Saudi charities linked to terror groups
Saudi Arabia’s support for institutions promoting Wahhabism, the rigid and puritanical strain of Islam, from Washington to Islamabad and Manila, is now in the spotlight as governments realise that curbing their influence is as crucial as hunting bombers on suicide missions.
Backed by resources from the kingdom, some of these institutions built or took over mosques, set up schools and colleges and offered scholarships to Muslim students to study Islam in prestigious universities in the Middle East.
Most nations had no reservations before Sept 11, 2001.
The terror attacks in New York and Washington and the string of bombings thereafter from Bali to Casablanca exposed the shadowy influence of Wahhabism, mainly through Saudi financing of Islamic charities.
But Arab News’ editor-in-chief Khalid Al-Maena believes it is wrong to blame the charities or Wahhabism for the spurt in violence.
‘People are watching the Palestinian suppression on television. What does a poor man do? He simply joins the fight to relay his voice. We are not tackling the root causes of poverty and deprivation that lead to terrorism.’
Yet, there are others who believe there simply has to be higher accountability of flow of funds from charities.
‘Saudi charities have been the primary vehicles for the spread of Wahhabism in South-east Asia,’ Mr Zachary Abuza, Boston-based author of Militant Islam In South-east Asia: Crucible Of Terror, told The Straits Times.
But it is their links to terrorist groups such as the Jemaah Islamiah (JI) and Moro Islamic Liberation Front and paramilitary groups like the Laskar Jundullah that have fought in the Malukus and Sulawesi that are worrying, he said.
Highlighting the close ties, he said arrested JI militant Agus Dwikarna – who is in prison in the Philippines after being convicted for possessing explosives and suspected of being involved in bombings there – was the regional field officer for Indonesian Islamic charity Kompak’s office in Makassar.
Kompak received funding from at least two Saudi charities, the Al-Haramain Foundation and the Islamic International Relief Organisation.
And its founder Aris Munandar, the former right-hand man of Islamic cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, was a ‘very senior official’ with the Al-Hara- main Foundation.
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