This article presents a brief description of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Sweden. The text is mainly taken from two existing official reports, with an introduction and a conclusion added.
The first offical report on the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Sweden was published a year ago in the form of a pre-study mapping some of the basic outlines of the movement. On March 15, 2018 a second report on the MB was released. Both reports were commissioned by the MSB (www.msb.se), the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency, and they are the first comprehensive studies of the MB in Sweden.
As is the case in other European countries, organizations and individuals affiliated to the MB use a variety of methods to reach their goals. They work through political parties, NGOs and other civil society organizations, and direct contact with governmental bodies at both the local and national levels. Having mastered the art of milking the open, welcoming and generous system in Sweden long ago, over the years the MB has been able to build strong institutions which secure funding through public money.
As the eminent researcher and MB-expert Lorenzo Vidino has stated: “Organizations and individuals […] can be summarily divided in three categories according to the intensity of their links to the mother group: Pure Brothers, Brotherhood Spawns, and Organizations influenced by the Brotherhood.”
This description fits the Swedish scene as well. As is shown in the reports, the MB has been operating in Sweden for over three decades, slowly building an institutional structure that smoothly used the “Swedish model” and was thereby able to take full advantage of a generous system for seeking financial aid from the public coffers. MB-affiliated organizations have created a web of schools, businesses, charities and other entities, each belonging to one of the three categories in Vidino’s model, many of them funded by taxpayers.
It is important to note that the MB in Sweden is part and parcel of the wider MB-structure in Europe (see picture 1 below). Namely, the umbrella-organizational network of the FIOE, to which the Swedish IFiS (islamiska förbundet i Sverige/Islamic Association of Sweden) belongs. In fact, IFiS was one of the founding members of FIOE.
The reports are based on international research conducted on the MB in Egypt and studies of the European branch during recent years. In this research, aspects were selected which are particularly relevant for Sweden in terms of the organizational and strategic nature of the movement’s activities. The reports also draw on an analysis of the traditional policy documents that the European MB has drawn up to guide its work in the new political spaces where the movement’s activists work in connection with the MB establishment in Europe (see the statutes of the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) and the Islamic Association in Sweden (IFiS)). Finally, interviews with members, former members and other individuals who have been affected by MB in various ways were carried out.
Naturally, the contents of the reports are presented in a summarized and generalized form in order to fit the format. The remaining task is to expand the study of various matters concerning the European Brotherhood’s ideological network, both empirically and theoretically. The contents of the reports should be considered only as initial attempts to formulate a coherent systematic review of the movement’s activities in Europe and Sweden.
Below (figure 2) are the main Swedish organizations belonging to the FIOE/IFiS network:
Islam is of course at the heart of the Brotherhood. MB founder Hassan al-Banna laid this out in 1947: “There is no regime in this world which can supply the forthcoming nation with what it requires in the way of institutions, principles, objectives, and judgments to the same extent as Islam can.”
Yet Islamism is not a distinct type of Muslim faith. It is a political ideology based on and derived from Islam, from which it acquires its legitimacy. In fact, there are many differences between the multitude of existing Islamist parties and movements and they should be studied in the context in which they operate.
However, there is a common denominator: the emphasis on an ideological-religious base as clear guidance for how society and its citizens should be governed and where the individual is subordinated to the state. This contrasts with a democratic state where the individual’s privacy, protection and rights to free and fair elections – both personal “life choices” and public ones – are assumed and where the state’s democratic structure is at the individual’s disposal.
These many forms of Islamism also share the ability to combine hostility to the West with a resistance to or indeed outright hatred of what are seen as the discontents of the project of modernity.
Islamists may offer an alternative to these two “threats” by combining a militant political ideology with social conservatism based on control over their own group. They look to an unspoiled and uncorrupted social structure in the Prophet’s own time and place and envision an ideal human identity and existence shaped by the Qur’an’s divine guidance.
The political and theological thinkers in this group include Ahmed ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahab (1703–92), Maulana Abul Ala Maududi (1903–79), Hassan al-Banna (1906–49), Sayyid Qutb (1906–66), and Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (1926–).
In their modern incarnation, these ideas have evolved to assert that Islam is currently under attack from the Western world, which intends to wipe out the faith in conspiratorial agreement with Jews and Zionists (the terms are used to identify the same threat). In the most militant branch of Islamism, often referred to as jihadism, Islamists maintain that by taking up arms against these global threats, they make it possible both to defeat this diabolical conspiracy and recreate the ideal state that prevailed during the time of the Prophet and the “Golden Age” that followed his death.
In this struggle, all means may become permissible because “the enemy” (modernity) is everywhere and, according to the Islamist worldview, it uses all possible means to fight Islam.
This is why the long series of terrorist attacks directed against the West have hit diverse targets. They range from attacks on mass transportation, such as in Madrid and London in 2004 and 2005 or Brussels in February 2016, to the attacks in Paris and Copenhagen in January and February 2015, which were directed against two of the main objects of Islamist hatred, namely the West’s freedom of expression and opinion and Jewish targets.
These Western freedoms enable criticism, scorn and ridicule directed against one’s own religion and not least the Prophet Muhammad himself. In Paris, Charlie Hebdo was attacked. In Copenhagen, the target was the Swedish artist and art professor Lars Vilks, who had drawn so-called “traffic circle dogs” with a “face of Mohammed”.
Anti-Semitism, meanwhile, has a long history in Islam, and there are a number of references in the Qur’an and various Hadiths where Jews are described as enemies of Islam and portrayed in the worst possible way as a people that must be fought and humiliated.
All systems of government based on a particular interpretation of a religious ideology are incompatible with the liberal democratic structure we have created in the West, where the separation between religion and politics is fundamental. However, this does not only apply to Islam; regardless of the dominant religious tradition, a conflict between secular and religious values arises.
It is worth emphasizing that the dividing line runs between those countries which have “privatized” religion and where individual religious beliefs are not indicative of the architecture of the relevant public structures, and the countries which have not achieved such a separation.
The Islamists’ choice of political system is based on an interpretation of Islam as a universal system where the individual is not only subordinated to the collective, but also a system where religion and politics are completely interwoven. The idea of an Islamic state is by no means new, and in some countries, such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, there are models for how such states are to be governed.
Moreover, the fact that a religious tradition is defined by how the believers choose to interpret the religious texts is also of great importance. How faith is practiced determines how it is defined. At the heart of an Islamic state, be it IS, any previous incarnation of IS or the current nations which define themselves as Islamic, lies the connection of religion and politics; a link that is still maintained in most interpretations of Islam.
There are, of course, theological arguments used by Islamists to bolster the idea of creating an Islamic state and justifications for doing it by force if necessary. Surah 34:28 in the Qur’an, which says “we have sent you forth to all mankind”, is often referred to in this context. It is also emphasized that if non-Muslims refuse to convert voluntarily or submit to Islam, it follows that violence can and should be used to spread the religion. In fact, in this process, peace can only be attained when Islam rules the entire world.
This position relies on a variety of both historical and contemporary commentators. Indeed, when it comes to the ideological and religious roots of Islamism, an extensive collection of sources may be referred to in order to justify both the political and violent methods used to spread its influence.
 Trager, Ullah, Sakthivel, Islamists in Government: Do They Moderate Once in Power?, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, May 1, 2014.
 For an extraordinary illustration of how this social control and destructive influence of radical and militant Islamism may be expressed (even in Sweden) and how close and frequent the ties are between the militant ideology that underpins Islamism and Jihadism that end in violence, see Hanna Gadban’s book Min Jihad – jakten på liberal islam. See also Kenan Malik, Radical Islam, Nihilist Rage, The New York Times, January 3, 2015. See also Raheel Raza, “Boxed and Packaged Islam” Trying to Pass Itself Off as Mainstream Islam, Gatestone Institute, October 17, 2014.
 Paul Berman, Why Is the Islamist Death Cult So Appealing?, Tablet Magazine, January 28, 2015.
 Ibid. See also Sayyid Qutb: Social Justice (1949), World Peace and Islam (1951) and Milestones (1964).
 See for example Fatah, Chasing A Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, John Wiley & Sons Canada, Ltd. 2008.
 Bassam Tibi, War and Peace in Islam, p. 129; in Terry Nardin (ed.), The Ethics of War and Peace, Religious and Secular Perspectives, Princeton University Press, 1998.
 Ibid., Tibi and Durie, p. 119.
 Ibid., Durie p. 119.
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.