Former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia Sir William Patey says the kingdom is fueling extremism in the United Kingdom and Europe, arguing that its support for Wahhabist ideology is leading to radicalization.
Patey made the remarks in an interview on Thursday, a day after the British government published a brief summary of a Home Office-commissioned report into the funding of extremism in the country.
The government announced that it will not publish in full the report on the sources of funding of extremism and terrorism in the UK, citing security reasons.
However, British MP Caroline Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, accused the government of Prime Minister Theresa May of “refusing to expose the role of Saudi Arabian money in terrorism in the UK.”
Ambassador Patey said on Thursday that he did not believe Riyadh was directly funding terrorist groups, but rather a Takfiri ideology that leads to extremism. “It is unhealthy and we need to do something about it.”
“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,” he stated.
“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 radicalized and becoming fodder for terrorism.”
Last week, a British think tank released the report, saying foreign funding for extremism came from Persian Gulf countries, chief among them Saudi Arabia.
The Henry Jackson Society said in the report that since the 1960s, Saudi Arabia has sponsored a multi-million dollar effort to export the Wahhabist ideology across the Muslim world, including to Muslim communities in the West.
"Foremost among these has been Saudi Arabia, which since the 1960s has sponsored a multimillion dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West,” the report said.
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Prime Minister Theresa May argues that relations with the Saudi kingdom are important for British security and economy, turning a deaf ear to numerous calls by opposition and human rights groups for the immediate suspension of UK arms exports to the Riyadh regime.
But, opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said Britain needed to have “some difficult conversations” with its ally Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states.