Qatar gradually is emerging as one of the top-most patrons of radical Islam and militancy. While it is known to everyone – Qatar has been providing millions of dollars to the mega-terrorist outfit Hamas, surely with the hidden desire of putting Israel under continuous terrorist threats, now the oil-rich nation has started playing another card in turning Jamaat e Islami Bangladesh (JIB) and Myanmar-based Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as deadly threats to regional as well as global security.
Qatar, bordered by Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf, has been accused of allowing terror financiers to operate within its borders. The country has been called “the Club Med for Terrorists” by Ron Prosor, an Israeli diplomat and “most two-faced nation in the world, backing the U.S.-led coalition against the militants of the Islamic State while providing a permissive environment”, in the words of one top American official, “for terrorist financiers to operate with impunity”. Accusations come from a wide variety of sources including intelligence reports, government officials, and journalists. At the official level, the Qatari government has been accused of supporting Hamas, the Palestinian group regarded as a foreign terrorist organization by the United States, Israel, Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. It also is accused of financing Muslim Brotherhood and Al Qaeda.
In 2003, the U.S. Congress was made aware that a plethora of charities based in Qatar were supporting al-Qaeda’s activities by helping move and launder funds for the terrorist group. In December 2013, the United States designated a Qatari, Abd Al-Rahman al-Nuaimi, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT). The U.S. Treasury Department placed sanctions on Nuaymi and declared him a “Qatar-based terrorist financier and facilitator who has provided money and material support and conveyed communications to al-Qa’ida and its affiliates in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and Yemen for more than a decade.”
Furthermore, in an August 2014 op-ed published in the New York Times entitled “Club Med for Terrorists”, Ron Prosor alleged that Qatar sought to improve its global image by funding prominent foreign universities in Doha and hosting the 2022 World Cup while simultaneously supporting Hamas, al-Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood. In December 2014, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL) requested that the U.S. government, in a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury, impose sanctions on Qatar. The two congressmen asked for a full report on activities within Qatar from individuals, charities and organizations that fund Hamas, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the al-Nusra Front. The State Department responded to the lawmakers’ letters by stating that the US has a “productive relationship with Qatar”, pointing out that Qatar has improved its counter-terrorism efforts in past years, although it conceded that Qatar’s monitoring and prosecution of terrorist financiers and charities has remained “inconsistent”.
In December 2014, 24 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee signed a letter suggesting that Qatar and Turkey be subject to U.S. sanctions if their governments keep turning a blind eye to terror finance.
Let us not forget, Qataris are masters of hedging. We see Doha’s caution most clearly in the face of the Saudi and Emirati-led blockade, to which Qatari leaders have responded by both focusing on better relations with Iran and Turkey. Hedging is not only confined to Qatar’s geo-political plays; it also guides Doha’s relationships and influence with Muslim communities abroad, Islamist movements, and terrorist groups.
Let us note, Qatar is one of the two countries in the world that subscribes to the Wahhabi current within Islam. Doha does not, however, only support Wahhabi Muslims; it is also a prominent backer of Muslim Brotherhood networks and other Salafi movements around the world. It also has special affection for anti-Semitic forces such as Hamas, Jamaat e Islami etc., while as part of its ambition of emerging as the leader of the Muslim world, Qatar has started providing millions of dollars to militancy outfits such as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as well as Jamaat e Islami. Such huge fund is being generated from the state-controlled charity, such as Qatar Charity and Sheikh Eid al-Thani Charitable Association, also known as the Eid Charity. It should be mentioned here, both Qatar Charity and the Eid Charity are very active across Asia, Africa and Europe. For its European operations, Qatar Charity set up its own organization in London in March 2012. Qatar Charity UK (QCUK) listed its first board members as Yousef al-Kuwari, the CEO of the Qatar Charity in Doha, along with the American-educated Yousef al-Hammadi, an executive at Qatari Diar – part of the Qatar Sovereign Wealth Fund structure.
According to Ronald Sandee is co-founder of Blue Water Intelligence and a former counter-terrorism analyst for the Dutch government, after establishing an office in London, the Qatar Charity quickly expanded its activities to other parts of Europe, including France, Belgium and Italy. It began to support Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Europe that were members of the Federation of Islamic Organisations in Europe (FIOE), the Muslim Brotherhood umbrella organization. Recently, Qatar Charity UK also started operations in the United States, where it is funding the building of the Memphis Islamic Centre in Tennessee, which is led by the prominent American Salafi cleric Yasir Qadhi.
As QCUK embraced larger projects – particularly the financing of the building of Islamic Centers in European countries – scrutiny of its activities grew. Consequently, boardmembers were replaced, possibly to give the organization less of a Qatari feel. Its name was even changed in 2017 to Nectar Trust Ltd.
The parent organization in Doha works closely with the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, and his various Doha-based organizations. The Qatar Charity also works with outspoken critics of the Saudi government. The Saudi Islamist cleric and scholar Salman al-Awda, for example, not only served as a member of Qaradawi’s International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS) but was also appointed to manage a prominent Qatar Charity project.
Qatar’s Eid Charity, which is mostly been active in Asia and Africa, and in the recently in Europe as well was The charity was founded by Abd al-Rahman al-Nuaimi, who in 2013 was designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT) for funding al-Qaeda in both Iraq and Syria.
In Europe, the Eid Charity cooperates closely with Salafi organizations in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands and Kosovo; and in recent years, it has started its own projects in Kosovo, Albania, Germany and the Netherlands – spreading its radical, Islamist message throughout Europe.
Al-Qaeda operatives have also directly enjoyed support from prominent Qatari figures. There is evidence that a former Qatari minister of the interior invited the leading Al Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM) in the mid-1990s to move from Bosnia, where KSM was fighting, to come live in Qatar. KSM accepted this offer, moved to Qatar and lived there a couple of years before he was tipped off by the Qataris that the Americans were seeking his arrest. KSM left the country on a Qatari passport to Pakistan.
Today, the family of Osama bin Laden live in Qatar. The ‘Bin Laden Villa’ in Doha houses most of the women and children of the deceased al-Qaeda founder.
Jamaat e Islami in the eyes of American policymakers:
In the eyes of American policymakers and security agencies, Jamaat e Islami (JI) is seen as the American front for South Asian Islamist movement.
Romance between Al Jazeera and Jamaat e Islami:
Laila Al-Arian, daughter of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) board member Sami Al-Arian, is an influential producer at the Qatari-owned Al Jazeera news network. She has vociferously defended her father as simply an “activist” and a victim of the “pro-Israel lobby” even though the presiding judge in his 2005 trial concluded that Sami Al-Arian was indeed a leader of the terrorist PIJ. Laila also is a great defender of Hamas and Jamaat e Islami and shows special enthusiasm particularly in helping Jamaat e Islami in establishing “Allah’s rule” in Bangladesh as well as South Asia.
Jamaat e Islami in Qatar:
Militancy-linked Jamaat e Islami has its existence in Qatar. It is operating under the umbrella of ‘Indian Islamic Association’ (IIA), located at Mansoora, Ibn Katheer Street, Behind Holiday Villa Hotel-Doha, website: www.iiaqatar.org.
In July 2017, Bangladeshi intelligence services and the Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU) investigated 17 national and international NGOs on suspicion of financing terrorism. The NGOs include the Bangladesh Krishi Kalyan Samity, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, Rabeta Al-Alam al-Islami, Qatar Charitable Society, Islamic Relief Agency, Al-Furkan Foundation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee, International Islamic Relief Organization (IRO), Hayatul Ighachha, Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, Tawhidi Noor, and Al-Muntada al-Islami.
According to the BFIU 2014 annual report, there were 619 such suspicious transactions in Bangladesh, up from 420 a year before, and 175 in 2011-2012.
Qatar financing Jamaat e Islami and ARSA:
Being known as a terror-patron nation, Qatar has recently started funding Jamaat e Islami as well as Myanmar-based Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARMY). This relations between the Islamist groups and Qatar pose grave threat to regional and global security.