Date: Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Qatar’s support for Islamist groups in the West has frequently popped up in the media. While the country’s role in supporting and financing Islamists was well-known in the international community, most Western countries have been reluctant to carry out thorough investigations due to economic interests.
However, the threat of extremism posed by Qatar’s brand of political Islam is serious and should give the West pause. This is particularly true for Europe, which has suffered a series of terror attacks in recent years.
A report published by Swiss daily Le Temps stated that Switzerland’s Federal Intelligence Service (FIS) has investigated suspicious relations between Qatar, including the Qatari royal family, and figures supporting terrorism.
The report is no surprise given Qatar’s past and confirms information previously released by Gulf authorities. It specifically implicates Abd Al-Rahman al-Nuaimi, co-founder of the NGO Al Karama; Ali Abdullah al-Suwaidi, chairman of the Internationaler Islamischer Rat (IIR); and Nicolas Blancho, head of the Islamic Central Council of Switzerland (ICCS). The three individuals and entities have been named by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as sponsors of terrorism.
The report, which was based partly on information provided to the FIS by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, shows that Switzerland is hoping to clear itself — especially its banking system — of potential allegations of wrongdoing that involve the financing of terrorist groups under the cover of charities and humanitarian aid.
Among the specific findings of the report were ties between al-Qaeda-linked ideologue Abdullah al-Muhaysini, Nuaimi and Suwaidi. Nuaimi was designated as a terrorist by the US government in December 2013 and by the United Nations in September 2014 over his financial support for terror groups.
The US Treasury Department claimed Nuaimi provided millions of dollars to al-Qaeda in Iraq. He has also been accused of sending hundreds of thousands of dollars to al-Qaeda members in Syria, al- Shabaab members from Somalia and al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula via a charity in Yemen.
Even more, the Swiss investigation linked those designated terrorists to national Qatari institutions. Nuaimi formerly served as the head of the Qatar Football Association, was a founder and board member of Eid Charity in Qatar and served as a top adviser to the government of Qatar on charitable donations, the report said. Eid Charity in Qatar, which describes its mission as “financing mosques around the world,” is run by Suwaidi.
By leaking the investigation to the media, Switzerland hoped to show it was fully committed to the global fight against terror and send a clear message that its government was cracking down on its infamously lax banking legislation.
More than anything, however, the Swiss investigation aimed to shake the foundations of Qatar’s insidious campaign in Europe, through which charities and investments were used as covers for promoting extremism. In the long run, the investigation might spur other European countries to look into Doha’s activities abroad.
It could also spell trouble for Qatar’s ties to Switzerland, which are already on shaky ground. In July 2017, Swiss citizens protested in Zurich against Doha’s alleged support for terrorism. The demonstrators demanded that Swiss authorities sever ties with the Qatari regime and called on Switzerland to join other European and Arab countries in imposing strict measures against the country until Doha meets key demands.
Qatar has long been affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and provides financial support to the group and its offshoots. Former Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani had close ties to the movement.
Always aiming to gain independence on the international scene, Qatar has recruited large numbers of teachers who are members of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which describes its core activities as running hospitals, schools and providing social services, never fulfilled this mission in Qatar, a wealthy state capable of providing these services on its own. As a result, domestic politics in Qatar has been off-limits for Islamists, who have directed their activities overseas. Doha’s support for Islamist organisations around the world has helped keep the domestic Islamist movement at bay while promoting Islamist thought in Europe.