European Eye on Radicalization
Recently, Disinfolab published extremely valuable open source (OSINT) material on the action of the Muslim Brotherhood against India and its exploitation of Kashmir and the complex issues related to the area.
In 2021, a boycott campaign was launched by the Brotherhood networks against India, targeting at the same time Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and France—the main states that have taken a stand against the Brotherhood. The campaign was in all probability supported by Turkish and Pakistani troll factories. It was the symbolic and communicative consolidation of the Qatar-Turkey-Pakistan (QTPi) nexus.
According to Disinfolab, it was not ordinary propaganda, as the Muslim Brotherhood fronts put several of the news media agencies in its arsenal to use, including Qatar’s state channel, Al-Jazeera.
In late September 2021, the hashtag الھندیة_المنتجات_مقاطعة (BoycottIndianProducts) trended on Twitter in parts of the Arab world, mostly in Egypt and Iraq, calling to boycott Indian products. The campaign was being led by people loyal to Qatar and Turkey, and was later joined by Pakistan’s assets. The origins of the campaign go back to 2018, but its levels of success in the last few years are unprecedented.
According to the report, senior figures of the Muslim Brotherhood such as Mohamed al-Sagheer, Sami Kamal al-Din, and Al-Jazeera journalists Yasser Abu Hilalah and Ahmad Muaffaq Zaidan, participated in the #BoycottIndianProducts campaign. As with any organized propaganda, the campaign was first initiated by a number of influencers, then given traction by the media outlets affiliated with the Brotherhood, and finally amplified by troll networks.
Most of the videos/posters used have been soon debunked by several prominent fact-checkers in India.
The news outlets participating in this propaganda campaign included the aforementioned Al-Jazeera, Turkey’s state channel TRT World, Rassd News, Arabi21 News, Watan Serb, and Al-Araby TV News. Some of these will be familiar, as they were on the list of the media outlets Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states demanded Qatar shut down in 2017.
According to the report by Disinfolab, these events are part of a larger design, a build-up to create a broader conflict space. The Muslim Brotherhood has successfully run a conflict industry in Palestine for more than a decade. Now it is looking to shift the business to a new location. And one of the key tools for making a viable conflict industry is the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement.
The narratives that have been built in India in the last few years closely resemble this precedent, with the terms used against Israel—“Islamophobia”, “fascism”, and “genocide”—as their pillars.
This report seeks to unmask the various fronts of the Muslim Brotherhood which have already been deployed into this new theatre.
Addressing the complex notion of conflict industry, the report explains that the geo-strategic conflicts, where the major voices are hijacked by external forces (activists), rather than the key stakeholders, tend to create a class of interests, whose interests lie not in resolving the conflict but in prolonging it, giving birth to a conflict industry.
The key features of such an industry are that it involves different states and different religions and ethnicities. Therefore, Palestine, Kashmir, Rohingya, or Uyghurs could be useful for the conflict industry but not Kurds or Balochis. The conflict industry needs ‘other’ to be effective. The most important feature is that most vocal faces and organizations would generally have nothing to do with the conflict situation, would have no direct experiences, and yet they are the foremost noisemakers.
The BDS Movement was one such campaign, exploited by the Muslim Brotherhood, to run the business of the conflict industry. It revolves around carefully designed hybrid campaigns involving media and ground activists, though the publicity remains the key factor. The more publicity for the conflict, the better the prospect of fund-collection in its name is.
The BDS campaign is tailor-made to suit its audience. Hence, to run in the Western world, it is done in the name of human rights and genocide and, when run amongst the Muslim communities, it is projected as an Islamic cause.
As far as Kashmir is concerned, it is important to notice that BDS was a significant improvement from the traditional fund collection methods deployed by Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and similar factions, who rely primarily on religious donations.
While the Brotherhood and JI have been coordinating their activities in the US and Europe for a while, so far the South Asian theatre was left for JI to handle. The first public entry of Muslim Brotherhood in South Asia was seen last year, with the seeding of BDS narratives. The Brotherhood has been nurturing some of the political and civil groups in India for a while, initially keeping a low profile.
Compared to JI, the Brotherhood has better experience in running a BDS-style movement. This transition was first witnessed during the previous boycott campaign that was launched against India—which was led from the front by the Brotherhood and its affiliated news media.
A crucial issue addressed in the report is the so-called Russel Tribunal on Kashmir (RToK), held on December 17-19, 2021, in Sarajevo, Bosnia. The Tribunal modelled itself on the famous “International War Crimes Tribunal” or “Russell Tribunal”, which was created in 1966 ostensibly to examine the conduct of the United States and its allies in the Vietnam War. The “tribunal” is named after British philosopher Bertrand Russell, and this ad hoc panel of prominent public intellectuals—philosophers, scientists, politicians, writers, and lawyers—went through the motions of hearing evidence related to the United States’ effort to prevent the Communist takeover of Vietnam, before declaring the U.S. guilty of “genocide”.
Modelling itself on this propaganda event, the Kashmir “tribunal” was organized by Kashmir Civitas (KC), along with World Kashmir Awareness Forum (WKAF), the Permanent People’s Tribunal of Bologna (PPTB) Italy, Nahla (Center for Education and Research), the Center for Advanced Studies in Sarajevo, International University of Sarajevo (IUS), and Al-Jazeera Balkans.
IUS was the first organization that posted about the RToK event on its website, along with the list of guests and partners. Interestingly, before hosting this event, IUS had never spoken on the subjects related to Kashmir. IUS is a private university formed by the Foundation for Education Development Sarajevo (SEDEF) in 2003 and inaugurated in the academic year of 2004/2005. IUS is based in Bosnia.
IUS is backed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP). The President of IUS is Professor Dr. Sevgi Kurtulmuş, Professor of Economics at Ankara University. Dr. Sevgi is the wife of the former deputy Prime Minister of Turkey Numan Kurtulmuş (between 2014-17) and currently the party leader of the AKP.
Moreover, the founding organization of IUS is SEDEF, which was founded by a group of businessmen from Turkey. SEDEF has several constituting organizations from Turkey and the organization controlled by the Erdoğan family.
One of the several Turkish constituting organizations is Ilim Yayma Vakfi, which is an Istanbul-based Foundation established on March 31, 1973, by Erdoğan. Currently, his son, Necemettin Bilal Erdoğan, is the President of the Foundation—and an IUS guest speaker.
Al-Jazeera Balkans, a sister publication of the Al-Jazeera empire, remained no exception in peddling Brotherhood propaganda, and provides the platform to Brotherhood-linked ‘luminaries.’ It is, therefore, no surprise that Al-Jazeera Balkans is one of the partner organizations behind the RToK
The report is dense in information and traces out the multiple links between the campaign, the Tribunal on Kashmir, and several Muslim Brotherhood figures, including judges and prominent attendees. Even though its coverage is clearly pro-India, the intelligence that the report shares represents an important contribution to the knowledge on the exploitation of the Kashmir issue by the forces of political Islam.