Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

'Dangerous' Muslim Brotherhood fatwa app in Apple Store's top 100 downloads

Exclusive: Despite calls for the Muslim Brotherhood-linked app to be banned for its 'poisonous' content, it remains among the most downloaded

Yusuf Al Qaradawi, a Doha-based Egyptian Islamic theologian and chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, founded the group that launched the Euro Fatwa App. AP
Yusuf Al Qaradawi, a Doha-based Egyptian Islamic theologian and chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars, founded the group that launched the Euro Fatwa App. AP

A “dangerous hate” app linked to the Muslim Brotherhood has been in the top 100 downloads in the Apple store in a third of European countries since its launch, despite international calls for it to be banned.

The Euro Fatwa app, which was launched in April, was created by the European Council for Fatwa and Research, a Dublin private foundation set up by Yusuf Al Qaradawi, spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Touted as a guide to help Muslims adhere to Islam, critics including Germany’s security service, say the app is a radicalisation tool.

It contains an introduction by Al Qaradawi, now 93, in which he makes derogatory references to Jews while speaking about historic fatwas.

It also claims European laws do not have to be obeyed if they contradict Islamic rules.

Al Qaradawi, who lives in Qatar, is banned from the US, UK and France for his extremist views.

On learning of the app’s content, Google banned it within hours.

“While we can’t comment on individual apps, we’ll take swift action against any that break our policies once we’ve been made aware of them, including those that contain hate speech,” the company said.

But a month after The National informed Apple that the app contains hate speech, it is still accessible from the App Store.

“We are reviewing Euro Fatwa again for possible violations of our guidelines and, if we find content that violates our guidelines and is harmful to users, we will notify the developer and may remove it from the store," an Apple spokesman said.

Apple was also contacted by Northern Irish politician Ian Paisley and German authorities.

The UK government has previously criticised those making the app available for download, saying it will take tough action on social media companies that help to promote hate.

So far no country has banned the app because they are only able to put sanctions in place against social media companies.

At one point this month, the Euro Fatwa App was ranked 55th in the German App Store.

"The app is a building block in the process of radicalisation," said Germany’s federal office for the protection of the constitution.

The app was launched last month at the annual La Foire Musulmane, or Muslim Fair, in Paris, which was attended by tens of thousands of people.

It was introduced by Khaled Hanafy, a Cairo-born theologian and chairman of the Imams and Scholars' Council in Germany.

French senator and member of the Gulf-French Friendship Committee Nathalie Goulet called the app “poisonous” on Twitter and called for it to be banned.

A former French anti-corruption magistrate said it was to blame for last month's Lyon nail bomb terror attack, in which 13 people were wounded.

Retail outlets such as Google Play and Apple's App Store can take it off the market but Apple continues to promote it.

The UK’s Home Office has advised technology companies that promote hate material that they will face action.

“No social media platform should allow themselves to be used to spread extremist propaganda,” a spokesman said in response to complaints about the app.

“We continue to work with our international partners and tech companies to tackle online terrorist and extremist propaganda, but we are clear they must go further and faster.

“That is why we are introducing a statutory duty of care to make companies take responsibility for the safety of their users, and an independent regulator to take enforcement action where they fail to do so.”

The UK government has published its Online Harms White Paper as a precursor to legislation that sets out expectations for tech companies to keep users safe online.

In 2015, an investigation into the Muslim Brotherhood by the British government concluded that membership “may be an indicator of extremism”, and that aspects of its ideology and tactics were contrary to the UK’s fundamental values.

Campaigners have repeatedly highlighted the dangers of Al Qaradawi’s web and social media presence for creating extremists.

“What makes Qaradawi unique from other extremists are the ways in which his presence is condoned by social media, specifically through Facebook and Twitter’s verified user checkmark,” Counter-Extremism Project researcher Joshua Fisher-Birch said this year.

Mr Paisley described the app as dangerous, calling on UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid to ban it and launch an urgent inquiry into the Muslim Brotherhood.

“It’s essential that the UK continues to lead the fight against extremist ideology and we co-operate with our neighbours to maximise this," he wrote in a letter.

“A number of MPs have previously raised issues to do with the spread of extremist ideology and activity by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Egypt referred to Al Qaradawi’s role as a terrorist, supported by Qatar, when the four countries announced a boycott of Doha in 2017.

They said the boycott was in response to the country’s support for terrorism and harbouring supporters of extremism, such as Al Qaradawi.

The Egyptian-born imam has defended violence against US troops in Iraq and regularly delivered vehement lectures against the West on Qatari television.

He has also suggested that the Holocaust was "divine punishment" against Jews and called for Israel's destruction.

Updated: June 21, 2019 10:32 AM

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