Britain’s former ambassador to Saudi Arabia said on Wednesday that the regime funds mosques in the UK and in Europe which have become hotbeds of terrorism, though he denied that Riyadh was directly supporting Islamic extremists.
Speaking to a group of Conservative lawmakers, Sir William Patey said that “The Saudis [have] not quite appreciated the impact their funding of a certain brand of Islam is having in the countries in which they do it – it is not just Britain and Europe,” the UK’s Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.
Patey spoke a day after officials said they will not publish a government-commissioned report on extremism funding for security reasons, indicating that its contents are too sensitive.
UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd released only a 430-word summary of the report, saying that most income for extremists comes from UK-based “small, anonymous public donations,” with some groups receiving hundreds of thousands of British pounds a year. The report indicated that “overseas funding is not a significant source” for most UK-based extremist groups.
The summary did not name the countries of origin of such countries or mention Saudi Arabia or any other nation.
Patey, meanwhile, said that Saudi funding indirectly led to terrorism.
“They are not funding terrorism. They are funding something else, which may down the road lead to individuals being radicalized and becoming fodder for terrorism,” he said.
Patey, who headed the Foreign Office Middle East desk before serving as ambassador to the regime between 2006 and 2010, said that the brand of Islam that Saudis promoted encouraged extremists.
Saudi groups, he said, are “funding mosques and promoting an ideology – the Salafist Wahhabist ideology.”
Nevertheless, he said the Saudis “find it every easy to back off the idea that they are funding terrorism because they are not.”
Patey’s comments are backed up by a report released earlier this month by the Henry Jackson Society, a British foreign affairs think tank, which found that Saudi Arabia “has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort since the 1960s to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West.”
The report further found that “a number of Britain’s most serious Islamist hate preachers sit within the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology and are linked to extremism sponsored from overseas, either by having studied in Saudi Arabia as part of scholarship programmes, or by having been provided with extreme literature and material within the UK itself.”