Islamist Watch has long argued that the one of the best ways to test the moderation of an institution is to examine the company it keeps. While some Islamist groups across the West take part in media-friendly interfaith events, environmental initiatives, and disaster relief work, their less public events within the Muslim community stand in stark contrast – often featuring speakers with long histories of inciting hate and violence against minorities.
Over the last few weeks, Italian politicians have come to realize that some seemingly benevolent organizations may in fact be quietly pushing a more dangerous agenda. On April 2, the Regional Council of Lombardy approved a motion opposing the presence of "radical preachers" at an upcoming festival organized by the Italian branch of Islamic Relief, a global charitable franchise.
The Fiera della Speranza (Festival of Hope) is due to be held in Milan on April 20-21. The Lombardy Council discussed the upcoming festival after Italian media discovered that one of the featured speakers is Jasem Al Mutawa, who has reportedly stated that wives should not be "beaten with a heavy stick, but with a light hand, to make them understand who is boss."
Italian media has paid less attention to Islamic Relief's other guests, whose ideologies are just as troubling. One prospective speaker is Abdelfattah Mourou, co-founder of Tunisia's Ennahda Party, a leading Islamist political movement tied to the Muslim Brotherhood. In an interview with another Tunisian Islamist leader, Rachid Ghannouchi, the Muslim Student Association News website notes that Mourou "introduced a modern, abridged and accessible edition" of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an infamous anti-Semitic forgery that purports to outline a sinister Jewish scheme for world domination.
Islamic Relief Italy's website also lists Rajab Zaki as a featured guest. The Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood's own website refers to Zaki as a prominent supporter of the Islamist movement. Zaki serves as imam of the Finsbury Park mosque in London, a key center in Britain for the Muslim Brotherhood and the designated terrorist organization Hamas. One of the mosque's trustees is Muhammad Sawalha, who, according to the BBC, is "said to have masterminded much of Hamas's political and military strategy" from London. In 2017, The Times reported that Sawalha had been appointed to Hamas's political bureau.
This is not the first time Italian media has cottoned on to the extremism of Islamic Relief. In 2015, Italian media denounced the charity's decision to organize an event featuring Omar Abdelkafi, a cleric who has described the murders of Charlie Hebdo journalists in Paris as "the sequel to the comedy film of 9/11." Other previous Islamic Relief Italy speakers have included Tariq Suwaidan and Aidh Al-Qarni, two prominent supporters of Hamas. Suwaidan has stated: "Every mother of the Ummah – and not solely the Palestinian mothers – should nurture their children with hate for the sons of Zion. We need to instill this hatred in the hearts of our sons until a new generation will erase them (the sons of Zion) from Earth. (...) Each and every one of us should leave this room thinking about a plan to annihilate Israel."
Islamist Watch has written a great deal about Islamic Relief. Despite its claims to be a moderate group, dedicated only to charitable good deeds, our 2018 report uncovered ties to the designated terrorist organization Hamas, close links with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, and the overt anti-Jewish, pro-terror sentiments of its staff. Our report also details the lectures and fundraisers Islamic Relief branches organize across Europe and North America, practically every week, with radical, bigoted Islamist clerics. These findings were particularly alarming considering Islamic Relief is the largest Islamic charity in the West – receiving tens of millions of dollars from Western governments.
In April 2017, British media reported that the UK Charity Commission – the government's regulator of non-profits – had opened an investigation into Islamic Relief's decision to organize a tour with Yasir Qadhi, an extremist American preacher who had previously told audiences that killing homosexuals was part of his religion. But little has come of that so far. And just last month, a leading UK government-funded umbrella group for British international aid charities bestowed an award on the Islamist goliath.
The decision by Italian lawmakers to speak out is a welcome change.