Cut off the Wahabi cash flow

The Australian, May 2007

THE Government of Saudi Arabia is continuing to fund extremists within the Australian Muslim community. It does this partly through the Saudi embassy in Canberra. It ought to stop. Saudi Arabia is a theocratic monarchy that recognises no distinction within its rule between politics and religion. It adheres to an extremely conservative and paranoid version of Islam known as Wahabism, which it tries to promote throughout the world.

It also has a history of funding terrorists. It was the chief bankroller of the Palestine Liberation Organisation in the 1970s and ‘80s at the height of the PLO’s involvement in global terror. But it would be true to say that, worldwide, the Saudis tend to fund the precursors to terror rather than terror itself. Since the 9/11 attacks in the US, in which the majority of hijackers were Saudis, the Saudi Government, under intense US pressure, has tried to exercise greater care and control over where Saudi money goes.

... tens of millions of dollars of Saudi money had also come into Australia. In the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s, this was fairly open. The Saudis funded mosques, Islamic schools and various special courses. They promoted Wahabi literature widely. All of this material promoted an extreme version of Islam, but in those pre-9/11 days nobody worried.

... in 2004, Saudi officials came to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade with their own proposal. They would in future notify the Australian Government of any Saudi funds coming to Australia. DFAT naturally agreed. This agreement is what allows the Saudi embassy occasionally to claim that its activities in Australia are approved by the Australian Government.

But there is every reason to believe this agreement has been almost wholly ineffective. First, it only covers new Saudi money, it doesn’t cover any existing pre-agreement payments the Saudis might be making. Thus, due to the outstanding reporting of Richard Kerbaj in this newspaper, we now know that the Saudi embassy has been paying an annual stipend, alleged to be about $US30,000 ($36,000), to the imam of Canberra’s Abu Bakr Mosque, one Imran Mohammed Swaiti. Kerbaj has also written that Swaiti has preached sermons in Arabic calling for victory to the mujaheddin, including, but not limited to, victory in Iraq and Afghanistan ...

However, the agreement is not working, as the Swaiti case demonstrates. Not only is there the giant loophole of not covering existing arrangements, the agreement also specifically does not cover private donations from Saudis, which they consider to be part of their religious duties.

More: the Australian, Wahhabism