To the huge surprise of no one, Saudi Arabia is “top of the list” for promoting and disseminating Islamist extremism, particularly in the United Kingdom, according to a new report by the Henry Jackson Society think tank.
“In the UK, this funding has primarily taken the form of endowments to mosques and Islamic educational institutions, which have in turn played host to extremist preachers and the distribution of extremist literature. Influence has also been exerted through the training of British Muslim religious leaders in Saudi Arabia, as well as the use of Saudi textbooks in a number of the UK’s independent Islamic schools.”
The question of the funding, promotion & support of Islamist extremism has come into sharp focus because of recent attacks in Manchester and London. Prime Minister Theresa May is believed to be sitting on a report into Saudi Arabia’s links to the funding and promotion of Islamist extremism, due to its highly sensitive nature. The report was commissioned in 2015 but it is unclear whether its findings will ever see the light of day.
Report author Tom Wilson said:
There is a clear and growing link between foreign funding of Islamist extremism and the violent terrorism we have witnessed across the UK and Europe. The key now is to get ahead of the issue and find out the full extent of what has been going on. A public inquiry would go some way to informing the debate.
While entities from across the Gulf and Iran have been guilty of advancing extremism, those in Saudi Arabia are undoubtedly at the top of the list. Research indicates that some Saudi individuals and foundations have been apparently heavily involved in exporting an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology.
Labour MP Dan Jarvis has called on the government to release the foreign funding report and to guarantee a new counter-extremism commission to combat the issue of the funding of these organisations.
Saudi Arabia is the UK’s biggest trading partner in the Middle East, with exports of more than $8bn in British goods and services to the country in 2015. The UK is one of the leading suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia with successive governments (both Labour and Conservative) agreeing to major arms deals with the kingdom. In the past three years, the UK has approved arms export licences to Saudi Arabia worth $4.7bn.
Protecting Saudi interests, or our own?
But whichever way you cut it, the UK’s continuing relationship with Saudi government stinks to high heaven. Selling arms to such a murderous, hate-peddling regime might benefit our economy in the short-term, but what about the longer-term damage it is doing in the Middle East region? And what is the cost to our way of life when Saudi Arabia continues to expend its lavish wealth on funding such despicable extremism, under the cloak of religion, which merely promotes values and behaviour which is so opposed to our own values, safety and security?
On a visit to the kingdom back in April, Theresa May wasted no opportunity to show her support for the Saudis. She said the relationship between the UK and Saudi Arabia was imperative for security, defence and trade: “As I said when I came to the Gulf at the end of last year: Gulf security is our security, Gulf prosperity is our prosperity.”
The Gulf is far from secure, however, with the continued conflict in Yemen killing almost 50,000 to date. Sales of British arms support the Saudi-led coalition in the conflict, so the UK seem happy to offer limited humanitarian aid to Yemen (£103m last year) rather than jeopardise the billions coming into the UK from the sales of weapons.
It’s sickening and should be a source of national embarrassment, rather than pride, to the United Kingdom. But as the deal with the DUP has shown, there is no deal the government won’t strike to keep everyone sweet, no matter what the risk to peace and security. Is this the kind of thing we are seeking to promote when we talk about ‘British values’?
Rule Britannia…..makes you proud to be British, doesn’t it?