It looks like the Gulf financiers of the Quilliam Foundation have withdrawn their funding without so much as a by-your-leave. The Evening Telegraph writes:
The Quilliam Foundation, the think tank devoted to promoting harmony in West/Islam relations, is facing the withdrawal of its financial backers. The foundation was set up by former Hizb ut-Tahrir members Maajid Nawaz and Ed Husain in April with the explicit aim of freeing Western Muslims from “the cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent and the political burdens of the Arab world”. Its work has already been feted by such figures as Michael Gove, the Conservative Shadow Secretary for Children, Schools and Families, and socialite Muslim Jemima Khan. But now its financial backers, based in the Gulf, have cut off funding because they are incensed at its criticism of Ken Livingstone’s favourite Islamist, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi.
Husain, author of The Islamist, who is now seeking new sources of funding from Muslims based here in the UK, blames the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Council of Britain for mounting “a character assassination attempt” on his organisation and intimidating its advisers. “It’s a challenge having the funds pulled out,” he tells me. “But it’s not easy for normal Muslims to condemn figures like Qaradawi and then sustain themselves. The people who are trying to shut us down are the same people who were behind Ken Livingstone’s campaign to mount a character assassination of Boris Johnson, portraying him as a racist.”
No statement has been issued from the unknown financial backers based in the Gulf so we can’t confirm if it was the criticism of Yusuf al-Qaradawi which compelled them to pull out or whether it was for some other reason.
Lingering like a bad smell, the awkward question that must be asked of the Quilliam Foundation is this:
If you start a think tank in a blaze of publicity that is supposedly about promoting progressive and secular Islamic values, why choose financial backers who would shy away at the slightest criticism of the detestable views of al-Qaradawi, a narrow reactionary mullah? Was something left out during your consultations with these Gulf backers? Something as significant as your key policies and your secular and progressive stance? And furthermore, surely Ed Husain and Co knew that the fatwas of Qaradawi are accepted in the Arab world carte blanche, including the, ahem, Gulf states? They obviously forgot to clear that one with the Gulfies first before running with it.
You see my problem with the Quilliam Foundation, and Southasian Muslim institutions in general, is that they are still beholden to Arabian Islam with all those weird and nasty cultural features. Arabs have the money to set up these think tanks, Southasian Muslims have the nous to run them. Southasians ultimately end up aquiescing to their paymasters by becoming their mouthpieces and this means papering over some very disgusting world-views. Look at any Islamic organisation from the Hizbut Tahrir to the Quilliam and you will see that they are populated by Southasians who have never stepped into an Arab land, trying to out-do one another in Arab-ness. For some reason it is a weakness to be Anglicised (“coconut”) but it is a virtue to be Arabised (“jazaak-allah-khair, ya akhi”).
Why is this? Why do Southasian Muslims regard Arabs as their de-facto spiritual superiors? Is it because we go weak-kneed whenever we hear the guttural tones of spoken Arabic, simply because it is our lingua sacra?
Surely we should know better by now? In spite of universal human rights abuses of Southasian migrant workers, and the horror stories we hear year after year, of abuses dealt out to women and aged relatives at the hands of Saudis during the Hajj season, there is still a steadfast belief amongst Southasian Muslims that the sun shines out of Arab behinds.
Now that the Quilliam Foundation is free of their Arab financiers, I hope that they can truly come into their own. I was hoping that one of their biggest achievements might be to develop a progressive, vernacular (read: British) school of Islam that is free (in every way) of reactionary Arab backwardness.
And if they ask me for a donation, I’ll be happy to help.
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