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Editorial supervisor, Dr. Helmy Guirguis
Dr. Helmy Guirguis 71, the president of the UK Copts, passed away on the 31 of January, 2015 after a struggle with illness. UK Copts mourns its founder and leader. He is a leader that touched so many by his life and has been fighting for the coptic case till his last breath. The commemoration mass for his 40th day will be held on Sunday 15th of March, 2014 starting 8 AM in Saint Mary and Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Centre of Birmingham (Lapworth) .For commiserations, please send us an email to

Is Qatar the most two-faced nation on Earth?

Is Qatar the most two-faced nation on Earth? Supporter of terrorism or loyal friend to Britain, a country it's buying up? As the PM meets the Gulf state's leader today, will he dare ask the tough questions.

On a clear day, the view from Britain’s tallest building is stunning. After reaching the top of the Shard, south of the River Thames in central London, visitors can sip champagne and pick out famous landmarks 1,014 feet below.

In the distance, there is Canary Wharf, the sprawling financial powerhouse of the country, as well as the Olympic Village and One Hyde Park, the world’s most expensive block of flats, where a five-bedroom apartment is on sale for £65 million.

To the north, there is Camden Market, which attracts millions of tourists each year. Also across the Thames is Harrods, perhaps the most famous shop in the world.

Dotted here and there on the streets below, amid the tiny red buses, are other landmarks of London life: Sainsbury’s local stores, the London Stock Exchange, Chelsea Barracks.

What few may realise is that these buildings and businesses — including the Shard itself — are all either partly or wholly owned by Qatar, a country smaller than Belgium, with just 300,000 citizens, which, only a few decades ago, was an impoverished desert state whose major industry was pearl fishing.

All that changed with massive oil and gas finds in the 1980s and 1990s. So many petro-dollars have since flowed into the country — a former British protectorate, which became independent in 1971 — that it is now one of the richest nations on Earth, so rich that it can provide its people with free electricity and petrol at just 15p a litre.

The country’s ruling Al-Thani family have used the extraordinary riches that have come their way to make a seamless entry into the heart of British Establishment, investing more than £10 billion in the process.

The business interests of Qatar reach into the very sinews of our economy. When the London Stock Exchange came under siege from rival German, American and Australian exchanges in the mid-2000s, Qatar came to its rescue, buying a 20 per cent stake that it still holds today.

More recently, Qatar played the role of matchmaker when two giant mining companies, Glencore and Xstrata, merged in 2013, with former Prime Minister Tony Blair playing the role of referee.

This week, the youthful Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, flew into Britain on his first official visit, and will today be hosted by the Queen at Buckingham Palace, as well as lunching with David Cameron.

In a similar vein, four years ago, a state visit by the country’s then ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani (the father of the current Sheikh), involved a spectacular horse-drawn carriage procession through the streets to Windsor Castle, where he and his statuesque third wife Sheikha Mozah were entertained by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh for three days. This year, meanwhile, Prince Charles was in Qatar for an official visit.

These new-found Arab friends of British royalty who profess their love of the West have no interest, however, in our parliamentary democracy and tradition of free speech.

Back home, they rule a hardline Islamic state with absolute power — a state that practises a strict regime of sharia law, in which homosexuals and adulterers face a possible death penalty, life imprisonment, or flogging.

They are also accused of turning a blind eye to the funding of terrorism and the bankrolling of the Islamic State — the butchers responsible for the torture and beheading of British hostages Alan Henning and David Haines — while simultaneously signing up to the coalition of Western and Arab countries against IS.

Little wonder a growing number of leading voices in Britain, America and the Middle East have branded this the most duplicitous country in the world. It has even been described as a ‘Club Med’ for terrorists on account of some of the dubious characters living in luxury in the country.

Last week, in order to try to establish the truth about these very serious accusations, I visited Qatar — a small peninsula off Saudi Arabia that juts into the Persian Gulf.

I found a country in the middle of a building boom — not least because it will host the 2022 World Cup, which it was awarded by FIFA amid allegations of backhanders and corruption.

In the capital, Doha, Ferraris, Porsches and Bentleys cruise along the corniche, a road that sweeps along the seafront, while impoverished immigrant workers toil in the sweltering heat, which reaches more than 120 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.

Almost 2 million foreign workers are allowed into the country only on the condition they hand over their passports to their employers and agree that they have no legal rights or even permission to buy property — a form of slavery in all but name.

They are working round the clock on luxury hotels, skyscrapers and an air-conditioned underground transport system it is hoped will whisk visiting football fans from the new international airport. But those fans may be in for a shock if they are expecting to let their hair down before the matches.

Under the country’s ultra-strict Islamic regime, there are only a handful of bars in hotels where alcohol is permitted — and men are allowed to socialise alone with women only if they can prove they are married to each other.

Work is also underway to build the world’s first fully air-conditioned international football stadia, amid concern that the country will be too hot for both players and fans — an idea the Qatari authorities, who are spending a staggering £137 billion on infrastructure projects, dismiss.

But there are some buildings in Doha that, as I discovered during a tense encounter with the Qatari secret police, the tiny state would prefer you did not know about.

One of them, with fortified walls and ornate design, sits in an exclusive diplomatic quarter known as West Bay.

Near a mosque handy for prayers, the building is the only political office anywhere in the world set aside for the Taliban, erstwhile allies of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The office comes with 24-hour protection by secret police and was opened last summer by a Qatari government minister at a red-carpet ceremony.

When I visited, neighbours told me the extremists had moved out a couple of months ago, their destination unknown. Unfortunately, my presence had been noticed.

A police officer emerged from the Taliban building and demanded identification. After I could only produce my driving licence, he told me not to move, saying, ‘I have a gun’, and pointing at his automatic weapon as he radioed for back-up. Two more armed officers arrived. They warned me that it was against the law for a foreigner not to carry his passport at all times.

Again, they ordered me to wait in their car. Another two men, wearing designer sunglasses and long, white Arabic robes and headgear, arrived in a four-by-four vehicle, and demanded identification.

It was some time before I was, eventually, allowed to go free.

This episode came after two British researchers went missing during a trip investigating the conditions of migrant workers in Qatar.

It transpired that secret police had seized the men and that they were ‘being interrogated for having violated the provisions of the laws of the state of Qatar’. They were eventually released after nine days in custody.

This is not unusual: human rights groups say the country regularly holds detainees incommunicado for weeks or even months on end without charge or trial, while police brutality is rife.

And yet, when it comes to terrorists, the country seems to have a very much more lenient view.

For the Taliban are not the only house guests of Qatar. In a suite at one of the new, luxury hotels on the corniche, a man called Khaled Mashal, the fugitive leader of terror group Hamas, passes his days.

From his hotel, where he is often seen relaxing by the pool and on the exercise bike in the gym, this portly, bearded terrorist regularly issues decrees calling for Palestinians to rise up against neighbouring Israel and launch suicide attacks to ‘kill Jews’.

There are many others living openly here with links to terrorists responsible for massacres in Syria and Iraq. Abdul Rahman Omeir al-Naimi, named by the U.S. as a financer of terrorism for Al Qaeda, is one resident.

Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the spiritual leader of the global Muslim Brotherhood, who has issued a religious fatwa calling for suicide attacks against ‘infidels’, is another who lives happily with police protection.

Al-Qaradawi, an outspoken, Egypt-born religious cleric, has supported attacks on American forces in Iraq, and has been banned from entering the U.S. since 1999.

‘The scope of Qatar-based terrorist fundraising is astonishing,’ says the American Dr David Weinberg, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies think-tank, who recently testified on Qatari terror finance before the U.S. Congress. He adds that the tiny country is ‘the number one source of private donations to IS and other violent extremists in Syria and Iraq’.

Dr Weinberg has produced a report which states that a member of the Qatari royal family, former interior minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Khalid Al Thani, provided support to Al Qaeda figures, including the mastermind of the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York in 2001, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In total, at least 20 high-profile figures within the terrorist underworld, with links to extremist groups, are known to be living and operating with impunity in Qatar. A number have held senior positions in Qatar’s government.

At the same time, Qatar has also been accused of flying planeloads of weapons to Islamic terrorists now causing havoc in Libya, where they have seized Tripoli, the capital, and want to impose sharia law across the entire country.

One of these allegedly Qatari-backed groups, known as Ansar Al-Sharia, was behind the torture and murder of the U.S. ambassador in Libya in 2012, who was dragged from a U.S. embassy building and murdered by a mob of armed zealots.

All this while Qatar continues to court the West’s goodwill with multi-million-pound investment deals. Why would Qatar play this deadly double game? And why would the West go along with it?

Qataris are Sunni Muslims, who follow an extremist and ultra-conservative ‘Wahhabi’ form of Islam similar to that of IS. Radical preachers abound in the country, and the Qatari government would gain domestic popularity by funding Sunni terrorists — whether in Syria or Libya.

In addition, it would keep IS onside. The brutal terrorist group will not attack a country that helps fund its activities — even if it despises the grotesque self-indulgence of the ruling family and the Qatari elite.

Another factor is that Qatar, being Sunni Muslim, regards Shia Iran and the Iranians’ ally, President al-Assad of Syria — who is loathed by IS and other Sunni extremist groups — as mortal enemies.

Yet, at the same time, the country wants to enjoy its new-found wealth and is dependent on the West for the petro-dollars to keep flowing.

That is why it craves business opportunities in the West and why it signed up to the anti-IS coalition, although only to supply ‘intelligence’ from surveillance aircraft on the terrorists’ positions.

Unsurprisingly, there is growing consternation in London, Washington and other European capitals about its behaviour. Steve Barclay, Conservative MP for North-East Cambridgeshire and an expert in financial sanctions, told me: ‘While Qatar is an important trading partner of the UK, that must not prevent our ability to identify those involved in the financing of terror.’

The ‘Qatar issue’ was raised this week with David Cameron during a meeting with senior Conservative MPs alarmed by our close relationship with a country that sponsors and turns a blind eye to terror.

Zac Goldsmith, Tory MP for Richmond and North Kingston, said: ‘It is extraordinary that, even while we are at war with IS in Iraq, and ramping up security across the UK in anticipation of reprisals, we continue to do business with a country that provides the organisation with indirect but substantial support — it’s time we took a much tougher line.’

Meanwhile, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former Tory foreign secretary, reportedly said that the meeting between David Cameron and the Emir today would be a ‘perfect opportunity’ to tell the Qataris they could no longer ‘run with the hare and hunt with the hounds’.

Others have called for a boycott against Qatari-owned businesses such as Harrods and the Shard, which — as well as offices and a luxury hotel — houses the UK branch of Al Jazeera, the Qatari-funded television station and propaganda arm.

For its part, Qatar denies that it backs IS with cash. In an unprecedented interview on CNN last month, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, the Emir, insisted that ‘we don’t fund extremists’.

This week, a spokesman for the Qataris pointed to comments made by Dr Khalid bin Mohammad Al Attiyah, Qatari Minister of Foreign Affairs, who hit back at German government allegations that the country was directly funding extremists.

He said: ‘The State of Qatar does not support in any way the radical groups who are terrorising innocent citizens and destabilising the Middle East. As we have stated repeatedly, we believe their actions are evil, abhorrent and antithetical to all that Islam stands for.

‘We know that certain individuals have made claims to the contrary, for motives that remain obscure, but these claims are false and no evidence has ever been produced to support them.’

While claiming the system of slave labour in Qatar was being reformed, the spokesman refused to comment on the fact that the U.S. has 20 named terrorists living in Qatar.

What a lot there will be for the Emir and the Queen to talk about when they meet today.

Photo: The Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who this week flew into Britain on his first official visit.

Daily Mail – UK

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