Qatar Financing Wahhabi Islam in France, Italy, Ireland and Spain
The Persian Gulf Emirate of Qatar says it plans to invest €50 million ($65 million) in French suburbs that are home to hundreds of thousands of disgruntled Muslim immigrants. Qatar says its investment is intended to support small businesses in disadvantaged Muslim neighborhoods. But Qatar, like Saudi Arabia, subscribes to the ultra-conservative Wahhabi sect of Islam, and critics say the emirate's real objective is to peddle its religious ideology among Muslims in France and other parts of Europe.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, who has long cultivated an image as a pro-Western reformist and modernizer, recently vowed to "spare no effort" to spread the fundamentalist teachings of Wahhabi Islam across "the whole world."
The promotion of Islamic extremist ideologies -- particularly Wahhabism, which not only discourages Muslim integration in the West, but actively encourages jihad against non-Muslims -- threatens to further radicalize Muslim immigrants in France, analysts say.
The Qatari investments are being targeted in blighted French suburban slums known in France as banlieues, where up to one million or more mostly unemployed Muslim immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East eke out an impoverished existence.
The banlieues are already being exploited by Islamist preachers from countries such as Morocco and Turkey, which are leveraging the social marginalization of Muslim immigrants in France to create "separate Islamic societies" ruled by Islamic Sharia law, according to a recent study which examines the rise of Islam in France.
The 2,200-page report, "Banlieue de la République" (Suburbs of the Republic) -- commissioned by the influential French think tank L'Institut Montaigne, and directed by Gilles Kepel, a well-known specialist on the Muslim world -- describes how Muslim immigrants are increasingly rejecting French values and identity in favor of Islam.
The report shows how Sharia law is rapidly displacing French civil law in many parts of suburban Paris and warns that France is on the brink of a major social explosion because of the failure of Muslims to integrate into French society.
France, which has between five and six million Muslims, has the largest Muslim population in the European Union.
The study says that Muslim religious institutions and practices are increasingly displacing those of the state and the French Republic, which has a strong secular tradition.
Among other findings, the report describes the proliferation of mosques, Koranic schools and makeshift prayer rooms in the banlieues. The religious orientations of these mosques are heavily influenced by the national origin of the founder or president of a given mosque.
This is contributing to a "new sociology of Muslim believers" composed mainly of undereducated low-income immigrants who depend on financial support from countries such as Morocco, Turkey, Tunisia -- and now Qatar -- all of which are pursuing their own objectives in France.
Nabil Ennasri, the president of a Muslim activist group called the Collectif des Musulmans de France (CMF), says Qatar is keen to exert its influence over the Muslims in France. He says: "France has a large Muslim population of Arab heritage, which will one day, whether it is welcome or not, play an important role in French politics. Investing in this population is a way of recruiting supporters who will -- consciously or unconsciously -- further Qatari interests." (...)