Islamists have leveled death threats at an influential French academic, forcing her to live under police protection after writing a hard-hitting book about the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy to Islamize Europe. Muslim activists have, as expected, denounced her work as "Islamophobic," but some Islamists and non-Muslim leftwing academics have on this occasion taken the invective to another level by falsely comparing the scrutiny of Islamism to Nazism.
Florence Bergeaud-Blackler, an anthropologist at the French National Center for Scientific Research (Centre national de la recherche scientifique, CNRS), one of the leading research institutions in Europe, is a long-time observer of the Islamist landscape in the West. In January 2023, she published her magnum opus, The Brotherhood and its Networks: The Investigation (Le Frérisme et ses reseaux, L'Enquête), a 400-page book that meticulously dissects the Muslim Brotherhood's efforts to spread Islamism in Europe.
Far from being an anti-Islam polemic, Bergeaud-Blackler's book — whose preface was written by Gilles Kepel, a highly respected French political scientist who has authored more than a dozen books about Islamism and Jihadism — offers a dispassionate and scholarly presentation of the Muslim Brotherhood's history, doctrine, structure, and modus operandi. She rigorously documents how the Brotherhood systematically extends its influence into the heart of Western societies through entryism, a strategy of infiltrating core governmental and non-governmental institutions to propagate its ideology, which Bergeaud-Blackler calls "Brotherism" (Frérisme) and describes as "an intellectual politico-religious project aimed at establishing an Islamic world."
Bergeaud-Blackler also shows how the Brotherhood and its many affiliated non-governmental organizations have infiltrated key institutions of the European Union to divert millions of euros that were originally intended to fund studies on Islamism in Europe to focus on "Islamophobia" instead. She further documents how the Brotherhood has penetrated the French university system to influence future generations.
Bergeaud-Blackler's book has received significant media attention and many positive reviews. The center-right daily newspaper Le Figaro described her work as "immensely meritorious" because it "reveals how the Muslim Brotherhood, the most secretive of Islamist organizations, succeeded in making the European Union the primary base of their project to conquer the world."
The conservative news magazine Le Point interviewed Bergeaud-Blackler and boldly titled it: "The Muslim Brotherhood's Weapon is Subterfuge." The classical liberal Atlantico published a lengthy excerpt of her book that explains how "Islamophobia is the refined weapon at the heart of the Muslim Brotherhood's strategy to conquer Europe." The left-leaning news magazine Marianne, in a friendly interview with Bergeaud-Blackler, noted that "the Muslim Brotherhood wants to transform European society to make it Sharia-compatible."
The smear campaign aimed at destroying Bergeaud-Blackler's reputation and credibility began in earnest on March 7, when Mediapart, a leftwing online investigative journal, published a hit piece — "The Islamization of France: Actors and Sources of a Dangerous Refrain" — that accused her of "demonizing political Islam," "criminalizing whole sections of French society for whom Islam is a component of their identity," and "Nazism."
The essay — co-authored by François Burgat, a 75-year-old apologist for the Muslim Brotherhood who is known for his radical anti-Zionism, and Souhail Chichah, a Belgian-Moroccan economist who doubles as an Islamist activist — compared Bergeaud-Blackler to Georges Vacher de Lapouge, a 20th century French anthropologist whose racial theories strongly influenced Nazi ideologues and culminated in the Nazi policy of exterminating European Jews.
"France was 'threatened' by the Jew yesterday, by the Muslim today," Burgat and Chichah wrote. "In contemporary racist mythology, the networks of the Muslim Brotherhood are part of the continuation of international Jewry: a devious fifth column." They accused her of "borrowing from the most uninhibited anti-Semitic rhetoric" which gives "racist expression the alibi of scientific research."
Burgat — a former CNRS research director who is currently the president of the Arab Center for Research and Political Studies in Paris (Centre arabe de recherches et d'études politiques de Paris, CAREP), a group funded by the Doha Institute and Qatar Charity, which supports Brotherhood networks around the world — is leading the campaign against Bergeaud-Blackler because her book documents how Burgat and other French academics have been Brotherhood shills for many years.
Burgat has tweeted or retweeted more than 100 messages explicitly targeting Bergeaud-Blackler. They variously denigrate her work as "Protocols of the Elders of Zion 2.0," "pseudo research that serves Islamophobia," "nauseating," an "intellectual scam," a "scientific shipwreck," and a "paranoid vision" riddled with "sectarian bias," "criminalizing innuendoes," and "obsessive anti-Islamism." She is accused of using "despicable research methods," promoting "the most radical and reactionary ideas," and seeking the "indiscriminate criminalization of currents of political Islam" and the "sectarian criminalization of the so-called 'Brothers.'"
On March 14, Rafik Chekkat, a French-Algerian anti-"Islamophobia" activist, published a lengthy review of Bergeaud-Blackler's book on Orient XXI, a French online journal that focuses on Islam and the Middle East and is well known for its anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. He compared Bergeaud-Blackler to Édouard Drumont, a late 19th century anti-Semitic polemicist whose best-selling book, Jewish France (La France juive), argued for the exclusion of Jews from French society. Drumont subsequently was a leading protagonist in the Dreyfus Affair, in which a Jewish French military officer was wrongfully convicted of treason. "Florence Bergeaud-Blackler shares with Drumont an intention, a form, and a method," Chekkat wrote, "to unravel the 'Brotherhood' element — which was once the Jewish element — in society."
In a tweet, Chekkat added that Bergeaud-Blackler's book is "a delirious work, which recycles all the clichés about the manipulative, lying and intriguing Jew, applied this time to Muslims. As Edward Said brilliantly noted, 'Popular anti-Semitic animosity has passed smoothly from Jew to Arab, since the image is almost the same.'"
A day after Chekkat's article was published, Bergeaud-Blackler's lawyer, Thibault de Montbrial, revealed that his client had received death threats and was under police protection. "The public attacks by Islamists since the release of her book on the Muslim Brotherhood has reached a dangerous level," he tweeted.
Bergeaud-Blackler told FWI that "these comparisons of my latest book with Nazism, the extreme right, [Édouard] Drumont or [Georges] Vacher de Lapouge come from academic spheres. They now circulate top-down in the most offensive strata of the internet." She described the efforts to assassinate her character as "staggering" and "despicable."
An open letter of support for Bergeaud-Blackler signed by more than 170 academics stated that "she now suffers the fate of the few researchers and scientists in Europe who openly expose the proselytism of the Muslim Brotherhood within the European Union. The Brothers and their allies do not like anything that attracts light to their affairs and are unhappy about the influence that her book enjoys."
The Belgian-Moroccan anthropologist Fadila Maaroufi, in an article published by Atlantico, noted that Bergeaud-Blackler's book "hit the nail on the head" and that those who are attacking her are paradoxically validating the thesis of her work. "What is at stake is freedom of conscience and academic freedom, which has been undermined for many decades," she warned. "Silence makes us accomplices."