Theresa May’s government is facing mounting criticism for its refusal to publish a report on the foreign funding for UK-based Islamist extremist groups.
The report does not look into the funding of extremist groups from UK-based sources, but focuses exclusively on the funding of operations of extremist groups in the UK.
On Wednesday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd boasted that the report “gives us the best picture we have ever had of how extremists operating in the UK sustain their activities.” But, she suppressed the publication of the document on grounds of “national” and “personal” security.
On the one hand, the government does not dwell in detail over what national security considerations dictate the suppression of the report; on the other hand, Mrs. Rudd suggests the government wants to protect witnesses or, more broadly, “personal information” contained in the report.
The Home Secretary that succeeded Prime Minister, Theresa May, notes that the report commissioned in November 2015 by former Prime Minister David Cameron was never meant to be published.
The Labour, Liberal, and Green opposition made clear on Wednesday they believe that the government is covering up Saudi funding of extremism in the UK. Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbot said the people had “the right to know” the source of funding of extremist organizations operating in Britain.
The UK has experienced three deadly terrorist attacks since March 2017, two of which during the electoral campaign. All three have been attributed to Islamic terrorism.
Earlier this week, the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) think tank released its own report on foreign funding for Islamist extremism in the UK, noting that such funds originate primarily from the Gulf States, but also Iran. Saudi Arabia is seen as spearheading the funding of extremist organization, having spent tens of billions of dollars to spread Wahhabi Islam since the 1960s around the world. The Saudi government denies the link between the Saudi Kingdom and Islamic extremism, while the Information Minister Awwad Alawwad has challenged HJS to produce concrete evidence of its claims, Reuters reports.
The content of the report
Mrs. Rudd’s only concession on Wednesday was to relinquish a two-page two page summary of the report on the nature, scale, and origin of funding for extremist organizations. Some opposition MPs under oath of confidentiality (Privy Councilors) will be allowed to review the full version.
The summary suggests that most money funding extremism in the UK comes from individual, anonymous, and British-based sources. The summary notes that these donors are not necessarily aware how this money is being spent and may believe they support a charity.
The report also admits that certain organizations do secure significant “overseas” funding, although where from exactly is not spelled out in the summary.
There are currently two probes on British charities linked with alleged funding of al-Qaeda and Isis, operating under the pretext of support for Kurdish victims in Syria.
The UK government now intends to increase the “public awareness” of donors and set new standards of transparency to ensure that the financial sector does not “inadvertently” support jihadis. Most prominently, since 2015 all charities in the UK must declare overseas funding to the UK’s independent Charity Commission.