Muslim Brotherhood suspected to be behind campaign of fake news on child ‘kidnappings’ in Sweden

Swedish authorities are fighting back against claims its social services are “kidnapping” Muslim children. (Adam IHSE / TT NEWS AGENCY / AFP)
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Updated 23 February 2022

Muslim Brotherhood suspected to be behind campaign of fake news on child ‘kidnappings’ in Sweden

  • Videos began appearing on Arabic-language social media sites in late 2021 of real interventions by child welfare services
  • After Mideastern media outlets reported on the claims, Swedish government officials and social services have come out in force to deny the allegations

LONDON: A politically motivated campaign accusing child-protection authorities in Sweden of “kidnapping” children has exposed the activities of an extremist Islamist website suspectedly tied to the Muslim Brotherhood, which is circulating fake news designed to whip up anger in minority Muslim communities around the world.

The Shuoun Islamiya (Islamic Affairs) website was set up in 2016, claiming to be “an awareness channel to spread Muslim issues and their news around the world and to confront campaigns that aim to distort the image of Islam.”

In fact, the channel has consistently distorted the reality of treatment of immigrant Muslim communities around the world, in an apparent bid to promote sectarian strife in their adoptive countries.

In Sweden, Shuoun Islamiya has found itself an ally in a fringe political party called Nyans (Nuisance), which ahead of elections in September is claiming the state is unjustifiably taking children away from their parents.

According to research by the Washington Institute’s Fikra Forum, set up to provide “on-the-ground perspectives and insight on the most pressing current events facing the Middle East,” Nyans was founded in 2019 by Mikail Yüksel, a Swedish politician of Turkish origin and is “focused on issues that its founders view as affecting Muslims in Sweden.”

Through its website and Twitter and Telegram channels, Shuoun Islamiya has kept up a steady stream of extreme content, including videos, accusing Sweden of being a fascist state where social services place Muslim children in Christian homes with paedophiles, or force them to drink alcohol and eat pork.

Unsurprisingly, Swedish government officials and social services have denied the allegations.

“We absolutely do not do that,” Migration and Integration Minister Anders Ygeman told AFP.

The only goal was to support families, he added, and the campaign was being fueled in part by “frustrated parents who have failed in their parenting” and were projecting their anger at authorities.

But “there are also malevolent forces that want to exploit these parents’ frustration to spread mistrust and division.”

Shuoun Islamiya is one of those forces and, if its objective is to stir up unwarranted outrage among the Muslim community in Sweden and around the world, it is working. Radical imams in Sweden and abroad and Muslim online influencers with millions of followers have spread the stories, sparking street protests across Sweden.

The website’s Twitter and Instagram accounts also push and promote Muslim Brotherhood salafists and loyalists, including detained Saudi extremist salafist Abdul Aziz Al-Turaife, among others.

It is unclear where Shuoun Islamiya is based. It may even be a one-man show. Its founder is listed as Mustafa Al-Sharqawi, who on his Telegram account (@MoustafaJournalist) describes himself as an “independent Muslim journalist.” He is also associated with a Telegram channel called Arab Affairs TV, which has over 17,000 subscribers.

Arab Affairs TV’s Twitter account (@Arabaffairstv) has been suspended for violating the platform’s rules, which state that users may not “threaten or promote terrorism or violent extremism”, “promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity (or) religious affiliation,” and “may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm.”

However, Shuoun Islamiya’s Twitter account (@Shuounislamiya) — which has 178,000 followers — remains active, despite a series of recent Tweets perpetuating the myth that Muslim children are being kidnapped by authorities in countries including Sweden, Japan and Germany.

It is clear that its activities are creating division between Swedish communities. One response earlier this month, apparently from a Swedish citizen and aimed at Muslims in the country, read: “Swedish social services do not act without good reason and more often than not it requires some quite extreme behavioral dysfunction before they do …  try to raise your children to respect others, get an education and become a productive member of society who understands and is invested in the social contract.”

The Muslim Brotherhood and its affiliates are using well-meaning liberals across Europe to cover for and further their own anti-democratic agenda, experts have warned.

At an event attended by Arab News and hosted by UAE think tank Trends Research and Advisory late last year, experts also cautioned that despite its relative decline in the past decade, the Brotherhood is adaptive and must be continually countered.

Dr. Lorenzo Vidino, director of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University, told participants that the Brotherhood was using “woke” language to “camouflage their true nature” as it takes hold in Europe.

“People experienced the ineffectiveness of the rule of the Brotherhood in 2012 and 2013,” he said. “People have become disenchanted with the Brotherhood.” But in the West, and particularly in Europe, the group’s status was “a more complicated question,” he added.

There, it is a “different Brotherhood, with different goals and priorities compared with Muslim countries."

There was a “coming-of-age of a second generation of activists who are European-born and are extremely well-versed in the European, Western political discourse,” he added.

Meanwhile, in Sweden, they have taken to peddling fake news about children in danger to garner support. On Feb. 20, the Shuoun Islamiya Twitter account posted four photographs, taken on the same day, of what purported to be a group of children in Syria, captioned “Solidarity of Syrian children with children in Sweden, We ask Allah to grant relief to all Muslims around the world.”

In the photographs the children are holding posters, written in Arabic, that read “Social kidnaps the children from their mothers”, “Stop kidnapping our children, whoever has humanity save the Syrian children in Sweden,” and “No happiness for the children except with their mothers.”

In a video posted on Feb. 18, Shuoun Islamiya claimed that the two daughters of Swedish-based Muslim writer Seyed Issa Musavi “were kidnapped in Sweden” and that the judge in the family court hearing the case “ruled that his daughters should not return because of the books he writes about Sweden, and this is another proof of the lie of freedom of expression in Sweden.” One of Musavi’s books is called “Forced conversion of Muslim children in Sweden.”

In one post in his own Twitter account, Musavi alleges that “Sweden Kidnapps Children (girls) move to remote areas, raped by Swedish OFFICIELS. This one, 8-years Child- girl.”

Julia Agha, head of the Arabic-language news outlet Alkompis, based in Stockholm, told AFP that the campaign had its roots in protests by Muslim families whose children had been taken into care by social services.

“What’s happened is that this campaign has ended up in the hands of forces abroad that have put a religious filter over it and are spreading disinformation, which now looks more like a hate campaign against Sweden and Swedish society.”

The disinformation campaign is exploiting the sense of isolation felt among many immigrant Muslims in Sweden, a generous country that has struggled for years to integrate new arrivals.

Sweden, a wealthy country of 10.4 million people, granted asylum and family reunification to more than 400,000 people from 2010 to 2019 — more per capita than any other European country.

“Sweden still has many integration challenges, not least when it comes to segregation,” Agha told AFP.

She said many immigrants struggled to learn Swedish, lived in areas where they interacted only with other immigrants, and didn’t feel a part of Swedish society.


Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports

Updated 05 December 2022

Apple and Amazon resume advertising on Twitter — reports

Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. are planning to resume advertising on Twitter, according to media reports on Saturday.
The developments follow an email sent by Twitter on Thursday to advertising agencies offering advertisers incentives to increase their spending on the platform, an effort to jump-start its business after Elon Musk’s takeover prompted many companies to pull back.
Twitter billed the offer as the “biggest advertiser incentive ever on Twitter,” according to the email reviewed by Reuters. US advertisers who book $500,000 in incremental spending will qualify to have their spending matched with a “100 percent value add,” up to a $1 million cap, the email said.
On Saturday, a Platformer News reporter tweeted that Amazon is planning to resume advertising on Twitter at about $100 million a year, pending some security tweaks to the company’s ads platform.
However, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters that Amazon had never stopped advertising on Twitter.
Separately, during a Twitter Spaces conversation, Musk announced that Apple is the largest advertiser on Twitter and has “fully resumed” advertising on the platform, according to a Bloomberg report.
Musk’s first month as Twitter’s owner has included a slashing of staff including employees who work on content moderation and incidents of spammers impersonating major public companies, which has spooked the advertising industry.
Many companies from General Mills Inc. to luxury automaker Audi of America stopped or paused advertising on Twitter since the acquisition, and Musk said in November that the company had seen a “massive” drop in revenue.
Apple and Twitter did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment on the matter.

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Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again on violating rules

Updated 03 December 2022

Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again on violating rules

  • Twitter owner Elon Musk had welcomed the return of the rapper, now known as Ye, to the platform in October

DUBAI: Twitter Inc. on Friday suspended Kanye West’s account again, just two months after it was reinstated, after its owner Elon Musk said he had violated the platform’s rules prohibiting incitement to violence.
Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, had welcomed the return of the rapper, now known as Ye, to the platform in October.
“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended,” Musk tweeted late on Thursday.
West’s account was suspended within an hour of Musk’s post, made in a reply to a Twitter user who had said “Elon Fix Kanye Please.” Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Before suspending Ye’s account, which had over 30 million followers, Twitter had restricted one of his tweets. Reuters could not independently verify the contents of the post.
The social media platform restored the rapper’s account before the completion of its $44 billion takeover by Musk. Musk later clarified that he had had no role in bringing Ye back on Twitter.
Ye on Thursday tweeted a photo of Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel spraying water at the back of Musk’s head with a hose. He captioned the picture “Let’s always remember this as my final tweet #ye24,” before the account was suspended.
Musk responded that Ye’s account was suspended for incitement to violence, and not for posting “an unflattering pic of me being hosed by Ari.”
In November, Twitter reinstated some controversial accounts that had been banned or suspended, including satirical website Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin.
Musk also decided to reinstate former US President Donald Trump’s account after a majority of Twitter users voted in favor in a poll to bring back Trump.

 

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Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off

Updated 02 December 2022

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off

  • Owners said the decision was made “in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”

NEW YORK: Social network Parler announced Thursday that its planned sale to Kanye West has been called off, as the rapper-businessman now known as Ye continues to alienate fans and commercial partners with anti-Semitic comments.
“Parlement Technologies would like to confirm that the company has mutually agreed with Ye to terminate the intent of sale of Parler,” the network — seen as a home for online extremist rhetoric — said in a tweet.
It said the decision was made “in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”
Parler had announced a deal for West to buy the platform popular with conservatives in mid-October — just over a week after the rapper’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were restricted over anti-Semitic posts he made.
But the rapper, who has spoken openly about his struggles with mental illness, has seen his business relationships crumble in recent weeks as his erratic behavior and extreme speech continue to raise concerns.
In perhaps his most provocative outburst to date, West on Thursday declared his “love” of Nazis and admiration for Adolf Hitler during a rambling livestream with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The 45-year-old’s restrictions on Twitter and Instagram last month were not the first time his posts prompted punitive action from major social media platforms.
Earlier this year, West was banned from posting on Instagram for 24 hours after violating the social network’s harassment policy amid his acrimonious divorce from reality star Kim Kardashian.
Launched in 2018, Parler became a haven for Donald Trump supporters and far-right users who say they have been censored on mainstream social media platforms. It has since signed up many more traditional Republican voices.
Parler was temporarily removed from Apple and Google app stores last year for failing to moderate calls for violence after the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of the former president.
It has since been allowed back in the both stores, ostensibly after improving its content moderation systems.


Netflix to let more subscribers preview content

Updated 01 December 2022

Netflix to let more subscribers preview content

  • Feature allows selected members to preview shows or films

LONDON: Netflix Inc. is planning to let tens of thousands of users around the world to preview content from early next year, expanding beyond its current previewer base of 2,000-plus subscribers, sources reported on Thursday.
Netflix’s Preview Club, which started more than a year ago, allows its members to watch some shows or films before they appear broadly on the platform and review them, the Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
The video streaming giant did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
The move underpins Netflix’s efforts to ensure quality content, at a time when investors and analysts focus more on the profitability of streaming firms.


Taliban silence Voice of America broadcasts in Afghanistan

Updated 01 December 2022

Taliban silence Voice of America broadcasts in Afghanistan

  • Voice of America and Radio Free Europe are funded by the US government, though they claim editorial independence
  • Afghanistan has lost 40 percent of its media outlets and 60 percent of its journalists since the Taliban takeover

WASHINGTON: The Voice of America said Wednesday that Taliban authorities have banned FM radio broadcasts from VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty in Afghanistan, starting Thursday.
VOA said Taliban authorities cited “complaints they have received about programming content” without providing specifics.
VOA and RFE are funded by the US government, though they claim editorial independence.
The Taliban overran Afghanistan in August 2021 as American and NATO forces were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.
Despite initially promising a more moderate rule, they have restricted rights and freedoms and widely implemented their harsh interpretation of Islamic law, or Sharia.
Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said Thursday that Afghanistan has press laws and any network found “repeatedly contravening” these laws will have their privilege of working in the country taken away.
“VOA and Azadi Radio (Radio Liberty) failed to adhere to these laws, were found as repeat offenders, failed to show professionalism and were therefore shut down,” he said.
The advocacy group Reporters Without Borders said recently that Afghanistan has lost 40 percent of its media outlets and 60 percent of its journalists since the Taliban takeover.