Christian fundamentalists in Europe using Islamist toolbox and money

Photo credits: Alex Milan Tracy/Newscom

A new study was recently published by the “European Parliamentary Forum on Sexual and Reproductive Rights”. The text is showing the deep connection of EU-based NGOs cooperating with fundamentalist Christians in the US, Russian oligarchs and donors from the MENA region. Europe is by far not just a passive recipient of US or Russian social conservatism, because the now well-established European anti-gender actors are now internationalising, becoming proactive actors in the global spread of religious extremism and taking over in the anti-gender landscape global leadership positions. This creates a picture of a transnational community of like-minded religious extremists and associated right-wing and far-right actors making strategic cross-border funding decisions.

The study’s author does not limit the definition of anti-gender to anti-abortion activists: “This report defines anti-gender actors as civil society actors, which include non-governmental organizations (NGOs), political parties, think tanks and foundations that promote anti-SRHR activism : sexual and reproductive rights), LGBTQI, children’s rights and ‘gender’ and against the protection of human rights based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.” It describes a pattern of action according to which radical opponents of equality organize themselves worldwide and finance. The study shows the success of the Islamists’ strategy, which provided the blueprint for today’s far-right anti-feminist movement. They have supplanted the voices of the majority of Muslim women to such an extent that studies identify anti-Muslim actors but completely ignore the international networks of anti-Muslim Islamists.

Although the US Christian right, Russian oligarchs and dubious donors from the Arab peninsula have significant influence in Europe, funding from European anti-gender organizations, including foundations and NGOs, represents an even contribution to the anti-gender movement. Understanding gender mobilization requires overcoming a number of challenges. For example, there are no EU-wide requirements for financial transparency comparable to those in the US. This leads to existing data being fragmented into national and linguistic silos. However, when the available information is brought together, it emerges that the main European funders are private foundations, NGOs and similar structures, including political parties. Collectively, these European organizations were responsible for $437.7 million in anti-gender spending between 2009 and 2018.

Christian fundamentalist anti-feminists not only learn from Islamists, they also do not shy away from direct cooperation as long as the common goal can be achieved – the abolition of equal rights for women. If the urgently needed measures against extremist misogyny are taken by the far right, while Islamists continue to be ignored, the way out for misogyny actors across the barn gate is mapped out.

A grassroots movement is fictitious according to the pattern, for example via petitions, in order to also place topics via social media. People from the socio-economic elite, often aristocrats in Christian fundamentalist circles, stand behind the “good cause”. Finally, foundations and non-governmental organizations set up with the support of wealthy individuals receive state funds with which they further establish the anti-equality agenda. This also includes misinforming women, for example with manipulative advice on abortion.

The various Islamist movements, which also arrived in the West in the 1970s, are organized in a decentralized manner but work in a network. With a legitimate topic of discussion such as the supposed protection of women from discrimination, political topics are set, which are then steered in an anti-democratic direction, above all against equal rights for women.

Financed by donors from the Gulf, among others, supported by celebrities for the “just cause”, non-profit organizations are founded, chairs are financed and donations are collected for the needy. Finally, these organizations are involved in state work, for example for integration purposes or to strengthen women’s rights.

This is how state-funded projects come to life in Europe, such as “Not without my belief”. In doing so, reference is constantly made to a basis that does not exist in reality, because despite all the efforts of extremists, the majority live their faith privately, for example over 70 percent of Muslim women do not wear a headscarf.

For promoting such an advocacy, based on values and principles violating equality, rights for homosexuals, abortion, the Christian fundamentalist lobby groups work closely together with extremists, receiving financial support not only only from the extreme right, conservative Christian movements, but also from donors located in the Arab Gulf region. For example, the Qatari royal family has championed this kind of anti-gender philanthropy in Europe. Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, “the most glamorous of the numerous wives of the former Emir of Qatar”, established the Doha International Family Institute in 2006 – DIFI – as part of the Qatar Foundation. DIFI is committed to family issues in the Arab world and beyond, and is based on the “Doha Family Declaration, which reaffirms the international community’s aspirations to strengthen the family as a natural and fundamental unit of society and governments, international organizations and members of civil society calls for measures to be taken to encourage and support the family”. A EU report revealed in 2016 that through DIFI, the Qatari royal family has funded numerous anti-gender initiatives globally, as well as in Europe and the Middle East, conducted between 2008 and 2012 in collaboration with US Christian and Mormon actors.

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