Policy Exchange and Islam

Policy Exchange (1)Starting in July 2006, the first anniversary of the 7/7 bombings, Policy Exchange has published a series of pamphlets on the “extremist” strands of Islam and the threats it says they pose. In tone, these reports have been more aggressive than the thinktank’s usual output. They have warned about Islamic “reactionaries”, about “the hijacking of British Islam”, about the “subverting [of] mosques”.

Since 7/7 and 9/11, such talk has become common in western countries, among some liberals as well as those on the right.

Nevertheless, Policy Exchange’s contributions to the debate have alarmed the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and almost all Muslim groups and commentators. “Policy Exchange is more than just a thinktank,” says the MCB’s spokesman Inayat Bunglawala. “It is a clearly agenda-driven, anti-Muslim organization. It has consistently tried to promote an apolitical version of Islam. And it clearly does have influence. Anthony Browne being appointed as Boris Johnson’s policy adviser was a tremendously alarming move.”

Another aspect of Policy Exchange’s interest in Islam that concerns the MCB and others is that it has been overseen by Dean Godson, the thinktank’s research director for “terrorism and security” and “international” subjects. His politics are considerably more hard-edged and dogmatic than those usually associated with Cameron’s Conservatism.

He is the son of Joseph Godson, a hawkish US diplomat and behind-the-scenes cold war player, and the brother of Roy Godson, the head of a rightwing Washington thinktank, prominent American conservative, and authority on political “dirty tricks” and “black propaganda”. During the 1980s, both Roy and Dean Godson worked for Republican administrations in Washington. Afterwards, Dean became chief leader writer for the Daily Telegraph during its most pungently rightwing phase under the ownership of Conrad Black. Since joining Policy Exchange, Godson has continued to write polemics for British newspapers, often about Islam and often echoing the arguments of American neoconservatives.

Guardian, 26 September 2008