On October 3, 2019, Mickaël Harpon, a computer technician at the Paris Police Headquarters, stabbed four of his colleagues to death. Harpon converted to Islam in 2008 and gradually embraced an ascetic form of Islam -- wearing traditional Islamic clothing, refusing to shake women's hands or embrace them.
In the wake of the attack, as the media began to look for clues to Harpon's radicalization, Hassan El Houari, the imam of Harpon's mosque was quick to deny any Islamist links.
El Houari declared that he has been delivering the weekly sermon at the mosque since 2015 and that he "does not know the Muslim Brotherhood." El Houari insisted that he would have "noticed if Harpon was a fundamentalist."
But, unnoticed by French media, El Houari himself is close to fundamentalists. He is a member of the executive bureau of the Conseil Théologique Musulman de France (CTMF). Founded in 2015 by religious figures affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood, the organization "exhorts young Muslims to [..] proudly affirm that they belong to Islam."
The CTMF is headed by Ahmed Jaballah, former president of the Union des Organisations Islamiques de France (UOIF), the main channel for the Muslim Brotherhood in France. Jaballah once described the UOIF as a "rocket with two floors", the first is "democratic", the second will launch "an islamic society."
El Houari is also a lecturer at the Paris branch of the Islamist Institut Européen des Sciences Humaines (IESH), which is part of the Muslim Brotherhood's European network of seminaries. Jaballah is IESH's dean of Islamic Theology, while two other members of the UOIF's executive bureau teach at the IESH Paris and a third member is a professor at the Château Chinon branch.
The IESH has trained many of the Muslim Brotherhood's clerics, activists and officials in Europe. In 2007, the school's treasurer, Mohamed Karmous, was arrested while bringing €50,000 ($56,000) in cash from the Qatari regime to the IESH. Karmous and his wife are closely involved with prominent cleric Yusuf al Qaradawi, the "spiritual leader" of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood who resides in Qatar and holds violently extreme views. IESH's Paris branch was also founded with the financial support from the Qatari regime's Qatar Charity, which has in the past funded terrorist operations.
Hassan El Houari continues to argue that claims CTMF is connected to the Muslim Brotherhood are "false" and that the organization has "nothing to do with any movement." And yet El Houari is closely involved with members of the Muslim Brotherhood in France not just through the CTMF, but through IESH as well. What sermons might Harpon have heard from Hassan El Houari as he became increasingly radicalized?
Martha Lee is a Research Fellow at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.