Sir William Patey, the former U.K. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and three other Middle Eastern countries, criticized Saudi Arabia for funding mosques that he believes promote an "extremist" version of Islam and lead to terrorism. His remarks come one day after the British government published a short summary of a report on extremist funding in the U.K.
Patey expressed his opinion in London during a roundtable discussion set up by the Conservative Middle East Council, a campaign group associated with the U.K.'s Conservative Party.
"It's unhealthy and we need to do something about it," Patey said.
"The Saudis [have] not quite appreciated the impact their funding of a certain brand of Islam is having in the countries in which they do it -- it is not just Britain and Europe.
"They are not funding terrorism -- they are funding something else, which may down the road lead to individuals being radicalized and becoming fodder for terrorism."
Patey acknowledged that it is easy for Saudi's to deny that they are funding terrorism because they are not funding it outright.
He singled out as particularly worrisome their funding of mosques that promote the Salafi-Wahhabi ideology. The U.K. government report claimed that Saudi Arabia has poured millions of dollars to spread Wahhabi Islam around the world, including western nations.
The Saudi's have previously blamed their Gulf rival, Qutar, for their funding of extremist groups that support the Muslim Brotherhood.
Since June 5, Saudi Arabia -- along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates -- has attempted to isolate Qatar through sanctions, closed borders and restricted air access. They cite Qatar's harboring of extremist groups as the reason for the isolation, a position which has been supported by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The British report claimed that, in addition to private donors, Saudi Arabia was a foreign funding source for extremist Muslim organizations in the U.K. The report also encouraged the government to consider requiring state religious institutions to reveal all overseas sources of funding, in addition to launching a public inquiry into all funding sources from the Gulf.
The British government has yet to release the full report due to a likelihood it would strain their ties to the Gulf state, which remains their top ally in the Middle East. Despite that relationship, others have insisted that U.K. officials not prioritize diplomacy over their nation's values.
"We cannot tackle the root causes of terrorism in the U.K. without full disclosure of the states and institutions that fund extremism in our country," said Liberal Democrat party leader Tim Farron declared in a Business Insider report cited by RT News.
"Instead of supporting the perpetrators of these vile ideologies, the government should be naming and shaming them -- including so-called allies like Saudi Arabia and Qatar if need be.
“It seems like the government, yet again, is putting our so-called friendship with Saudi Arabia above our values. This shoddy decision is the latest in a long line where we have put profit over principle.”
According to the Guardian, foreign funding of mosques has already been banned in Austria and is under a temporary ban in France. Germany has also considered changing their policies on funding mosques after a leaked intelligence report linked several extremist-ideology mosques to governments within the Gulf region.