with requirements of the new phase. To say the truth, leaders of the movement faced many troubles, and they faced huge hardships because of stressing on necessarily moving to the localizing stage.

To know the amount of reviews carried out on the level of targets and policies, let”s take a quick view of some targets formulated in the settling down (localizing) stage and in the following stages. We will clearly see that there was a real review on the level of targets and policies. A report submitted by the committee of mission and communities in a 1985 meeting session in which this mission- the missionary and activist wing of the movement- declared some goals:


1- Forming a lobby among Muslims living in Britain to urge British government to recognize Islam as an official religion in the country.

2- Making a detailed census about Muslims in Britain.

3- Focusing on English as a language of religious education among non-Arab communities.

4 – Focusing in religious education among sons more than parents.

5 – Spreading Islamic jurisprudence among immigrant communities.

6 – Teaching Arabic for non-Arabic speakers.

7 – Starting the work with centers and the communities with which we have relations in the first place.

8 – Establishing youth clubs and creating activities that cope with latest developments.

Looking after that into the targets mentioned in the basic regulation of the Muslim Association of Britain in 2001, we found a qualitative addition in targets in a way that reveals a real review of direction and a desire in moving into a stage of positive interaction with the European society. The second target of the Association”s targets included:” Defending human rights in general and Muslims rights in particular”. This was a move on the level of goals so that the work goals included defending human rights in general without any discrimination or only Islamic self-centralism. The Association”s third target included:” Helping Muslims get acquainted with their duties towards the society in which they are living”. This is a move in goals due to an important review related to necessarily talking about duties towards society instead of only focusing on calling for rights.

The Association”s fifth target included:” Activating the role of the Muslim minority in solving various problems of the society”. This meant moving out of the circle of contributing to solving the problems related to the movement, the mission and Muslims to the circle of contributing to solving problems of all the components of the society without discriminating between Muslims and others. The association”s sixth target included:” Expanding the circle of dialogue with other cultures and religions to serve society and humanity”.

The movement maintained internal and external dialogues to communicate the principle of cross-culture and interfaith dialogue because the intellectual and educational structure paid a little attention to this issue. There have been even those who were debating the legality of this principle let alone thinking of practicing it. This is related to targets of the Muslim Association of Britain. If we move a step forward, and look into targets of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE)- it represents the Muslim Brotherhood”s moderate thought taking into consideration European specialty, and working under European regimes and laws-we will find that its targets include many additions that show a huge amount of reviews on the level of targets, policies and views.

The FIOE”s sixth target- about taking into consideration the development taking place in the European unity and activating Muslims role towards that- literally included: ” Activating Muslims within framework of the European unity and to serve the common good”. The FIOE”s seventh target included:” Working for the presence and representation of Muslims in European establishments”. Even the section of the FIOE”s approved policies included a set of general directives that reflect a very high response to the ongoing development of the Islamic presence in Europe, and how far the FIOE”s establishment conform to this reality. These policies and directives are:

Giving a priority to Islam and Muslims in Europe over country, partisan, doctrinal or other affiliations.
Taking care for cooperation with everyone sincere to targets of the FIOE, working for linking relations of acquaintance, coordinating with all workers of Islam and avoiding any possible clash.
Openness to society, making relations of cooperation with various parties especially those serving Muslims” interests and supporting the issue of dialogue.
Adhering to moderation and realism in tackling Muslims” issues in Europe and in taking attitudes towards their issues outside Europe.
Working within legality frameworks and benefiting from capabilities afforded by laws.

Second: Reviews on Level of Organization

We mean reviews on level of the organizational theory that governs action and the resulting organizational and institutional structures. The movement has worked since it was founded (in 1963) till (1998) in an underground organization that had some public fronts in the style of organizations working in Islamic countries, although this movement was in European countries where all movements, organizations and establishments were working publicly and under laws which organized this work and gave a big space of freedom of practice and action.

No review has been carried out in Britain for a long time that extended from early 1960s to 1998 when the Muslim Association of Britain was announced. The Muslim Association of Britain is- according to its regulation:” An Islamic gathering in the United Kingdom that seeks to spread and preach Islam and care for and defend the interests of the Muslim minority, it is a member in the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, and is registered as a nonprofit company with a limited liability”. After studying causes of this delay in the important reviews in the history of operating in Britain, we can restrict them to two causes:

First: That the Muslim Brotherhood work- in spite of the three decades of working- was difficult to be purely domesticated Islamic work in Britain. Most members were operating in Britain, and operating in their native countries. Due to the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood was outlawed and its activities were banned, they adopted the principle of secret work lest identities of these brothers are unveiled in their countries. Thus, the obstacle was not Britain, but it was the fear of tyranny of native countries.

Second: The domineering culture, and the syllabus were a reflection of the tough situations that the movement has been facing in the East. The ordeal and writings of the Muslim Brothers in Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Palestine and others reflect their special situations in their countries. Add to this lacking ideological and religious writings that may reflect the UK and European specialty to know that the output has never been at odds with the literature of the syllabus in hands of preachers in Europe in general and in Britain in particular.

Finally, I say that: In spite of carrying out these organizational reviews- that took a long time to be discussed, offered to the group”s establishments to accept or refuse, then discuss them and be convinced that they are important- but those who were brought up on the system of secret work can”t leave this easily to smoothly work in public.

Third: Reviews on level of Institutional Performance

As work moved from a secret to a public stage, and as the organizational narrow performance abandoned secrecy to the open institutional work, there have been very important reviews on the level of institutional performance. They can be outlined in the following:

A- The level of formulating the regulation of the Muslim Association of Britain: It was finally completed and approved by the Advisory Council held on August, 19th, 2001 in Markfield. The regulation with its final form approved in the aforementioned date is considered a very important institutional document as it legally shows every thing related to the main preludes, including a statement of the general targets of the association and decisively stating that the association adopts- to achieve its targets- all available legitimate and legal means. Then the regulation moves to the chapter of membership to widely and clearly opens it and shows its grades and conditions, then it shows all levels of the administrative hierarchical structure of the association and shows rights and duties of every level. According to all these, the principle of institutional work has been laid down for the Muslim Association of Britain.

B- The level of knowing institutional rights and duties: Every member of the association had the right to know- starting from joining the Muslim Association- his rights and duties in this establishment. This was a qualitative shift in work due to the institutional nature and its requirements. After regulations organizing rights and duties were a part of the secret work, they became available to every one inside and outside the establishment.

C- The level of institutional follow-up and accountability: The nature of secret work was and is still imposing some kind of secrecy on reports offered to leading bodies inside the group. This space of secrecy may increase or decrease according to security conditions. After moving to legal institutional work, all reports that the executive command adheres to in front of the Advisory Council or the ones that regions are committed to offer to the executive or consultative leadership, all these reports became available for all members of the association. They can know them and know how the executive performance of the association works. Also, After work became public, all members of the general congress have access to reports of the leading bodies (advisory and executive bodies) a sufficient period of time before the meeting and they may be orally given according to the level of secrecy.

Fourth: Reviews on level of Educational Curriculum

The change and development in general targets of working- as a result of long reviews- spawned at first a change on the level of educational curricula. New terms started to be introduced to the methodology to reflect more interest in and care for the European reality and its intellectual and religious requirements. Taking a contemplative view into all educational curricula that the Muslim Association approves and abides by according to directions of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe, will notice that the reviews in this issue are still weak, stopping short of reaching the required level. We further will detail this when we talk about required reviews for the missionary work in the European arena.

Fifth: Reviews on level of missionary, movement discourse

Since the movement was founded, its discourse was affected by the nature of the aforementioned goals and their reviews. While the movement”s targets were entirely revolving around supporting Muslims” causes in Islamic East and supporting Islamic work- that has been facing a fierce campaign in Egypt, Syria and Iraq and others- the movement”s discourse has been revolving around these issues. With the development of targets and review of concerns, this discourse changed and started in its entirety to meet needs and requirements of the European reality.

To bring closer the reviews on the level of discourse, we need to anatomize this discourse and the path of reviews since it emerged up till now, according to the following:

A-Internal Discourse (Self Discourse)

This means the core of the discourse directed to ranks and grassroots of the group through all means adopted by the group, including internal directions to the leadership, and directions in special activities like the Family (a small educational unit consisting of five to eight or nine persons meeting regularly), the night prayers, missionary and movement courses and others. Since the work was established in early 1960s till mid 1970s, the internal discourse was based on requirements of establishing and gathering. Incidents in Palestine, incidents of the conflict with Abd El Nasser, and the ensuing execution of Sayed Qutb and his companions dominated this discourse.

Calling for demonstrations due to these incidents was domineering. The history of Muslims in Britain will never forget those demonstrations and rallies organized by the Muslim Brotherhood to support the Palestinian cause, topped by the rally held in Royal Hall to mark the first anniversary of Al Aqsa Mosque fire. The Muslim Brothers deployed themselves in all mosques and delivered sermons and moved the community to London and the number of the participants reached 6 thousands from all UK cities.

After that came the stage of stability from mid 1970s to mid 1980s. during this period, the internal discourse targeted necessarily activating the Muslim community, and working for spreading the Muslim Brotherhood”s ideology in its literature and origins the same as that in Islamic East.

Then there was the third stage that extended from 1985 to 1998, during which the internal discourse started to change towards aspiring to work through taking into consideration the European milieu. The emergence of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe- after Madrid seminar in 1984 which unified work in Europe under this FIOE- had a huge impact on making this change in Britain.

Since then, there has been a considerable change in the internal discourse. Talking about domestication, localization and a public institutional work surfaced. Internal discussions over these issues started take shape in all levels of the organization, until these dialogues were capped with announcing the organization through the Muslim Association of Britain. Although reviews on the level of internal discourse lagged, but we must admit that the reviews in which huge efforts were exerted bore fruit, domesticating the internal discourse with a European hue.

B- External Discourse “Discourse directed to the Other”

To know the amount of reviews carried out on level of external discourse, we should first start with a bird”s eye view over an example of the external media discourse since the emergence of work till starting the reviews carried out in the religious path. This example is Al-Gurabaa (The Strangers) Magazine- The Muslim Brotherhoods mouthpiece in Britain in particular and Europe in general- it is a monthly magazine issued by the Muslim Student Society in Britain and Ireland with the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.

This great magazine turned in the early 1990s into The Voice of Europe, and ended with the European magazine. I picked a sample from it extending from the second issue of the 21st year in June 1984, to the eighth issue of the 26th year in August 1989. A quick study was held to know how far this magazine kept up- during these years- with the British reality in particular and the European reality in general. The results were as follows:

The topic: What is related to European reality and what is related the Muslims reality in Islamic East.

OpEd: 10 % concerned with talking about reality of Muslims in Europe, and 90 % concerned with Muslims outside Europe.

Articles: 30 % of the articles talk about European-related issues, and 70% of the articles talk about Islamic reality related issues.

News: 12 % of the news is related to news of the Muslims in Europe, or related to the religious mission in Europe, while 88 % of the news is related to Muslims causes and concerns.

Thus, we notice that the magazine- that represents the media discourse of the movement- was writing as if it were living outside the European milieu. This shows that the organization and its concerns had only a weak relation with this reality and its concerns. Taking into consideration that this situation lasted from the start of the work in early 1960s to early 1990s, we can imagine the size of the problem tackled and reviewed later, thanks to the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe.

After citing this example of the external discourse through The Strangers magazine, we say again that the reviews on the level of external discourse have undoubtedly come very late- from early 1990s till nowadays. If one follows up European magazines and conferences held in the past years, one notices how far the movement”s discourse in this period is conforming with and is in line with requirements of the present and requirements of the Islamic presence in the European arena.


*Salem Abdel Salam Al Shikhi is member of the European Council for Fatwa and Research. The original article appeared in Arabic in Islamonline, and was rendered into English by Ikhwanweb.