Another Islamophobic conspiracy theory: The Islamization of the 'yellow vests'

FARID HAFEZ @ferithafez
Published

In every period, when divisive incidents occur, rumors regarding Islamophobic conspiracies arise. When millions of refugees arrived from war-torn Syria and Iraq, one of the most prominent Islamophobic figures in the United States, Pamela Geller, argued that an Islamization plan was behind the influx of the refugees. The former social democrat and re-elected President of the Czech Republic, Milos Zeman, even claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood used "migrants as an invasion force" to seize control of Europe. According to Zeman, the so-called "migration crisis" was the result of a plan by the Muslim Brotherhood to "gain control of Europe." Zeman, a well-known monger of Islamophobic conspiracy theories, explained the Muslim Brotherhood lacked the resources to launch a military invasion of Europe and thus was sending refugees to Islamize Europe via demographic change.

"It cannot declare war on Europe, it does not have enough forces for it, but it can prepare a growing migrant wave and gradually gain control of Europe as it has been happening in some West European cities, that police are afraid to enter at night," the president argued.

Answering a question of where he had acquired this information, Zeman replied that his main sources of information were the Moroccan foreign minister and a crown prince from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Obviously, this conspiracy theory is not only incredibly irrational, but also a disgrace and a slap in the face of millions of refugees, who had to flee and leave their loved ones, their homes and their properties to start a new life.

Currently, the unprecedented protests instigated by the so called "yellow vests" (gilets jaunes) have given Islamophobic conspirators another chance for an irrational assertion. This seems again to be coming from Muslim majority countries. While obviously the yellow vests refer to a quite diverse group, economic inequality seems to be the question at stake for most of the protesters. The massive protests prompted French President Emmanuel Macron to dispatch 89,000 police forces throughout the country – 8,000 of which were posted in Paris alone. In the midst of this historical event, Islamophobes are again thinking up their conspiracy about Islamization. And again, its origin is from Muslim majority countries.

Recently, an Arabic press review revealed that the French yellow vest protests were blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood. First, the former chief of the Dubai Police, Dhahi Khalfan, tweeted an accusation that the Muslim Brotherhood was behind the yellow vest protests. But Khalfan is not alone. In the pro-government press in Egypt, reports were published that accused the Muslim Brotherhood of being behind the yellow vests. According to the Egyptian daily newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm, members from the Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan Muslim Brotherhood, who live in French towns, were participating in the violent protests. An expert is quoted arguing that the protests are sponsored by the CIA and Trump to answer Macron's call for a European army, letting the Muslim Brotherhood do the dirty work. Some people were even calling the protesters "[Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan's saboteurs." This incredible framing of the protests seems to primarily serve domestic political purposes, given many Arab leaders oversee weak economies and great poverty among the general population and thus fear that the French protests could instigate similar uprisings in their own countries.

Similar to the conspiracy theory forwarded by Czech president Milos Zeman, this conspiracy theory is also taken up by Western figures. In France, Laurence Marchand-Taillade was featured in one of the most prominent TV channels with huge outreach, CNews, and argued that it is possible the Muslim Brotherhood infiltrated the yellow vest protesters and that they were the ones who are attacking policemen. Marchand-Taillade is a regional champion of the French idea of secularism, laicism, who has published on the dangers of declining laicism. A leader of a regional branch of the Observatoire de la Laicite (Observatory of Laicism), she is known for her Islamophobic positions.Even before, French anti-Islamization movements, such as Resistance Republicaine, were warning of an Islamization strategy by the Muslim Brotherhood. This propaganda is especially covered by channels such as the Russia-backed Sputnik News.

* Political scientist and senior research scholar at Georgetown University's The Bridge Initiative at the School of Foreign Service.

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