There are always risks when allowing groups of people with different cultures and traditions to make their home in an already established place with established traditions and cultures. There is the potential for learning experiences regardless of what side of the aisle one might fall.
However, it would be extraordinarily dangerous for those whose communities accept these strangers to ignore any issues when they come along. Moreover, it would not only be unwise, but inevitably catastrophic should criticisms and legitimate questions be overlooked when posed against these news groups, their culture, traditions and meetings.
Though many concerns may emerge from misconceptions, many more emerge from very real, repeated and very serious occurrences both historic and ongoing.
In this article, we intend to look at mosques. Not the religion of Islam itself but simply mosques and what has been often found to be occurring within their walls and in the communities built around them.
We will look into this in three parts;
i Foreign influence and investment in mosques through the West
ii Hate preachers and terror recruitment and parallel societies
iii Weapon caches found in mosques
Foreign investment in mosques is an issue tackled or investigated previously in places like France¹ and Germany¹ to varying extents. The growth of strands of Islam such as Wahhabism (most prominent in Sunni Saudi Arabia) has been called “the main source of global terrorism¹“[sic]. Saudi Arabia itself has reportedly used issues like the refugee crisis to offer the building of mosques all over Germany¹, which may help to spread its message. Other countries like Canada¹ have also found links with certain mosques and international financiers, some of whom are unknown. This is not something unique to Saudi Arabia however, as Qatar¹ has also ties to mosques in other European countries. The Qatari mosques in particular seem to often have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood¹, an organization often linked to terrorism, especially in Egypt¹. In Austria, foreign funding for mosques and imams has been made illegal since 2015¹. It was a law passed specifically to target radicalism and potential international political¹* influence from muslim countries¹.
Turkey is also a country which appears to be using mosques for political purposes. In the Netherlands where a Turkey-backed ‘mega-mosque¹‘ sits, there have been accusations of mosques spying¹ on behalf of the Turkish government. But the Netherlands is not alone in this. In Germany there have also been mosques and imams¹ who answer to Turkey¹*. In Cologne, German authorities found a Turkish spy ring operating from a mosque¹* where they spied on Kurds, Turkish dissidents¹ and potentially the state. Such situations are made all the more disturbing when potential political pushes can be made from mosques under the guise of fighting ‘Islamaphobia’ by voting¹ in a manner that could easily be seen as feeding foreign interests. This coupled with at least one foreign head of government urging its citizens not to assimilate¹ adds extra concern. Just how large these networks of spies and political agents are remains to be seen¹, yet the push for their growth continues¹, as does resistance to them¹. One might also be left to wonder, given what ties can often be shown between mosques and ‘radical’ organizations¹ (let alone foreign governments), just why such things are tolerated in the first place.
Hate speech and the encouraging of violence against others has long been seen in many Western countries as appalling and in many cases, also illegal. Though not a new phenomenon, it’s one which often seems dealt with rather lazily when that hate speech is coming from an imam or a mosque. For up to 20 years¹, Anjem Choudary had been preaching hatred in the UK, and eventually he was one of many arrested by anti-terrorism police for his support and membership of ISIS¹ (the arrest was not specifically for ‘hate speech’ but membership of ISIS itself). This is not an isolated case by any stretch of the imagination, and though much of the hate is against non-muslims, it can be put against adherents as well for speaking out¹. Often, the ‘hate preaching’ plays into the hands of closed societies and groups who isolate themselves¹ and bring themselves to a position where advocating for the slavery of others¹ and a free society¹ become secondary considerations to religious custom. Repeatedly it can be seen that those who advocate hatred of others¹ and support terrorism¹ have found a place for themselves. Not just hidden away either¹, but at times right in the very capital of a nation¹. It can appear that these incidents, hosts and speakers themselves are being welcomed and tolerated¹ not just by isolated communities¹, but by politicians too¹.
The UK is not alone in this phenomenon¹. Not in regards to parallel societies¹ or indeed for hate speech coming from mosques -however, hate speech from outside mosques (and outside of Islam) is far less tolerated¹. Germany has seen this issue rise and despite investigations which also claimed direct links between mosques and ‘radicalism¹‘, and often links directly to terrorist organizations¹, it’s more than often the critics who are portrayed negatively¹. Germany has seen a multitude of raids¹ on mosques and individuals tied to mosques¹. With an audience available to hear such a message¹, and known terrorists also being involved¹, the increase in number of mosques seems to do little but increase the number of raids¹, potential radicalization¹ and fan the rise of anti-Western sentiment¹, even in the West.
France too has seen issues with mosques. From illegal schools operating in mosques (numbers in the UK also found a variety of illegal schools in association with Synagogues [31%] and Churches[12%], though most were found in mosques¹[57%]) associated with ‘jihadists¹‘ to the closure of others¹, even up to 100 at a time¹. With ‘hate preachers’ being deported by the dozen¹, there have still been further calls to close down mosques in France who allow and offer platforms in the country to ‘hate preachers¹‘. In the US too, hate preachers have spoken as well¹ with deadly consequences. Not simply words of hatred as has been seen (and widely reported) from others¹, but encouragement to direct action from a speaker¹ who gave a sermon addressing just that. Radicalization in the US has been seen both inside¹ and outside of the country’s borders, and though the threats vary, the desired outcome is always the same¹.
Denmark too has seen a rise in these parallel societies and values. Mosques have been found to be preaching in favor of stoning¹ and whipping¹ adulterers, as well as beating children who do not pray¹. Alongside this, there have also been mosques openly declaring their support for terrorist organizations such as ISIS¹. Radicalization and the promotion of such is widespread¹ and has been becoming more prevalent in the West¹. From child marriages being performed¹, to such marriages being legally allowed to continue¹, parallel societies seem to be not only allowed to grow, but encouraged through inaction and tolerance¹. Radicalization however appears to not be limited to being spread through mosques, as Wahhabists spread their brand of radicalism through other mediums¹. Other groups however, claim that the political climate in the West may be more of a concern that tackling the threat of radicalization¹.
Probably the most concerning aspect about mosques in Europe is something which is becoming alarmingly more common -large weapon caches¹ being kept in mosques which often preach against the West or in favor of radicalism. In France, over 100 mosques have been closed¹ for security concerns after varying amounts of weapons¹ and evidence of radicalization¹ mounted. Some actions taken have closed mosques and barred individuals from leaving the country¹ through risk of sending radicalized individuals to fight for terrorist organizations. Some of the premises raided also had unauthorized Islamic schools as well as weapons¹.
Weapons of war have also been found in mosques in Germany¹* as a series of raids have lead to the uncovering of such stockpiles¹ and the arrests of multiple individuals believed to be planning attacks in Germany¹. Other raids in other countries have turned up various types of weapons and other contraband¹, as well as places which offer instruction in building bombs and weapon use¹. From Europe to India¹ and Pakistan¹, and even Uganda¹ and Kenya¹, this is not so much an issue limited by location but is often overlooked.
There are of course groups both inside and out of these often segregated communities and religious centers which are working against issues of ‘hate preaching’ and radicalization. Often these efforts are done together with security forces and governments in order to remove the risks and threats posed by domestic and international terrorism. However, the matter remains that in a free society, a place which lends itself so easily to these hateful messages, foreign agents and military stockpiles should be questioned if not halted.
When so often an outcome emerges from such places of meeting, when is it then time to ask; Should these places of meeting be allowed to stand and grow? When spies operate under the nose of the state but can be dismissed as ideological components of group, what hope is there for the safety of the state and the people?
When money is spent gathering information and fighting against what all so commonly becomes standard practice and belief within a self–segregated community, why is it that that community is allowed to continue to operate in a place which is often portrayed as an ‘enemy’ like the West?
Some financiers seem to have already given their warning, their words seemingly prophetic to the occurrences seen around the world, and excused or ignored as figments of xenophobic imagination.
“The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers.”[sic] –Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan¹.
Of course, there have been incidents where mosques themselves have been attacked which widely reported on¹. However, there are also attacks on Synagogues¹ and churches¹ which are all too often kept seemingly in the background and rarely reported regardless of how deadly.
With such a common thread of parallel societies, backers encouraging a lack of integration¹ and a persistent fight against radicalization and war weapons being knowingly kept in a place of prayer, should we even allow mosques to operate?
Source: https://www.1limburg.nl/fatwa-tegen-kritische-gelovigen-moskee-geleen *
Source: http://nyheder.tv2.dk/2016-02-28-baggrund-for-programserien-moskeerne-bag-sloeret *
Undercover sharia investigation, UK, Panorama.
This may be the first of similar such articles exploring clashing cultures and what is brought with them.
*Alternate language source.
Correction edit: In part i of this article, Saudi Arabia was referred to as a Shia majority country. Although there is a Shia presence, Sunni Islam is what reflects Saudi Arabia, Wahhabism and the majority of the country. ‘Shia’ has been changed to ‘Sunni’ in order to correctly reflect this.