By Qanta A. Ahmed
The Great Mosque in Brussels has been
training imams who preach Jew-hatred, preparations for armed jihad and the need
to prosecute LGBT minorities. That’s according to a confidential Belgian
intelligence report that was leaked to the media.
discussed the report with Qanta A. Ahmed, a British-American Muslim
physician and member of the Committee on Countering Contemporary Anti-Semitism
through Testimony, Shoah Foundation, and University of Southern California.
your view has the extremist preaching in Brussels’ main mosque been overlooked
for such a long time?
Qanta A. Ahmed: It’s very difficult for me to say, but the circumstances you’re
describing fit a pattern that's very typical of the indirect inculcation of
terrorism. I’m sure if you spoke to any of the preachers at these mosques, they
would say, “We did not personally coach an ISIS fighter, we did not personally
sent or financed jihadists out to Syria or Iraq.” But their language and their
words are actually pure Islamism, which is casually known as radical Islam, masquerading
as the true religion of Islam. What you just described, the enmity, not just
mortal, but cosmic, towards Judaism or the barbaric punishments that they think
are deemed for LBGTQ people, are classic central tenets of a political
totalitarianism known as Islamism, which was invented in the 20th century. If
you want another example that is similar to the Belgium situation, look at the
history of the mosque in Munich where the 9/11 hijackers used to worship and
were also indoctrinated by preachers even though they were financed by other
This kind of language is hugely destructive
to a democratic society and is absolutely antithetical to European values, but
also true Islamic values. Islamic values, and I think as a Muslim myself,
recognize the Jewish people and in fact even the Torah, their holy book and
their prophet are absolutely recognized and revered by believing Muslims, so
this is very important that this has been uncovered now.
you tell us where do these imams and the books they use usually come from?
Qanta A. Ahmed: Very often this kind of ideology is being financed by the Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia that has for many decades been exporting Wahhabi ideology.
Salafism can be considered completely related to that. We know with the Belgium
mosque in 1969 there was the deal signed between the Belgium Ministry of Public
Works and the Islamic Cultural Centre of Belgium linked to the World Muslim
League that was created by Saudi Arabia. At the moment the current crown prince
is functioning really as the de-facto king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin
Salman, is on the charm offensive – women are going to be driving, women can go
to football matches, there’s going to be movies in Saudi Arabia.
What we’re waiting to see is how will he
really tackle this kind of ideology that his kingdom is known to export. They
may not be Islamists themselves, the Saudi Arabians, but they’re huge patrons
of Islamism. From where my family comes from in the Indian subcontinent,
Pakistan and India, over 300,000 madrasas are present there, all of them
financed by this kind of money, which then raises a generation of Muslims with
no real connection to Islam, but completely believing in evolutionary Jihadism,
and it’s a huge problem, until you tackle the financing you’re not going to be
able to strangle the ideology.
in your view can the authorities in Europe prevent Salafist mosques from
preaching on their territory?
Qanta A. Ahmed: I think that they already seem to have had because they’ve
discovered this kind of activity at this mosque, they’ve already had a dialogue
with Saudi officials, the lease that was supposed to be for 99 years beginning
in 1969 has already been terminated; now they’re looking for someone to fill
that space and there’s rivalry within Belgium between people that are
originally from Turkey and people originally from Morocco. There possibly an
opportunity for Morocco to be able to step in, that is much more liberal and
much more tolerant in its own society so, perhaps, that’s an opportunity, but a
very important thing Europe needs to do, and we also need to do here in the
United States, is begin to have very frank conversations about Islam and
Islamism. Currently in the United States and also in Europe, as you know last
night there was a knife attack in Paris and also we know in Indonesia there was
a church bombing, both attacks by ISIS.
There’s a fear of speaking about those
things whether you're Muslim or not because you’re accused of Islamophobia,
which is another false construct, so there have to be some very difficult
conversations, and Muslims that are brave enough to confront these issues
should be able to lead the way, and I think that there is an opportunity in
Europe to do that. Parts of what happened in Europe, and I am from Europe
originally, born in London, part of what’s happened is Europe is so tolerant,
it has allowed dens of intolerance to develop extremely freely, much more so
than we actually have in the Muslim world. A great example for the Belgium
authorities would be to speak to Egypt where I have travelled.
Egypt eliminated Muslim Brotherhood
influence, and Muslim brotherhood was the progenitor of Islamism for mosques,
so in Egypt the mosques are monitored from inside by authorities, sermons are
listened to, if an Imam is preaching this kind of hatred that person is removed
and the mosque is either shut down or cleansed of this kind of ideology because
the Egyptian people know how destructive this is. Remember more than 90 percent
of Egyptians voted to eliminate Morsi, the head of the Muslim brotherhood, from
power. So real Muslims that know Islam, recognize this is a complete corruption
of our religion.
You also asked me in the preparation of
this interview how many European fighters are there, well two day ago I got
back from Kurdistan where I was with the Peshmerga, the extraordinary Kurdish
soldiers who personally repelled ISIS from Iraqi territory with great heroism.
The Peshmerga military leaders that I was with, generals and colonels, explain
to me that many times they caught ISIS fighters, apprehended them, opened their
jackets to find a European passport, so this problem inside Europe not only
wreaks havoc in other places in the world, where having just met wives, women
and children that were enslaved by ISIS, including sexually abused, as well as
child soldiers that were indoctrinated by ISIS, I’ve just been with those
people, this problem is returning to Europe.
data show us that 4,000 EU citizens left to join ISIS in Iraq or Syria, about
30 percent have come back, but the vast majority, more than half of those
people, are coming from four countries in Europe – Belgium, France, Germany and
Britain – but the highest number are coming from Belgium. Belgium is a small
country, but has the highest per capita ratio of ISIS fighters per citizens so
surely this mosque may have been a big factor in indoctrinating its youth.
Listeners can read my articles on my website about Islamism and how dangerous
this is not only to democratic society but ordinary Muslims ourselves, and if
we don’t take back Islam from Islamism we’re only going to face more of these