In a recent article in The Times, the investigative reporter Andrew Norfolk provides new insights about the financial ties between the Qatari state and Islamist groups in the West.
Multiple British organizations linked to Islamists and Islamist sympathizers seem to receive funds from Qatar, and some of Al-Rayan Bank’s clients have had their accounts with Western banks frozen or closed as a security measures.
The bank is 70% owned by one of the major Qatari banks, Masraf Al-Rayan.
European Eye on Radicalization had previously investigated the abovementioned ties, which are now attracting new attention in the West.
Al-Rayan Bank, in particular — Britain’s largest Islamic bank, with more than 85,000 customers — has hardline groups, preachers, and individuals supporting the Muslim Brotherhood among its account-holders.
According to Norfolk, four groups partnering with Al-Rayan are currently under investigation by the Charity Commission.
The investigation that appeared on The Times is crucial for better understanding Al Rayan’s pervasiveness and capillarity in the West, as it lists a dozen of extremely controversial organizations that have an Al Rayan bank account.
Particularly interesting are the cases of the East London Mosque, the Finsbury Park Mosque, and the Islamic Research Foundation International, whereas EER had previously investigated the action of MEND in the UK.
The East London Mosque is one of the largest Islamic centers in Europe and its action has always been controversial, as it repeatedly invited preachers like Haitham al-Haddad — whose views are openly racist, misogynistic, and homophobic, as stated by Sara Khan, the current British counterterrorism commissioner — and Anwar al-Awlaki, one of the most notorious Al-Qaeda propagandists.
Historically, the action of Finsbury Park Mosque was even more problematic. Stronghold of the hate preacher Abu Hamza — now serving a life sentence in the US for terrorism offences — the mosque was closed but reopened in 2005.
The new leadership had close ideological links and strong similarities with the Muslim Brotherhood and one of the mosque’s trustees, Mohammed Sawalha, is part of Hamas’s political bureau.
The group that attempted the bombing of the London underground on July 21, 2005 appeared to have forged their connections through the Finsbury Park Mosque, and, even in recent times, the institution has always been closely monitored both from an ideological and an operative perspective.
The Islamic Research Foundation International, led by the preacher Zakir Naik, who was banned from the United Kingdom since 2010, it is a charity funding Peace TV, Naik’s satellite channel.
According to the investigation in The Times, Naik’s message of “peace for the whole mankind” did not stop him from praising Osama bin Laden.
As a matter of fact, Qatar’s financial ties with Islamist organizations in the West is a strategy that goes together with a one-of-a-kind form of cultural diplomacy carried out by the Gulf state.
Paul Stott, a tutor in international studies and diplomacy at SOAS, University of London, and a research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), warns that Qatar has a vision and a strategy that seems to include planting and disseminating its particular interpretation of Islam in the West in general and the United Kingdom in particular.
David Roberts recently explained that, with abundant financial resources but limited human resources, Qatar’s leaders have relied on personal links to various intermediaries as a key foreign policy modus operandi. This often led Qatar to support groups related to the Muslim Brotherhood as it historically is the large and multi-national Islamic organization par excellence, which has developed remarkable adaptation skills both from a strategical and a communicative perspective.
 For an in-depth analysis of the role of Anwar al-Awlaki in contemporary jihadism see the works of A. Melagrou Hitchens such as As American as Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became the Face of Western Jihad, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR), London, 2011, “Voice of Terror”, Foreign Policy, January 18, 2011, and “Why Awlaki Mattered”, The Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2011.
 Finsbury Park is known also for a vehicle-ramming attack carried out by Darren Osborne on June 19, 2017, which caused one death and injured nine people. This occurred 90 m from Finsbury Park Mosque.
On June 23 of the same year, Darren Osborne was charged with terrorism-related murder and attempted murder and in February 2-18 he was found guilty on both offences and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
 A. Rabasa — C. Benard, Eurojihad. Patterns of Islamist Radicalization and Terrorism in Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2015.