Tension rose gradually between Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt. The four countries decided to sever their diplomatic relations with Doha, close all ports to the transportation coming to and from Qatar and prevent the crossing of Qatari transport in the territory, airspace and territorial waters. Qatari diplomatic missions were given 48 hours to leave.
These new tensions came against what was published by the Qatari News Agency from the statements of the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, criticizing the US President Donald Trump’s policies towards Iran, saying: “There is no wisdom in standing against Iran.”
In the controversial statement, Sheikh Tamim defended Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslims Brotherhood. The Gulf countries such as the UAE and Saudi Arabia responded by blocking Qatari satellite channels, websites and newspapers. As per the recent escalations, the controversial relationship between Qatar and terrorism attracted worldwide attention.
Taliban headquarters and relations with al-Qaeda
In October 2016, Taliban stated that its political bureau in Qatar was the sole authorized venue for negotiations on its behalf, although the office was formally closed in 2013. There is no doubt that a number of members of Taliban stayed in Qatar.
Osama Bin Laden’s agent, the dissident Jamal Abdul-Fadel, moved to the United States in 1996 and testified that Osama bin Laden told him in 1993 that the Qatar Charity Association, now known as Qatar Charity, was one of al-Qaeda’s main sources of funding. According to the US Department of Defense, the infamous al-Qaeda agent Khalid Sheikh Mohammed moved to Qatar in 1993 in response to a proposal by Qatari Minister of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs Abdullah bin Khalid bin Hamad al-Thani, a prominent member of the ruling family.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who fought alongside Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abdullah Azzam, was able to find a job at Qatar’s Ministry of Water and Electricity, to become later the mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks.
The current scenario
Despite its small space, a number of US officials consider Qatar as the primary source of private donations to the extremists groups in Syria and Iraq. Perhaps, the most common case is the one that put Abdel Rahman al-Naimi, a Qatari national, on the list of names sponsoring terrorism by the United States, the United Nations and the European Union because of his funding for al-Qaeda militants. Naimi is probably still a free man in Qatar because there is no news of official charges against him. In addition, Al Naimi has been appointed as the Director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, which is likely to receive government support. The current director of the center, Azmi Bishara, received Qatari nationality having fled his country after being suspected of selling the secrets of Israeli security to the Hezbollah.
In 2014, David Weinberg, senior researcher at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, published a report entitled ‘Qatar and the funding of Terrorism’, referring to a number of terrorism funding issues that Qatar has been focusing on over the past decade, in which its policies failed to impose control.
In addition to terrorism and the general Political Islam’s empty slogans, it is undeniable that dozens of dissidents, opponents, militiamen and influential religious men from all over the Arab world reside in Qatar. The other GCC countries have repeatedly expressed their frustration at Doha giving sanctuary to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.Sarah Broskivic
In addition to terrorism and the general Political Islam’s empty slogans, it is undeniable that dozens of dissidents, opponents, militiamen and influential religious men from all over the Arab world reside in Qatar. The other GCC countries have repeatedly expressed their frustration at Doha giving sanctuary to the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists.
With regard to the Muslim Brotherhood, tensions reached its highest level in March 2014 when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates withdrew their ambassadors from Doha for eight months. Since this diplomatic crisis, Qatar has reduced its support for Islamic thinkers within its borders, but is still far from adopting an approach that restricts their activities.
Qatar in Europe
Interestingly, Qatar is well known for its funding of the largest number of projects in the West, especially those involving religious affairs.
One of the most controversial issues in France is the suburban issue. In 2011, prominent Muslim figures met with some of the residents of those suburbs that are predominantly inhabited by Muslims. They discuss the situation in those areas characterized by a high proportion of Muslim immigrants living in poor neighborhoods, where the unemployment rate among youth exceeds 20 percent. One of the outcomes of those discussions was Qatar’s investment in these neighborhoods through the signing of some agreements with the Qatari ambassador. This decision was followed by deep skepticism, which is inevitable.
In his study entitled ‘The suburbs of the Republic. (Banlieue de la Republique), the French political science specialist Gilles Kipel warned that Qatari investments would not achieve financial returns: “They are buying influence.”
According to reliable data, Qatari investments are around $22 billion, not just on the suburbs of the capital.
Firstly, as David Weinberg points out, it is hard to imagine that people living outside Qatar know more than Qataris about illegal funding, so more efforts must be exerted not to give safe haven to terrorists and Islamists.
Secondly, Western governments should be aware of the ideological motivations that might be behind the investment of a foreign country in local neighborhoods, so as to avoid turning them into areas to spread extremism more than they are now.