“This is just like something straight out of a Stasi manual. The advice from Quilliam is frankly appalling and incredibly self-serving.”
Think Tank and Campaigning Organisation, Quilliam Foundation, Has Officially Closed Down
Quilliam Foundation’s co-founder and former Director Maajid Nawaz announced the closure of the Quilliam Foundation on 9th April in a statement on Twitter. He stated it was shut down due to “the hardship of maintaining a non-profit during Covid lockdowns.”
The Quilliam Foundation described itself as the “world’s first counter-extremism organisation”, but many critics have in fact welcomed its closure. It has been accused of Islamophobia towards Muslim groups and supported people from far-right organisations.
Created in 2007, its name was inspired by Abdullah Quilliam, a Victorian English convert to Islam who founded Britain’s first mosque in 1887.
The group has now closed due to financial reasons, despite winning a $3.375m settlement with the US-based Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) in 2018. Nawaz, who is a self-professed former radical, sued the centre for including him in its “Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists.”
From 2014 to 2017, the Quilliam Foundation also received over a million dollars in funding from an American conservative organisation called The John Templeton Foundation, which has close ties to the Tea Party movement and extreme right-wing Christian networks.
It has also been reported the British government gave £2.9m funding to the Quilliam Foundation as part of the Preventing Violent Extremism (Prevent) programme between 2009-2012. Ghaffar Hussain, a former managing director of the Quilliam Foundation, also manages the Prevent programme in the London Borough of Newham.
In December 2015, Muslim religious leaders in Newham, East London criticised the government’s programme:
“Despite claims to the contrary, ‘Prevent’ almost exclusively targets young Muslims for the views they hold on religion or issues such as government foreign policy. Schools and teachers are cast in the role of spies on our young people. This is leading to increasing division and to a breakdown of trust in schools and colleges.”
The Quilliam Foundation also secured funding from Richard Sharp who donated £10,000 to the foundation in 2017 and £25,000 in 2019. On 16th February 2021, Richard Sharp was confirmed as the new BBC Board Chair.
Quilliam’s‘ counter extremism’ organisation had also accused peaceful Muslim groups in the UK of sharing terrorist ideologies. In June 2010, a secret list was drawn up for Charles Farr, who was Director-General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT) at the Home Office from June 2007 until December 2015.
The document entitled “Preventing terrorism; where next for Britain?” included a list of alleged ‘extremist sympathisers’, accusing the Muslim Council of Britain, Muslim Safety Forum, Islamic Human Rights Commission, Muslim Association of Britain, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, Cordoba Foundation, Muslim Welfare House, and Islam Channel. The secret document was released on the internet.
Inayat Bunglawala, former chair of Muslims4Uk and a former MCB spokesperson said in 2010:
This is just like something straight out of a Stasi manual. The advice from Quilliam is frankly appalling and incredibly self-serving.”
Bunglawala continued to state: “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. Their document specifically contains a McCarthy-type list of large and established Muslim organisations that they regard as suspect and smears them as being ‘Islamists’.”
In 2013, the Quilliam Foundation supported and attempted to rehabilitate Tommy Robinson, founder of the far-right and Islamophobic organisation, English Defence League. Robinson’s real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon.
Robinson claims he was paid thousands of pounds by the Quilliam Foundation to leave EDL so they could take “credit” for his resignation. Robinson went on to become a founder of another far-right organisation, Pegida UK.
In another instance in 2018, the Quilliam Foundation published a report on sexual grooming gangs in the UK. It stated that 84% of grooming gang offenders are Asian, the “majority of Pakistani origin with Muslim heritage.”
Academics denounced its lack of evidence based on problematic data. In fact, a Home Office report in 2020 stated there was no credible evidence to suggest that any ethnic group is over-represented in cases of child sexual exploitation. In addition, the “research has found that group-based offenders are most commonly White”.
The organisation swiftly took down all of its social media accounts and websites after announcing its closure. Nawaaz has also taken down many of his earlier tweets on his personal Twitter profile page.
Does anyone else find it extremely strange that Quilliam has shut down all of its social media accounts and website and Maajid Nawaz has deleted almost all of his tweets. What's going on? Is there more to this than meets the eye?
— Roshan M Salih (@RmSalih) April 10, 2021
But the Quilliam Foundation’s history of repeatedly ignoring, demonising, and antagonising the British Muslim community to promote racist demagoguery and anti-Muslim views will be harder to erase.