Roots of lingering accusations about Qatar\'s ties to extremism

Sunday 11/06/2017

Qatar has for years been accused of being too lax with financial restrictions against extremists in the region. Here are some of the key accusations against Doha:

Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Taliban

Since Qatar’s rise in international politics in the late 1990s, the gas-rich emirate has, directly and indi­rectly, supported Islamist groups across the Arab world, including Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and allies of the Brotherhood in Libya, Tunisia and other parts of the Arab world.

The kingdom was a key backer of Egypt’s former Islamist President Muhammad Morsi, sparking a 2014 diplomatic dispute that led Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to recall their ambas­sadors.

Qatar is home to several promi­nent figures in the Muslim Broth­erhood, which is classified a ter­rorist organisation by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Youssef al-Qaradawi, one of the Brotherhood’s spiritual leaders, is based in Qatar. Khaled Meshaal, a former leader of the Pal­estinian Hamas, is based in Qatar. The Afghan Taliban has an office in Qatar.

Financing suspicions

Qatar is regularly accused of leni­ency in the fight against the private financing of extremist groups, accu­sations it firmly denies. A 2009 US diplomatic wire released by WikiLe­aks slammed Qatar as uncoopera­tive with Washington in cutting off funding for extremist groups.

In 2015, French politicians ques­tioned Qatari diplomacy after the Charlie Hebdo attack. Qatar’s ambassador said it had become a “common assumption” that Doha would fund or otherwise support “terrorists and terrorism.” In 2016, the United States renewed its suspi­cion around Qatar’s will and ability to enforce laws against the financ­ing of groups it listed as terrorist organisations.

Leaked e-mails alleged that then-presidential candidate Hillary Clin­ton believed Qatar was “providing clandestine financial and logistical support” to the Islamic State (ISIS).

The rise of Al Jazeera

Founded more than 20 years ago by the government of Qatar, satel­lite network Al Jazeera has nearly 80 offices worldwide and emerged as the voice of the “Arab spring” in 2011. However, critics of Al Jazeera have said its editorial line is too sympathetic to Islamists.

Al Jazeera has regularly been entangled in debates over its prox­imity to extremists, with al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden turning to the channel to disseminate his au­dio and video tapes to the world.

In April 2016, Iraqi authorities closed Al Jazeera’s office in Bagh­dad over what they said was cover­age favourable to ISIS and hostile to Iraq’s Shia majority. Also that year, Abu Muhammad al-Jolani, head of what was then al-Qaeda’s Syria branch, appeared on television for the first time in a video broadcast on Al Jazeera.