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Syrian archbishop castigates Saudi links

01 April 2016


Discussions: the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, speaks during a meeting in London with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, in January 

Discussions: the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, speaks during a meeting in London with Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister, Adel al-Jubeir, in J...

ISLAMIST terrorists are able to attack European cities because the West has made the mistake of growing too close to Saudi Arabia, a Syrian Roman Catholic archbishop has said.

Archbishop Jacques Behnan Hindo, of Hassaké-Nisibi, said that the “entire West” had seen the Arab country as an ally, even though it was the main source of the extremist Wahabbi ideology that inspired “all jihadist groups”.

The West had not only allowed Saudi Arabia to finance a network of radical mosques in Europe, through which the doctrine was being preached, he said, but some leaders had also assisted jihadi groups in their efforts to overthrow secular regimes, such as that in Syria.

Archbishop Hindo said that such flawed policies inevitably resulted in the arrival of jihad in Europe — and the outcome was suicide-bomb attacks such as the one in Brussels on Tuesday, which killed at least 34 people (News, 24 March), and the attacks in Paris in November, in which 130 were killed.

“Unfortunately, innocent people reap what European powers have sown in Syria and Iraq in the last few years,” Archbishop Hindo told the Vatican-based news agency Fides.

“Although several European leaders, until recently, had the fall of the government of Assad as the main geopolitical goal, they also aimed at accrediting the jihadist militia of al-Nusra Front as ‘moderate Muslims’, and attacked Russia for hitting strongholds of those militias,” he said.

“European leaders and the entire West have maintained for decades the preferential axis with Saudi Arabia and the emirates of the Arabian Peninsula.

“In recent decades, they have ensured these countries the possibility of financing the whole of Europe, and also in Belgium, the birth of a network of mosques where Wahhabism was preached, the ideology that poisons Islam and serves as the ideological basis for all jihadist groups.

“And all this happened because economic logic and billion-dollar contracts with oil bosses prevailed: flows of money and resources.”

Archbishop Hindo also suggested that European concerns about the migrant crisis appeared self-centred from the perspective of the Middle East: “Europe, on the issue of refugees, chose to become hostage to Turkey. I understand the European difficulties, but I highlight that the IDPs [internally displaced persons] welcomed in Europe in 2015 do not exceed 0.2 per cent of the population, while in a small country like Lebanon their share now corresponds to half of the local population.

“I understand the tears of the European Commissioner for Foreign Policy. But I want to point out that, for five years, thousands of Syrian Muslims and Christians, men women and children, have been killed — and there are no tears for them.”

Last year, Archbishop Hindo accused the CIA in the United States of arming and training rebel groups in Syria that were al-Qaeda under “a different name”. It was misleading, he said, for Western politicians to speak of support for “moderate rebels” in Syria, because such groups scarcely existed.

He also said that such Western military interference in his country was misguided, because it could make Syria “like Libya”, a country which descended into anarchy after the US, Britain, and France helped to bring down President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

President Assad is a member of the Alawite Muslim Shia minority of Syria, and an ally of Russia and Iran. He has the support of the majority of the Christians of his country, who fear annihilation if jihadis seized power. His army is fighting Islamic State terrorists on the ground; most of his other opponents are Sunni Muslim jihadists who are being supported by Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the some of the Gulf States.

Western policy toward Saudi Arabia is increasingly a source of controversy, given the grave human-rights abuse committed daily in the Arab kingdom. On average, one person a day is executed by either beheading, stoning, or firing squad; torture, floggings, and amputation are also used as methods of punishment. Women are not allowed to drive, and are considered to be inferior to men.

Saudi Arabia Uncovered, a documentary broadcast on ITV this week, said that the state religion is Wahhabism, and it is enforced by the police’s Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice.

Footage was shown of officers forcing women to cover themselves up, reprimanding them for wearing make-up, and ordering people out of cafés to pray. Only the Taliban in Afghanistan, and Islamic State, conduct similar activities.

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