A Decade of Gulf-Funded Growth
In December 2007, I published a report on the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology in the Netherlands. At that point, the Muslim Brotherhood did not actually control a single mosque in the Netherlands. One Islamic center was under construction in Rotterdam and there were rumors that the Muslim Brotherhood was in a race to gain permission to build a mosque in Amsterdam, but this amounted to a small footprint.
In those times, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands, Yahia Bouyafa, did sue the largest newspaper in the country, De Telegraaf, and win. Bouyafa denied that he was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, with help from a lawyer and high-profile figure in the PvdA (Labor Party). The court agreed. The newspaper had to publish a correction and pay a small amount of damages.
Nonetheless, a few weeks later, the PvdA Minister of the Interior said in parliament that the man who had sued the newspaper was indeed the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands. Strangely, the newspaper never went back to court. But the public record had been set straight.
Since then, much has changed. The Muslim Brotherhood has established a firm foothold in the Netherlands and is expanding its influence in local and national politics. Moreover, its entrance into politics has been facilitated by Dutch leftwing political parties such as Groen Links (the Green Party) and the PvdA.
On the ground, the Muslim Brotherhood now has several Islamic centers and mosques under its direct control.
In Rotterdam, they include the Essalam Islamic Cultural Centre (EIIC); the Centrum de Middenweg (CDMW), whose name is a reference to Yusuf al-Qaradawi’s al-Wasattiyah movement; and a former school building purchased by the Foundation Social Cultural Center in the Netherlands, which is the social and cultural arm of the Tunisian En Nahda movement.
In The Hague, the Foundation Social Cultural Center owns a large property named the Mohammed Abdel Mohsen al-Kharafi Islamic Center, after the major funding family from Kuwait.
Finally, in Amsterdam the Muslim Brotherhood has the Blue Mosque (Blauwe Moskee).
Yahia Bouyafa (left), then chairman of the Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN), and Ahmed al-Rawi (right), the Executive Director of the Europe Trust in Birmingham sign the contract for the building of the Blue Mosque in Amsterdam.
Centrum De Middenweg, Rotterdam
The first structured payments for acquiring real estate and building came from Qatar. In 2008, Qatar gave seed money to the Europe Trust Netherlands (ETN) to partly pay for the building of the Blue Mosque in Amsterdam. According to Yahia Bouyafa, then chairman of the ETN, the money came from the Qatar Foundation. No one from the Qatar Foundation was present at the cornerstone laying ceremony but a high official of Qatar Charity was present.
But the bulk of the money came from the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. In particular, the al-Kharafi family was generous, covering most of the costs for projects in Rotterdam, The Hague, and Amsterdam.
To secure Kuwait’s influence and control over the Muslim Brotherhood real estate in the Netherlands, in 2012 the chairmanship of the ETN was given to the Kuwaiti Assistant Undersecretary of the Ministry of Awqaf for External Relations and Hajj, Mutlaq al-Qarawi. The Kuwaiti Ministry of Awqaf also gave monthly allowances to at least three officials within the Muslim Brotherhood leadership.
Kuwaitis Mutlaq al-Qarawi (left) and Mohammed Abdel Mohsen al-Kharafi (right), the main financiers and influencers of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands.
In 2011, the Dutch intelligence service AIVD concluded after an investigation that the Muslim Brotherhood was no direct threat to national security at that time. But it acknowledged that in future the Brotherhood in the Netherlands could become a risk. Specifically, the AIVD noted that the Brotherhood’s bid to make Islam the leading authority in every aspect of the life of Muslims could create a breeding ground for intolerant isolationism and polarization within society.
Another point the AIVD made in 2011 was that it had concluded that the Muslim Brotherhood was trying to make inroads in civil society and gain influence. “If they also start taking part in political decision-making without being open about their signature and obscure their interests and intentions, this can lead to an undesirable situation”, the AIVD reported.
There is indeed a clearly visible political trend in the Netherlands – Muslim Brotherhood members or people close to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology have become politically active.
Some of the Brotherhood figures have travelled abroad to get media training and visit networking meetings.
For example, Jacob van der Blom, a convert and de facto day to day manager of the Essalam Islamic Cultural Centre (EIIC) and the Centrum de Middenweg (CDMW) in Rotterdam, went to London for media training by the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) at the Finsbury Park Mosque. Others were trained by Fadel Soliman of the Bridges Foundation or Zaher Birawi through Europal. Birawi is a key figure in the UK network of Hamas.
Zaher Birawi (left) with radical British politician George Galloway, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, and Bulent Yildirim, head of the Turkish Islamist charity IHH. This photo was taken during one of the convoys to Gaza organized by “Viva Palestina”, Galloway’s Hamas support operation. Birawi was a key player in Viva Palestina and has also been closely linked to IHH.
Finsbury Park Mosque chairman Mohammed Kozbar meeting Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.
When Zaher Birawi carried out his training in Rotterdam on lobbying and political influence, he was assisted by Ibrahim Akkari, one of the old hands in the Dutch Muslim Brotherhood, and Rotterdam local politician Nourdin el-Ouali.
Ibrahim Akkari and George Galloway.
One of Akkari’s children, Mohammed Akkari, became politically active in Dutch left wing politics, including the hard core Socialist Party and the PvdA. Now he has moved to the regional Islamist party NIDA in Rotterdam and the populist pro-Erdogan party DENK.
Europal Meeting with Zaher Birawi (4th from the right, standing), Ibrahim Akkari (3rd from the right, standing), and Nourdin el-Ouali (5th from the right, standing). In this picture one also sees Salafist preacher Ali Houri aka Brother Khattab (3rd from the left, standing) and Mohammed Akkari (6the from the right, standing with paper).
The two founders of DENK, Dutch-Turkish parliamentarians Selçuk Öztürk and Tunahan Kuzu, broke away from the PvdA in 2014 and started their own political movement. That movement became the political party DENK and won three seats in the Dutch Parliament in the 2017 elections. During the election campaign in 2017, DENK had to acknowledge that they used fake accounts on social media to influence public opinion.
In their rhetoric and actions, the DENK leadership is often in line with the Muslim Brotherhood in the Netherlands. For example, Kuzu did not shake Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s hand when the latter was visiting Dutch Parliamentarians last year in The Hague. This made him an instant hero in Dutch Brotherhood circles.
DENK leaders Tunahan Kuzu (speaking in microphone) and Selçuk Öztürk.
In the local elections of 21 March 2018, Rotterdam supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood ideology backed NIDA, a local party led by Nourdin el-Ouali. El-Ouali is a former Rotterdam council member for the Green Party (Groen Links). El-Ouali was also the spokesman for the Dutch boat that participated in the Gaza flotilla of 2011, a Hamas project. He is often present at demonstrations organized by the pro-Palestine movement in the Netherlands, which is dominated by Hamas.
In Rotterdam, NIDA officially agreed to join a Left-Islamist coalition where established leftwing parties (Groen Links, PvdA and the Socialist Party) cooperate with NIDA in a bid to keep a populist local party out of power. To sugarcoat the coalition, NIDA front man Nourdin el-Ouali said there were no “warm” contacts with the Dutch branch of the AK Party of Turkey, the UETD.
The reality is different – the UETD supported NIDA in the elections and Ahmet Yildirim, a former board member of the UETD, was a candidate for the Rotterdam City Council for NIDA. Another candidate for NIDA was the Dutch convert (Ab)Bas van Noppen, who is also the deputy chairman of the Centrum de Middenweg. A third candidate was Ali Azzouzi, who was the personal assistant of Tariq Ramadan when Ramadan was guest professor at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam.
NIDA held its two seats in the Rotterdam City Council elections, but it was overshadowed by the success of DENK. Participating in local elections for the first time, DENK took four seats, including one for DENK leader and member of parliament Tunahan Kuzu. Kuzu announced that he will take up his seat in the city council for at least six months.
The leftwing political parties are not able to learn from their mistakes in the past by allowing Islamists to run for their parties. The Left-Islamist alliance is still operational in the Netherlands, just as it is in many other countries in Europe.
In Rotterdam, for example, the left were the useful pawns when NIDA demanded that Muslim police officers be allowed to wear the hijab, while the police commissioner in Rotterdam and the city’s mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb were against it. The push for the hijab is another indication that NIDA is very close to the Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
In fact, the advance of Muslim Brotherhood ideology in local, regional and national Dutch politics is a clear indication that most Dutch politicians don’t have a clue about what is going on. The left is willingly blind while the mainstream political parties have allowed the Muslim Brotherhood ideology propagated these days by the Turkish Diyanet and Milli Görüs groups as well as DENK and NIDA to grow by using their political institutions.
It is time for the Netherlands to do some deep soul searching.
European Eye on Radicalization aims to publish a diversity of perspectives and as such does not endorse the opinions expressed by contributors. The views expressed in this article represent the author alone.