Arab quartet expands terrorism blacklist

Sunday 26/11/2017
Religious cover. A file picture shows Chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars Yusuf al-Qaradawi in Doha. (Reuters)

Abu Dhabi- Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt have expanded their terror blacklist tied to Qatar, adding two more entities and 11 individuals.

The two entities said to be di­rectly funded by Qatar are the International Union of Muslim Scholars and the International Is­lamic Council, known by its Arabic acronym Massaa.

In a statement, the quartet said: “The added entities are terror or­ganisations working for promoting terrorism by spreading hate speech under the cloak of Islam to facili­tate different terrorist activities.” It added that “the individuals have perpetrated different acts of terror directly funded by Qatar at various levels.”

The Quartet statement said Doha provided them with other forms of support, “including using Qatari passports and working under the cover of Qatari charitable organisa­tions to facilitate their activities.”

The Saudi-led Arab group ac­cused Qatar of “continuing to support, sponsor and finance ter­rorism, encourage extremism and spread hate speech.”

The International Union of Muslim Scholars was established in 2004 by Qatar-based Yusuf al- Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its an­nounced aim was to “bring Sunni, Shia and Ibadi Muslims together,” but it quickly began propping up Islamist parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

Funded by Qatar’s former emir Sheikh Hamad al-Thani, the un­ion has courted controversy by publicly taking divisive positions and making provocative political statements. On June 8, Qaradawi was branded “a terrorist” by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain over his alleged theological support for the extremist groups and suicide bombings.

Also added to the blacklist was Massaa, a less known but equally shadowy entity. With its general secretariat based in Doha, Massaa oversees eight Islamist organisa­tions.

Created under Swiss law, Mas­saa’s charter identifies “reform” and “rapprochement between dif­ferent Islamic factions and insti­tutions” as its key aims. Its coun­cil, however, has combined the intellectual ideology of the Muslim Brotherhood with the practical methodology of al-Qaeda.

The new additions to the terror blacklist came days after Saudi For­eign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said, in an interview with Spanish daily El Pais, that Saudi Arabia would not tolerate terrorism and that Qatar was responsible for its prolifera­tion throughout the world.

Jubeir’s statements come amid the modernisation drive being pursued by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Ab­dulaziz, who has said it is time to clamp down on extremism and restore moderate Islam in the king­dom.

Former Saudi justice minis­ter Mohammed al-Issa, who was appointed secretary-general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League (MWL) just over a year ago, said his organisation was likewise committed to rooting out extrem­ism.

“We must wipe out this extrem­ist thinking through the work we do. We need to annihilate religious severity and extremism, which is the entry point to terrorism. That is the mission of the Muslim World League.”

Kuwait and the US, whose larg­est military base in the Middle East is located in Qatar, have tried to mediate a more than five-month rift between the quartet and Qatar in which Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt cut off land, air and sea ties with Doha.

Two months into the dispute, Qatar turned to the World Trade Organisation for support. Last month it made an initial request for its case to be held before a dis­pute settlement panel, which was blocked. Qatar made a second re­quest on November 22, which, as per WTO rules, required the crea­tion of a panel.

The UAE has said it plans to thwart the Qatari litigation by rely­ing on a “national security excep­tion” outlined in the WTO charter, which has never been used in de­fence litigation.

The WTO’s dispute settlement process can take months or years, with initial rulings typically sub­ject to appeal.

Some countries advised against taking the claims up at the trade organisation, with China and the US saying it is the wrong body to address the dispute.