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Quilliam (think tank)

Quilliam (think tank)
Quilliam (Foundation)
Founded 2008
Founder Ed Husain, Maajid Nawaz, Rashad Zaman Ali
Location London, United Kingdom
Key people Ed Husain, Maajid Nawaz, Rashad Zaman Ali
Employees 13
Slogan Challenging Extremism, Promoting Pluralism, Inspiring Change
Quilliam is a London-based think tank that focuses on "counter-extremism", specifically Islamism, which it argues
is the cause of Muslim terrorism. Founded as The Quilliam Foundation, it lobbies government and public
institutions for more nuanced policies regarding Islam and the need for greater democracy in the Muslim world.
According to its founder Maajid Nawaz, "We wish to raise awareness around Islamism"; also "I want to demonstrate
how the Islamist ideology is incompatible with Islam. Secondly...develop a Western Islam that is at home in Britain
and in Europe... reverse radicalisation by taking on their arguments and countering them."
The organisation opposes any Islamist ideology, and champions freedom of expression. The critique of Islamist
ideology by its founders Maajid Nawaz, Rashad Zaman Ali, and Ed Husain is based, in part, on their personal
The organisation, named after William Quilliam,
a 19th-century British convert to Islam who founded England's
first mosque, was originally called the Quilliam Foundation, but later rebranded as simply Quilliam.
Quilliam defines Islamism in the following terms:
It is the belief that Islam is a political ideology, as well as a faith. It is a modernist claim that political
sovereignty belongs to God, that the Shari'ah should be used as state law, that Muslims form a political
rather than a religious bloc around the world and that it is a religious duty for all Muslims to create a
political entity that is governed as such. Islamism is a spectrum, with Islamists disagreeing over how
they should bring their Islamic state into existence.
Some Islamists seek to engage with existing political systems, others reject the existing systems as
illegitimate but do so non-violently, and others seek to create an 'Islamic state' through violence. Most
Islamists are socially modern but others advocate a more retrograde lifestyle. Islamists often have
contempt for Muslim scholars and sages and their traditional institutions; as well as a disdain for
non-Islamist Muslims and the West.
Quilliam argues that Islam is just a religion, not a political religion nor an ideology
and that Islam is not
Quilliam argues that [Islamists] are extreme because of their rigidity in understanding politics.
Quilliam (think tank)
Founders and directors
Quilliam was established in 2007 by Ed Husain, Maajid Nawaz and Rashad Zaman Ali, three former members of the
Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Ed Husain (Co-Director and Co-Founder; left in 2011 to join the Council on Foreign Relations in New York
Maajid Nawaz (Co-Director and Co-Founder)
Rashad Zaman Ali (Although Ali helped to set up Quilliam, he is no longer linked to the organisation, and now
works for an organisation called 'Centri'.)
Ishtiaq Hussain, a Senior Trainer, left the organisation in 2009.
The chair of Quilliam's advisory board is restaurateur Iqbal Wahhab.
Noman Benotman President
Ghaffar Hussain Managing Director
Usama Hasan Senior Researcher in Islamic Studies, founding advisor to the organisation in 2008.
Jonathan Russell Political Liaison Officer
Erin Marie Saltman Senior Researcher
Ed Swan Programs Officer
Emman El-Badawy Civil Society Project Officer
Haras Rafiq Outreach Officer
Charlie Cooper Programs Office
Objectives and Impact
A policy proposal published for the British government and journalists at the time of Quilliam's launch suggested
establishing rehabilitation centres in which extremists could be deradicalised. These centres would expose extremists
and terrorists who wish to leave their organisations to the work of scholars whose work has been recognized as
sound and legitimate.
More recent information about Quilliam's goals, available on its website, states:
Challenging extremism is the duty of all responsible members of society. Not least because cultural
insularity and extremism are products of the failures of wider society to foster a shared sense of
belonging and to advance liberal democratic values. With Islamist extremism in particular, we believe a
more self-critical approach must be adopted by Muslims. Westophobic ideological influences and social
insularity needs to be challenged within Muslim communities by Muslims themselves whilst
simultaneously, an active drive towards creating an inclusive civic identity must be pursued by all
members of society. Quilliam seeks to challenge what we think, and the way we think. It aims to
generate creative, informed and inclusive discussions to counter the ideological underpinnings of
terrorism, whilst simultaneously providing evidence-based recommendations to governments for related
policy measures.
To date the organization's goals have been mainly communicated through publishing reports, involvement in the
media through taking part in interviews and discussions across Europe and the Middle East and through its 'Outreach
and Training' unit which delivers a 'radicalisation awareness programme', a training course intended to develop
students' understanding of:
* The difference between Islam as a faith and Islamism as a
radicalizing political ideology which justifies violence
Quilliam (think tank)
* The different pathways into radicalization
* A detailed explanation of the process of radicalization - the
key causes of it and how it manifests itself
* A thorough understanding of Islamist paradigms and
extremists' propaganda
* An exposition of the political narrative and manipulation of
grievances which are exploited and used to groom vulnerable individuals
* The cultivation of a climate which provides support for
political violence
* Explanation of the contextual nature of Islamist political
ideas as a modern and totalitarian manipulation of traditional
religious ideas
* A comprehensive ideological and theological refutation of Islamist thought providing a
counter-narrative for those who need to engage directly
Condemnation of 2008 Gaza War
On 30 December, just days after the outbreak of the Gaza War, Ed Husain condemned the "ruthless air strikes and
economic blockade" of Gaza city by Israel. He predicted that the result would be "rightful support for the
bealeagured Palestinian peoples and a boost to the popularity of Hamas by default".
Challenging Dutch politician Geert Wilders
In February and October 2009, Quilliam publicly confronted the Dutch politician Geert Wilders, arguing that "Geert
Wilders is undoubtedly an ill-informed, hate-driven bigot with many unpleasant views but he is not directly inciting
violence. ... We therefore challenge Geert Wilders to an open debate in which we will argue that Islam is compatible
with secular democracy and that, contrary to what he apparently believes, Muslims are not a threat to Europe and its
Hijab and burqa
Quilliam support the right of women to wear the hijab and the right of women to take it off. In a commentary in The
Sun, Maajid Nawaz stated: "If Muslims object to the French ban on the hijab, we must also object to the 'Islamist'
plan to impose the hijab and ban women uncovering their hair." Quilliam has also defended the right of women to
wear the full face veil, in the form of the niqab or burqa.
Leaked report on the UK government's 'Prevent' strategy
On 14 June 2010 a strategic briefing paper and covering letter signed by Maajid Nawaz and Ed Hussain was sent to
Charles Farr, director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT). The briefing paper was intended to
be a confidential review of the UK government's post 7/7 anti-terrorism 'Prevent' strategy, and was "particularly
critical of the view that government partnerships with non-violent yet otherwise extreme Islamists were the best way
to fend off Jihadism".
Although sent "by hard copy alone" with no electronic version, both letter and briefing paper
were leaked by being scanned and published on the internet,
provoking protests from various groups which had
been identified in the Quilliam briefing as sympathetic or supportive of Islamist extremism.
Quilliam (think tank)
According to the briefing document, "The ideology of non-violent Islamists is broadly the same as that of violent
Islamists; they disagree only on tactics.
Quilliams report claimed that a unit within Scotland Yard called the Muslim Contact Unit, and a separate
independent group called the Muslim Safety Forum, intended to improve the relationship between the police and the
Muslim community, were respectively "Islamist-dominated"
and "associated with Jamaat e-Islami".
organisations listed by the Quilliam report included the Muslim Council of Britain, and its rival Muslim Association
of Britain, both said to be "associated with the Muslim brotherhood".
Also said to have Islamist sympathies or to
be associated with Islamist groups were the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Federation of Student Islamic
Societies, the Cordoba Foundation, and the Islam Channel.
The report said of these organisations: "These are a selection of the various groups and institutions active in the UK
which are broadly sympathetic to Islamism. Whilst only a small proportion will agree with al-Qaida's tactics, many
will agree with their overall goal of creating a single 'Islamic state' which would bring together all Muslims around
the world under a single government and then impose on them a single interpretation of sharia as state law."
Politicians described as "Islamist backed" included Salma Yaqoob, then leader of the Respect Party, and (then)
former Respect MP George Galloway.
Inayat Bunglawala, chairman of Muslims4Uk and a former spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, and
Fatima Khan, vice-chair of the Muslim Safety Forum, both described Quilliam's list as "McCarthyite". Bunglawala
added: "In effect, Quilliam a body funded very generously by the government through Prevent are attempting to
set themselves up as arbiters of who is and is not an acceptable Muslim."
A Home Office spokesman told the press that the report had not been solicited but added: "We believe the Prevent
programme isn't working as effectively as it could and want a strategy that is effective and properly focused that is
why we are reviewing it."
Maajid Nawaz told the Daily Telegraph: Quilliam has a track record of distinguishing between legal tolerance and
civil tolerance we oppose banning non-violent extremists...yet we see no reason why tax payers should subsidise
them. It is in this context that we wish to raise awareness around Islamism.
David Camerons Munich speech, February 2011
Maajid Nawaz describes in his book Radical a meeting he had with the British prime minister, David Cameron,
when he was called in to advise Cameron on a speech "distinguishing Islam from Islamism and extremism".
According to Nawaz, he presented Cameron with a "comparison between extremism and racism. I had argued that
the two should be analogous in terms of public response. Why should extremist views, which went against basic
liberties, be any more acceptable than racist or homophobic ones? I told Cameron that he shouldn't be afraid to
criticise Muslims who were putting forward extremist views in the name of faith. There was a difference between
holding these views and religious piety.
In February 2011, David Cameron accordingly made a speech in Munich in which he criticised state
multiculturalism", saying: "Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active,
muscular liberalism," said Cameron. "Let's properly judge these [Muslim] organisations: Do they believe in
universal human rights - including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before
the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage
integration or separatism?"
In a debate with Nawaz, Mehdi Hasan of The New Statesman described the speech to be "as inflammatory as it was
superficial", since Cameron proceeded to "blame the rise of Islamist-inspired violence in the UK on 'segregated
communities', 'the doctrine of state multiculturalism' and 'the passive tolerance of recent years'." Hasan concluded
that "the most egregious aspect of the Prime Ministers now-notorious address was his enthusiastic endorsement of
the so-called 'conveyor belt' theory of radicalisation, which states that young Muslims start off alienated and angry,
Quilliam (think tank)
slowly become more religious and politicised, and then almost automatically turn to violence and terror."
Nawaz conceded that "raising multiculturalism in the speech was an unnecessary distraction". However, he
considered it a positive step that Cameron highlighted the problem of "non-violent extremism", which "may not pose
a physical threat but that doesn't mean it is not a challenge requiring a robust policy response. Casual racism in
society poses no direct physical threat, but we can all recognise that where it spreads unchecked, without a civic
challenge, it is an unhealthy phenomenon. Islamism which can advocate anti-democratic views, divisive
sectarianism and ideas that discriminate on grounds of gender and sexuality is analogous in this respect to racism.
This does not mean we ban such ideas, but it does mean that, as with racism, we require a popular civil society
approach in challenging them." Nawaz agreed that "there is no conclusive evidence that extremism is a 'conveyor
belt' to terrorism, just as there is inconclusive evidence to the contrary." He added: "To become a jihadist terrorist,
one first becomes an Islamist, though not all Islamists will go on to violence. Joining militant racist groups like
Combat 18 seems unlikely if one is not first exposed to a level of racist rhetoric." He concluded that the conveyor
belt theory "is a red herring. Whether or not there is a 'conveyor belt', we must surely agree that the spread of
extremism in societies is unhealthy for integration in its own right."
Resignation of English Defence League leadership
On 8 October 2013 it was announced that the co-founders of the anti-Islamist English Defence League, Tommy
Robinson and Kevin Carroll, had had meetings with Quilliam and were now to leave the EDL. Robinson said that
street protests were no longer effective and acknowledged the dangers of far-right extremism, though he has
stated his intention to continue to combat radical Islamism by forming a new party. Both Robinson and Carroll have
been taking lessons in Islam from Quilliam member Usama Hasan, and intend to train in lobbying institutions.
Quilliam had previously persuaded another member of the EDL, Nick Jode, to leave the movement: Jode had been
persuaded by the writings and on-line videos of Maajid Nawaz speaking on behalf of Quilliam, being particularly
impressed by Nawaz's debate with Anjem Choudary of the Islamist group Islam4UK.
The foundation takes its name from Abdullah Quilliam, a 19th-century British convert to Islam who founded a
mosque in Liverpool. Quilliam was an opponent of the British Empire and a supporter of the caliphate. He also
argued that Muslims should not fight Muslims on behalf of European powers, citing specifically Britains enlistment
of Muslim soldiers against the resistance in Sudan. In all these respects his activities, according to Yahya Birt,
correspond to those that the individuals running the Quilliam Foundation today hold up as evidence of extremism.
Critics have included Azzam Tamimi, Inayat Bunglawala, Ziauddin Sardar who formerly criticised Quilliam but
has since sided with Maajid Nawaz during a debate with Tariq Ramadan broadcast on Press TV and Seumas
Milne of The Guardian.
Soon after the launch of Quilliam, Seumas Milne argued that "all three [of Quilliam's founders] are straight out of the
cold war defectors' mould [...] trading heavily on their former associations and travelling rapidly in a conservative
direction". Quilliam's co-founder Maajid Nawaz, in turn, has described Milne as an "Orientalist" who has accepted
that Islamism represents "the majority Muslim voice" together with "a form of reverse-racism [in which] liberal
values were expected of the civilized white person, but the brown Muslim could not be held to those same standards,
and should be judged by his or her own 'authentic' culture."
In an open letter published in The Guardian on 26 April 2008, Anas al-Tikriti, Yvonne Ridley, Ihtisham Hibatullah,
Ismail Patel and Roshan Salih wrote:
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
Quilliam (think tank)
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
(Quilliam) 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....
Maajid Nawaz has since answered the charge that Quilliam ignores the impact of the UK's foreign policy:
I have attempted to strike a balance between the two extremes of the neoconservative right, which tends
to blame Islam itself for an increase in Islamist-led violence, and the regressive left, which tends to
blame only foreign or domestic western government policy. The fact is that human beings are
complicated animals. Unlike water, we dont all boil at 100 Celsius. No catch-all cause of extremism
can be identified. It is best to approach this subject with some general principles in mind that inevitably
contribute to the phenomenon grievances, identity crises, charismatic recruiters and ideological
When Quilliam's Ed Husain was alleged to have recommended spying on Islamists unsuspected of any crimes,
Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert Lambert wrote:
Charles Moore and Dean Godson of Policy Exchange, have explained that this is a re-make of a 1980s
Thatcherite counter-subversion strategy in which Husain is cast in the role of Frank Chapple the "moderate"
trade union leader who was, they suggest, used to discredit and undermine the "extremist" miner's trade union
leader Arthur Scargill. Husain, they argue, can help defeat Altikriti, Bungalwala and their colleagues in the
same way.
Quilliam responded with a press release, which stated:
Quilliam does not support indiscriminate mass spying on British Muslims nor a police state. Ordinary
Muslims are our first line of defence against Islamist terrorism and our allies against extremists. We condemn
any efforts to conduct mass spying operations on innocent Muslims through the Governments Prevent
In January 2009, The Times published an article claiming that Quilliam had received almost 1 million from the
government. The article also said that some "members of the Government and the Opposition" had questioned the
wisdom of "relying too heavily on a relatively unknown organisation ... to counter extremism." Quilliam openly
acknowledges the funding that it receives from the public sector, and has made its financial records publicly
Since 2011 Quilliam has not received government ('public') funding. In the BBC programme HARDtalk Nawaz
explained: "the reason it was cut was because we disagreed at the time with the direction the government was
headed. Now that the strategy has changed, and the policy of government has changed, what we haven't done is
revitalize those funding relationships; but rather now we're 100% privately funded, which I'm happy with because of
course it allows me to do the work without having to face the questions about which government is funding you and
whether we're pursuing a government line or not."
With the sudden cut in 2011, Quilliam operated at a loss that year; but after cutting half of its staff (including Ed
Husain, who left when he secured a job with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York) and cutting back on its
expenses, the Guardian reported, "it was just about able to make it into the red again in the following year".
According to its political liaison officer, Jonathan Russell, the removal of public funding has been to Quilliam's
advantage as "it can remain ideas-focused, non-partisan and continue its own pursuits. Quilliam's ideas, projects and
output are all made possible by the support of private donations from Muslim and non-Muslim individuals and
Quilliam (think tank)
foundations based in the United Kingdom and all around the world."
[1] http:/ / www. quilliamfoundation. org/
[2] Nawaz, Maajid. Radical. W.H. Allen, London: 2012
[3] [3] Nawaz (2012): p. 327
[4] Husain states, Islamists are at odds with Islam as a faith. Islam is a faith not an ideology How Ill fight against Islamic extremism (http:/ /
www.echo-news. co.uk/ news/ 2220706. how_ill_fight_against_islamic_extremism/ )
[5] [5] Nawaz (2012): pp. 352-3
[6] [6] Nawaz (2012): p. 348
[7] Quilliam: Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain? (http:/ / www. scribd. com/ doc/ 57458694/
[8] Quilliam "Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain?" (http:/ / www. scribd. com/ doc/ 57458694/
Preventing-Terrorism-Where-Next-for-Britain-Quilliam-Foundation): p. 4
[9] Quilliam "Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain?" (http:/ / www. scribd. com/ doc/ 57458694/
Preventing-Terrorism-Where-Next-for-Britain-Quilliam-Foundation): p. 60
[10] Quilliam "Preventing Terrorism: where next for Britain?" (http:/ / www. scribd. com/ doc/ 57458694/
Preventing-Terrorism-Where-Next-for-Britain-Quilliam-Foundation): p. 59
[11] [11] Nawaz (2012): p. 349
[12] [12] Nawaz (2012): p. 351
[13] Abdullah Quilliam: Britains First Islamist? (http:/ / www. yahyabirt. co. uk/ ?p=144), YahyaBirt.com, 25 January 2008
[14] Nawaz (2012): pp. 328 & 341
[15] Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert Lambert Quilliam on Prevent: the wrong diagnosis (http:/ / www. guardian. co. uk/ commentisfree/
belief/ 2009/ oct/ 19/ prevent-quilliam-foundation-extremism), The Guardian, 19 October 2009
[16] http:/ / www.powerbase. info/ index.php/ Quilliam_Foundation
[17] [17] Companies House, www.companieshouse.gov.uk, Quillam financial records for 2012, accessed 1 January 2013
[18] BBC Hard Talk, 14 August 2012 (http:/ / www.youtube. com/ watch?v=xCmGD1R4Ijg): video from 21:14.
Nawaz, Maajid; Tom Bromley (2012). Radical. London: W.H. Allen. ISBN978-0-75-354077-0.
External links
Quilliam's official website (http:/ / www. quilliamfoundation. org/ )
Ex-extremists call for 'Western Islam' - The Launch of the Quilliam Foundation (http:/ / news. bbc. co. uk/ 1/ hi/
uk/ 7360652. stm)
Government gives 1m to anti-extremist think-tank (http:/ / www. timesonline. co. uk/ tol/ news/ politics/
article5549138. ece)
Radical, Maajid Nawaz's autobiography - publisher page (http:/ / www. lyonspress. com/ radical-9780762791361)
Critique of Quilliam Foundation (http:/ / www. islamic-considerations. blogspot. com/ )
Article Sources and Contributors
Article Sources and Contributors
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