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The Saudi connection that belittles Britain

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Reposted from:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/story/0,,2175213,00.html

At last, there are signs the shameful censoring of Saudi critics in this country is to be challenged

The riches keep rolling in from Saudi Arabia. On top of the £21bn from the al-Yamamah arms deal, the Saudis agreed to pay a further £4.3bn last week for 72 Eurofighters. Spare parts will probably bring in another billion or so and there are plenty more billions where they came from. So much money, but at what price?

The last days of Tony Blair made it painfully clear that if it came to a choice between the rule of law on the one hand and British manufacturing's dependence on Saudi arms orders and the West's dependence on Saudi oil on the other, the rule of law would have to go.

When the then Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, ordered the Serious Fraud Office to stop its investigation into allegations that BAE had paid off Saudi royals, he showed that zero tolerance had its limits and New Labour was prepared to be soft on crime and the causes of crime in order to keep the Saudis sweet.

As scandalous as the allegations the authorities find it convenient to ignore are the accusations they are willing to pursue. While alleged fraud goes unexamined, the West Midlands police case against Channel 4 for investigating Saudi funding of extremist mosques goes on and on. In the long run, what is being done to Channel 4 is more significant than the nobbling of the Serious Fraud Office.

It goes to the heart of Britain's failure to come to terms with the Saudi attempt to convert Europe's Muslims to wahhabhism and its sister creeds. There has been nothing to match the scale of its propaganda effort in British history.

True, the Soviet Union secretly funded its supporters in the 20th century, but the British Communist party was never much more than a small sect and, in any case, yesterday's 'Moscow gold' was small change in comparison to today's Saudi petrodollars. If Christian plutocrats returned the compliment and poured money into Saudi Arabia to convert Muslims to Protestant fundamentalism, I think we would hear a good deal about it.

However, as the public celebration of and proselytising for non-Muslim religions are illegal in Saudi Arabia, and a Muslim converting to another faith faces the death penalty, the opportunities for Europeans to do to Saudi Arabia what Saudis are doing to Europe are limited.

The traffic is all one-way, but few dare complain as it streams by. Official unwillingness to upset the suppliers of oil and buyers of arms isn't the only reason for the silence. British Muslims have been intimidated.

One prominent figure, who is occasionally allowed on to the airwaves to balance the Muslim Council of Britain, told me he never used the words 'Saudi Arabia' or 'Wahhabism'.

When he wanted to discuss either, he referred fuzzily to 'foreign funding for extremist doctrines'. He knows that if he speaks out, he will be banned from Saudi Arabia. Blacklisting is a formidable sanction for him and others as he has a religious duty to make a pilgrimage to Mecca.

He is also frightened of being sued - as is everyone else. Britain's repressive libel laws are becoming a threat to security and racial harmony. 'Saudi money is now a major source of income for London libel firms,' one lawyer told me. 'School fees and second homes depend on it.'

It is against this stifling background of journalists and Muslim activists biting their tongues and pulling their punches that the unprecedented decision of the West Midlands police and Crown Prosecution Service to hound Channel 4 should be seen.

As with the Satanic Verses, Brick Lane, Behzti and the Danish cartoons, it is a little hard to see why Undercover Mosque provoked a fuss when you go back to the original. The camera shows Abu Usama, at the Saudi-influenced Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, denouncing unbelievers and saying of women: 'Allah has created the woman, even if she gets a PhD, deficient. Her intellect is incomplete, deficient.'

The shots of the Saudi clerics pouring out their loathing of unbelievers are all genuine. So too are the pamphlets and DVDs that attack women, Jews, Christians and explain that Aids is a Western plot. They are available at the bookshop of London's Regent's Park mosque, which was built with Saudi money and is run by a Saudi diplomat,

With Blue Peter lying to children, condemnations of TV fakery are all the rage at the moment. But the rules governing television documentaries remain incredibly tight. Channel 4 stuck to them. It substantiated every allegation and then gave the people it criticised a right of reply. Even so, the West Midlands police referred it to the television watchdog and, in the process, sent a message to other journalists thinking of exposing religious extremism to back off if they didn't want the cops on their case as well.

I could, if I wanted, go into a despairing peroration about a country so blinded by greed and stupefied by relativism it allows its police officers and libel lawyers to turn on those who report on hate-spouting imams.

Fortunately, there are a few grounds for optimism. Ofcom will rule on Undercover Mosque in a few weeks and it looks like it will dismiss as laughable the West Midlands police's claims that Channel 4 framed innocent preachers. The 56 hours of film shot by the documentary makers show that the crew didn't turn tolerant men into howling bigots by using trick camera work and crafty editing but merely reported what its journalists found.

The Crown Prosecution Service, whose lawyers played an ignoble role in this attack on investigative journalism, seems to have realised it has gone too far and is telling anyone who will listen that the complaint to Ofcom is the sole responsibility of the West Midlands police.

More cheeringly, moderate British Muslims are soon to lead an overdue attack on Saudi influence as the result of a long inquiry they have conducted. They are finding the courage to do what the Attorney General, high court, West Midlands police and Crown Prosecution Service won't do and stand up for the best values of their country.

TAGGED: POLITICS, RELIGION


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