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July 26, 2017

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Saudi Arabia 'is the biggest promoter of Islamist extremism in Britain'

LONDON — Saudi Arabia is the biggest promoter of Islamist extremism in Britain, funding mosques, religious training and publications, according to a study published on Wednesday.

Saudi Arabia has "sponsored a multimillion-dollar effort to export Wahhabi Islam across the Islamic world, including to Muslim communities in the West," said the study by the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank focusing on human rights and international relations.

It said Saudi Arabia operates several large charities that fund Islamic education worldwide, including in Britain, spending at least 67 billion pounds (US$87 billion) on the programs over the past 50 years.

"However, in practice, the form of education advanced by these institutions involves a concerted effort to promote the hard-line Wahhabi interpretation of Islam endorsed by the Saudi state," it said, highlighting the role of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the Muslim World League.

The influence of the Saudi funding is seen in Britain and other Western nations through the "prevalence of Islamist extremist preachers and literature, including the use of Saudi school textbooks," and scholarships for clerics to train in Saudi Arabia.

The promotion of Salafi-Wahhabi ideology has "gradually contributed to changing the climate of religious belief and practice" in many Muslim communities, the study found, and "created a challenge for moderate voices and empowered extremists."

The release of the study comes amid pressure on Prime Minister Theresa May to publish an apparently delayed government report examining the role of Saudi Arabia and other nations in encouraging extremism in Britain.

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