Former-radicals turned-reformists toasted by high society, donors; but how exactly will they stop the Islamist/liberal-alliance juggernaut?

A variety of news perspectives on the whirlwind romance between the Quilliam Foundation and British policymakers.

Potential terrorists should be sent to rehabilitation centres and deradicalised by exposure to intense and substantial periods of genuine piety, Britain's first counter-extremism thinktank said yesterday. The recommendation came from the Quilliam Foundation, established by former activists of radical Islamist groups to challenge their ideology.

At its launch at the British Museum in London, the deputy director and author, Ed Husain, who used to be in the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, said there was a sense of Muslim unity in the fight "to rescue our faith from those who have hijacked it".

British ex-jihadis form ranks for tolerance Christian Science Monitor by Mark Rice-Oxley

Aside from think-tank work of getting their ideas into the public domain, the foundation also plans to set up a task force of ex-radicals who can "go to the hot spots and work on the grass roots to deradicalize people and the contacts that we have known in these movements for a long time," Mr. Nawaz says.

Yet in the complex constellation of ever-changing British Muslim movements, it is too early to say whether the Quilliam Foundation will prove to be an effective and exemplary voice that resonates with the wider community.

Some critics have warned that it is just another stripe in the colorful and contrasting rainbow of Muslim opinion in Britain. Others say that they are "defectors" who have moved to the mainstream where they will have little chance of appealing to young radicals.

"They will have a hard time reaching out to people who are actively involved in extremist organizations," says Peter Neumann, director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence in London. "But they probably do have the capacity to go into schools and certain other environments and have some leverage there because they are Muslims who were involved in radical activities."

The home secretary, Jacqui Smith, signaled last week that Britain could not arrest its way out of the terrorism threat. "We need to prevent people from becoming terrorists and supporting terrorists in the first place," she said. "That means challenging the sort of ideology that supports terrorism."

Mr. Neumann says the government is disillusioned with established groups like the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) for failing to combat extremism – both vocally and effectively.

The British Museum is the surprising venue for theologians, thinkers and socialite Jemima Khan, all coming together to support the launch of a new think tank to counter Al Qaeda's world-view.

And this seemingly bizarre gathering exposes the question at the heart of the whirlwind romance between the Quilliam Foundation and policymakers

Is the launch of this campaigning organisation a step forward in the battle of ideas - or just another group with some kind of official pat on the head - but no credibility on the street?

Since the London bombings of July 2005 a whole string of Muslim organisations have come forward, claiming to have the answers to violent extremism.

The Muslim Council of Britain, the main umbrella body, has been marginalised in an ongoing political row - but two others touted as significant players have had little impact.

Vast sums of money are being spent on research into violent extremism, and entire government teams have sprung from nowhere to try to find answers.

Then into this mix came Ed Husain. Last year he published The Islamist, his story of a life in hardline community politics.

He was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), a global body calling for a single Islamic state across
the Middle East. Now Ed Husain and another, less well-known, man, Maajid Nawaz, are launching Quilliam (named after a 19th century British convert) as the counter-argument to extremism.

They say Islam in its purest universal form, as the last message of God to mankind, sits perfectly well in modern multicultural societies - providing that Muslims find the right way to express their faith.

And if British Muslims rediscover the purity of the faith, they argue, they can cast off the political and cultural baggage that would see Islam as the enemy of the West.

"All mod cons" Guardian's Comment is Free by Seumas Milne

Vaunted new Muslim organisations exonerate government of its responsibilities and sideline credible voices: they're anything but moderate

The Quilliam Foundation's leading lights could not be less representative of mainstream Muslim opinion in Britain. But the signs are that the government is nevertheless throwing its weight behind the organisation - after the failure of earlier efforts to build up the Sufi Muslim Council and British Muslim Forum as an alternative to the umbrella Muslim Council of Britain. Officials from Hazel Blears' communities department recently made clear to a Muslim organisation involved in youth work that it would need to line up with the Quilliam Foundation if it wanted government funding.

The Quilliam Foundation itself is being funded by Kuwaiti businessmen, Husain told me yesterday, but could not reveal their identities. He added that he would be happy to take government funds if there were no strings attached.
This is a perilous game. Those like Quilliam and its friends who claim that terror attacks are all about a rejection of our way of life rather than western war-making and support for dictatorships in the Muslim world may help get the government off the hook of its own responsibility.

But if we want to stop such attacks in Britain, rather than indulge in shadow boxing with an elastically-defined extremism, there needs to be engagement with - not ostracism of - credible Islamist groups, as the former head of Scotland Yard Special Branch's Muslim contact unit has argued.

1 comment:

  1. I do want to share the text of an e-mail I got today from one of my Muslim friends, which is a little sobering:

    "As a Muslim trying to help America defend itself against the Islamist jihad, I am outraged that our government is letting us down so badly by cozying up to the enemy. I have seen this happen in my home country and in so many other places, but I never thought it would happen here. I don’t ever want to hear people asking me “where are the truly moderate Muslims” but the rest of us anti-Islamists are waiting (sadly and in a terribly frustrated way) for the next attack, which may (once again) force the “oh, let’s not hurt our enemy’s feelings” crowds to open their eyes and see the reality. I sincerely hope it won’t be too late by then. What I really don’t understand is what on earth happened to the Americans having the guts to stand up to evil? Why is America following in Europe ’s footsteps of appeasement? Is this what happened to all the good, decent and smart people who let Nazism take over, and then turned the blind eye to the Holocaust in their midst? So, never again is not really never again, huh? Is it too much relativism? Did Americans become too materialistic to recognize the power of destructive ideologies? It can’t be ignorance anymore since a lot of material is out there making the argument. Maybe faced with too much information and all the side effects of globalization, people simply lost basic common sense? I know the Islamists. There is no stopping until you all accept their rule. Of course, I’ll have to be taken care of a lot sooner than they come after you all!!"