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  • Quilliam Foundation respond to the Guardian’s accusations

    by Sunny
    6th August, 2010 at 3:42 pm    

    by Maajid Nawaz of the Quilliam Foundation

    Breaking news! Quilliam dispatched a paper to ministers advising them that the ideology of Islamism is not the same as Islam the diverse faith. Rather, Islamism is the politicisation of Islam.

    And finally, that though non-violent Islamists have a legal right to exist, they should not be endorsed or facilitated by Government. We then proceeded to identify those groups most influenced by the ideology of Islamism.

    You may be thinking…hold on, is that not what Quilliam has been consistently advising since its inception through both the Labour and coalition Governments? So what’s new?

    The mere repetition of our stance in the form of a briefing paper for the new coalition Government was enough for certain regressive commentators to shout ‘McCarthyism’! By ‘Regressive’ I mean some who claim allegiance to the left yet fail to apply their anti-fascist principles when confronted with brown-skinned fascists, seeing them as alienated minorities and therefore choosing to ally with them.

    Indeed, yesterday’s sensationalised Guardian article by Vikram Dodd was, as Andrew Gilligan so rightly observed, nothing short of an “Islamist press release”. By writing such a one-sided propaganda piece in favour of Islamist bigots Dodd firmly established himself as a regressive, and by no means a progressive leftist. And I say Islamist bigots because as Dodd’s colleague Brian Whitaker admits “the underlying problem” even with non-violent Islamism is that it is essentially an “anti-libertarian” ideology.

    After listening to some of our critics, Quilliam had kept this paper out of the public limelight to avoid sensationalism. It seems, however, that a disgruntled civil servant decided to leak the hard copy we sent to the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) online, where it has now been read over 10,000 times.

    Dodd’s write-up focused entirely on a three and a half page appendix to the briefing, ignoring the 57 pages of detailed and nuanced recommendations that preceded it.

    Contrary to the Guardian’s misleading headline, the briefing was sent to all concerned ministers, special advisors and senior civil servants, not just to the “terror chief”. Again contrary to Dodd’s take, we argued in favour of restricting rather than expanding the Government’s counter-terrorism brief to only one department, namely the OSCT. The main thrust of our briefing was that rather than approaching all of Britain’s diverse Muslim communities through the prism of counter-terrorism, the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) should be liberated from the terrorism brief to focus more on promoting national cohesion by challenging non-violent extremisms.

    For example, in our briefing we criticised attempts to tackle extremism at universities that were crudely directed at institutions that merely happened to be located in areas that had a large local Muslim population. Instead we advised that only where totalitarian views appeared, represented in this case by the spread of Islamism, should there be serious concern for either of the two departments and their respective roles.

    In our briefing, we warned that certain non-violent Islamist groups try to present themselves as part of the mainstream. These groups want to monopolise and stifle discourse, denying a voice to other Muslims who disagree with their politicised interpretation of Islam. We advised ministers that, rather than repeating the mistakes of the past and continuing to engage with these Islamist groups regardless of their intolerant and anti-democratic views, they should engage with a wider range of Muslim voices. Contrary to Brian Whitaker’s misreading, we explicitly advised Government not to get involved in theology but simply to endorse any group that is willing to challenge Islamism and promote Britain’s shared secular democratic values, regardless of which sect it belonged to.

    Our briefing then gave a clear definition of Islamism as an ideology, distinguishing it from the diversity of Islam the faith, and outlined Islamism’s inherent totalitarianism. We said that Islamists all broadly agree on certain goals (for example, that an interpretation of shari’ah should be enforced as state law) but that they disagree on how those goals should be achieved. We explained that only groups espousing the militant strand of Islamism - the ideology of al-Qaeda - should be banned. Other groups should face a civic, not legal challenge.

    Of course, non-violent Islamist groups have a right to exist in the same way as the non-violent BNP. However, just as we would not expect Government to fund or endorse far right groups opposed to equal rights for all, the same should apply to Islamists.

    For example, the East London Mosque has a leadership that is closely linked to the South Asian Islamist political party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Despite this it has repeatedly been treated by prominent figures - including Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and even Prince Charles - as though it represents mainstream Muslims in the UK. Jamaat-e-Islami was founded by Abu Ala Mawdudi, who taught his followers:

    It must now be obvious that the objective of the Islamic jihad is to eliminate the rule of an un-Islamic system, and establish in its place an Islamic system of state rule. Islam does not intend to confirm this rule to a single state or to a handful of countries. The aim of Islam is to bring about a universal revolution. Although in the initial stages, it is incumbent upon members of the party of Islam to carry out a revolution in the state system of the countries to which they belong; their ultimate objective is none other than a world revolution.”
    (Jihad in Islam by A A Mawdudi, chapter 3, p10)

    It would be almost poetic if Dodd and other Regressive-leftists should argue for nuance be found in such categorical statements made by Mawdudi, yet a Quilliam briefing paper can be so grossly generalised as being “McCarthyite” with the focus being on an appendix and not on the actual recommendations made. It remains unclear how it is ‘McCarthyite’ to call for the government to cease empowering Islamist groups that promote intolerance, reject democracy, and wish for - as Azad Ali, chair of the ‘Muslim Safety Forum’ and British civil servant, said in 2008 - ‘the resurgence of the Khilafah [caliphate]‘. Would it also be ‘McCarthyite’ to discourage the government from engaging with and empowering homophobes or racists?

    Dodd’s generalisations of our report as ‘McCarthyite’ are made even worse by their omission of our consistent stance in support of civil liberties and human rights, even when it concerns Islamists and other extremists. For example, during parliamentary questions the last Prime Minister cited our views as one reason why Hizb ut-Tahrir in the UK should not be banned. We wrote against extending the remit of the terror laws. I personally appeared on Newsnight to oppose ethnic or religious profiling in airports. Again on Newsnight, we even opposed Keith Vaz - quoted in Dodd’s piece as being critical of our briefing - when he supported preventing a non-violent extremist (in that case, Geert Wilders) from entering the UK. We have spoken on numerous occasions against the use of torture and arbitrary detention.

    Despite all of the above, for Dodd and the regressive-left the mere fact that we call upon civil society and Government to treat Muslim extremists with the same disdain that non-Muslim extremists are shown is somehow McCarthyite. By arriving at such lazy and ideologically driven conclusions, Dodd and the regressive-left only undermine the noble cause of social justice and liberty.

    By constantly shouting Islamophobia or “McCarthyism” at people trying to defend democratic values by promoting a civic challenge against extremism, the Regressives only serve to fuel the propaganda of both the far-right in their claim that Muslims are above scrutiny, and the Islamists who seek to use such cries as cover for their bigoted views. The progressive-left should be weary of such ‘boy cried wolf’ tactics, for eventually it is their flock that will be devoured by fascist wolves invited in by regressive pandering in the name of ‘fighting oppression’.

    This is our response since The Guardian declined to publish this on their website.

                  Post to

    Filed in: Islamists,Religion,Terrorism

    30 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blog post:: Quilliam Foundation respond to the Guardian's accusations

    2. Maajid Nawaz

      And here is my own reply to the Guardian @Saftar: RT @sunny_hundal: Quilliam responds to the Guardian's accusations

    3. Quilliam

      Quilliam responds to the Guardian's accusations

    4. ThinkingMuslim

      RT @QuilliamF: Quilliam responds to the Guardian's accusations

    5. Maajid Nawaz

      The response piece that the Guardian refused to run -

    6. Steve Akehurst

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blog post:: Quilliam Foundation respond to the Guardian's accusations

    1. cjcjc — on 6th August, 2010 at 3:52 pm  

      Islamism is not an “anti-libertarian” ideology.

      It is an anti-freedom ideology.

      The Guardian refused to publish this, you say?
      Surely not.

    2. Sunny — on 6th August, 2010 at 3:58 pm  

      I won’t attribute motives to the Guardian - they regularly publish articles by Quilliam, sometimes attacking its own coverage.

      Either way, I felt that Quilliam had some excellent points to make in response and they deserved a hearing on the issue.

      Although I do think that Brian has a point about how funding certain groups and not others simply increases the back-stabbing and annoys the hell out of ordinary Muslims (who are suspicious of govt funded programmes as it is).

      There is, in short, no easy way out of this.

    3. Vikram Dodd — on 6th August, 2010 at 4:07 pm  

      hi all,
      there’s a proverb which roughly translated goes like this; just because the cock squawks, does not mean there’s any need to squawk back.
      That said Mr Nawaz’s piece omits to mention that his organisation was phoned by me twice ahead of publication for comment.
      Such was their spirit of openness, they declined to comment. Fair enough, I guess that is their right. But it’s a bit rich to now claim they were gagged, when they declined opportunities to comment prior to publication.

    4. cjcjc — on 6th August, 2010 at 4:13 pm  

      Any comment on the substance of their response at all?

      Quite happy with the Muslim Safety Forum, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and the Islam Channel, are you?

    5. Mark J — on 6th August, 2010 at 4:27 pm  

      Dodd - knowing your track record of twisting and distorting quotes they probably didn’t want you to quote them in your hopelessly biased and highly prejudicial piece. Either way, well done Maajid and shame on regressive lefties like Dodd who pander to brown fascism.

    6. joe90 — on 6th August, 2010 at 4:37 pm  

      Sorry for laughing but the boy who cried wolf statement is funny.

      Quilliam having been crying wolf for the past 2 or 3 years!!!!

      In my opinion they are a bunch of money grabbing opportunists who jumped on the anti islamist band wagon.

    7. Mark J — on 6th August, 2010 at 4:39 pm  

      Putting Dodd to one side, I think standards have really slipped at the Guardian in recent weeks. All the pieces that discussed this leak were poorly researched and omitted vital details about developments in this area since the coalition came to power. Other pieces by Haroon Siddique about Islamophobia were also very very poorly researched. Furthermore, none of these regressive lefty critics of Govt policy offer any alternative. You could forgive the Daily Mail for specialising in sensationalist headlines, I think the Guardian have taken a page out of their book.

    8. Mark J — on 6th August, 2010 at 4:47 pm  

      Of course Joe, extremists don’t really exist we have all just been having bad nightmares recently. Let me know when your new prescription of pills come through.

    9. owl — on 6th August, 2010 at 5:24 pm  

      Faisal aka Sid - you remember him Sunny wrote earlier a piece titled “Guardian censures Quilliam Foundation for doing its job!”

      Indeed, Quilliam was doing its job, a paid job one should recall, just like any other consultancy firm - the government told them what they want (in this case Gove) and then gave them the money to deliver it!

      As for Majid’s ‘rebuttal’ he doesn’t address any of the accusations…Majid please tell us how the metropolitan police is AQ sympathisers.

    10. MaidMarian — on 6th August, 2010 at 8:47 pm  

      Bluntly, I would put almost all of the ‘anti-extremism’ activity at the front of the queue for cuts.

    11. Badmash — on 6th August, 2010 at 9:37 pm  

      No wonder the Guardian didn’t publish this long winded drivel. Quilliam is positioning. It’s all about access and back-stabbing.

      Majid, you along with your backers (and my have the usual suspects been lining up) want to be the purveyors of who is, and who isn’t a good Muslim.

      You are no different from takfiris and salafis who delegitimise other Muslims. You also make the obscene accusation that Muslim groups are somehow twice removed from al-qa’ida. Your proof? Oh some bloke said something and he happens to be the third cousin of someone in an organisation you don’t like.

      I won’t bother engaging in a pointless rebuttal of this (everyone being Maududist), but I will echo something Sunmy once said on a similar matter: Churchill said nasty stuff about Indians, he even gasses some Arabs, but he has his place in history, as does Netaji Bose.

    12. Andrew — on 7th August, 2010 at 12:59 am  

      If the Quilliam Foundation was privately funded like any other think-tank, we wouldn’t be having all these arguments now, I suspect.

    13. teabag — on 7th August, 2010 at 2:05 am  

      Having read Dodd’s article it looked like Quilliam had launched a witch hunt against ‘Mainstream’ groups. When I actually read their report all it seems they have done is point out what Islamism is and which groups in the UK are Islamist. From a group that sets out to challenge Islamism this is unsurprising and not worthy of a news piece.

      This looks like very poor journalism from Dodd

    14. joe90 — on 7th August, 2010 at 11:04 am  


      comparing the guardian to the daily mail pretty sad just because your mates at quilliam didn’t get what they wanted oh boo hoo!

    15. ~AFAR — on 7th August, 2010 at 11:56 am  


      I entirely agree.

    16. teabag — on 7th August, 2010 at 3:58 pm  

      on another note, I would be interested to hear what Dodd has specifically against Quilliam, or whether he has vested interests in attacking them, since I recall that this is the second time he has attacked them, with both attacks seeming very unbalanced

    17. Arman — on 7th August, 2010 at 10:35 pm  

      “Having read Dodd’s article it looked like Quilliam had launched a witch hunt against ‘Mainstream’ groups. When I actually read their report all it seems they have done is point out what Islamism is and which groups in the UK are Islamist.”

      Teabag - they haven’t so much launched a witch hunt, but have become the new standard bearers of it.

      Step One: define an intellectually incoherent idea of Islamism, incorporate peoples worst fears about those pesky Moslems while you are at it.

      Step Two: In polite society those fears would be considered racist, so you’ve gotta find a way of detoxifying those fears.

      Step Three: Be helpful by playing to those fears and detoxifying those racist tendencies. Look, I agree with you! Look, I’m a Moslem! Now, where do I sign?

      Step Four: Now, project those fears onto your very own shitlist. Find groups who you don’t like. Nevermind that they may be doing good work, that they aren’t extremist. That they protest to high hell they’re not. In your mind, they are.

      Or in Majid’s words:

      “For example, the East London Mosque has a leadership that is closely linked to the South Asian Islamist political party, Jamaat-e-Islami. Despite this it has repeatedly been treated by prominent figures – including Ken Livingstone, Boris Johnson and even Prince Charles – as though it represents mainstream Muslims in the UK.”

      Or rather:

      “Bloody hell, why are they not being ‘utterly shunned’ (in the words of Andrew Gilligan). Why the hell are they not sticking to the script and be separatist? Instead all sorts of people that I’d rather be friends with are being their friends instead. I know, I’ll conflate their supposed ideological roots, and then I’ll discredit them.”

      Teabag and #AFAR, I suppose you guys think Andrew Gilligan is fair and balanced, just like Fox News.

    18. damon — on 8th August, 2010 at 12:09 pm  

      It does sound like Quilliam are involved in a bit of McCarthyism. What else could you call drawing up secret lists of ‘extremists’ and grassing them up to the security services?

      Whether people deserve to be on such a list and be monitored or blacklisted by the government is another thing.
      It all depends on if you trust Quilliam’s judgement in the first place. Does the East London Mosque encourage Islamism for example? And if they do, is it anyone’s business?

      Arman @17

      Step One: define an intellectually incoherent idea of Islamism, incorporate peoples worst fears about those pesky Moslems while you are at it.

      That is one way of looking at it. There are others.

    19. Na'el — on 8th August, 2010 at 4:40 pm  

      Hey Maajid, since you are now talking, can you please tell us what happened with your lawsuit against Craig Murray:

      How much of the taxpayer funds that the govt. gives you have been misappropriated?

    20. teabag — on 9th August, 2010 at 12:22 pm  

      Arman -
      In fact I don’t believe that fox news and gilligan are fair and balanced,far from it,but that is beside the point.
      Also,I really don’t think pointing out which groups are islamist is a witch hunt.the document never advised the security services to ban or monitor these groups,nor stop working with them,as far as I could see.all the document did was highlight what islamism is,which as a Muslim myself I can entirely agree with from experience,and then list which orgs follow the same beliefs.

      That is hardly a witch hunt.comparisons with McCarthy are lazy and historically people actually know what McCarthy did?

    21. joe90 — on 9th August, 2010 at 1:06 pm  

      na’el post#19

      The quilliam boys ran a mile when craig murray stood up to their bully boy tactics.

      When asked to show their accounts to see where british tax payers money was going they did a houdini act lol.

    22. damon — on 9th August, 2010 at 1:18 pm  

      Of course a lot of people with a bit of a chip on their shoulders are not going to like it (being talked about and appearing on lists) - but what was it that Corporal Jones used to say on Dad’s Army about his time out in the Sudan?

      Islamists in Britain want to have their cake and eat it. And don’t like it if they are criticised.
      It could be argued that some of them have been taking the P for quite some time.

      When I mentioned on this website for example, about going to the largest Dublin mosque for friday prayers earlier in the year, and heard the translation of the imam’s long sermon - and was shocked to hear it was a rambling bunch of nonsense about how the ‘Zionist entity’ was planning to destroy the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and rebuild the Jewish temple on its foundations … I got slated for that from several people on here.
      They didn’t like that at all. Got a bit abusive even.

    23. Arshad — on 11th August, 2010 at 12:42 am  

      Quilliam seems to specialising in making a false diagnosis that happens to match with a ‘treatment’ that they can supposedly offer to cure society of the ‘sickness’ of extremism.

      Claiming that East London Mosque is ‘Mawdudi’ or that all ‘Deobandis’ give succour to terrorists is simple to the point of bone-headedness. It perpetuates this newly created myth that Muslims in the UK can be reduced to intellectual threads that can be traced to individuals who carried influence with some religious groups almost a century ago. Social and theological development in the UK outstrips that which is conveniently pedalled by Quilliam; Islam as followed by most Muslims in the UK does not have any clear hierarchy of clergy, nor does it have clearly mapped out ideologies in which Muslims can be pigeon-holed as ‘moderate’, ‘questionable’ or ‘extreme’. THose people at grassroots level who, when hearing opinions which might be part of an ‘extremist’ ideology (something which is actually very rare to hear), are simply not helped by those like Quilliam who seem to cheerfully and cynically stigmatise sections of the UK’s Muslim population in order to satisfy their political goals. This is probably why even among those actively involved in challenging extremism in the UK, Quilliam has become little more than a joke.

      Quilliam wants the British government to do theology, but the theological map of the UK’s Muslims as provided by Quilliam is fundamentally flawed and deliberately misleading. How on earth will the UK government know any better - how on earth are they supposed to imbue Quilliam’s supposed research with any balance or nuance? They can’t - and this is broadly why the Prevent strategy has unfortunately given birth to many a anti-extremist snake-oil salesman, and Quilliam just happen to be the biggest of the bunch.

    24. Alicia — on 13th August, 2010 at 12:22 pm  

      Dodd does not enter to analyse the document because surprinsigly there is nothing new, (QF support the thesis which was one of the factors leading to the current failure of prevent)
      Non engagement with vast and serious academic literature of islamism(s), ignoring plurality and diversity; which islamism the document talk about? because British islamism shows more differences than commonalities with other islamisms,let alone al-Qaeda. Your exclusive focus on the history of ideas(lineal) whithout any relation to specific contexts (time and space)is anti-historical and goes against the laws of political science. Islamism=totalitarism we know where it cames from(from production of ideology centres) no from academy.

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