Almost £1 million of public money is being given to a think-tank run by two former Islamic extremists, despite reservations being expressed by members of the Government and the Opposition. The funding is for the Quilliam Foundation – a counter-extremism think-tank set up nine months ago by Ed Husain, a bestselling author, and Maajid Nawaz, a former political prisoner in Egypt – as part of the Government’s strategy to combat the radicalisation of British Muslims.
The Times understands that the foundation, which has 18 full-time staff, is paying about £110,000 a year to rent offices at one of Central London’s most prestigious addresses, which, for security reasons, have no name plate or sign outside. Inside, the offices are expensively furnished with state-of-the-art computers and plasma screen televisions. Mr Husain and Mr Nawaz, the organisation’s directors, are believed to be receiving salaries of about £85,000 each a year. The foundation refused to discuss individual earnings.
In this financial year, the foundation has received £660,000 from the Home Office and £140,000 from the Foreign Office. The Home Office has earmarked an additional £100,000 for 2009-10. Sources close to the foundation said that it was expecting another £660,000 from the Foreign Office over this and next year.
Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, dismissed the Quilliam Foundation as a government stooge. “It has very little credibility amongst British Muslims . . . They have fashionably styled themselves as being the UK’s first anti-extremism think-tank,” he said. “Their recent criticism of the Government concerning Israel’s criminal actions in Gaza will not fool many people and is transparently designed to win support from a very sceptical Muslim community.”
However, the critical government minister said that the foundation was receiving so much public money because it was perceived to be toeing the government line. “Ed and Quilliam have very little support in the mainstream Muslim community,” the minister said. “They have much more enemies than friends. But he’s loved by some ministers, which is why his organisation is having so much money thrown at it. And the Government knows that if you want a Muslim to say pro-government things, then Quilliam is the answer.”
It appears that the Quilliam Foundation’s criticism of the government for refusing to condemn Israel’s assault on Gaza was, as Inayat suggests, purely for public consumption, and in private discussions Husain his mates took a much more conciliatory line. In one of his posts on the Between the Lines blog, Azad Ali wrote:
“I heard that in the meeting with the Foreign Secretary (Monday 12 Jan 09), Haras Rafiq [of the Sufi Muslim Council – another government stooge group], Majid Nawaz, Ed Husain were falling over themselves to let David Miliband know that they believed the government has done more than enough and is happy with the government’s efforts so far. In fact they felt that the issue wasn’t what the government had been doing, rather the issue has been one of communication! Yep, that’s right, the government’s failure was that it did not communicate its effort efficiently to the Muslim masses! (Can hear the ring and see the £ signs in their eyes!)”
Now we know what he meant!
Update: ENGAGE has acquired a copy of the email sent by the Quilliam Foundation to its board of advisors following the publication of the Times article. As ENGAGE points out, Ed and his friends “make clear that they will not be responding to the serious allegations in the Times. This will beinterpreted by many as an admission that the facts in the Times story are broadly accurate.”