Britain’s major trade and security partner in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia, is the main source of funding for Islamist extremism in the UK, a damning new report by the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society (HJS) claims.
According to the HJS, money donated to terrorist organizations operating in Britain can be traced back to the Gulf states.
It says the Saudis’ 60-year commitment to the diffusion of Wahhabism, a hardline version of Islam, has led to the funding of British mosques and institutions linked to the wave of attacks in Europe over the last few years.
“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,” said the report’s author, Tom Wilson.
“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.”
The report follows news that Prime Minister Theresa May has been “sitting” on an independent inquiry into foreign backing of British extremism.
The report is thought to contain incriminating evidence of Saudi funding. Publishing its findings could prove seriously damaging for UK-Saudi relations and the British government’s credibility at a time when the country urgently needs to court post-Brexit trading partners.
May in particular has been keen on strengthening Britain’s trade and diplomatic relationship with the Gulf kingdom.
“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,” Wilson said.
“Research indicates that some Saudi individuals and foundations have been apparently heavily involved in exporting an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology.”
The HJS claims it found “numerous” cases of Britons who were radicalized through what are believed to be foreign-funded groups and preachers. Many of these later joined jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.
“This report from the Henry Jackson Society sheds light on what are extremely worrying links between Saudi Arabia and the funding of extremism here in the UK,” said Labour MP Dan Jarvis, according to the BBC.
“In the wake of the terrible and tragic terrorist attacks we’ve seen this year, it is vital that we use every tool at our disposal to protect our communities. This includes identifying the networks that promote and support extremism and shutting down the financial networks that fund it.
“I’m calling on the government to release its foreign funding report, and guarantee that the new counter-extremism commission will make tackling the funding of extremism a priority.”
A Whitehall spokesman said the government is “determined to cut off the funding which fuels the evils of extremism and terrorism, and will work closely with international partners to tackle this shared global threat, including at the upcoming G20 summit.”