SHAFAQNA – Earlier this January PM Minister David Cameron admitted he fears cash from Saudi Arabia is funding schools that encourage extremism, but said a cosy relationship with the Arab nation is GOOD for Britain’s security.
The Prime Minister defended his Government’s close relationship with the hardline Gulf state, calling it a vital ally.
Saudi Arabia has come under increasing scrutiny amid claims the fanatical ‘Wahhabi’ strain of Islam – centred in Saudi Arabia – inspired the growth of Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists.
Saudi rulers, who recently sparked international outrage with their mass execution of 47 prisoners earlier this year, have also faced accusations they have tried to export puritanical Wahhabism abroad over the last three decades, at a cost of £67billion ($100bn).
The cash is spent on building mosques or establishing ‘madrassas’ – religious schools – in other Muslim nations such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and parts of Africa.
There have also been suggestions Saudi money is financing extremist groups in Britain.
Mr Cameron confessed “we need to look very carefully” at education programmes funded through Saudi Arabia, but suggested Riyadh had already awoken to the issue itself.
Asked whether there was a link between extremism in the UK and money from Saudi Arabia, the Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We do need to look at where money… it is already illegal for anyone to fund extremist groups in our country. We ban, proscribe, extremist groups.
“I think there are deeper connections where you see what is being taught in schools – not perhaps always here but around the world – and the money that is funding those educational materials.
“That’s a conversation that’s starting to happen.”
“I think Saudi Arabia and other countries know that is an area they need to look at.”
But despite the growing row over Britain’s links to Saudi Arabia, which includes multi-billion pound defence contracts and secretive security deals, Mr Cameron defended his ministers’ close workings with Riyadh.
Highlighting Saudi’s own efforts to combat radicals, he said: “Our relationship with Saudi Arabia is important for our own security.
“They are opponents of Daesh [ISIL] and this extremist terrorism that is causing so much damage in our world.”
Earlier this month, Ukip leader Nigel Farage challenged Mr Cameron to be a “little bit more gutsy” and rethink Britain’s relationship with “our great mates” in Riyadh.
He said: “I think it’s time we had a reappraisal of who Saudi Arabia are, what our relationship is and stop extremist talk turning the minds of young male Muslims in this country towards terrorism