Saudi Arabia Boosting Extremism In Europe

The imam of the Great Mosque in Brussels, Mouhameth Galaye Ndiaye, described as  “a very radical Salafist, very conservative and dangerous man for our society and our national security”, has had his Belgian residency permit withdrawn by secretary of state for migration Theo Francken.

Francken told Bel RTL radio on Tuesday morning: “There is a problem with the Grand Mosque... I have taken the decision to withdraw the residence permit of the imam of that mosque… We have had very clear signals that he is very radicalised, very conservative and dangerous.”

The Salafist movement, strongly influenced by Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi school of Islam, sees many other branches of the faith as heretical, and has been linked to militant groups such as Islamic State.

The Brussels mosque belongs to, and is funded by, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which was granted a 99-year rent-free lease, as part of negotiations to secure preferential oil contracts for Belgium. It has since been connected to the Saudi Arabia-based Muslim World League. 

Francken said the decision would "probably" cause tensions between Belgium and Saudi Arabia, "but our fight against radicalism takes priority”.

He added that Belgium planned to step up its controls over the financing of mosques. Earlier this year, one of the experts on the parliamentary investigative committee into last year's Brussels terror attacks recommended that the mosque be brought back under the control of the Muslim Executive of Belgium.

A note issued by Belgium's State Security Services in 2015 accused the mosque of preachings that "could lead to a high degree of potentially violent radicalisation”.

The issue of Saudi funding of mosques associated with radicalisation is an increasingly serious one.

Sir William Patey, former UK Ambassador to Saudi Arabia (2006-10), said in July of this year that Saudi Arabia has been funding mosques throughout Europe that have become hotbeds of extremism. “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.

“That is a dialogue we need to have. They are not funding terrorism. They are funding something else, which may down the road lead to individuals being radicalised and becoming fodder for terrorism…What the World Association of Muslim Youth and the Muslim World League are doing is funding mosques and promoting an ideology – the Salifist Wahhabist ideology.”

A UK government report completed earlier this year said “Saudi Arabia has, since the 1960s, sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the west.

“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.”

It adds: “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.” 

Many observers and policy makers have pointed to a double standard that exists when countries with an absence of religious freedom, such as states in the Gulf, take advantage of religious freedom in the West to promote intolerance. In 2015 the US State Department detailed Saudi Arabia as one of the worst countries in the world for religious freedom.

Henry Jackson Society

In 2014, 110 mosques in the UK were identified with Wahhabism, a drastic rise over seven years from 2007, which the Henry Jackson Society attributes to Saudi funding.

Europe is now waking up to the fact that cheap oil comes at a very high price.

Update: In March 2018 Belgium took back control of the Grand Mosque of Brussels by terminating Saudi Arabia’s lease of the building over concerns it was promoting radicalism, the government said.

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Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright

Gary Cartwright is publishing editor of EU Today.

An experienced journalist and published author, he specialises in environment, energy, and defence.

He also has more than 10 years experience of working as a staff member in the EU institutions, working with political groups and MEPs in various policy areas.

Gary's latest book WANTED MAN: THE STORY OF MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV: A Manual for Criminals on How to Avoid Punishment in the EU is currently available from Amazon

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