Unlike the rest of the BBC’s news operation, its Newsnight programme (it's on late in the evening on BBC2) isn’t afraid to tackle stories about Islamic extremism in Britain. Last night it carried a report on the launch of a think-tank set up by British Muslims to counter Islamic extremism.
The Quilliam Foundation (named after a 19th century British convert to Islam) aims to set up rehabilitation centres for former and ‘wavering’ radicals, organise training for preachers, and counter attempts to radicalise Muslims in colleges, prisons and mosques. Its website is here, and you can read more about the organisation, and the background of some of its members, here.
Its founders are former members of the radical group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and the organisation has the support of respected British politicians and academics, including Sir Paddy Ashdown and Conservative MP Michael Gove, author of Celsius 7/7 (which is akin to Mark Steyn’s America Alone but without the jokes).
After the report there was a pretty entertaining studio debate between Maajid Nawaz, the foundation’s director, and Azzam Tamimi of the Hamas-linked Institute of Islamic Political Thought.
You can watch the video of last night’s programme here (link at top-right). The video will be available until 10.30pm UK time today, although you may still be able to find the report elsewhere on the site after that. The report starts at around 22.40, and the debate between Nawaz and Tamimi starts a few minutes further on.
Nawaz – who while studying in Egypt was jailed for his membership of HT – basically runs rings around Tamimi, whose only contribution to the debate is to call everyone associated with the think-tank neocons and Zionist stooges.
At one point the presenter, Jeremy Paxman, asks the evasive, weasel-mouthed Tamimi: "Do you accept there is a problem with the interpretation of Islam if some young people thing that the only way to legitimately express it is to strap explosives to themselves and blow themselves up?"
Tamimi replies that the problem has to be dealt with within Islam – which of course is exactly what Nawaz’s organisation wants to do – and accuses the foundation of ‘attacking Islam’.
Nawaz highlights the Islamists’ (yes, he freely uses the term ‘Islamists’) inability to separate religion from politics, and asks how his colleague Ed Husain – a particular target of Tamimi’s ire – "can be at war with Islam for criticising people who want to blow themselves up in Palestine" – which, as he points out, is something Tamimi himself has publicly aspired to.
It’s too early too say how successful the Quilliam foundation will be, or whether their motives are entirely genuine, but I suspect they’re the real deal. At times during the debate Nawaz talks about ‘right-wingers on both sides’ and appears to equate ‘neocons’ with Islamists, but I think that’s a case of sloppy language – the word has after all been bandied about by the media to the point where few people know what it means. And he doesn’t fall back on the usual lazy arguments about Muslims being radicalised by Western foreign policy.
The fact that the foundation is already being attacked by the extremist–riddled Muslim Council of Britain (which the Government happily talks to and funds), and by leftist commentators, suggests they’re on the right track.
There’s more from Ed Husain here and here – the comments on the second piece, at the lefty Guardian's website, include some high-quality British moonbattery.
Ed at Hot Air has news of a similar, Europe-wide initiative here.