Five Arabian states, including Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are all shunning neighbouring Qatar over its alleged financial links to terrorism groups last month.
At the centre of the discord is the accusation that Qatar is funding and harbouring extremist Islamic groups, including the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Muslim Brotherhood. In particular, the Gulf state is accessed of giving them a platform on the Al Jazeera satellite channel, a news network funded by the Qatari state.
Qatar has denied all accusations.
However, a report released this week by the Centre for the Response to Radicalisation and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society, has found that Saudi Arabia is one of the core foreign nations funding Islamic extremism in Britain.
Since the 1960s, the country has been sponsoring a multi-million dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam, a very strict form of the religion that originated in Saudi Arabia, across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West, said the report.
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As well, the country has been funding mosques and Islamic educational institutions in the UK which have played host to extremist preachers and the distribution of extremist literature. Known hate preachers in the UK expound the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and are linked to extremism sponsored by states including Saudi Arabia.
In addition, despite attempts by Saudi Arabia to create domestic programmes to de-radicalise and rehabilitate Islamic militants, the amount of funding for extremism coming out of the country has increased in recent years. It is though that the state spent at least $4bn in 2015 to promote Wahhabism worldwide, compared to around $2bn in 2007.
The UK’s Saudi embassy denied all charges raised by the Henry Jackson Society report.
What is different about this report?
This information is not new. The report points to the fact that the WikiLeaks cables revealed that the first Obama administration was concerned about how funds from the likes of Saudi Arabia, UAE and Qatar were reaching the West and funding hardline versions of Islam.
However, it is worth noting that Saudi Arabia is the UK’s closest ally and biggest trading partner in the Middle East and the UK prime minister Theresa May has had to defend this relationship, saying it was important in terms of security and trade.
Is Qatar involved then?
Qatar is no stranger to funding extremist Islam, also. The al-Muntada Trust, which has been connected to a number of UK-based mosques where radicalisation has taken place, is directly financed by the Qatari state and the UK branch held its annual conference in the state’s capital, Doha, said the report.
In Germany, a leaked report in 2016 from the country’s intelligence agencies found that Qatar had been funding extremist groups as part of a “long-running strategy to exert influence.”
What does this mean for the Qatar crisis?
The Qataris believe that the dispute has nothing to do with terrorism anyway and that it is really an attempt by the other Gulf states to force its foreign policy strategy in line with Saudi Arabia’s.
The states have given Qatar a list of demands – which it is expected to agree to by today, which includes shutting down Al Jazeera.
As well, one of the demands from the states is that Qatar cuts diplomatic ties with Iran, which has a great rivalry with Saudi Arabia so this may be where the dispute really lies.
However, the isolation of Qatar is beginning to hurt its economy. Bloomberg reported that Moody’s Investors Service cut Qatar’s credit outlook to negative on Tuesday, as a result of the diplomatic crisis. If this carries on, the state may be forced to negotiate in order to end the ongoing dispute.