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Ministers were today braced for new accusations of a cover-up after an official report confirmed that overseas funding is fuelling Islamist extremism in Britain.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd told MPs that the report — which was commissioned amid claims that money from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states was promoting the spread of Islamist ideology — had found that organisations of “extremism concern” had received “significant” sums from abroad.
She said that money from overseas also had paid for Britons to study “deeply conservative forms of Islam” and funded preachers who had come to this country to spread a similar message. She added that some of those who had benefited had become of “extremism concern”.
In response, Ms Rudd announced new measures to tackle overseas funding through a new requirement for charities to declare any money received from abroad. She said the Government would also be ready to confront their overseas counterparts when evidence of “issues of concern” arose.
But the Home Secretary’s decision not to publish the report, which she attributed to national security reasons and the level of personal information it contained, was expected to produce a backlash from MPs who have previously called for the full contents to be made public.
Announcing her decision in a parliamentary statement, Ms Rudd said the report provided the “best picture we have ever had of how extremists operating in the UK sustain their activities”.
The main finding was that Islamist extremist organisations in the UK received most of their funding “from small, anonymous public donations” of which the majority were probably given by fellow British residents.
She said that some of the donors “may not know or support the organisations’ full agenda” and that some extremist groups portrayed themselves as charities “to increase their credibility and to take advantage of Islam’s emphasis on charity”.
Ms Rudd warned, however, that “overseas funding is a significant source of income” for a “small number” of extremist organisations.
She added: “Overseas support has allowed individuals to study at institutions that teach deeply conservative forms of Islam and provide highly socially conservative literature and preachers to the UK’s Islamic institutions.
“Some of these individuals have since become of extremist concern.”
The Home Secretary said that further public awareness campaigns would now be mounted to encourage people to check the nature of organisations they were supporting. Efforts would also be made “across the financial services sector and grant making trusts and foundations” to ensure that money passing from them was not inadvertently supporting extremism.
Today’s move follows a report earlier this month by the Henry Jackson Society think tank which claimed that Saudi Arabia is the chief foreign promoter of Islamist extremism in the UK.
The think tank added that there was a “clear and growing link” between Islamist organisations backed by overseas funds, hate preachers and extremist groups promoting violence.
It called for a public inquiry into the role of Saudi Arabia — which has denounced the allegations as false — and other Gulf nations.
Last week’s report by the society said that “some of Britain’s most prominent Islamist extremist preachers — men such as Abu Qatada, Abu Hamza, Abdullah al Faisal and Sheikh Omar Bakri” — were all followers of a Wahabi-style ideology promoted by Saudi Arabia.
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