A post from yesterday discussed the heavy participation of the Global Muslim Brotherhood in the flotilla involved in yesterday’s confrontation with Israel naval forces. New information indicates that Jamal El-Shayyal, the Al Jazeera reporter claiming to be the only correspondent to successfully have broadcast from the Turkish ship involved in the confrontation, was formerly a leader in UK Muslim Brotherhood student organizations. According to a report by Al-Jazeera English:
It was difficult, if not impossible, for journalists to report freely on the attack by Israeli forces on the aid ships attempting to break the Gaza blockade. But Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal did manage to make this broadcast before communications were cut. He was on board the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the flotilla of six vessels, which was boarded by Israeli commandos who were lowered on to its deck from helicopters.
According to an online biography:
Jamal El-Shayyal has served on the executive of many British Muslim organizations, he was a Labour party candidate in the May 2006 elections and has advised the FCO, Home Office and DFES on issues relating to the Muslim community as well as the topic of “extremism”. He is currently working for Aljazeera English where he is one of their Middle East Editors.
Various sources identify Mr. El-Shayyal as a former executive member and spokesperson of the Federation Of Students Islamic Societies (FOSIS), the umbrella federation of Islamic student societies in the UK. A previous post discussed a report by the Center for Social Cohesion that outlined the Muslim Brotherhood ties of FOSIS in the UK and Ireland. UK media has also identified Mr. El-shayyal as associated with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB) which is part of the European Muslim Brotherhood umbrella group known as the Federation of Islamic Organizations in Europe (FIOE) as well as the U.K. umbrella group the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), also dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Mr. El-Shayyal’s background in Muslim Brotherhood organizations is consistent with what is known about the influence of the Brotherhood at Al Jazeera itself. According to one report from 2003, a well-known Egyptian liberal thinker wrote that some 50 percent of the network’s personnel belong to the Muslim Brotherhood and that their influence in Qatar was rising both in the network and among government circles. A report in Nation Magazine discussed the increasing support at Al Jazeera for Islamic movements which it attributes to the influence of Wadah Khanfar, its General Manager, known to have a background in the Muslim Brotherhood. According to the report, Al Jazeera coverage changed when Khanfar took over in March 2003:
“How things are covered, the prominence of things, what words are used–sometimes you do see that very clear Islamist subtext, depending on the issue,” says Alberto Fernandez, the director for press and public diplomacy in the Bureau of Near East Affairs at the State Department. “We see the unconditional support of Islamic movements, no matter where they are: Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan,” says a Jordanian official who did not wish to be identified because of what he characterized as the deteriorating relations between his country and Qatar. Dozens of hours of viewing Al Jazeera for this article confirm the charge. Whether it’s reporting the Hamas perspective from the occupied territories without mention of the Palestinian Authority’s version of events, or the fawning depiction elsewhere of Islamist parties and militias as the grassroots reflection of Arab sentiment, Al Jazeera has moved away from its ideologically diverse origins to a more populist/Islamist approach. After the March 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Al Jazeera replaced its longtime secular bureau chief in Baghdad, Faisal Yasiri, with Wadah Khanfar, who had reported from Afghanistan after the American invasion in 2001 and then Kurdish-controlled territory as the war with Iraq was launched in 2003. Shortly thereafter, the secular head of Al Jazeera, Mohammed Jassem Ali, was ousted and replaced by Khanfar, whom nine current and former employees of the station interviewed for this article characterize as an Islamist. It was around this time that Jazeera’s Iraq bureau “became a platform for [Sunni] extremists,” says Shaker Hamid, a secular Jazeera correspondent in Baghdad from 1997 to 2000, who left to work at another Arab satellite station after getting what he says was a better offer. “I can’t say that Jazeera’s rhetoric is completely against Shiites,” Hamid says. “The Americans introduced this, but the media should not make it worse, and Jazeera did.”
The report goes on to say that the trend toward Islamism at the station is continuing:
Former employees of Jazeera interviewed for this article say the newsroom is becoming more religiously conservative. “Everyone is complaining about the new trend now–that the liberals, the secular types, the Arab nationalists are getting downsized and the Islamic position is dominating the newsroom,” says Hamid, the former Baghdad correspondent. Mirazi, the former Washington bureau chief, told Al Hayat: “From the first day of the Wadah Khanfar era, there was a dramatic change–especially because of him selecting assistants who are hard-line Islamists.
According to a report in a Mideast business publication, Wadah Khanfar was born and educated in Jordan where, consistent with a Muslim Brotherhood background, he was educated as an engineer and where some reports suggest he was once arrested as a member of the Brotherhood. The same report indicates that he also was a student activist, organizing a student union an activity also consistent with a Muslim Brotherhood background. In a TV interview, Khanfar stated that started his career as a journalist as an analyst on African affairs, mainly on Al Jazeera, while living in South Africa where is was doing graduate study in international politics and African studies at the time. He also described himself in the interview as “a researcher and consultant in Middle Eastern economics and political affairs.” In 1997, Khanfar became the Al Jazeera correspondent in South Africa. However, while living in South Africa, Khanfar was also was the Director of Human Resource Development for the International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO), an organization closely tied to the global Muslim Brotherhood. A memo purporting to be a 1998 briefing document prepared for the South African President Thabo Mbeki has long been posted on the Internet and describes the IIFSO as working closely with Hamas:
According to information HAMAS members in South Africa does not recognise the MUSLIM YOUTH MOVEMENT (MYM) as the official organ representing the Muslim youth in South Africa. HAMAS is of the opinion that the MYM have lost their control of the youths representation. Based upon this situation HAMAS, with the help of the INTERNATIONAL ISLAMIC FEDERATION OF STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS (IIFSO) are busy to establish institutions for the Muslim youth in South Africa to take over the role of the MYM. These youth centres are implemented in Pretoria and Cape Town.
The memo also identifies an individual called Wahdan Abu Ahmed KHUNFUR who it says was a Trustee of the Al Aqsa Foundation in South Africa as well as a Hamas contact. The Al Aqsa Foundation is one of the organizations comprising the Union of Good, the worldwide coalition of charities collecting money for Hamas and directed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi. The memo appears to be genuine, containing substantial detail and matching the time that Khanfar was known to be living in South Africa, but cannot be verified as genuine or that these are the same individuals. It should be noted, however, that a Jordanian newspaper reported recently that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas gave Qatari officials a file demonstrating Khanfar’s Hamas/Brotherhood connections.