Many, including Sweden’s own Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), have linked Islamic Relief, the world’s largest independent charity organisation based on Islamic values, to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist network banned in many countries, including Russia.
The Church of Sweden has received strong criticism after defending an organisation allegedly linked to Islamists on Twitter, prompting many to threaten to leave the church.
The background to the criticism is the collaboration between the Church of Sweden and the charity organisation Islamic Relief, which many, including Sweden’s own Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), have linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist organisation banned in many countries.
While this admitted collaboration triggered a backlash, the Church of Sweden stuck to its guns on Twitter, claiming there was no scientific support for the Islamist connection, suggesting that the Muslim Brotherhood’s presence in Sweden wasn’t sufficiently documented.
“There are no studies that can show that the Muslim Brotherhood has an organisation in Sweden structured as the Egyptian parent organisation with ‘families’ as a base and a leader at the top to whom all members swear an oath of allegiance”, the Church of Sweden tweeted, unleashing a new wave of criticism.
”We as a Church have no official standpoint about the Muslim Brotherhood. Likewise with other organisations. What we do have a standpoint about is the organisations we collaborate with”, the Church said in a later-deleted tweet.
”That statement is not true. Aje Carlbom has released a scientific report to the MSB, where all the connections are established. In addition, we have written a number of articles where we provide facts about what the connections look like”, Magnus Ranstorp, Sweden’s leading terrorism researcher, tweeted.
”Stop talking nonsense. The Muslim Brotherhood association exists and has been substantiated, it is clear in the MSB report. The fact that the Church of Sweden seems to believe in a homemade explanation for defending an Islamist terrorist group is rather depressing”, blogger Christer Sfeir tweeted. “In addition, the Brotherhood has no party books but membership is given orally through an oath of allegiance, the cells are minimal, and loosely connected, which makes mapping difficult in the legal sense”, he added.
”The German Bundestag and the French Senate have recently released reports supporting this. The French Senate engaged 60 experts in the field of Islam, Islamism, terrorism, Arabism, etc”, the liberal-conservative portal Ledarsidorna tweeted.
Many users voiced their extreme displeasure and desire to leave the church.
“Well now I’m leaving the Church of Sweden, do not want to contribute to this rubbish”, a rather typical reply said.
“Can you leave the Church of Sweden again? Kind of confirm that you have left?”, another one said sarcastically.
”You’re digging your own grave. Nice that I left many years ago”, another one chimed in.
Who is Who
Islamic Relief is an international aid agency that provides humanitarian relief and development programmes in over 40 countries. Founded in 1984 in the UK, it has international headquarters in Birmingham and a network of national offices, affiliated partners, and field offices spanning 50 countries. With an annual income of $164 million, it is billed as the largest independent international aid agency inspired by Islamic humanitarian values.
However, its reputation is not uncontroversial, and includes anti-Semitic remarks and allegations of funding Hamas. Previously, the United Arab Emirates placed Islamic Relief on a list of proscribed organisations due to alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood. Allegations of “personal ties” with the Muslim Brotherhood were subsequently put forward by the German government. The organisation itself denied the allegations, stressing its neutral stance and humanitarian nature.
The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 and has since fledged into a pan-Islamic organisation with over a million members in 70 countries. It is regarded as a terrorist organisation in many countries, including Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. In Sweden, the organisation has been active since the late 1970s.
The Church of Sweden is known for its overtly liberal position in many theological issues, such as the question of homosexuality, as well as broad involvement in secular issues, like helping immigrants and other groups it considers to be vulnerable, and promotes inclusivity. Openly lesbian bishop Eva Brunne previously made headlines by proposing to replace the crucifix on the Seamen’s Church in Stockholm with an arrow pointing towards Mecca to signal the Church’s inclusivity. She also said she had more in common with Muslims than the so-called Christian right.