According to the Henry Jackson Society, a foreign policy think tank that advocates spread of liberal democracy and rule of law, Saudi Arabia has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West.
This funding is primarily in the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions. These outfits then play host to Islamic extremist preachers and engage in the distribution of extremist literature.
Some of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers are linked to sponsorship from overseas, mainly from the Gulf and including Iran. This may be either by acquiring education by fully funded scholarship programmes in Saudi or by having extreme literature and material provided within the UK itself.
There have been numerous cases of British individuals who have joined Jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria whose radicalisation is thought to link back to foreign-funded institutions and preachers, the report says.
The report also goes on to suggest that charitable organisations operated directly by Saudi Arabia such as the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and the Muslim World League (MWL) helped to advance and promote a hard-line Wahhabi interpretation of Islam endorsed by Saudi State.
Without a doubt, the freedom of religion, association and speech so enshrined in the western democracy is being exploited here, as it is a difficult task to draw a line to determine when freedom of speech becomes a hate speech or incitement to violence.
Nation states like Saudi that expressly outlawed freedom of religion and speech, where in some cases freedom of speech is classed as blasphemy and punishable by death, to be exporting a particular interpretation of Islam with the primary aim of shaping the view and behaviour of people demonstrates hypocrisy or at least exploitation of the aforementioned freedom available in liberal western democracy but that is not available in their own country.
This report is coming at a time when Saudi and other Arab nations labelled Qatar as a sponsor of terrorism and given ultimatum and conditions to be met for embargo placed on Qatar to be lifted.
Western governments cannot absolve themselves from this phenomenon of “importation of hard-line Islamic extremism. Take the U.S for example, President Trump, as a candidate railed against extreme Islamic ideology and promised to ban any Muslim country that has been compromised by terrorism , but on assumption to office the proposal of banning these countries, met a robust legal battles before a watered-down version was allowed only temporarily, However, as a president, the first foreign visit was to Saudi where he signed multi-billion dollars deals including arms deal.
It has been proven that nationals of Saudi have carried out terrorist attacks on US soil, while the countries on President Trump’s Ban list have not contributed to any such attacks.
This is according to Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration expert at the libertarian Cato Institute. So, it will appear there is a great deal of confusion going on or at least lack of understanding of the fact that radicalisation starts from exposure or access to extreme messages, some of which western allies like Saudi have now been concluded to export to the west by the Henry Jackson Society.
The continuing cosy relationship of the Western countries with these countries is an expressed endorsement of this practices.
The UK also has a close tie with the Saudi kingdom and the current Prime Minister, Theresa May have also visited the Gulf nation in pursuit of even closer ties and economic deals. The U.K recently approved £3.5b worth of arms licensing to Saudi Arabia.
The report into the funding of terrorism commissioned by the former British Prime Minister as part of the coalition pact in 2015 is yet to be released, it was reported in the media that this may not happen because the report indicts Saudi, this confirming the Henry Jackson Society report.
Forging of further closer ties and signing deals are a sure way of saying, your ideals are in-line with ours.
Why is foreign sponsorship of Western mosques a problem?
At face value, there is indeed no problem with this, but at a closer look, the objectives of such financial outlay may exert too strong an influence and this may threaten the existence of western culture as the malignant nature of this endeavour is laid bear.
This is because these messages are being preached in the mosques and the spectrum of Islam been encouraged, particularly Wahhabism advocated by Saudi is known to contain extreme messages. The effort of the Saudi Kingdom to spread this brand of Islam is calculated, systematic and deliberate.
An integral part of the Saudi effort to promote Wahhabism in countries like Britain has involved bringing individuals from the UK to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of undertaking the religious study. As Innes Bowen recounted in her 2014 book on British Islam; “some of the most dedicated young Salafis were recruited with Saudi-funded scholarships to study at the kingdom’s international university in Medina. They returned home as preachers, setting up mosques and bookshops and spreading the Salafi message in English to another generation of potential recruits”. The extremist preacher Shakeel Begg spent five years studying at the Islamic University of Medina and since his return to the UK, there have been numerous instances of Begg engaging in extremist speech. The Lewisham Islamic Centre, the mosque and community led by Begg, has also extended invitations to a number of other extremist Salafist preachers including Haitham Al-Haddad, Uthman Lateef and Murtaza Khan. In 2009 Khan gave a talk at the mosque advocating hostility and aggression against non-Muslims
The above quote is an excerpt from the Henry Jackson Society report
According to Adam Deen, the executive director of Quilliam, a London-based left-of-centre think tank that focuses on counter-extremism; Wahhabism ideologues, was from its founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab who is referred to in ISIS publications. His preaching was vehemently intolerant and violent. Anyone who disagreed with his narrow understating of Islam was considered an apostate and would be punishable by death. His preaching brought bloodshed to the Arabian Peninsula in the form of beheadings, executions, and amputations, much like what we have witnessed from ISIS.
In July 2013, Salafism/Wahhabism was identified by the European Parliament as the main source of global terrorism.
In their report, they concluded that swing of Salafism/Wahhabism into terrorism is not monolithic, but cited attacks on New York, Washington D.C., London and Madrid as examples of “exports” of problems whose origin is located in the cradle of jihadist Salafism.
In addition to the financial power possessed by Saudi, it is not difficult to imagine the influence the kingdom can exert, being the custodian and protector of Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
Bringing the discussion back home, should the western world take a decisive step to reduce or stop this foreign influence? This is a difficult task, you cannot realistically stop the recruitments of Islamic scholars from going abroad to study, even if they will come back with extremist ideologies, however, as it is the case, that there is a link between this brand of Islam and extremism and the manifestation of this influence have resulted in serial terrorism on Western soil, should the authority intervene?
Will such intervention be seen as government interfering in religion which will contravene the right to religion and association?