By Giovanni Giacalone
The Qatargate scandal is only in its very early phase, but the situation already seems to be very serious. The “Italian job”, as indicated in the Belgian court papers due to the fact that so far most of the involved individuals are Italians and mainly linked to Partito Democratico-PD and Articolo 1 party is probably just the iceberg and more people could end up behind bars in the upcoming weeks.
On the evening of Monday December 19th, an Italian court granted the extradition to Belgium of Maria Dolores Colleoni, wife of EU parliament member and former secretary of Milan’s CGIL and president of the ONG “Fight Impute” Antonio Panzeri, who is already in custody and accused of bribery. The other individuals arrested are Niccolò Figà-Talamanca secretary of ONG “No peace without justice”, Eva Kaili Greek EU parliament vice-president and her companion, Francesco Giorgi, the former assistant of Panzeri. Giorgi recently admitted his responsibility in the Qatar bribery scandal and accused Panzeri, of how the NGOs were used to “move cash” from Qatar to their pockets. A total of around 1.5 million euros in cash has been seized by Belgian prosecutors from the homes of Kaili and Panzeri and from a suitcase in the possession of Kaili’s father in relation to the case.
It is very likely that when the arrested individuals start to cooperate with the investigators, the investigation will expand, involving other figures from the European political establishment and more.
Qatar’s aggressive activisim in Italy
However, this scandal is not surprising considering the well-known infiltration in Europe of Qatar and its Islamist “protégé” the Muslim Brotherhood, on a multiple levels: religious, political, economic and academic. If most of the individuals so far arrested are Italians, it is equally true that Italy is perhaps the country most exposed, at European level, to pro-Qatar positions and where the Muslim Brotherhood has ample room for action.
First of all, it’s important to recall that during the Libyan crisis, Italy sided with Islamists of the GNA, together with Qatar and Turkey. According to Africom information, Rome provided the GNA with intelligence and diplomatic support.
On a political level, while the Italian left-wing has been very loud in embracing the cause of Patrick Zaki (an Egyptian citizen who was studying in Bologna and who was detained in Egypt with accusations of “disseminating false news” and “inciting to protest”), nothing alike has been done against Erdogan’s repression against journalists, intellectuals and politicians critical of his governments conduct.
Yet today, despite the bloody repression of demonstrators perpetrated by the Iranian regime (which is supported by Doha), Iranian demonstrators in Europe did not receive any substantial support from that political area that was instead very sensitive to human rights violations in al-Sisi’s Egypt or against the UAE.
The 2016 municipal elections in Milan and the PD-Muslim Brotherhood controversy
Let’s keep in mind that in the spring of 2016, Partito Democratico had nominated in its ranks in Milan, to run for elections, Sumaya Abdel Qader, an Italian of Palestinian origin who had held the role of responsible for youth and students in FIOE (Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe), whose mother had published on Facebook posts and images on Facebook in favor of the violent resistance of Hamas, whose father had been photographed together with Mohamed Morsy. Sumaya’s husband, Abdallah Kabakebbjji, had posted a comment that suggested “Ctrl-alt-canc” for Israel and referred to the Jewish State as a “fraud” and “a political and historical mistake”. This did not stop PD from pushing her forward and getting her elected to the municipal council.
Sumaya had also received media support from Stefano Allievi, professor of Sociology of Religion at the University of Padua who had published an article entitled “Who is afraid of Sumaya and why?” where he indicated the critics against Sumaya as “a campaign of demonization and hate”.
It is interesting to notice how on May 3rd 2016, Allievi presented at the “Il Ponte” Partito Democratico club” in Padua, a conference entitled “Muslims and Italians for integration and against extremism”, together with Hind Talibi (Islamic Community of Padua) and Roberto Hamza Piccardo, former secretary and former spokesman Ucoii, who had recently taken a stance in favor of polygamy. UCOII was indicated by the Secretary General of the Great Mosque of Rome as the Italian expression of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Roberto’s son, Davide Piccardo, had been the coordinator of CAIM (Coordinamento Associazioni Islamiche Milano) and in July 2014 he had commented on Facebook about the clashes outside synagogues in Paris with a “è finita la pacchia” (the good times are over), generating a wave of protests among the political arena and the Jewish community. He is currently the chief editor of the Italian Islamist and pro-Turkey news site “La Luce News”, very active in defending Erdogan and Qatar.
Caim was very active between 2012 and 2015 in trying to obtain a project for the construction of a great mosque in Milan with money coming from Qatar and Kuwait, as reported by the local press of the time.
Going back to the 2016 elections, Sumaya had denied that FIOE was linked to the Muslim Brotherhood and filed a legal suit for defamation against Maryan Ismail, a Somali-Italian anthropologist and Muslim activist who denounced the Muslim Brotherhood’s aggressive activity in Italy, the links between Sumaya and the Brotherhood and the one between the latter and PD.
It’s important to recall that Maryan Ismail, had been emarginated from her former party, Partito Democratico, for criticizing the party’s preference for the Muslim Brotherhood to the detriment of other Muslim realities. Maryan is the sister of Yusuf Mohamed Ismail Bari-Bari, Somali ambassador to the UN in Geneva, who was murdered by al-Shabab terrorists in Mogadishu on March 27th 2015.” –
After all, even Ibrahim Munir, the supreme deputy guide of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2014, in an interview with an Egyptian newspaper, stated that: “our method in Europe is represented by an independent structure, which is called Fioe”.
However, in March 2019, judge for preliminary inquiries Guido Salvini dismissed the accusation, indicating that “there is a wide academic literature showing the relations between FIOE and the Muslim Brotherhood”.
In those same Milan 2016 elections, the PD also placed among its candidates Sameh Meligy, who proudly posted on his Facebook account a photograph of himself with the mayoral candidate (and current mayor) Beppe Sala and the comment “It’s official, I’m running for municipality 4”. However, Meligy withdrew his candidacy as the media exposed his membership in the Italian Islamic Alliance, blacklisted by the UAE and his links to Islamist extremists, such as Kuwaiti preacher Tareq Suwaidan.
In June 2012, PD candidate (now MP) Lia Quartapelle, (Sumaya’s friend) published (and later removed) a post entitled “Siamo tutti Fratelli Musulmani” (We are all Muslim Brothers), where she defended the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. Quartapelle even compared the decision of the Egyptian Constitutional Court to dissolve the Parliament due to the unconstitutionality of the electoral law to the 1991 Algerian situation when the army canceled the second round of elections and took over the government to avoid a victory of the Islamist Salvation Front and the establishment of a Sharia-based regime. As if it wasn’t enough, Quartapelle even made a comparison with the Western refusal to engage with the “legitimate winners” of the 2006 elections in the Palestinian areas, the local MB branch Hamas, a recognized terrorist group by many states. “Whoever supports democracy in the world today, cannot but support the Muslim Brotherhood”, she wrote.
This is just a very small part of a much bigger picture that brings together politics, media, and religious hegemony over Italy’s Muslim communities, with millions coming in from Qatar to build mosques all over the country, as revealed in the book “Qatar Papers” by French investigative journalists Christian Chesnot and Georges Malbrunot. Over 22 million euros and 45 projects on Italian soil. Indeed, the overview exposed above is not related to the Qatargate scandal, nor do any of the people cited. However, it does provide a clear view of Qatar’s and the Muslim Brotherhood’s aggressive activism in Italy.
Now, Qatar’s reaction to the Belgian investigation was not to provide the required assistance, but rather to threaten retaliation, specifically on gas deals and “security cooperation”. What does this mean? It is not a statement that should be taken lightly considering Doha’s notorious support for the Muslim Brotherhood, jihadist factions and organizatons in Syria, Hamas in Gaza and the Iranian regime. Europe and the United States should be well aware of the danger presented by making deals with Qatar.