Quilliam Foundation


Quilliam Foundation

The Quilliam Foundation is a counter-extremism think tank set up by former Islamist activists in the United Kingdom. The group, largely founded by ex-Hizb ut-Tahrir activists, describes itself as "a think tank and campaign group that believes that Western Muslims should revive Western Islam, our Andalusian heritage of pluralism and respect, and thereby find harmony in West-Islam relations." [ [http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/AboutUs.htm Quilliam Foundation, about us] ]

The foundation takes its name from William Abdullah Quilliam, an English convert to Islam during the 1880s. Qulliam established England's first mosque and a Muslim college that accepted students that were both Muslim and non-Muslim. Qulliam was also an active writer and defender of Islam.

Founders

The three public founders are Maajid Nawaz, Rashad Zamaan Ali, and Mohammed Mahboob “Ed” Husain, ex-activists of the UK branch of the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir. Throughout Hizb ut-Tahrir’s history, no member has undertaken such a high profile u-turnTaji-Farouki, S, "A Fundamental Quest: Hizb al-Tahrir and the Search for the Islamic Caliphate", Grey Seal, London, 1996] [http://www.islamic-considerations.blogspot.com Considerations on Islamic Resurgence ] ] .

Mohammed “Ed” Mahboob Husain

Hailing from Bangladesh, after failing his GCSEs Husain drifted between Islamic groups achieving little of note.Husain, E, "The Islamist"] His experience with Hizb ut-Tahrir chronicled in his book “The Islamist”. Nick Cohen, Melanie Phillips, Michael Gove and David Aaronovitch provided rave reviews whilst Taji Mustafa, Andrew Booso, Azam Tamimi and Yahya Birt were more critical with Ziauddin Sardar questioning whether the book was penned by Whitehall. [ [http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-islamist-by-ed-husain-journey-into-islam-by-akbar-ahmed-451160.html The Islamist by Ed Husain; Journey into Islam by Akbar Ahmed - Reviews, Books - The Independent ] ] :

“The fixation with HT is somewhat understandable considering the history of Husein. However, the obsession to blame it for the environment of terrorism is taking reductionism to its extreme.” (Ziauddin Sardar) [ [“Ed Husein : A British Neo-Conservative in Sufi Clothing”, http://liberationparty.blogspot.com/2007/07/ed-husein-british-neo-conservative-in.html] ]

Husain argued he was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir and left due to his contribution to the atmosphere surrounding the murder of a student at Newham College. [Sardar, Z, “The Islamist by Ed Husain; Journey into Islam by Akbar Ahmed”, [http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books/reviews/the-islamist-by-ed-husain-journey-into-islam-by-akbar-ahmed-451160.html] ] Hizb ut-Tahrir categorically denied he had ever been a member and the trial Judge’s report concluded the Newham College murder had in fact resulted from an argument over a table tennis game. [ [http://www.hmcourts-service.gov.uk/cms/145_584.htm Legal / Professional - Minimum Terms - Minimum terms set for young offenders by the Lord Chief Justice ] ]

Regarding extremists Muslims he says,

"Call them jihadists, Islamists, but I wouldn't call them Muslim. Being Muslim is not enough for them. They make politics seems religious…" [ [http://www.thepeninsulaqatar.com/Display_news.asp?section=Local_News&subsection=Qatar+News&month=March2007&file=Local_News200703041416.xml The Peninsula On-line: Qatar's leading English Daily ] ]
He informed the university authorities of the presence of members of the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir in Damascus and has called for them to be banned in the UK. [Husain says, “…but banning Hizb ut-Tahrir would be an excellent first step” - [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2007/05/02/do0203.xml I know how these terrorists are inspired] , retrieved 20th May 2008]

Husain describes the Arab "psyche" as irredeemably racist, [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/apr/21/allmodcons All mod cons | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk ] ] [ [http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_extracts/article1685726.ece How a British jihadi saw the light] ] cites Gandhi as his hero, [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/ed-husain-you-ask-the-questions-808652.html Ed Husain: You Ask The Questions - People, News - The Independent ] ] [ [http://www.theorwellprize.co.uk/the-award/short-books/islamist.aspx The Orwell Prize | The Islamist - the first chapter of Ed Husain's account ] ] criticises the director of MI5 for "pussyfooting around" with extremists, [http://www.islamic-considerations.blogspot.com] Critique of the Quilliam Foundation] he defends the government's decision to ban Muslim cleric al-Qaradawi from Britain because he defends Palestinian martyrdom operations [ [http://forum.mpacuk.org/showthread.php?t=34797&highlight=qaradawi Ed Husain Justifies U.K.'s Qaradawi Visa Denial - MPACUK :: Muslim Discussion Forum ] ] and Husian attacks multiculturalism, declaring there to be too many immigrants in the country. [ [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2008/01/13/do1303.xml Bishop right to tackle no-go area in our minds - Telegraph ] ]

Maajid Nawaz

Nawaz was jailed in Egypt in 2002 with two others for belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir. Whilst in prison, he began to review and reconsider some of his Islamist ideas [ [http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/index.php/component/content/article/184 Maajid Nawaz ] ] and developing his understanding of traditional Islam. On his return, he appeared on BBC’s Hardtalk claiming Hizb ut-Tahrir’s ideas were peaceful and had prevented him from becoming violent despite the oppression he had faced, arguing his time in prison had “convinced me even more...that there is a need to establish this Caliphate as soon as possible”.

In 2007 Nawaz claimed he had been with Hizb ut-Tahrir for 12 years, [ [http://www.bbc.co.uk/pressoffice/pressreleases/stories/2007/09_september/11/newsnight.shtml] and http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/newsnight/2007/09/why_newsnights_interview_with_former_ht_member_is.html] in 2008 this became,

“I have been training people [in Hizb ut-Tahrir] for 14 years, every single week for two hours a week…“ [http://quilliamfoundation.org/component/content/article/51-video/173 and http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/article1063960.ece]

Reasons for Nawaz’s departure from Hizb ut-Tahrir is due to his profound doubts about what the group represents.

Rashad Zaman Ali

Rashad Zaman Ali is of Bangladeshi origins living in Sheffield; [http://theislamist.wordpress.com/2007/09/26/who-is-rashad-zaman-ali/ Who is Rashad Zaman Ali? « The ‘Islamist’ ] ] he encountered Hizb ut-Tahrir when a party member delivered a school assembly. Following this he read a tract of Hizb ut-Tahrir’s economic system which deconstructed western economic theory of Adam Smith, Ricardo and Malthus through to Marx. He began studying with Hizb ut-Tahrir and was with them for 12 years. [http://www.instituteofideas.com/events/secularism2008.html Institute of Ideas | Secularism 2008 Series ] ] [ [http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2007/sep/10/leavingthefold#comment-804608 Leaving the fold | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk ] ] [ [http://traditionalislamist.blogspot.com/ Traditional Islamist ] ]

The Quilliam Name

Abdullah Quilliam, a 19th century British convert to Islam was influential in advancing knowledge of Islam within the British Isles, and gained converts through literary works and charitable institutions he founded.

Objectives and Ideology

The Quilliam Foundation is a counter extremism think tank and campaign group, that believes Muslims are required to revive a Islam of Andalusian heritage. Nawaz states,

“The first (objective) is I want to demonstrate how the Islamist ideology is incompatible with Islam. Secondly, I want to develop a Western Islam that is at home in Britain and in Europe. We want to reverse radicalization by taking on their arguments and countering them.” [“How I’ll fight against Islamic extremism”, http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local/display.var.2220706.0.how_ill_fight_against_islamic_extremism.php]

The Quilliam Foundation believes Islam is not an ideology but a religion, [Husain states, “Islamists are at odds with Islam as a faith. Islam is a faith not an ideology” – “How I’ll fight against Islamic extremism”, [http://www.echo-news.co.uk/news/local/display.var.2220706.0.how_ill_fight_against_islamic_extremism How I’ll fight against Islamic extremism] .php] namely “Islam is not Islamism.”

The Foundation opposes Islamists in particular the extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir which is banned in many countries. Its critique differs with the book written on Hizb ut-Tahrir by Dr Farouki of Durham University.

The Foundation argues Islam has no specific prescriptions for modes of governance, as Muslim history has illustrated a plethora of approaches to government.

Unlike Christianity, it argues, Muslim history has not battled for the separation of church and state since clerics were almost always a separate entity from the rulers.Early Muslim rulers (Imam Ali, the Prophet's son-in-law, for example) fought those who claimed "rule is for God". Muslim scholarly giants such as Ibn al-Qayyim (d 1350) condemned those who claimed to rule in God's name - [http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/ed-husain-you-ask-the-questions-808652.html “Muslims have never had a church that defined all aspects of faith and politics. Muslim scholars have always existed outside of the political sphere and developed diverse traditions, religious and ethical codes outside of political authority.” – Comment – Rashad, http://worldhaveyoursay.wordpress.com/2008/04/29/how-can-we-fight-islamist-extremism/]

Proposals

A policy proposal has been published for the British government and journalists. There has been no comment regarding response. The Foundation claims it has relied on organisations including Civitas, Policy Exchange, Demos, IPPR and RUSI for its content, [ [http://www.quilliamfoundation.com Quilliam Foundation ] ] however, does not reference any of its proposals to these organisations.

The primary recommendation comprises rehabilitation centres [ [http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/component/content/article/51-%20%20%20%20video/161 Question and Answer Session with Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz ] ] – a proposal to “detox” extremists based on the success of Egyptian and Saudi programmes. These centres would expose extremists and terrorists who wish to leave their organisations to genuine and authentic scholars. [ [http://quilliamfoundation.org/component/content/article/51-video/173 Maajid Nawaz on Newsnight ] ]

Other recommendations instruct communities, groups, scholars and leaders to exclude Islamists/extremist from their midst.

The target audience is the Muslims of Britain with a particular focus on extremists and radicals. To date the focus has been mainly non-Muslim audiences through presentations, interviews and discussions across Europe and the Middle East.

Funding

The Quilliam Foundation claims its source of funding is from anonymous Kuwaiti businessmen. [ http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/faqs.html,Recent revelations claim funding has been terminated due to the Quilliam Foundation's extreme views and opinions forcing Husain to campaign for further funds - http://aqidah12.wordpress.com/?s=quilliam] Seamus Milne of the Guardian has claimed:

“If you press the right buttons on integration and ‘radicalisation’ and hold your tongue on western foreign policy, there are rich pickings to be had...” (Seamus Milne – The Guardian) “All mod cons”, http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/seumas_milne/2007/04/all_mod_cons.html]

Nawaz has denied taking funds from the PVE fund despite being offered it although stated he would have no problems in principle in receiving (without strings) taxpayers’ funds. Critics like Bunglawala allege the UK government is providing funding, citing strong hints by senior officials at the Department of Communities and Local Government recently. [“Abandoning Banning”, http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/inayat_bunglawala/2008/04/abandoning_banning.html] Both Husain and Nawaz are on record as stating they would be happy to take government funds.

Advisors, Associates and Affilliates

The Quilliam Foundation site had listed a number of scholars as supporters and advisors.

The Quilliam Foundation website has removed all mention of advisor names after a number of the advisors were threatened and harassed by Islamists:

“In the meantime, we have decided to respect our advisors' wishes that they continue to advise us in private so as to save them the indignity of constant Islamist-Wahhabite harrassment [sic] . We have therefore decided to no longer publicise their names.” [ [http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/advisors.html Advisors ] ]

Husain cited a number of scholars whom he approved of in his book, including Hamza Yusuf Hanson, Nuh Keller and T.J. Winter;

Competitors

The Quilliam Foundation is operating in a very competitive arena, with numerous organisations applying for government funding. The main contenders comprise:

British Muslims for Democracy

A re-launched group (who first launched around 2005) incessantly complain how little media and government attention they have received in comparison to the Quilliam Foundation. It comprises primarily a set of secular “Muslim” journalists. With the Muslim community seeing no separation of religion and politics, they have an uphill struggle facing them to convince them otherwise. Their impact has been negligible to date and the lukewarm response to their launch indicates that the media and the government are becoming bored with the “me-too” organisations.

The Sufi Muslim Council

This organisation came from nowhere and began gaining publicity from the media and government. It argued the majority of Muslims in Britain were apolitical Sufis whom this group represented, its head being Kabhani. However, it soon fell out of favour of the government as most Muslim organisations condemned its views as neo-conservative with links to Washington and the infamous ISCA (a neo-conservative group furthering the US administration’s overseas agendas). [ “The Sufi Muslim Council (SMC) have emerged from nowhere… But hardly anyone knows who they are or what they stand for… worrying links between this new council and the neoconservatives in Washington… The majority of the content is written by neoconservatives that criticise Islamic groups 'Wahhabis', the Muslim Brotherhood, MCB, MAB, Hizb ut-Tahrir…One of the prominent authors on the SMC website… is Zeyno Baran, a self confessed neocon who works for the ultra right-wing Hudson Institute… She says that Islam should play no role in politics and condemns even the mere mention of Islam in the Iraqi and Afghan constitutions.Baran has been trying to establish a neocon-friendly Muslim organisation in the UK. She has talked of the need to, "provide money and help create the political space for moderate Muslims to organize, publish, broadcast, and translate their work." She has also held meetings with government officials in the UK, urging them to ban the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahrir...The hard right neocon think tank the Nixon Center published a document by Zeyno Baran which encouraged using Sufism as a means to attack Islam. [http://www.nixoncenter.org/publications/monographs/Sufism.pdf] …The SMC is closely linked to Shaykh Hisham Kabbani (ISCA). The SMC website and magazine are full of Kabbani's writings and Haras Rafiq has admitted that Kabbani is the spiritual leader of the SMC. Kabbani infuriated Muslims in the US when he gave a clandestine testimony to the State Department in which he claimed 80% of mosques and Muslims in the US were "extremists", Muslims pose a threat to the USA and the US government needs to act quickly and Israeli occupation is legitimate and should be accepted. All the major US Muslim organisations issued a statement condemned the ISCA.”]

With views remarkably similar, it is no wonder allegations of neo-conservatism are regularly made against the Foundation. The two organisations believe in: the legitimacy of Israel, the separation of Islam and politics, the opposition to “Islamists” (Muslim Brotherhood, Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jamati Islamiya etc), opposition to extremism in the Muslim community, silence on foreign policy atrocities, and have close relationships with neo-conservatives.

Muslim Council of Britain

An umbrella group comprising a loose coalition of a variety of groups and institutions from across the UK, the MCB has been working with British government for several years trying to influence policy before being marginalised in favour of SMC. Since the 7/7 bombings the government distanced itself from the MCB for its vocalisation of the Iraq war, its stance on Islamic values and Sharia – however, having been most recently replaced by the Quilliam Foundation with its more favourable positions, MCB is being pressurised to change its stance with Inayat Bunglawala recently relenting on the stance on homosexuals and memorial day.

Critics and Response

The Quilliam Foundation has been condemned for its staunch theological position and attacks on other groups. Critics have included Azam Tamimi (Ikhwan al-Muslimeen), Inayat Bunglawala(MCB), Ziauddin Sardar, Yahaya Birt and Seamus Milne (Guardian). Others like Anas al-Tikriti, Yvonne Ridley, Ihtisham Hibatullah, Ismail Patel, and Roshan Salih have written:

“We represent a cross section of the Muslim community, and reject the simplistic narrative about the dangers of Islamism espoused by the Quilliam Foundation… We believe this is just another establishment-backed attempt to divert attention from the main cause of radicalisation and extremism in Britain: the UK's disastrous foreign policy in the Muslim world, including its occupation of Muslim lands and its support for pro-western Muslim dictators. The foundation has no proven grassroots support within the Muslim community, although it does seem to have the ear of the powers that be, probably because it is telling them what they want to hear.It is quite possible to be a politically engaged Muslim without wanting to fly planes into tall buildings. Yet the foundation equates all forms of political Islam with extremism and terrorism. But those misguided few who are willing to cross the line into terrorism are not driven by disfranchisement or Sayyid Qutb's writings; they do it because they are furious about western foreign policy...” [“What turns some Islamists to terror”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/apr/26/uksecurity]

On a Newsnight discussion with Nawaz, Azam Tamimi of the Muslim Brotherhood alleged the Quilliam Foundation comprised neocons. Others have cited that the founders of Quilliam Foundation are no different to those contained in Dr Sa'id Al-Ghamdi’s doctorate, issued by Medina University, “Deviation from the Faith as Reflected in [Arab] Thought and Literature on Modernity”, which names more than 200 Arab intellectuals and authors as heretical, controversially making it permissible to kill them. [“Saudi Doctorate Encourages the Murder of Arab Intellectuals”, http://memri.org/bin/articles.cgi?Page=archives&Area=sd&ID=SP107006] A number of websites satirize the lack of originality and content whilst others have focused on exposing the antics and speeches of the founders for their distinctive lack of Islam thought.

Journalists have refrained from criticising the Foundation’s narratives, ties with radical scholars, extreme positions and indiscretions. [“Muslim moderates 'face hate campaign'”, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/apr/20/islam.religion“Extremists target Jemima with death threats”, http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008


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