Ex-ambassador speaks out: How Qatar funds extremism in the West
Sir John Jenkins lifts the lid on the mysterious Gulf state
Qatar, a previously small and little-known country in the Middle East, has come to much wider public attention as the host of this year’s World Cup. Its critics have focused on human rights abuses and the treatment of migrant workers in the construction of tournament stadiums. Less talked about, but something much closer to home, is Qatar’s hand in promoting Islamist ideas in Western countries. A new report by think tank Policy Exchange investigates this very issue, and has come to some quite extraordinary conclusions. The lead author of the study, Sir John Jenkins, a former ambassador with a 35-year diplomatic career in the Middle East, joined Freddie Sayers in the studio to explain.
It is rare for senior diplomats to speak out about the countries in which they worked. But Jenkins does not mince his words. He claims that the tiny, oil-rich state of Qatar represents many contradictory impulses. It is at once highly backward and undemocratic and yet outwardly engaged with liberal Western cultures. It has fewer than 3 million inhabitants, only around 350,000 of them nationals, but commands an international influence disproportionate to its size. Western understanding of its motivations is limited, despite a long history of diplomatic relations in the region.
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But dedicated Islamist factions of the Qatari top brass are not content to sit in this state of contradiction. Their aim, this report argues, is to spread a fundamentalist form of Islam beyond the Middle East. Their impact is well-hidden but, according to Jenkins, it is insidious.
In Sheffield, the influence of Qatari money became unusually visible in 2020 with the opening of the Emaan Islamic Centre. According to its website, this multi-purpose mosque and community building ‘provides a comprehensive set of facilities and activities for the whole of the Muslim community in the area’. So many facilities, it turned out, that Muslims in Sheffield had less and less reason to integrate with their non-Muslim neighbours.
Leading the project was Ahmed Al-Rawi, a former president of the Muslim Association of Britain and trustee of the European Institute for Human Sciences (a charity with links to the Muslim Brotherhood). In 2004, Al-Rawi signed a bayyan, or declaration, supporting uprisings against the “filth of occupation” by both Iraqis and Palestinians.
The project also received millions of pounds of funding from Qatar Charity UK. Jenkins’s report investigates the CEO of QCUK, a Qatari official, Yousuf Al-Kuwari. Al-Kuwari founded the website Islamweb, which publishes fatwas and has advised its Muslim readers: ‘It is incumbent to hate [Jews and Christians] for the sake of Allah’.
The report compiles a list of UK, US and European institutions that are partly or fully funded by Qatari money. If, as Jenkins asserts, financial intervention is part of a wider plan for ideological influence, then it is a stark reminder of their reach.
Amongst UK beneficiaries of the Qatari Investment Authority or private Qatari individuals are:
- Heathrow Airport
- British Airways
- The Shard
- The Savoy
- Canary Wharf Group
- The London Stock Exchange
- The Ritz
- Former US Embassy building, Grosvenor Square
Qatar also has a claim to:
- 10% of the Empire State Building
- 10% of Tiffany’s
- 25% of St. Petersburg Airport
- 19% of Russia’s biggest oil company, Rosneft
- 5% of Credit Suisse bank
- Paris Saint-Germain Football Club
- Valentino and Balmain fashion houses
- Media outlet Al Jazeera
- Film production company Miramax
In March 2021, Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire was the site of hardline blasphemy protests that resulted in the suspension of one of its teachers. The suspension came after the teacher showed students a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad during a religious studies lesson. The backlash was fierce and the school gates saw dozens of parents calling for the teacher to be sacked. Eventually the staff member had to be moved into police protection after receiving death threats. The school in question, it turned out, was listed on the Qatar Foundation International website as being one of at least a dozen schools across the UK that receives funding from Qatar.
With tactics like this, Jenkins’s report concludes, Qatar is not only funding Islamist ideas in the West, but it is laying the groundwork for a ‘normative hegemony’ that is the end goal of extremists.
This may be seen as a variation of that Chesterton quote. When people don’t believe in God, they’ll believe in anything. In this case in UK, as Christianity is departing, it seems that the gap it leaves behind is beginning to get filled by Islam albeit in an indirect way.
It might not be “indirect” for long.
It would be quite interesting if we’d start seeing conversions into Islam from the population. King Charles himself had an interest for a while IIRC.
Islam is typically seen through a rather racial lens in discussions, but in fact it’s a universalist religion, its ethnic makeup (despite many in the West probably thinking them as “brown people” at least unconsciously) is rather varied between Arabic, African and Asian peoples.
Checking for what universalist means:
“Universalists believed it impossible that a loving God would elect only a portion of humankind to salvation and doom the rest to eternal punishment”
Nope, that isn’t Islam.
Islam is not a Christian sect, certainly not a Protestant one. It’d be a mistake to expect it to be. Is it universal? Certainly so. Few other other religions or societies historically (think racial segregation for Christianity in Northern America and parts of Europe, Brahmins/caste system in India, ethnic nature of Judaism, or ethnocentric forms of paganism or ethnic religions/societies – Iran/Japan/etc) have been nearly as inclusive as Islam.
And don’t forget European peoples (for example Bosnia, Herzegovina and Albania).
Twenty odd years ago I remember reading about an Islamic ‘tipping point’ whereby Islam reaching 10 percent in Britain would render it impossible to contain.
the latest census figures makes for chilling reading.
Thank you, Sir John, for lending your expertise to this dangerous problem. What you lay out is absolute proof of what we see and intuit when we look at Muslim on Muslim violence, Muslim on Kafir violence, and hatred of Jews. The next step must be to appropriately delegitimize Islam and eliminate this influence in Europe and the Americas. Islamic colonisation is a forever project and needs to stopped in its tracks.
A fascinating discussion from a very knowledgeable individual highlighting a real issue. I would love to think that politicians would see this and take note, but as was said, they don’t understand the issue and are not brave enough to take any corrective action.
Qatar funds Al Jazeera. ‘Nuff said.
Given ownership clarity (UBO) is coming up repeatedly in concerns about financial crime and influence in the UK, Freddie could do an interview with an expert in this space, as progress has been made and is continuing.
Or at least there is an Unherd article to write…..
I was gripped by this conversation. Sir John thoroughly knows his subject and the questions asked were to the point and directly ensured the findings were stated for us all to take note of. Top marks.
Is this really a surprise? The biggest mosques in Europe are funded by the Saudis, the aim has, and always will be, to colonise and impose Islam on any part of the world that as yet, has not succumbed to its culture and doctrines. I’m afraid we’re way past containing its spread in the west, the genie is out the bottle, helped and encouraged by ignorant and rather stupid liberal idealogues that believe anything but the reality of Islam’s destructive incursion into western democracies. Reported population representations in the U.K are hugely underplayed to avoid potentially aggravated reality checks and with an ever confident, growing Islamic population that is virtually untouchable and beyond scrutiny and reproach, the game is over. The West and its utter greed and arrogance has not only got caught sleeping at the wheel, but it’s also taken our values, our position of influence, our cultural standards and most importantly, our national safety and security, and sold us down the river.
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