Abdel Rahim Ali interviews Georges Malbrunot over his new book Qatar Papers
In an open and courageous interview with Georges Malbrunot, Abdel Rahim Ali reveals secrets behind his book “Qatar Papers”. The interview unveils how he obtained the documents and how Qatar's funding has spread to 80% of European countries.
The book reveals what the French authorities will do, and what French President Emmanuel Macron told Qatar’s emir Tamim. Malbrunot said a new documentary about Qatar would be released in September.
I’m a close friend of Figaro’s well-known journalist Malbrunot and Christian Chesnot, correspondent of France Radio International. It has been a very special friendship that started after I launched a research center in Paris.
I met them two of them a number of years earlier. I had two interviews with Malbrunot, who attended a number of seminars I held, and he published many articles in the magazine, which is published by the research center I run in Paris.
I invited him to visit Cairo to follow up the presidential elections and stayed in Cairo for more than two weeks.
He is a clever journalist who has got a passion for difficult assignments. Malbrunot and his fellow Chesnot had disappeared for a year, and emerged later with this book: “Qatar Papers”.
When I asked Malbrunot why he has not been around for that time, he pointed to the book.
Q. This is your third book. Have you become a writer specialized in Qatar only?
A. No, this is a coincidence. I coauthored my first book in 2013 with my friend Chesnot Les Secrets Du Coffre-Fort (Secrets Of The Safe) about Qatar and how Qatar developed from a small country of fishermen to become a rich state. We published a second book: “Our very dear Emirs, which was not only about Qatar as it was about the Gulf countries in general and the relations of some emirs with Islamists.
Now this book: “Qatar Charity”. Our books in general are not leveled at Qatar as some people might think, but try to shed light on how that small state has achieved all that success.
Our third book was mainly focused on Qatar Charity, which is a non-governmental organization operating in Europe. We have been following its activities in financing religious agencies in Europe.
Q: Do you think that Qatar's attempts to interfere in the European societies and an have been a success story?
A: No, I do not mean that. A success story is the difference between what Qatar was 40 years ago and what it has now become. It has become like Dubai. That’s a success story.
By the way, all of Qatar's funding through the Qatar Charity is legal. However, it is clandestine and suspicions. We have worked hard on this issue in particular. We have no prejudice against Qatar or other countries.
Q. For how long have you worked on this book?
A. Two years. One year for translating the documents and another for investigations. We went to Lille, Switzerland, UK, Germany, Kosovo, and Qatar. Moreover, we have made a documentary film that will be released in September. It was a great field investigation produce the book.
When we asked about funding of a mosque, the mosque’s administration would say they get donations from everywhere. But when we presented the documents we had obtained, they would admit that they had got the money from abroad, and Qatar Charity.
Q. Is there a link between the book and the documentary film? Are they separated?
A. It's the same. The documentary film is the visual version of the book.
Q. When will the documentary film be released?
A. Between June and September on RT channel.
Q. I'm a journalist and I know my question is difficult, how did you get these documents?
A. An anonymous person sent us an email and a flash memory with some password. The email requested to make use of the information.
Q: When was that?
A. It was at the end of 2016.
Q. In view of what you cited in your book about the secret funding of the Muslim Brotherhood’s international organization. Does this pose a threat to Europe? What should France and the European countries do in this regard?
A. Maybe so far there is no big risk. However, our book is more of an alarm as there might be some risk later. We were surprised by Qatar’s wide range of its funding network to some 15 European countries with some 140 projects worth between 70 and 80 million euros of total investments. We were also surprised by the nature of the projects.
Some of these projects were strange like turning of a church into a mosque. The founding of an Islamic center in Jersey, which is a home to only 400 Muslims.
As for the objectives, they say they want to revive the Islamic spirit of the Muslim communities in Europe. They say they want to boost education and to build schools.
It was exciting because we were discovering the true objectives of Qatar Charity.
Q. Do you think the goal is to Islamize these societies or to promote the Muslim Brotherhood?
A. We have noticed that 90% of Qatar Charity's donations go to organizations linked to the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood. We asked the officials of these organizations in France what would be Qatar's goal from all of this. The goal is to make Qatar influential in ‘the market of slam’ in Europe like Morocco and Algeria, which played a historical role to this end. Now we also have Turkey and Qatar.
Qatar is seeking to revive the Islamic spirit of the Muslim communities and boost education through its donations to some schools. All of that is clear.
The Muslim Brotherhood will not assume power in France. The funding is not allocated to terrorism. But, there is a hazard as these organizations, which receive these funds, and call for moderate Islam -- as they claim – as preached by Yusuf al-Qaradawi, Tarek Ramadan and Sayyid Qutb.
The objective is to ensure that the French laws are in line with political Islam.
For example, they are trying to get the right to wear the hijab, or veil, and set get different dates for boys and girls in swimming pools [so they wouldn’t mingle]. The most common objective has the building of Islamic centers.
These centers can be called ‘mosques for living’, where there is a prayer room for men and another one for women. There are classes to teach the Holy Qur’an and Arabic. There is also a business center, swimming pool and a warehouse for corpses. It is Islam from birth to death as it is promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Q. There are also the books of Sayyid Qutb and Hassan El-Banna?
A. Yes, we have found books authored by al-Qaradawi and Sayyid Qutb.
Q. What is the most significant information that surprised you while working on the book?
A. As I said, the magnitude of funding. There are 140 projects. We wonder about that. In Jersey, where there are only 400 Muslims, why a great center was built there?
Something else was surprising to us. In Lille there is a private high school -- Ibn Rushd School. Qatar Charity has funded this school with millions of euros. Why didn’t they buy the school? The magnitude of funding raises many questions.
Q. Swiss journalist Ian Hamel of Le Point wrote an investigative report about Qatar's attempts to find alternatives to finance the Muslim Brotherhood and intervene in the affairs of European countries. How do you see that?
A. We did not tackle that in our book. We have no information about that.
Q. Do you think that the siege on Qatar and the speech of President Macron will limit the phenomenon of funding?
A. they have already started to reduce the funding. When we went to Qatar Charity one of us told us that the organization had some problems and it could not finance as they used to do.
Q. Have you received any reactions from the French government or the Qataris?
A. Yes, there were reactions on Twitter, especially when we announced the salary that Tarek Ramadan gets from Qatar. This has triggered widespread reactions on the social media.
Q. Did you know as a French journalist how many terrorists have left these centers and carried out bombings in France and Europe?
A. I do not really know, nor is this the purpose of the book.
Q. We are not talking about the goal of the book now, but about a center or a school where terrorists sometimes commit terrorist acts as a result of Sayed Qutb's teachings. How can we not link this to terrorism?
A. This is not the subject of the book.
Q. I appreciate your position.. Let us return to "Qatar Papers"... What is the most important information that surprised you while you work in this book?
A. "The size of funding" .. There are 140 projects, and the conversion of a church to a mosque in the Arctic. Does not that raise question and surprise? Also in Jersey there are only 400 Muslims, why built them a great center? All this information was a surprise to me personally during my first reading.
Something else surprised us. In Lille there is a private high school called Ibn Rushd School, funded by Qatar Charity in millions of Euros. At some point they wanted to buy the school. A school official told us. They put a lot of money into this school so they do not buy it. So the size of the funding and also the tight regulation, raises questions, there is good organization.
Q. Do you have any other projects besides this book and film?
A. Yes, I want to rest a little.
Q. In the profession of searching for trouble .. Does the journalist think of rest? I do not think so .. My next question about what happened in Tamim's contact with French President Emmanuel Macaron?
A. What we should say is that there was evangelization in 2010 and 2011, but starting in 2017 with the boycott imposed by Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain on Qatar, Qatar Charity was under pressure to reduce its investments. President Macaron told the Qataris that they should stop this funding. When Prince Tamim Baymanuell Macaron called him to congratulate him a week after his election, Macron told him that he was ready to enter into an economic partnership with him, but he did not want this funding from the unregulated associations in France.
I believe that since 2017, Qataris have made many efforts. They passed a law regulating the financing process. Associations funded as a charismatic can not act alone and must pass through the Red Crescent and the Qatari Foreign Ministry. The French authorities say that Qatar has made great efforts since 2017, but political pressure on the Qatari regime must continue to continue.
Q. The Swiss journalist in the magazine Le Journal "Yan Hamel" a frightening investigation published in the French magazine on the attempts of Qatar to find alternatives to finance the Muslim Brotherhood and interference in the affairs of European countries, and the story of Ali bin Fattis Al Marri and his efforts in France. How do you see that?
A. We did not address that in our book. We have no information about that.
Q. But you are a great French journalist and follow the events ...
A. Yes, but I have to check it out first.
Q. Do you think that the siege on Qatar, and the words of President Macron will limit the phenomenon of funding? Or will the Qataris continue to finance Brotherhood activities in Europe and France?
A. They have already begun to reduce this funding. When we went to Qatar Charity, someone told us that the organization had some problems and that it could not finance as before. They closed their London office, for example, but opened another office in the name of Neckar Trust. They are under pressure, and they have reduced funding, but not enough to stop aid entirely. This book shows me the absurdity of the situation in France.
There is a French-Muslim community living in slums and poor places, and it is called the Islam of caves. They do not take money from the state. Suppose a person wants to build a mosque. This person collects zakat, and since zakaah funds are insufficient to show a wealthy person from anywhere, Saudi Arabia or the Zakat House of Kuwait or from the Qatari financiers and others. All legal.
We must put an end to this ridiculous situation. So Macron wants to stop foreign financing and see where the money comes from. He wants to have internal and self-financing that allows the Muslims of France to build decent mosques.
Q. Have you received any reactions from the French government or the Qatari government to this book?
A. Yes, there were reactions to Twitter, especially when we announced the salary that Tariq Ramadan received from Qatar. This has generated widespread reactions to social networks.
Thank you George and good luck .. and
waiting to watch the documentary