I’m not a great fan of the “something must be done” knee-jerk response to a terror attack or tragedy. It invariably leads to the wrong thing being done and the consequences can be felt for years afterwards. What is needed is calm, cool reflection on what has happened. So what I am about to say isn’t actually in response to what happened on Friday in Tunisia, France, Kuwait and Kobane. It’s something I have been talking about for a long time on my LBC show.
Over the last two years I have grown very concerned by the number of muslims I talk to, not just on my show, but in every day conversation too, who believe that Saudi and Qatari money are funding Wahhabi-ist mosques throughout the country and it is these who are in part to blame for the rise in support for extremist ideas among some British muslims. Along with the spread of extremist websites which promote ISIS and their warped ideology, these mosques are now places many moderate muslims won’t go, having recognised the danger they pose to young minds. This isn’t me asserting something, this is what I hear time and time again from muslims themselves. Some (not all) Imams in these British mosques are starting to turn Sunni against Shia, and the long term consequences of that can only be imagined. The thing is, this is nothing new, yet no one in Britain has confronted the danger despite the warnings.
In 2007 Paul Vallely investigated Saudi funding of Wahhbism in the UK in THIS story in The Independent. It came on the heels of a report written by report by Dr Denis MacEoin, an Islamic studies expert at Newcastle who previously taught at the University of Fez. He discovered a huge amount of “malignant literature” inside as many as a quarter of Britain’s mosques. All of it, according to Vallely, had been published and distributed by agencies linked to the government of King Abdullah. He continues…
Among the more choice recommendations in leaflets, DVDs and journals were statements that homosexuals should be burnt, stoned or thrown from mountains or tall buildings (and then stoned where they fell just to be on the safe side). Those who changed their religion or committed adultery should experience a similar fate. Almost half of the literature was written in English, suggesting it is targeted at younger British Muslims who do not speak Arabic or Urdu. The material, which was openly available in many of the mosques, including the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, which has been visited by Prince Charles, also encourages British Muslims to segregate themselves from non-Muslims. There is, of course, nothing new in such reports. Investigative journalists have over the years uncovered all manner of material emanating from Muslim extremists in various parts of Britain. Earlier this year an undercover reporter for Channel 4 filmed preachers and obtained DVDs and books inside mosques which were filled with hate-filled invective against Christians and Jews. They condemned democracy and called for jihad. They presented women as intellectually congenitally deficient and in need of beating when they transgressed Islamic dress codes. They said that children over the age of 10 should be hit if they did not pray. Again the main mosque chosen for exposure was influenced and funded from Saudi Arabia.
He then quotes Abdal Hakim Murad, the student chaplain at Cambridge University as saying
“I regard what the Saudis are doing in the ghettoes of British Islam as potentially lethal for the future of the community.”
Seven years on we now see the dangers even more clearly. At that time the Saudis were spending $2-3 billion annually on Wahhabist propaganda. That sum is thought to have doubled since then. But it’s not just the Saudi regime which funds huge print runs of extremist books and pamphlets, all designed to end up in British, European and American mosques. Further funding comes from rich Saudi individuals. And not just Saudis. Qataris too. And others. The inflow of such money into UK mosques is at a record high, I am told, and as a consequence the Imams who receive it are expected to toe the Wahhabist or (as they like to describe it) the Salafist line.
The 7/7 suicide bombers Mohammed Siddique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer were salafis, as was the so-called “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. This is not to say that all salafis support violence and ISIS. They emphatically do not. But there is a real fear among peace loving salafis about pointing out what is going on under their noses in salafi-supporting mosques.
Back in 2007, of the 1528 mosques in Britain only 68 adhered to salafism or wahhabism. That figure has risen by 20% in the last eight years to around 1850 nowadays. Around 110 are thought to be under Wahhabi/Salafi control, and receiving funding from Saudi or allied sources.
I’ve heard from dozens of ordinary muslims over the last year or two who feel that something needs to be done. They’ve withdrawn their children from classes at the mosques and they no longer attend themselves after witnessing some of the extreme messages being promoted. They will talk to me anonymously on my programme, but have an understandable fear of speaking out ‘on the record’. The government needs to listen to these people and then act on what they hear.
In 2010 Panorama showed how young people are targeted for indoctrination by a network of Saudi inspired weekend schools. They discovered 40 such schools which were indoctrinating more than 5,000 British teenagers with what were described as the “warped values of Wahhabism”. The Daily Mail carried an article by a muslim scholar, Dr Taj Hargey, who commented:
Misogyny, separatism and bigotry are all key features of the teaching in these institutions, whereas the Western tradition of free thought and open debate is completely ignored.
It’s worth thinking further about Dr Targey’s conclusions and wondering why the UK government has been so timid in acting on them…
There is a huge element of hypocrisy about the propagation of Wahhabism in Britain, as hardline Muslim regimes are utterly intolerant of any other faith. It is impossible to build a Christian church in Saudi Arabia, yet the same ideologues constantly demand the right to build mosques in Britain.
They want the privileges here that they refuse to accord other faiths when they are in control.
Why do we have to put up with the soundtrack of grievance from these Saudi extremists, endlessly demanding mosques, halal meat, calls to prayer, special schools, gender segregation, removal of Christian symbols and imposition of a tribal dress code?
But perhaps the most disturbing feature of the weekend schools is how they serve as a gateway to extremist theology and political radicalism. This ultimately paves the way to domestic terrorism.
The dogma they promote is permanently hostile to the state in which we live — leading to a dangerous ‘them and us’ mentality, making a mockery of all attempts at real integration and tolerance.
It is no coincidence that since Wahhabism gained a hold on British Muslims, especially on university campuses and in mosques, the threat of terror has intensified.
I totally understand that Britain wants good relations with Saudi Arabia and Qatar, but for how much longer can we ignore what both these oil-rich states have been doing, yet pretending otherwise. It’s not enough to ban the odd extremist Wahhabi cleric from entering the country. The government must go much further.
Their bluff needs to be called, and the way to do that is to cut off the funding of these mosques. The government should include a clause in the new Terrorism Bill which would ban any foreign funding of British mosques. Indeed, if it makes it more politically acceptable, I’d say it could be broadened out to include a ban on any funding for any religious institutions. American fundamentalist christian organisations tried in vain to influence the recent Irish gay marriage referendum by pouring money into the No campaign. I’d be quite happy for any law to apply to any religious organisation whether muslim, christian, sikh or mormon.
We would not be trailing a blaze here, either. Earlier in the year Austria banned mosques from receiving any monies from abroad. The new law provided more protection for muslims and muslim organisations but it led to a complete ban on mosques receiving money from outside the country. The Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said at the time that the reforms were a “milestone” for Austria and aimed to stop some Muslim countries using financial means to exert “political influence”.
“What we want is to reduce the political influence and control from abroad and we want to give Islam the chance to develop freely within our society and in line with our common European values.”
The Austrian law does allow for one off payments but disallows continuous funding. In response to criticism that the law did not apply to other religions, Mr Kurz was unabashed in his defence of it…
“We have different laws for every single religious community in Austria. There is a special law for the Jewish community, a special law for the orthodox, and a special law for the Muslim community. In each community we have different needs as for example halal-food or circumcision, but also different problems. For example, the influence of foreign countries is a problem we only have in the Muslim community. We do not have this problem in the other religious communities.”
Our nation’s capital is not known as ‘Londonistan’ for nothing. For far too long we have been too sensitive about dealing with Islamist extremism. I hope that Theresa May and Greg Clark, the new Communities Secretary will resist the siren voices who say he must just continue with the ‘hearts and minds’ Prevent programme. It hasn’t achieved what it set out to. It’s time to adopt a more hardline approach to fight extremists and it needs to start now.
And to those who say that all this is no doubt promoted by someone who hates Islam and hates muslims, all I can say is that all they need to do is listen to my LBC show and they will see that they are very far from the truth. I am regularly criticised for my defence of muslims and my belief that they are unfairly traduced by the media in all sorts of ways. I believe what I have said here is what most muslims would agree with, whether they feel they can say it openly or not. Islamic extremism is as far away from the lives of ordinary British muslims as christianity is from the actions of Anders Brevik.
I hope someone in government may read this and do something about the foreign funding of British mosques. If they don’t, we may all reap the unfortunate consequences.