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New report on Muslim Brotherhood sympathisers

2018-03-20

Senior Lecturer Aje Carlbom has researched organisations associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. According to his recently published report, these groups contribute to social polarisation and radicalisation.

The report, titled Islamic activism in a multicultural context – ideological continuity or change?, was commissioned by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency and deals with the influence of organisations in Europe connected to the Muslim Brotherhood (MB).

The report is based on interviews with informants who have been part of MB-associated organisations, these organisations’ own material, and previous research in the field. Based on the study, Carlbom draws a number of conclusions.

"Muslim Brotherhood-associated activism is first and foremost an integration issue that can create political and social polarisation and undermine certain Swedish values. In addition, it can contribute to radicalisation," he says.

Misleading messages about Muslims

MB-associated organisations present themselves as a cohesive group with collective religious interests, which, according to Carlbom, is misleading.

“Research shows that it does not make sense to view Muslims as a unified group or to talk of a general Muslim community. For instance, MB-associated organisations have little in common with queer Muslims or with the progressive Sisters of Islam in Malaysia.”

A further finding has to do with ideas, values and norms. The organisations Carlbom studied pit Muslims against non-Muslims through a divisive ‘us and them’ rhetoric. They also challenge values such as freedom of religious expression, gender equality and the rights of sexual minorities.

According to Carlbom, groups like these believe that Muslims should be safeguarded from majority society by creating their own, so-called ‘Muslim civil society’ consisting of religiously governed schools and other public institutions.

Risk of radicalisation

Carlbom contends that MB-associated organisations spread politicised views of Islam, which, when compounded with the message that Muslims are victims of a hostile Western world, can contribute to radicalisation among individual Muslims.

"When combined with an acceptance for politically motivated violence, some of their messages and ideas can lead to the adoption of more radical views.

"In contrast to other Muslims, these organisations primarily want to demonstrate that they are important players with influence in established society,” he says, emphasising the importance of knowledge in resisting misinformation and propaganda.

Text: Charlotte Orban

Last updated by Maya Acharya