(CNSNews.com) – As Qatar continues to reject allegations of terror financing at the center of a serious rift with some of its neighbors, its state-funded Al-Jazeera network on Wednesday published a fatwa slamming the “unjust siege imposed on Qatar” – written by a Salafist cleric blacklisted by the U.S. and U.N. for facilitating and funding terrorism.
The Kuwaiti cleric Hamid bin Abdallah al-Ali is accused by the U.S., moreover, of justifying suicide bombings, including flying aircraft into important sites, and of using his website “to provide technical advice for making explosives, chemical, and biological weapons.”
In his Al-Jazeera-published fatwa (in Arabic), al-Ali urges Allah to unify Muslim ranks “in the face of the enemy” and to remove the causes of division and discord.
Al-Jazeera has become a lightning rod for criticism leveled at Qatar from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan and others.
Qatar has denied charges of sponsoring extremism and terrorism and of breaking ranks with its Gulf neighbors by reaching out to Shi’ite Iran, Saudi Arabia’s regional arch foe.
In the fatwa, al-Ali defends Al-Jazeera, saying it has never embraced Iranian causes. Instead, he says, its broadcasts defend Sunnis in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere, and champion the cause of the Islamic nation and its oppressed people.
As Saudi Arabia and its allies cut ties with Doha this week, Al-Jazeera was firmly in their crosshairs. Riyadh said it was closing the network’s offices and Jordan said it was withdrawing its license. An unconfirmed list of ten Saudi demands to end the dispute with Qatar includes a complete shutdown of the news channel.
Against that background, its decision to publish a fatwa by a man designated by the U.S. and U.N. for facilitating terrorism raised some eyebrows.
“Worst way to show CT blockade on you is wrong?” tweeted Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) senior fellow David Weinberg. “#Qatar’s #AlJazeera pushing fatwa vs blockade from alleged AQ funder under US & UN sanctions.”
When it designated him in 2006, the U.S. Treasury Department described al-Ali as “a Kuwait-based terrorist facilitator who has provided financial support for al Qaeda-affiliated groups seeking to commit acts of terrorism in Kuwait, Iraq, and elsewhere.”
“Evidence shows that al-Ali's efforts include providing support for terrorist organizations, including those in Iraq,” it said of the cleric, now 67.
“Al-Ali recruits jihadists in Kuwait for terrorist activity including for al-Qaeda in Iraq,” the Treasury Department designation said. “Al-Ali has provided financial support for recruits, including paying for their travel expenses to Iraq.”
Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) morphed into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS/ISIL) .
The Treasury Department also said al-Ali had financed and supervised a Kuwait-based terror cell that plotting to attack Kuwaiti and U.S. targets in 2005.
“In addition to financial support and recruiting services, al-Ali also provided opportunities for potential recruits to obtain explosives training in 2004. He also used his website to provide technical advice for making explosives, chemical, and biological weapons.”
The designation noted that al-Ali’s fatwas have legitimized suicide bombings:
“One such fatwa sanctions ‘the permissiveness, and sometimes necessity, of suicide operations, on the condition of crushing the enemy ... or causing moral defeat to the enemy, to obtain victory.’”
“According to this fatwa, ‘in modern time(s) this can be accomplished through the modern means of bombing, or by bringing down an airplane on an important site that causes the enemy great casualties.’”
In 2008, al-Ali was listed by the U.N. Security Council sanctions committee for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating or perpetrating acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, or in support of” al-Qaeda affiliated cells in Kuwait.
It also accused him of recruiting for, and “supplying, selling or transferring arms and related materiel to” those cells.
Despite the U.S. and U.N. designations and travel ban, al-Ali was reportedly invited by Qatar’s Ministry of Endowment and Islamic Affairs to preach at the state-controlled Grand Mosque in 2012. London’s Telegraph reported that he used the sermon to praise the “great jihad” being waged by the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Nusra Front in Syria.
In testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee in 2015, the FDD’s Weinberg said that Qatar had “hosted on its territory and declined to take legal action against” al-Ali and another individual sanctioned by the U.N. for support for terrorism.