Saudi Arabia's Connection to Radicalizing British Jihadis
In the wake of the London Bridge attack on June 3, which came on the heels of the Manchester Arena bombing, Britain's approach to combating terrorism has come under scrutiny at home and abroad. Judging by man-in-the-street interviews, it played a significant role in the June 8 general election, the outcome of which - a victory for Prime Minister Theresa May against Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, yet a hung parliament - reflected a split in voter perception over whom was to blame for the country's precarious security situation and which party is better suited to rectify it.
Although Corbyn has called terrorist groups, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, his "friends," May not only has been holding the reins since the resignation of former Prime Minister David Cameron in September 2016 -after the Brexit referendum - but she had also served as Home Secretary for six years before that.
A few months earlier, in January, Cameron authorized an investigation into the foreign funding of radical Islamist groups inside Britain. According to a recent report in The Guardian, Cameron agreed to the inquiry, requested by the Liberal Democrat party in exchange for its support for British airstrikes against ISIS to Syria. The probe was to be conducted by the newly established "extremism analysis unit" of the Home Office, then headed by May, and its findings were due to be published in the spring of 2016.
However, more than a year later, the investigation has yet to be completed.
Moreover, its contents might not be released to the public, due their "sensitive" nature, rumored to center on Saudi Arabia, Britain's key ally in the Gulf. Since the U.K. recently approved £3.5 billion-worth of arms export licenses to Riyadh, it is possible - even likely - that any revelations about Saudi promotion of terrorism in the country could be problematic.
During his election campaign, Corbyn attacked May for "suppressing" the report, and called for "some difficult conversations" with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, which have "funded and fueled extremist ideology."
In a letter to Prime Minister May just over a week ahead of her re-election, Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake urged that the inquiry be finished and its findings released:
It is no secret that Saudi Arabia in particular provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the U.K., espousing a very hardline Wahhabist interpretation of Islam. It is often in these institutions that British extremism takes root.
Brake was correct. Mounting evidence suggests that British jihadis are not only groomed in Wahhabi mosques in the U.K., but many visit Saudi Arabia, where they work or study.
One example is Khalid Masood, the British convert to Islam killed while perpetrating the terrorist attack on Westminster Bridge in March, and which left five innocent people dead. Masood, it emerged, had taken three trips to Saudi Arabia - two of them year-long stints to teach English and a third short visit to the country's Islamic holy sites. Each time, he was given a visa by the Saudi authorities in Britain, despite having been convicted at least twice for violent crimes and lacking the required academic qualifications and experience for the job he was doing.
Although Saudi consulates require background checks of all visa applicants, Masood was ushered through the process, which is known to be strict. By way of explanation, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in London claimed that the reason Masood passed its vetting was that he did not have a criminal record in Saudi Arabia. This is, of course, a complete lie, which raises the question of whether Masood fell through the cracks through incompetence or collusion. Either way, the broader issue of Britons being radicalized both at home and abroad by Saudi Arabia urgently needs to be thoroughly examined and exposed.