Asia Watch

Britain admits Saudi terrorism link, again

First there was the indignity of being outed for not being ‘straight’ on Iraq by the man who spent seven years finding out. Then, on the anniversary of the London bombings, which also happened on his watch, a British think tank published important findings. Namely, that Saudi Arabia is responsible for funding extremism on British soil.

Jul 7, 2017
Poor old Tony Blair. He’s not having a good week.
 
First there was the indignity of being outed for not being ‘straight’ on Iraq by the man who spent seven years finding out. Then, on the anniversary of the London bombings, which also happened on his watch, a British think tank published important findings. Namely, that Saudi Arabia is responsible for funding extremism on British soil.
 
Hold. The. Front. Page.
 
This is something that London has known for rather a long time. More than a decade ago — again when Blair was in the hot seat — the government had started manoeuvring towards an outright ban on foreign-born imams. Especially those unable or unwilling to conduct sermons in English.
 
Yet in the immediate aftermath of 7/7 — Blair was splashed across television screens around the world, banging on about how “they” hate us for “our” freedoms. This has been a script that London Mayor Sadiq Khan returned to after both the Westminster and London Bridge attacks this year.  It is time to bring to an end this largely simplistic narrative that is usually churned out when political expediency is at stake.
 
Nevertheless, the Henry Jackson Society report is very clear: Saudi Arabia has spent a cool 67 billion GBP over the last three decades spreading globally its Wahabbi strain of Islam. In Britain-specific terms, this has translated into an estimated 110 mosques adhering to this ideology, with a combined capacity to hold around 45,000 followers as of 2014. (Though the latter refers to those mosques preferring to identity as Salafi).
 
The think tank has some tough words for the political leadership: get serious about tracking foreign funding and make all such findings public. The Cameron government held back on the conclusions of its counter-extremism strategy, launched in 2015. This was to look specifically into the role of overseas funding. Then, this year came another bombshell: the Downing Street pledge to establish a counter-extremism commission — yes, more red tape — by way of challenging foreign-funded Islamist extremism may never be published due to its overtly sensitive nature. Which may or may not suggest that the real priority is the dosh earned from lucrative arms deals with Saudi Arabia. Over the past three years, London has approved arms export licences to Riyadh worth some $4.7bn.
 
We support the Henry Jackson Society’s calls for the creation of new laws requiring mosques and other institutions to declare foreign funding. As well as the launching of a public inquiry into the overseas cash injections to hardline groups. These are issues that Pakistan, too, ought to be grappling with.
 
Yet we can’t help but feel that a piece of the conversational jigsaw is missing. Meaning, what of Britain’s penchant for militarised foreign policy? This is also part of the radicalisation puzzle. This is to say nothing of the government’s reckless “open door policy” — whereby it removes terrorist controls from those already on the radar and sends them off to fight in war zones that, in most cases, have erupted in the aftermath of British orchestrated regime change.
 
Scape-goating Saudi Arabia alone is not the answer.
 

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