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Guardian censures Quilliam Foundation for doing its job!

This is a cross-post by Faisal from The Spittoon blog

Brian Whittaker on CiF writes:

Islamist ideology certainly needs to be challenged. The question is whether its nonviolent form should included in an anti-terrorism strategy.

But does the Guardian actually challenge Islamist ideology at all? In the last two days two articles have appeared in both its print and electronic channels which suggest that far from challenging Islamist ideology, it has dropped all pretence of providing any critical evaluation of the exponents of Islamism.

Both articles involve a briefing document by the Quilliam Foundations sent to Charles Farr, director of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism, with recommendations on counter-terrorism policy. The report was for Farr’s eyes only but has been leaked.

Quilliam’s document contained a list of organisations, all of whom have aligned themselves with Islamist ideologies and with known links to publicly identified extremist groups.

Following the leak, there were the usual responses from Muslims sympathetic in one way or another to these groups:

Yahya Birt:

I don’t think its very revelatory except to show up the intense competition for access, funding and recognition that the Prevent policy created, as well as government sucking in several (Muslim) community advisors who seem to be working against each other….

Inayat Bunglawala:

This is just like something straight out of a Stasi manual.
The Quilliam document is really quite staggering in its scope and the range of recommendations it makes about UK Muslims – several government departments are given specific policy recommendations.

All very predictable, I’m sure you’ll agree. Particularly the hysterical hyperbole from Bunglawala (‘Stasi manual’ indeed!).

The Guardian then ran the first of its Quilliam-bashing reports with a wretched piece by Vikram Dodd, titled ‘List sent to terror chief aligns peaceful Muslim groups with terrorist ideology‘. The descriptive phrase “peaceful Muslim groups” is ambigious if not wholly fallacious, as we shall see.

The document sent to Farr is entitled “Preventing terrorism; where next for Britain?” It lists alleged extremist sympathisers, including the Muslim Council of Britain, the main umbrella group in Britain for Islamic organisations. It also claims that a Scotland Yard counter-terrorism squad called the Muslim Contact Unit is dominated by extremist ideology.

Other groups include the Muslim Safety Forum, which works with the police to improve community relations, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and even the Islam Channel, which provides television programmes for Muslims on satellite.

Then came this confused nonsense from Brian Whittaker on Cif. In it he pays lipservice to the idea that Islamist ideology must be challenged but produces a piece which fails to evaluate the organisations named on Quilliam’s list. Whittaker writes:

That, to varying degrees, is what governments of Muslim countries do already – appointing senior clerics who will toe the official line, vetting sermons, etc. Quilliam seems to be proposing something similar for Britain by dividing Muslim organisations into those that have a seal of approval and those that don’t (and are consequently to be shunned).

The phenomenon of “government clerics” does indeed happen in certain Muslim countries. However this analysis completely misses the mark and is little more than obfuscation of the function of the Quilliam Foundation or indeed its remit. The Quilliam Foundation, in this case, is not proposing a list of acceptable government theologians, vetted and ‘health-checked’ for public consumption in order to tow the official line.

In this case, Quilliam were alerting the Home Office of organisations who have known links with extremist groups and are in the business of advocating Islamist ideology. This is in any case, exactly what they were set up to do and exactly why they receive funding from the government!

Let’s take a look now at the organisations who have been named and shamed on Quilliam’s list and see if they are the “peaceful”, middle-ground Muslims that Yahya Birt, Inayat Bunglawala, Vikram Dodd and Brian Whittaker would have us believe.

The Muslim Safety Forum – This is a body which is presently headed by Azad Ali. Azad Ali has been identified by Channel 4 and The Telegraph as having praised Al Qaeda theorist, Anwar Al Awlaki and has said that he is “working his socks off” to create a Caliphate. He brought and lost a libel action against the Daily Mail, relating to his comments about killing British troops on his blog. Ali is a senior official of the fundamentalist Islamic Forum of Europe – which works, in its own words, to create an Islamic state under sharia law in Europe. The IFE and the MSF share the same offices. Here he is threatening an undercover journalist who had filmed him on the Channel 4 Dispatches exposé.

The Islam Channel – This is a television station whose hosts include Hizb ut Tahrir speakers. It is headed by a Mohammed Ali Harrath, a Tunisian previously wanted by Interpol on terrorism charges. The New Statesman’s Mehdi Hasan has attacked the Islam Channel in the Guardian for broadcasting preachers who advocate hatred of Shia Muslims. According to an internal document, Mohammed Ali Harrath is also a trustee of Inayat Bunglawala’s organ iEngage.

The Muslim Association of Britain declares itself to be close to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

The Cordoba Foundation is also close to the Muslim Brotherhood, and is run by Anas Altikriti, the son of Iraq’s Muslim Brotherhood Leader. Identified as a problematic Islamist organisation by David Cameron, the Cordoba foundation sponsored an event in the Kensington and Chelsea town hall which was to showcase a video sermon by pro-al-Qaeda preacher Anwar al Awlaki.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission is aligned with the Islamic Republic of Iran. It issues appeals for those convicted of serious terrorist offences, but has little to say about the denial of human rights in Iran.

None of this information is apparent from the evidence-free journalism of either Vikram Dodd or Brian Whittaker. Dodd writes:

Other groups include the Muslim Safety Forum, which works with the police to improve community relations, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and even the Islam Channel, which provides television programmes for Muslims on satellite

Note Dodd’s phraseology; “even the Islam Channel” is named on the list as if to suggest that it is beyond any charge of extremism, without providing any critical evaluation whatsoever. Whittaker makes a big song and dance about Quilliam’s funding from Prevent but fails to mention that the Cordoba Foundation was also in receipt of Prevent funds and the MCB have long been recipients of government funding.

Nevertheless, there is a happy ending that can be gleaned from Dodd’s piece:

Senior Tory party figures are sympathetic to such views. One source with knowledge of Conservative thinking on security issues told the Guardian that the briefing document is “quite in line with what Quilliam and the Conservatives have been thinking for years.

Good sense prevails then, in spite of smears from Muslims pretending to be of the “radical middle ground” aligned with journalists with agendas and axes to grind.

Updates: All of this is said much more prosaically by Max Dunbar.

Andrew Gilligan with a write up on the latest epic fail of the Guardian’s journalism.