Thinktank accuses Saudi regime over hate literature
Matthew Weaver and agencies; Guardian Unlimited, October 30, 2007
The controversial state visit of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, which got under way today with a lavish ceremony, has prompted new criticism over his regime's alleged role in distributing hate literature in British mosques.
The Policy Exchange thinktank found extremist literature in a quarter of the 100 mosques and Islamic institutions it visited, including London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, which is funded by Saudi Arabia.
Some of the literature advocated violent jihad, murdering gay people and stoning adulterers, its researchers found.
Most of the material is produced by agencies closely linked to the Saudi regime, according to the investigation.
The prime minister, Gordon Brown, was urged to challenge King Abdullah about the literature when he meets him tomorrow.
The government is already under pressure to raise concerns that the regime is involved in torture and other human rights abuses.
Researchers from the right-of-centre thinktank spent more than a year visiting nearly 100 Muslim religious institutions across the country, and found extremist material was available - either openly or "under the table" - in around 25.
The team collected 80 books and pamphlets, and translated the 42 that were not in English.
Extreme statements in the documents included a call for jihad against "tyrants and oppressors", which was "best done through force if possible".
Some of the publications called on British Muslims to segregrate themselves from non-Muslims, and condoned the beheading of lapsed Muslims.
The study concluded: "Saudi Arabia is the ideological source of much of this sectarianism - and must be held to account for it."
The Policy Exchange director Anthony Browne said it was "clearly intolerable" that hate literature was being "peddled" at British mosques.
"The fact that the Saudi regime is producing extremist propaganda and targeting it at British Muslims must also be challenged by our own government," he said.
"It is reassuring that the majority of mosques investigated do not propagate hate literature, but much work needs to be done to ensure that a large number of leading Islamic institutions remove this sectarianism from their midst."
King Abdullah was officially welcomed by the Queen and the prime minister at a formal greeting ceremony on Horseguards Parade, before being driven to Buckingham Palace in a state carriage.
Around 100 human rights and anti-arms trade activists shouted "Shame on you" at the Saudi ruler as he made his way along the Mall.
King Abdullah was embroiled in controversy even before his convoy of five planes touched down in London yesterday, having insisted in a BBC interview that Britain was not doing enough to tackle terrorism.
The government was forced to rebut his claims that the Saudi authorities had provided information which could have averted the July 7 attacks.
The Foreign Office has said human rights issues will not "dominate" ministerial talks with the visiting Saudi delegation.
This evening, King Abdullah will attend a banquet at the Guildhall in London, given by the Lord Mayor and Corporation of London. The Duke of York will represent the Queen at the event.
After talks at Downing Street tomorrow, the king will travel to Clarence House for a meeting with the Prince of Wales about the Prince's Trust.
On Thursday, the king will formally leave Buckingham Palace and return home.
Also see: Saudi King sharp-minded as ever: BBC