Quilliam: A think-tank we must save

In a week in which events in Libya have again made us aware of how desperately the people of the Muslim world are crying out for liberty and democracy, how depressing it was to hear that the anti-Islamist Quilliam Foundation could face closure.

David Cameron told the Community Security Trust just last week that "one of the most immediate threats to the security of the Jewish people comes from the existence of a political ideology which I call Islamist extremism. We must be clear what we mean by this term and distinguish it from Islam." No organisation in Britain has done more to clarify this distinction.

Under the leadership of Maajid Nawaz and Ed Husain, Quilliam has dissected the ideology of Islamism with impressive rigour and taken on its British apologists.

Its reports on extremism in British prisons, British mosques and the BNP have helped shape a new sophistication in the debate on the politics of identity and extremism.

At the same time, people associated with the think-tank have been dubbed traitors and neo-cons by people within the Muslim community who should know better.

Within the Home Office itself,
Quilliam also had its enemies in those who argued for closer dialogue with Islamic radicals. Now, despite everything David Cameron has said about the consequences of sectarianism, it looks like the forces of reaction and intolerance could yet win out.

Quilliam has its friends within the Jewish community (although the organisation may not thank me for saying so) and they are needed now more than ever.

The terrible irony of Quilliam's predicament is that it has always resisted offers of generous funding from "enlightened" figures from the Gulf. The reason? The think-tank was not prepared to shift to a more critical position on Israel.

The cut in Home Office funding is so severe that Quilliam could struggle to survive the summer. This would be a terrible indictment of a government that claims to be committed to the fight against radicalism and of those in the wider British community who failed to step in to help.

It will be nothing short of a catastrophe for community cohesion if Quilliam is forced to close its doors.

Last updated: 12:52pm, March 10 2011