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The Halawa case - Sunday Times article



Where is Halawa family's respect for the freedom we enjoy?

Mark Humphrys, Sunday Times, 31 Jan 2016.

This page is an expanded version. This contains some material not published in the Sunday Times.


  

Norwegian-Syrian lesbian Sara Azmeh Rasmussen protesting at Hussein Halawa's mosque in Dublin in 2011.
From VG (Norwegian newspaper), 2 July 2011.
(Image not used in Sunday Times.)


Introduction

There has been much unsatisfactory coverage of the case of Ibrahim Halawa, the Irish-Egyptian youth being held without trial in Egypt since being caught on the wrong side of a coup in 2013. Many questions about the case remain unasked and unanswered.

Back in July 2013, the radical Islamist Muslim Brotherhood regime of Egypt was overthrown, and Ibrahim Halawa and his sisters were soon afterwards arrested during a bloody crackdown by the new regime on the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters. His sisters were eventually released, but Ibrahim remains in jail. A number of Irish politicians and activists are campaigning for his release. But there remain a series of unanswered questions about Halawa and his family.

They "went out for a choc ice"

The first mystery to be explained is what exactly this Irish family was doing to get involved in this political chaos. One Irish newspaper said they were: "Four Irish citizens who were trapped in a mosque overnight in Cairo during a holiday". A family friend wrote to the Irish Times to say that: "There was a disturbance at the end of the street where he [Ibrahim] was living and he went down to see what it was about." An Irish Times piece was even titled: "Ibrahim Halawa, ordinary Irish schoolboy".

However, this narrative of an ordinary family on "holiday" fell apart when video emerged of the Halawa siblings speaking on stage to a crowd of 10,000 Muslim Brotherhood supporters. Wags online started referring to the family as having "gone out for a choc ice" and accidentally ending up on stage speaking to 10,000 Islamists. "Sure, it could happen to anyone."

Muslim Brotherhood royalty

So how were the Halawa siblings given a platform to speak to the main Muslim Brotherhood protest in Egypt? The answer is that they are not an ordinary family. They are Muslim Brotherhood royalty.

Their father, Imam Hussein Halawa, is apparently the top Muslim Brotherhood cleric in Ireland. He is General Secretary of the European Council for Fatwa and Research (ECFR), which is based at the Clonskeagh mosque (the ICCI). The Wall Street Journal describes the ECFR as the main fatwa-issuing body for the Muslim Brotherhood. A US diplomatic cable of 2006 says: "key integrationist Muslims ... have accused Halawa and other leaders at ICCI ... of membership in the Muslim Brotherhood. ... When queried .. about the European role of MB, Halawa and [his associate] failed to clarify their position regarding the organization". Mary Fitzgerald of the Irish Times said in 2006: "Many Muslim Brotherhood members I met recently in Cairo asked me if I knew Sheikh Halawa after hearing I was from Ireland." Mary Fitzgerald noted in 2011 that: "Many Muslims in Ireland speak of the ICCI as the "Ikhwani" mosque". (The Ikhwan is the Muslim Brotherhood.)

The President of the ECFR is Hussein Halawa's colleague Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, the religious leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Qaradawi is one of the leading extremist clerics in the world. He is banned from the US, France, UK and Ireland because of his support for violence and terror. He supports suicide bombings against Israel. In 2009 he called for the Jews to be exterminated. He defends wife beating, if done "lightly". He praises Hitler and the Holocaust. As well as their links through the ECFR, he features prominently on the Halawa family's social media pages. One would like to ask the Halawas if they will condemn any of Al-Qaradawi's statements.

The ECFR promotes the fatwas of Al-Qaradawi, who has issued fatwas saying that gays and apostates should be executed. The Wall Street Journal says the ECFR has used the anti-Semitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in its deliberations. The Norwegian-Syrian lesbian Sara Azmeh Rasmussen went to Ireland to protest at Clonskeagh in 2011 because it is the headquarters of the ECFR, which supports the death penalty for homosexuality. The Norwegian newspaper VG reported that Hussein Halawa met her, but it did not go well: "General Secretary of Fatwa Council, Sheikh Hussein Halawa, agreed to meet Rasmussen on Tuesday, and told her that she was suffering from a disease". VG reports that Halawa said "the question of the death penalty for gays was difficult" and then explained the circumstances under which it should be applied.

The Muslim Brotherhood (MB) is one of the main vehicles for political Islam in the world. It is a radical Islamist organisation that supports sharia law and the execution of gays and apostates. It supports the suicide bombing of Jews and is linked to the terror group Hamas. It is also the origin of Al Qaeda, whose flag was on stage at the MB protests in Egypt. The Anti-Defamation League calls it a hate group. Its leader Mohamed Morsi says apostates and proselytisers must be killed. The Halawa family are pictured holding up Morsi pictures at the Egyptian protests and even at protests in Ireland. Their social media pages feature extensive support for Morsi (and for Hamas).

He did not cite Daniel O'Connell or Edmund Burke

So what does Ibrahim Halawa believe? He spoke on stage at the rally in 2013, but he did not cite Daniel O'Connell or Edmund Burke. Rather he cited two unsavoury, anti-semitic individuals as his leaders - Salah Soltan and Mohamed Morsi, both of the Muslim Brotherhood. The first, Salah Soltan, claims that Jews kidnap people to use their blood for making bread. The second, Mohamed Morsi, says the Jews are descendants of apes and pigs. One would like to ask Ibrahim, or indeed any of the Halawas, if they will condemn these anti-semitic statements.

Ibrahim Halawa's misfortune, then, is to follow his father's politics rather than reject them and just enjoy life in Ireland. Ibrahim is paying the price of being a son who believed in his father's ideas.

I am not campaigning here for Ibrahim Halawa's imprisonment (or for his release). We know little about what exactly he may have done, and I certainly do not trust the Egyptian regime or judiciary to give him a fair trial. I have no opinion as to whether he should be in prison or not. I am merely campaigning for honesty about who he is, what he supports, and what the other activists in his family support. Such honesty has been sorely missing from the coverage of this case so far.

Looking at the low turnout at Halawa vigils, and the many negative comments under Halawa media items, there seems to be little Irish public sympathy for Halawa's case. If so, that is quite understandable. Any person who grows up in Ireland should learn to appreciate the wonderful freedom and prosperity we have here. These are the fruits of the Western Enlightenment, which allows all religions and none to thrive in a free and liberal society. Anyone who grows up with that and then travels to a foreign country to help impose a pre-Enlightenment tyranny on the people there is not somebody that Ireland should be proud of.


Dr. Mark Humphrys is a lecturer at Dublin City University. He is an activist in favour of liberal and secular values in the Middle East.




Ibrahim Halawa on Facebook promotes a video that says all Christians are going to burn in hell.
(Image not used in Sunday Times.)


  

Notes

  


Response

Kudos to the Sunday Times for tackling this difficult subject. The Irish left has adopted the Halawa cause and sceptical narratives have been suppressed. Defending Halawa has become a litmus test for "right-thinking people". Critics of Halawa are called "racist".

Most of the criticism of me, and defence of Halawa, has come from the left, not from Islamists. In fact, it is fascinating that Ibrahim Halawa's mosque has never written a single post about him.

  

The thing that did not happen: Any response from the Halawas

  • Often we overlook the thing that did not happen. But it is noteworthy that something did not happen after this article: Any response from the Halawas.
  • The Halawas - either the family or the campaign or the lawyers - issued no response whatsoever to the above Sunday Times article. They did not sue. They did not write a letter or article in response. They did not complain or clarify.
  • They know they are onto a loser if they engage with me. They know my facts are right. Naive leftist Halawa supporters attack me, and try hopelessly to argue that my facts are flawed. But the Halawa family, wisely, stays silent.

  

The head of Amnesty Ireland, Colm O'Gorman, said in a letter to the Sunday Times opposite my article that: "Criticism of the Halawa family at this difficult time is reprehensible."



Colm O'Gorman, 31 Jan 2016, repeats on Twitter that any criticism of the top Muslim Brotherhood cleric in Ireland is "reprehensible".
Wow. The Muslim Brotherhood has a pass in modern Ireland that the Catholic church could only have dreamed of.



Anonymous coward "Oireachtas Retort" replies to the Halawa article with his usual ability to argue.
I tell him what I think of him.



In contrast to the above, the next week's Sunday Times, 7 Feb 2016, was full of supportive letters.
Including this cracking one by Tony Allwright.
See the other letters.



A sensible summary by Brenda Power.
Sunday Times (Irish edn), January 15, 2017.



Internet wags do have great fun with the endless tall stories spun by the pro-Halawa side.
From here in Jan 2017.




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