Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Quilliam Foundation and 'Moderate Muslims'

Aren't the Quilliam Foundation a reasonable lot? Dedicated to tackling extremism in all it's forms, the Muslim think tank claims to stand for 'religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy' who could object to that?

It's co-founder and Chairman Maajid Nawaz is a former Islamist, imprisoned for 5 years in Egypt  for extremist agitating. There he was adopted by Amnesty International as a 'prisoner of conscience' and his life seems he have gone upwards and leftwards ever since. He was instrumental in creating the new, more conciliatory Tommy Robinson, and later stood as a Liberal Democrat MP. So he must have reformed himself, right?

First things first, William Henry 'Abdullah' Quilliam is a strange choice to name your moderate Muslim think tank after. A 19th century convert, he is credited with building the first Mosque in Britain in his native Liverpool and worked tirelessly to promote Islam there with generous funding from Muslim countries. His political activities were not limited by his new found spirituality though. He was insistent that no Muslim should ever fight for a European power, he opposed British intervention in the Sudan and swore allegiance instead tot he Ottoman Empire. He didn't go to live there though. He stayed in Liverpool, calling for a worldwide Caliphate.

So it's not really surprising that despite their 'reasonable' image and reassuring disavowal of extremism 'in all it's forms' they seem to have a particular interest in the usually fairly trivial examples of anti-Islamic extremism such as racial profiling, and so little to say on the hateful, fundamentalist preachers operating in Mosques across the country with the aim of creating an Islamic state in England.

That's not to say that Quilliam is a hotbed of extremism breeding the next generation of suicide bombers. In fact it's worse. They exist in a grey area who share with ISIS the same end of a global Islamic Caliphate, but disagree on the means to get there.

So far there is much talk of not alienating moderate Muslims, and driving them into the arms of extremists. Such talk is complete nonsense. any Muslim who, considering the events of the last few years, is driven to Islamic terrorism by the understandable suspicion many people have towards Muslims was clearly never very firm in their belief in secular democracy to start with. Conversely any Muslim who is sincere in his belief in secularism is more likely to be angered by his fellow Muslims bringing such suspicion and attention to the personal matter of his faith that he is likely he will reject all the more the extremist elements of it.

We actually need to polarise Muslims to that we know what we're up against. So that Muslims who are genuinely secular and moderate are brought into the side of secularism and moderation, and those who are secretly or dormantly fundamentalist are shown to be so.