Donations promote most intolerant form of Islam, U.S. panel says
A prestigious U.S. panel of terrorism experts warns Saudi Arabia is funding radical Islamic extremism in non-Muslim nations, including Canada, where the Saudis have contributed millions of dollars to a mysterious Islamic centre in Toronto.
The Saudis have also funded mosques in Ottawa, Calgary and an Islamic centre in Quebec, according to official statements from the Saudi government.
A task-force report on terrorist financing by the Council on Foreign Relations, which included former White House counterterrorist czar Richard Clarke and David Cohen, the CIA’s former director of operations, says U.S. strategic interests are threatened by Saudi efforts to extend its brand of extremist Islam to North America and elsewhere.
“Saudi Arabia funds the global propagation of Wahabism, a brand of Islam that, in some instances, supports militancy by encouraging divisiveness and violent acts against Muslims and non-Muslims,” the report said.
“This massive spending is helping to create the next generation of terrorists and therefore constitutes a paramount strategic threat to the United States. … This massive spending is an integral part of the terrorist financing problem. It fosters virulence and intolerance directly at the United States, Christians, Jews and even other Muslims.”
The task force said Saudi Arabia has spent hundreds of millions of dollars to fund 210 Islamic centres and 1,359 mosques around the world, including in Canada.
It cites an official Saudi report in 2002 that stated: “King Fahd donated $5 million U.S. for the cost of an Islamic centre in Toronto, Canada, in addition to $1.5 million U.S. annually to run the facility.”
The Saudi government’s official website also said King Fahd provided funds to the Calgary Mosque, the Ottawa Mosque and the Islamic centre in Quebec.
Toronto has numerous Islamic centres and the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Ottawa refused to say which centre received millions of dollars from King Fahd.
CanWest News Service was unable to determine the identity of the Saudi-financed centre despite numerous phone calls to Islamic organizations in Toronto, including the Salaheddin Islamic Centre which preaches Wahabism and has been a target of the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
The Salaheddin centre operates a mosque and private elementary school where the Khadr family and other Islamic radicals linked to Osama bin Laden belong, and where the organization’s website preaches against Jews and Christians.
Aly Hindy, Toronto director of the Canadian Islamic Congress and imam of the Salaheddin Centre, a place of worship for 2,500 Muslims, did not return phones calls. His confidant, Sheik Sahib, refused all comment. The former principal of the Salaheddin school, Mahmoud Jaballah, has been held in detention and is facing extradition to Egypt on suspicion of links to Mr. bin Laden’s elusive second-in- command, Ayman Al Zawahiri.
The Islamic Centre of Canada and the Jami Islamic Centre, both based in Toronto, denied receiving any Saudi money.
The imam of the Ottawa Mosque, Gamal Solaiman, could not say how much money the Saudis provided his mosque, nor did he know which Islamic centre in Toronto was funded by the Saudis.
Mr. Solaiman referred all inquiries about Saudi funding to the mosque’s board of directors, but they did not return phone calls. Hussein Paiman of the Calgary Mosque, whose imam was a professor at Saudi Arabia’s King Saud University, also did not know how much the Saudis had contributed.
The Islamic Centre in Quebec, operated by Sheik Syed Bukhari, a graduate of Madina University in Saudia Arabia, was also unable to discuss Saudi funding.
All three institutions are posted on the Saudi government website as receiving an unspecified amount of money from the kingdom, but their individual websites do not appear to preach radical Islamic doctrines.
The task force, which also included former deputy U.S. Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat, said Saudi Arabia is training and sending radical clerics abroad to propagate extremism and notes every Saudi embassy has a well-funded branch that provides “inflammatory materials” to mosques and Islamic centres.
“This spending is fundamentally problematic from the standpoint of U.S. strategic interests. We find that it must be directly, immediately and unequivocally addressed,” the report said.
The task force said Saudi Arabia has recently taken steps to cut off its charities from financing terrorism and money-laundering, but noted the kingdom has not arrested or jailed anyone even though “Saudi Arabia has been the most significant source of funds for al- Qaeda.”
“Not only have there been no publicly announced arrests in Saudi Arabia related to terrorist financing, but key financiers remain free or go unpunished,” it said.
The panel also said Riyadh has done little to stop the “radicalization of millions of Muslims” through the global spread of Wahabism though either direct government funds or Saudi-based charities.
The report called on the U.S. government to demand an accounting from the Saudis of the support and money they provide to religious schools, mosques, centres of learning and other religious organizations globally to curtail uncompromising fundamentalist interpretations of Islam that espouse violence and serve as a breeding ground for terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda.