The United Arab Emirates and Qatar have been enemies for years. The Emirates see their neighbors as economic competitors, and they also see Qatar’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat, for understandable reasons. If you believe the research of some Western European media, a Swiss-based detective agency is said to have monitored “suspects” on behalf of Abu Dhabi, reported them to the Emirates’ secret service and publicly discredited them in part with disinformation, for example with unfavorable Wikipedia entries.
Just a few months ago, Qatar was a popular target for media attacks from the West. It suddenly struck journalists that the Football World Cup was being played in a country that doesn’t think much of human rights, diversity and LGBTQ+ flags. “The world visiting despots,” wrote the German news magazine Der Spiegel, for example. Now Qatar is to appear in a completely different light, namely as the victim of an international smear campaign in which journalists and European scientists are said to have been involved. The radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, which is supported by Qatar, is also said to be a target of this intrigue. Various media, including the Swiss RTS, the left-wing French platform Mediapart, the New Yorker and the German Spiegel, have received internal documents that were stolen or leaked. They come from the Geneva PR and detective agency Alp Services – an agency that operates in the environment of private investigators and secret services.
The leaked documents are said to show that Alp Services tried to put dozens of organizations and people in the vicinity of Qatar, the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorists, and the bundle of data is said to be 70,000 documents. The United Arab Emirates and its President Mohammed bin Zayed, who are said to have financed the services of Alp Services with 5.7 million euros, are said to be behind the scenes.
The German magazine “Der Spiegel”, for example, suggests in its report that hundreds of people are affected, also in Germany and Switzerland. However, it gives few specific, verifiable examples. Among others, the entrepreneur H.N. is mentioned, the son of a banker and a self-confessed Muslim Brother, who described himself as the “foreign minister” of the Islamist movement. N. is said to have been denounced as a terrorist financier, although, unlike his father, he is apolitical. The name Tarik Ramadan, who feels misrepresented in the Alp Services reports, is also mentioned. Ramadan suspects that he was only targeted by the Emirates and their Geneva accomplices because he supported the Arab Spring. Ramadan is one of the best-known activists associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. He is courted in Qatar and, like the Gulf state, Ramadan only supported the Arab Spring because he was hoping for a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood. He’s not the only “victim” in this story, which raises more questions than answers.
The so-called unveils of the “Abu Dhabi Secrets” don’t just stop at showing the methods of Alp Services and the United Arab Emirates. Rather, reading their articles, one gets the impression that the machinations of Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood in Europe are not a real problem, but are all malicious inventions.
Numerous Islamic organizations in Europe are influenced by or connected to the Muslim Brotherhood. In this milieu, Islamist terror is played down, Jews are incited and the oppression of women is legitimized. The Qatari organization Qatar Charity alone has invested over a hundred million euros in mosques, museums and other institutions in Europe that spread the fundamentalist ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood. MENA Research Center has already reported extensively on the dubious machinations of the Islamist movement. It is a rhetorical device and incompatible with basic journalistic rules when the German magazine “Der Spiegel” and other media portray the global aid organization Islamic Relief as a prominent “victim” of the plot and protect anti-Semites. Islamic Relief is banned in Israel. The organization has been accused of financing the terrorist organization Hamas, which is supported by Qatar and is considered an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.
“Der Spiegel”, for example, describes the Muslim Brotherhood as a “worldwide movement of political Islam. Its goal is the establishment of a state based on Islamic principles.” That’s a description that could have come from a PR office. Because masterminds of the Muslim Brotherhood like the recently deceased Yusuf al-Karadawi were ruthless misogynists, homophobics and anti-Semites who celebrated the Holocaust and Adolf Hitler. Their goal was and is the establishment of a theocracy with a pseudo-democratic tinge.
Islamic Relief denies this, as well as any connection to the Muslim Brotherhood. However, in response to a request from the Liberals, the German federal government stated in 2019 that Islamic Relief Worldwide and Islamic Relief Germany had “significant personal ties to the Muslim Brotherhood or organizations related to it”. In the “Spiegel” this is only mentioned in passing, in the “New Yorker” you don’t find out about it at all. In return, the magazine claims that Islamic Relief is only humanitarian and not politically active and that no one has ever been able to prove otherwise.
In 2020, Islamic Relief came under international criticism because several of the foundation’s top cadres were exposed as haters of Jews and friends of terrorists. “Put the corpses of the Jews on the tops of the mountains so that no dog in Palestine goes hungry,” one of them wrote in 2015 after Palestinians had massacred three Israelis in Jerusalem. A text was quoted on Facebook by a founder of al-Qaeda, who justified the Islamist mass murders in Paris in 2015 with reference to European colonial crimes. Another celebrated Hamas in 2014 and berated Jews as the sons of monkeys and pigs. And the co-founder of Islamic Relief Worldwide and president of Islamic Relief’s Swiss arm compared Hasan al-Banna, the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, to Nelson Mandela. This and other statements were the main reason why some European countries stopped making payments to Islamic Relief from 2020.
Alp Services was only partially responsible for the disclosures in the Islamic Relief case. Above all, it remains a mystery what will change the quality of the knowledge about this allegedly non-political aid organization. In keeping with the apologetic character of the “Abu Dhabi Secrets” reporting, well-known scientists and journalists who deal with Islamism are placed in the vicinity of spies and slanderers or even pilloried as “persecutors of Islam”. This is because they exchanged information with Alp Services and were sometimes paid for research.
Scientist Vidino, an expert on the Muslim Brotherhood, says he was unaware that Alp Services was acting on behalf of the United Arab Emirates, there is a document showing that he was misled by Alp Services about the real client. If he had known, he would not have worked with them. Especially since he doesn’t understand what that changes about the reliability of the research. In fact, one may wonder whether it is wise for serious scientists and journalists to work with an agency that was known for its adventurous methods even before the “Abu Dhabi Secrets”. Since Vidino’s research uncovers connections, he is not particularly popular among the Muslim Brotherhood and its sympathizers. For this reason, attempts have been made to defame him as a right-wing extremist and enemy of all Muslims for years. Obviously with success. The New Yorker, for example, claims in its omission-riddled report on the “Abu Dhabi Secrets” that the scientist is spreading conspiracy theories about the Muslim Brotherhood and that he is an anti-Muslim activist.
As a source for this characterization, the magazine cites Georgetown University’s “Bridge Initiative” – an institution shaped by pseudo-scientific sympathizers of the Muslim Brotherhood, which distributes slanderous “fact sheets” about alleged enemies of Islam. One of the apologists for this non-university private institution is the Austrian political scientist Fared Hafez, who publishes the annual Islamophobia Report. The SETA Foundation, as the main sponsor of the report, is a PR machine very close to Turkish President Erdogan and his AKP.
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