In the 1980s, Western intelligence reports started to warn of the growing influence of the Muslim Brotherhood in Western Europe. In their fight against the regimes ruling their home countries, Muslim Brotherhood groups in Europe were found to be working with the newly installed Islamic Republic in Iran and Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi’s Libya, both regimes notorious for their sponsorship of anti-Western terrorism.
In Switzerland, one intermediary between the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran was Ahmed Huber. Huber, a journalist by profession, had been a socialist but had converted to Islam in the 1960s. Huber was among the first converts in Said Ramadan’s Islamic Centre in Geneva. Ironically, a key motivator in Huber’s turn to Islamism was his antisemitism and hatred for Israel, and this had made Huber a strong admirer of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. Nasser is detested by the Brotherhood for initiating the crackdown on the group in the mid-1950s, and Nasser’s radical Arab nationalism is regarded as heretical by the Islamists.
Huber’s antisemitism became more extreme over the years. Having welcomed the Iranian revolution of 1978-9 enthusiastically, Huber then visited the country in 1983. While in Iran, Huber was approached by officials of the clerical government, who asked him to help forge an alliance between the Iranian Islamists and the European far-Right against “the three great Satans”: Zionism, Marxism, and the American way of life. Swiss police reports show that Huber continued to interact regularly with Iranian officials, and made Tehran’s ambition to bring together its ideologues and the European far-Right into his life mission. Huber worked tirelessly to propagandize Iran’s cause in Switzerland, both among Swiss Muslims and non-Muslims. In the course of events, clearly, Huber had very limited success
Though Huber was primarily working for Iran, he was also involved in the activities of the Muslim Brotherhood. In 1988, Al-Taqwa bank was established in Switzerland by Youssef Nada and Ghaleb Himmat, senior activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, to fund Brotherhood-related projects worldwide. Huber and François Genoud, a prominent national-socialist activist and sponsor of Palestinian terrorist groups, also sat on the board of the organization. In the 1990s, Huber regularly travelled to speak at events of the Muslim Student Organization in the United States, an organization linked to the local chapter of the Muslim Brotherhood. After 9/11, the Americans placed Al-Taqwa bank and Huber on their terrorism list, suspecting the bank of having funded Al-Qaeda. Swiss judicial investigations failed to prove these allegations.
The Muslim Brotherhood was far from the only group contesting the hearts and minds of the growing Muslim diaspora in Europe. The governments of Muslim-majority states, notably Saudi Arabia, financed cultural centers, sponsored research institutions, and dispatched their preachers to increase their influence in Europe. While Switzerland, with its small, mostly secular Muslim population of Balkan origin, was not at the center of this competition, it was, however, a strategic site for the Muslim Brotherhood, which used the country for coordination and planning, as seen in the case of Al-Taqwa bank.
The Ramadan Family
The 1980s were an important decade for Said Ramadan’s offspring, who became increasingly engaged in political activism. Tariq Ramadan frequented Left-wing circles in Geneva and became friends with the controversial Communist couple Jean Ziegler and Erica Deuber-Pauli. Both wielded major political power in the French-speaking part of Switzerland — a great asset in future conflicts entangling Ramadan: In 1993, when Tariq Ramadan campaigned to de-platform the theatre piece “Mahomet” by Voltaire then being played in Geneva, he was supported by Erica Deuber-Pauli, who served as the city’s Cultural Attaché. It was one of the first cases where Islamist activists had successfully campaigned to suppress freedom of expression and art in the West — after having failed to force the suppression of The Satanic Verses during the Rushdie Affair in 1989. In 1995, Tariq Ramadan was barred from entering France in the wake of a series of bloody Islamist terrorist attacks. Jean Ziegler, then a Socialist parliamentarian in Berne, sprang to his defence, demanding that the Swiss government appeal France’s decision, and defending Ramadan’s Islamist convictions.
Jean Ziegler also played a crucial role in paving the way for Tariq Ramadan’s future career as a leading Muslim “intellectual”. Ramadan’s doctoral thesis on Islamic “reformists”, which included his grandfather, the Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna, was deemed apologetic rather than scholarly by two members of the expert jury and, therefore, rejected. Even Ramadan’s own supervisor, Charles Genequand, a specialist in the Arab world, rejected it and critiqued it harshly: “It’s a very problematic thesis, ideological, tendentious, which doesn’t contribute anything new. […] I asked Tariq Ramadan to make corrections, but he changed virtually nothing in his text. I suppose he made fun of me.” Were it not for Deuber-Pauli and Ziegler, Ramadan’s academic career would probably have been still-born. But the two Communists intervened with the university, warning them of a media scandal if they rejected Ramadan’s thesis. The pressure worked, and the university convened a new jury, which gave Ramadan the worst possible grade, a pass without merit — effectively ending Ramadan’s hope for an academic position in Switzerland. Nevertheless, Ramadan eventually ended up with a chair at Oxford, which is financed by his ideological allies in Qatar.
In 1995, Said Ramadan died and his son Hani Ramadan, the lesser known of the two brothers, became the head of the Islamic Centre in Geneva. In 1994, the Ramadan brothers established the Association Musulmans, Musulmanes de Suisse, which aspired to become an umbrella organization for several Arab mosques mostly located in the French part of Switzerland. The press reported that tracts praising the jihad in Algeria were distributed at the foundational meeting. The group ceased its activities in the early 2000s, being supplanted by the Ligue des Musulmans de Suisse (LMS), a member of the Muslim Brotherhood umbrella organization Federation of Islamic Organizations. The Tunisian Mohammed Karmous, a central figure in the Swiss Islamist scene, led LMS from its establishment in 1994 until 2008. Karmous and his wife Nadia established several Muslim Brotherhood-linked organizations in Switzerland over the years, many lavishly funded by Qatar. For instance, the Museum of Islamic Civilization in La-Chaux-De-Fonds, led by Nadia Karmous, received a donation from Qatar amounting to 1.4 million Swiss francs (£1.1m). The Swiss investigative journalist Sylvain Besson described the Karmous couple as the “backbone of a certain soft Islamism that is evolving in the Swiss cultural sphere”.
The Ennahda Connection
In 1991, the Tunisian government of Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali cracked down on the Tunisian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ennahda. More than 8,000 activists were imprisoned, and many fled to Europe, including Switzerland. The Muslim Brotherhood milieu in Switzerland was unquestionably strengthened by the influx of Ennahda activists from Tunisia. Since then, many of the leading Islamist activists in Switzerland are of Tunisian descent.
In Geneva, the global centre for both overt and covert diplomacy, the Ennahda activists established several NGOs. Larbi Guesmi, for instance, a former Ennahda leader of Tunisia’s north-western region who fled to Switzerland, was a board member of the Association de Secours Palestinien, which the Americans suspected of being the Swiss chapter of the Hamas funding network Union of Good. Another board member, Anwar al-Gharbi, headed the NGO Droit Pour Tous (DPT, Rights for All). In its heyday around 2010, DPT regularly organized trips for Left-wing MPs to the Gaza Strip, invited senior Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood officials to Switzerland, and organized cultural events with Tariq Ramadan and the latter’s erstwhile ally, Jean Ziegler. After Ben Ali’s fall, many Tunisian refugees in Switzerland came to occupy top positions in the new Ennahda-led government. Gharbi became the adviser for international affairs of Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki, while Larib Guesmi joined Ennahda’s Shura council, its leadership board. He became a target of criticism and also ridicule in 2014, when he incited to violence against Ennahda’s opponents in a video.
The presence of many leading Muslim Brotherhood activists proved to some extent helpful for Swiss foreign policy. When the Swiss chose, in a referendum in 2009, to ban the construction of minarets, Ennahda leader Rachid Ghannouchi was among those who most fervently denounced the decision. The presence of so many Ennahda and Muslim Brotherhood activists in the country meant Swiss officials could — and did, repeatedly — meet them to calm tensions in the Islamic world before anything like a repeat of the furore over the Danish cartoons began. On the other hand, this accommodating approach towards Islamism has come with many negative consequences. The outreach to Islamists, in particular to Hamas during the tenure of socialist foreign minister Micheline Calmy-Rey (2003-2011), damaged Swiss relations with Israel and the US. And of the 90 Swiss citizens who joined jihadists in Syria and Iraq in the last few years, a high number have Tunisian background. This is unsurprising given the Tunisian-dominated Islamist networks that were allowed to entrench.
 Verbindung, “Rapport: Les activités islamiques en Europe occidentale” March 6, 1983, CHBAR E4320-05C#1995/234#65*.
 On Ahmed Huber, also see Daniel Rickenbacher, “Wenn Hass auf Juden verbindet: Querfront-Phänomene in der Schweiz,” Antisemitismusbericht des SIG und der GRA 2016, 2017, http://www.antisemitismus.ch/content/wenn-hass-auf-juden-verbindet-querfront-phaenomene-der-schweiz.
 Pierre Péan, L’Extremiste Francois Genoud——De Hitler à Carlos (Paris, 1996), 212.
 Martin Beglinger, “Herr Huber,” Das Magazin, May 2, 2004.
 On Al-Taqwa, see Sylvain Besson, La Conquête de l’Occident. Le projet secret des islamistes (Paris: Le Seuil, 2005); Lorenzo Vidino, The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West (Columbia University Press, 2010).
 “OBITUARY: Swiss Neo-Nazi/Islamist Tied To Muslim Brotherhood Dies At Age 80,” The Global Muslim Brotherhood Daily Watch, May 27, 2008, https://www.globalmbwatch.com/2008/05/27/obituary-swiss-neo-naziislamist-tied-to-muslim-brotherhood-dies-at-age-80/.
 Sylvain Besson, “Tariq Ramadan, genèse d’une star de l’islam,” January 28, 2004, https://www.letemps.ch/opinions/tariq-ramadan-genese-dune-star-lislam.
 Caroline Fourest, “Tariq Ramadan et la censure de Voltaire,” February 1, 2007, https://carolinefourest.wordpress.com/2007/02/01/tariq-ramadan-et-la-censure-de-voltaire/; Adrian Morgan, “Voltaire’s ‘Mahomet’: Still Controversial After All These Years [Incl. Tariq Ramadan],” Middle East Forum, August 31, 2010, https://www.meforum.org/campus-watch/17748/voltaire-mahomet-still-controversial-after-all.
 Jean Ziegler, “Interpellation betreffend Einreiseverbot nach Frankreich gegen Professor Tariq Ramadan” (Bern, December 7, 1995).
 Besson, “Tariq Ramadan, genèse d’une star de l’islam.”
 Ian Hamel, “Tariq Ramadan ou la chute d’un nouveau prophète,” swissinfo.ch, November 7, 2017, https://www.swissinfo.ch/fre/politique/retour-de-b%C3%A2ton_tariq-ramadan-ou-la-chute-d-un-nouveau-proph%C3%A8te/43655884.
 Elisabeth Eckert, “Les Musulmans de Suisse Étaient… Français,” L’Hebdo, December 22, 1994.
 Ligue des Musulmans de Suisse (LMS), “Statuts,” accessed February 9, 2013, www.rabita-ms.ch/rabita/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4&Itemid=17.
 Schweizerisches Handelsregister, “Ligue des Musulmans de Suisse, au Locle, rue du Temple 23. Nouvelle association.” (Neuenburg, April 1, 1997), http://www.moneyhouse.ch/de/company/ligue-des-musulmans-de-suisse-11650944451/messages; Ligue des Musulmans de Suisse (LMS), “Statuts.”
 Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot, Qatar papers : Comment l’émirat finance l’islam de France et d’Europe (Michel Lafon, 2019), 189.
 On Ennahda, see Anne Wolf, Political Islam in Tunisia: The History of Ennahda (Oxford University Press, 2017).
 Feriel Mestiri, “L’opposant tunisien attaché à la Suisse,” Le Temps, January 20, 2011.
 Steve Merley, “The Union of Good – a Global Muslim Brotherhood-Hamas Fundraising Network,” 2009, 41; “U.S. Designation of Hamas Charities & Leaders as Terrorist Entities,” August 22, 2003, https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/u-s-designation-of-hamas-charities-and-leaders-as-terrorist-entities-august-2003.
 Valérie de Graffenried, “Forte affluence pour Musheer al-Masri,” Le Temps, January 19, 2012; Patrick Vallélian, “«Je suis proche du Hamas»,” Le Matin, May 13, 2008; Carlos Serra, “Des Suisses partent pour Gaza,” Gauchebo, January 22, 2010; Florence Vuichard and Katia Murmann, “Aussendepartement ärgert sich über «Hamas-Reisli»,” Sonntag, February 15, 2009; “Droit Pour Tous au 26ème Salon international du Livre et de la Presse de Genève,” May 9, 2012, http://www.droitpourtous.ch/index.php?lecture_article=298&language=fr&page=132.
 “Rached Ghannouchi annonce la nouvelle composition de l’Exécutif d’Ennahda,” Leaders, February 23, 2012, https://www.leaders.com.tn/article/7761-rached-ghannouchi-annonce-la-nouvelle-composition-de-l-executif-d-ennahda.
 Y. N. M., “Larbi Guesmi: Un «terroriste» au Conseil de la Choura d’Ennahdha,” Kapitalis, accessed June 5, 2019, http://www.kapitalis.com/politique/19407-tunisie-politique-larbi-guesmi-un-terroriste-au-conseil-de-la-choura-d-ennahdha-video.html.
 Jean-Paul Rouiller and François Ruchti, Le djihad comme destin, la Suisse pour cible? Enquête sur les réseaux islamistes (Favre, 2016).
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