The German vice-chancellor has publicly accused Saudi Arabia of financing Islamic extremism in the West and warned that it must stop. Sigmar Gabriel said that the Saudi regime is funding extremist mosques and communities that pose a danger to public security. “We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Mr Gabriel told Bild am Sonntag newspaper in an interview.
“Wahhabi mosques all over the world are financed by Saudi Arabia. Many Islamists who are a threat to public safety come from these communities in Germany.” The allegation that Saudi Arabia has funded mosques with links to Islamist terrorism in the West is not new. But it is highly unusual for a Western leader to speak out so directly against the West’s key Arab ally.
But Mr Gabriel’s remarks make it clear there are serious misgivings about the Saudi regime within the government. Wahhabism, a fundamentalist sect of Sunni Islam that inspired both Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) and al-Qaeda is also the official form of the religion in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudis have long funded the building of Wahhabi mosques around the world to spread the sect. King Salman has already been widely criticised in the German media for offering to build 200 mosques for Syrian refugees arriving in Germany, even as Saudi Arabia refuses to take in any refugees itself. Mr Gabriel’s linking of Saudi-funded mosques to Islamic extremism will heighten concerns over the offer. It is not the first time he has clashed with the Saudi royal family.
Isil has claimed responsibility for a number of terror attacks in Saudi Arabia.
But there have also been persistent allegations the Saudis supplied arms and funding to Isil and other jihadist groups in the Syrian civil war.