Quilliam Foundation

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Group.png Quilliam Foundation   Powerbase Sourcewatch WebsiteRdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Quilliam Foundation.jpg
Quilliam logo.png
Formation22 April 2008
Founder• Maajid Nawaaz
• Ed Husain
• Rashad Ali
ExtinctionApril 2021
Type• commercial
• think tank
SloganChallenging Extremism, Promoting Pluralism, Inspiring Change
InterestsIslamic extremism, war on terror

The Quilliam Foundation‏ was a London based group claiming to challenge "Islamic extremism" in the UK. It was set up by self-styled ex-extremists Maajid Nawaaz, Ed Husain and Rashad Ali, all former members of the political Islamic group, Hizb ut-Tahrir. Incorporated as a limited company on 20 November 2007, it was launched on 22 April 2008, receiving much media attention. According to the BBC's Newsnight, the Foundation, backed by the British government, is waging the 'ideas' part of the so-called "war on terror". It has links to neoconservative initiatives such as the Centre for Social Cohesion and Harry's Place. Although the exact funding figure is unknown, the Quilliam Foundation has reportedly received £700,000 as part of the government's Preventing Violent Extremism Programme, £400,000 of which was given by the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism (OSCT).[1] The think tank has been embroiled in several controversies since its founding for encouraging domestic spying and preparing secret blacklists of citizens and groups that it alleges share the 'ideology of terrorists.'[1][2]

The Quilliam Name

The foundation takes its name from Abdullah Quilliam, a 19th Century British convert to Islam who founded a mosque in Liverpool - an ironic choice since he was an opponent of the British Empire and a supporter of the caliphate. He also argued that Muslims should not fight Muslims on behalf of European powers, citing specifically Britain’s enlistment of Muslim soldiers against the resistance in Sudan. In these respects his behavior fits those whom the Quilliam Foundation leaders hold up as "Muslim extremists".[3].

Relationship with Centre for Social Cohesion

Until late 2009 Quilliam Foundation enjoyed a close relationship with the Centre for Social Cohesion. Together their members run The Spittoon, whose future now remains uncertain amid the public split between the two think-tanks. On October 23 2009, Douglas Murray of CfSC accused Ed Husain of holding 'extreme views...quite appallingly illiberal'[4] after the Quilliam director had taken a position supporting spying on innocent people.

QF has become part of the problem...The nature of QF and its funding arrangements ought to be a source of concern to all British taxpayers, no matter what their political or religious opinions, and finally be brought out in the open...QF is currently cosying up to the Conservative party to ensure its role under the next government. It would not be a bad thing if that party's first cost-cutting exercise was to stop funding an organisation that has come to represent the toxic juncture at which intense personal ambition and government propaganda meet.[5]

The piece generated a war of words between supporters of the two think-tanks in the article's comments section.[6] The attack may have been instigated by an earlier article by James Brandon of Quilliam in which he attacked Murray, his former employer. In the article Brandon listed Murray as one of the leading 'preachers of hate', one of the right's 'non-violent extremists' who has 'routinely demonised Muslims collectively'. He accused Murray of failing to 'distinguish Islam from Islamism'. Of his resignation from CSC he wrote:

My time there was a constant struggle to "de-radicalise" Murray and to ensure that the centre's output targeted only Islamists – and not Muslims as a whole. This October, however, I had finally had enough of this constant battle and resigned.[7]

Low key government support

Inayat Bunglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain wrote in Guardian Online's Comment is Free blog, that the Department for Communities and Local Government had hinted to UK Islamic groups that if they were prepared to work with the Quilliam Foundation, they could obtain financial support from the government:

"Some representatives of various UK Islamic groups were invited to see senior officials at the Department of Communities and Local Government recently to discuss the work they were doing with young people. Strong hints were dropped that they could obtain financial support from the government, but only if they were prepared to work with - and thereby help lend credibility to - Ed Husain's soon to be launched Quilliam Foundation."[8]

At the Foundation's launch, advisor Abdel-Aziz Al-Bukhari reportedly argued in his speech that Muslims should 'love, obey and respect' the government[9]. Former ambassador Craig Murray sees a party-political reason behind the New Labour government's support of the Foundation. He has described it as 'the branch of New Labour tasked with securing the Muslim vote and reducing British Muslim dissatisfaction with New Labour over the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.'[10]


The Foundation's first publication, "Pulling Together to Defeat Terror: Recommendations for Uprooting Islamic Extremism", says that if Muslim leaders "must realise that the foreign policy of the British government will not be held hostage by any one community," and argued that the editors of "liberal newspapers" should "think twice before allowing column space to Hamas and its supporters while they remain committed to the destruction of Israel".[11]

One of the Foundation's key aims is to cast doubt on the link between British foreign policy and the rise of extremism. In so doing the Foundation is fighting not only the consensus of the British and US intelligence communities and much of the security establishment, but also the empirical evidence from experts such as Robert Pape.[12] While the Foundation is remarkably amenable to the neoconservative worldview, it shows little tolerance for Muslims in mainstream politics who do not, as advisor Shaikh Abdel-Aziz Al-Bukhari has suggested, 'love, obey and respect the government'. The Foundation has also tried to scuttle the political career of Osama Saeed, the SNP candidate for Glasgow Central, by accusing him of 'promoting religious separatism' and alleging that he does not understand 'basic democratic principles' because he once expressed amazement when one of Jack Straw's Blackburn constituents defended the former foreign secretary by blaming Iraqis and Palestinians for their own plight.[13] The organization has also recommended spying on Muslims unsuspected of any crimes, which led Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert Lambert to note:

Charles Moore and Dean Godson of Policy Exchange, have explained that this is a re-make of a 1980s Thatcherite counter-subversion strategy in which Husain is cast in the role of Frank Chapple the "moderate" trade union leader who was, they suggest, used to discredit and undermine the "extremist" miner's trade union leader Arthur Scargill. Husain, they argue, can help defeat Altikriti, Bungalwala and their colleagues in the same way.[14]

Neocon Nexus

While the Foundation has been ecumenical in choosing its advisers, its endorsement of such hardline luminaries of the Israel lobby as Michael Gove shows that some forms of extremism are less unacceptable than others. The Foundation's lineup has since expanded to include such veterans of neoconservative think tanks as James Brandon (formerly of the Centre for Social Cohesion), who has also helped build bridges with such pro-war outlets as the notoriously Islamophobic Harry's Place. Brandon used the McCarthyite website as a platform for his attack on CND for participating in an antiwar protest with a coalition which included among others the British Muslim Initiative.[15] During his 2008 tour of the US, Majid Nawaz also spoke at the Israel lobby think tank Washington Institute for Near East Policy[16]. Nawaz also maintains ties with Michael Jacobson of WINEP who posted a response on behalf of Nawaz on the Counterterrorism Blog, a website that devoted considerable coverage to his tour.[17] However, Quilliam was also attacked by the blog's Jeffrey Imm[18], but it was in turn defended by two other bloggers, Mark Levitt and Michael Jacobson, both associated with WINEP.[19]

Nawaz was in the US to testify before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs where he appeared along with Zeyno Baran of the neoconservative Hudson Institute. He was also hosted by the Center for National Policy.[20] [21]

The Question of Palestine

The Foundation's views however are not entirely in line with that of the British government. Whereas Tony Blair had recognized the Israeli occupation of Palestine as the central issue exacerbating relations between the Muslim world and the West, in an FAQ the Foundation tellingly presents the situation as an 'Arab-Israeli' conflict (to suggest parity), rather than a military occupation (it does not use the word occupation once). It draws parity between the Israeli military and Hamas, and while it has nothing to say about the crimes of the former, it accuses the latter of 'politicking with the lives of ordinary Palestinians'. The response to the question of Palestine ends with Muslims being encouraged to 'care about other conflicts and issues in the world, including Burma, Darfur, climate change, poverty, and gender inequality.' [22]

Double Standards

The Foundation is clearly discriminating in the the type of extremist views it wishes to proscribe. While it opposed the UK government's ban on the Dutch politician Geert Wilders (whom Ed Husain described as 'undoubtedly an ill-informed, hate-driven bigot'), arguing that 'Banning Geert Wilders from the UK is not the solution. Just as the ideas of non-violent Islamist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir should be tackled through debate and argument, so should those of Wilders and others.'[23] However, three weeks later in March 2009, the Foundation intervened with the Bradford Police, the Council, and the Community Centre where Hizb ut-Tahrir was holding a public meeting in order to get it banned.[24] The Foundation has also attacked various British figures for their links to Sheikh Qaradawi, yet it has been perfectly willing to publish its material on Islamonline.net, despite the website's conspicuous connection to Qaradawi.[25]

Focus on Pakistan

In the past year the Quilliam Foundation has turned its focus on Pakistan, hiring two new individuals specifically for this. In April-May 2009 Foundation co-founder Maajid Nawaz went on a lecture tour of Pakistan where spoke on 'combating extremism' in Islamabad among other places where he was hosted by Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, a pro-war academic. Nawaz was accompanied on his trip by a security team provided by the British Foreign Office. The tour received sympathetic coverage from the BBC's Newsnight, which had a team accompany Nawaz on the trip.[26] In July 2009 the Foundation's co-founders went on another tour of Pakistan in partnership with Bargad, a Pakistani NGO whose director Sabiha Shaheen arranged Nawaz's tour of various universities on which she accompanied him.[27][28] According to Pakistani scholar Ayesha Siddiqa, the organization also 'funded a conference of the vice-chancellors of various Pakistani universities to convince them of the project that [Majid] Nawaz later undertook' - i.e., to lecture their students against 'global jihad'.[29] The conference titled “National Conference on Peacebuilding and Women Leadership Development on Campuses”, held 3-5 March 2009. The conference invited Vice Chancellors and prominent faculty members from across the country to share their views and experiences on various themes of the complex phenomenon of radicalization. On 1 March 2010, it appeared Quilliam's activities in Pakistan finally bore fruit when it announced that it will be hosting Tahir-ul-Qadri, a Pakistani cleric of mixed repute, to launch an anti-Terrorism fatwa (religious edict). Considering that the fatwa was supposedly directed at Muslim jihadis, the choice of Westminster as launch venue was odd, since no militant activity has been reported in the British parliament yet. Quilliam claims the fatwa would counter fatwas that preach otherwise.[30] The logic of such a move has been questioned by Brian Whitaker of the Guardian among others, who argues that it would achieve no more than launch a fatwa war.[31] The event was preceded by a PR campaign that included supportive articles from Douglas Murray and Boris Johnson's ex-wife. Qadri used the occasion to engage in divisive sectarian politics by declaring Salafis and Deobandis outside of the Sunni tradition, adding: 'Every Salafi and Deobandi is not a terrorist but I have no hesitation in saying that everyone is a well-wisher of terrorists and this has not been appreciated by the Western governments'.[32][33]

Attacks on Muslim Organizations

The Quilliam Foundation has attacked various British Muslim organizations accusing them of having ties with the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Islami and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, two mainstream political parties with large followings in their respective countries. The organizations which the foundation has targeted include Muslim Council of Britain, Islamic Forum Europe, Muslim Association of Britain, Islamic Foundation, Islamic Society of Britain, UK Islamic Mission, the London Muslim Centre and Da’awatul Islam.[34][35][36]

Ed Husain's contention that the government's Prevent strategy should target those who meet his expansive definition of 'Islamist', whether they are suspected of violent extremism or not because they "provide the mood music" for people like the July 7 bombers was criticized by Jonathan Githens-Mazer and the former head of the Metropolitan Police's Muslim Contact Unit Robert Lambert who noted that there was 'no credible evidence to support this view', but, "it is one that Husain shares with influential thinktanks including Policy Exchange and the Centre for Social Cohesion in the UK and Daniel Pipes' Middle East Forum in the US. On this account, regular Cif bloggers Inayat Bunglawala and Anas Altikriti are described as "extremists" and "subversives" who should be targeted and stigmatised in the same way as terrorists inspired or directed by al-Qaida."[37]

Against Civil Liberties

After it was revealed by the Guardian that the government's 'Prevent' programme to counter radicalism was being used to gather intelligence on innocent people not suspected of involvement in terrorism[38], Ed Husain defended the government's actions arguing that it was 'morally right'. 'It is gathering intelligence on people not committing terrorist offences. If it is to prevent people getting killed and committing terrorism, it is good and it is right', he told the Guardian. Of course, as the Guardian noted, the foundation has received £700,000 from the same program.[39]. Interestingly, one of the strongest reactions Husain's comments elicited was from Douglas Murray of the neoconservative Centre for Social Cohesion, who accused the Quilliam director of holding 'extreme views'.

These statements strike me as quite appallingly illiberal: wrong in principle because the police should not investigate innocent people and very obviously damaging in practice...Husain also seems to be under the impression that if a Muslim seems "suspicious" to anyone, the police should be called straight away...Husain, in particular, ought to know the difference between a police state – especially since his co-director was until recently in such a state's prisons – and a developed liberal democracy...QF is now using public money to advocate increasingly totalitarian attitudes towards the general public and judging Muslims by their own early standards.[40]

The Spittoon

While the Foundation under its own name employs press releases, alerts, and its contacts in the media and politics to take on opponents, its members are also associated with the blog The Spittoon where they attack critics anonymously in less temperate manner. Key targets have included Inayat Banglawala of the Muslim Council of Britain[41] and Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch[42].


On the day of the launch in May 2008 the director Maajid Nawaz told Newsnight: "We have absolutely not received government money ,despite being offered it by the Preventing Violent Extremism Pathfinder Fund, and we have said that it is not appropriate for us at the moment - although I would emphasise that I don't have a problem in principle in receiving taxpayers' money for a good cause, as long as it comes with no strings attached."[43]. However, according to The Times the government has underwritten the Foundation's operations to the tune of £1 million in taxpayer money, despite the reservations of government and opposition members. According to the story, the foundation 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'. The foundation's co-directors are believed to be receiving annual salaries of £85,000 each. [44].According to Ed Husain's evidence given to the Select Committee Hearing on Preventing Violent Extremism, the Quilliam Foundation is in receipt of "about £850.000" of government funding, per annum. [45]

Co-director Ed Husain has stated that the Foundation is receiving private Kuwait funding.[46]

FCO Funding

From January 2009 till January 2010, the Quilliam Foundation were given £138,890 by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.[47] Moreover, the co-Director of the Quilliam Foundation, Ed Husain, was sent to Cairo and Alexandria on an FCO funded trip entitlted 'Projecting British Islam' from 7-11 July 2008 to 'build partnerships between prominent British Muslims and like-minded Egyptians to highlight positive messages about modern Islam and counterbalance the extremist ideology and narrative'.[48]


The Foundation maintains a staff of 18 full-time employees.

Original List of Advisors

The following is a list of Quilliam Foundation's original Advisors that was available on the Quilliam website, before it was removed sometime before 27 May 2008.The images on the right are screengrabs of the original list of advisors to the Quilliam Foundation that are no longer viewable on the Quilliam Foundation website but were instead retrieved using an archive wesbite.[50] By the 27 May 2008 the page had been removed and was replaced by an announcement that the Quilliam Foundation had removed the advisor list 'to save them the indignity of constant Islamist-Wahhabite harrassment'.[51]

Current (2010) Advisors

Supporters & Affiliates

The following individuals professed their support for the Quilliam Foundation when they all gave a speech at the foundation's launch event in April 2008.

At the 2009 Labour Party Conference, the foundation cohosted a fringe event with New Labour thinktank Progress.[57] A few days later, at the Convervative Party conference it cohosted a fringe event with Policy Exchange, where among others, it made the policy suggestion for the government to introduce a national holiday 'to reinforce Britishness'.[58]

In the Media

  • Martin Bright - shared platform with Ed Husain at a Labour Party conference fringe event.[59]
  • Ed West - considers Ed Husain 'a breath of fresh air'[60]


Employee on Wikispooks

Nikita MalikSenior ResearcherJanuary 2015May 2017Also "Head of Fempower"


Related Document

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:David Cameron's 'counter extremism' experts work with far-right Donald Trump sympathisersArticle19 December 2015Nafeez Mosaddeq AhmedThe link between the two organisations (Henry Jackson Society and Quilliam Foundation) and Donald Trump is Frank Gaffney, who was the chief inspiration for Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States
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  1. a b Vikram Dodd Spying Morally Right, says Think-Tank, The Guardian, 16 October 2009
  2. Vikram Dodd List sent to terror chief aligns peaceful Muslim groups with terrorist ideology, The Guardian, 5 August 2010
  3. “Abdullah Quilliam: Britain’s First Islamist?”, YahyaBirt.com, 25 January 2008
  4. Douglas Murray, Quilliam's toxic take on liberty, The Guardian, 23 October 2009
  5. Vikram Dodd, Government anti-terrorism strategy 'spies' on innocent, The Guardian, 16 October 2009
  6. Douglas Murray, Quilliam's toxic take on liberty, The Guardian, 23 October 2009
  7. James Brandon, Reining in the Preachers of Hate, The Guardian, 13 January 2009
  8. Inayat Bunglawala, 'Abandoning banning', Guardian.co.uk, 17 April 2008
  9. Ziauddin Sardar, 'To lionise former extremists feeds anti-Muslim prejudice', The Guardian, 24 April 2008
  10. Craig Murray, New Labour Corruption and Quilliam, CraigMurray.org.uk, April 2009
  11. Susannah Tarbush, 'The Quilliam Foundation', Al-Hayat, 26 May 2008
  12. For an aggregation of the assessment of various intelligence bodies and think-tanks, see David Wearing, Ignoring the Intelligence: How New Labour Helped Bring Terror to London, The Democrat's Diary, 22 July 2005
  13. Quilliam Alert: Scottish National Party to endorse Islamist candidate, 17 April 2009
  14. Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert LambertQuilliam on Prevent: the wrong diagnosis, The Guardian, 19 October 2009
  15. James Brandon, CND is about to betray its founding principles, Harry's Place, 1 April 2009
  16. Maajid Nawaz, The Way Back from Islamism, WINEP, 16 July 2008
  17. Michael Jacobson, Quilliam Responds, Counterterrorism Blog, 15 August 2008
  18. In a piece no longer online at the Counterterrism Blog website: Jeffrey Imm False Reports of Jihadists "Quitting" or Abandoning Islamic Supremacism United States Action, July 16, 2008, accessed 19 October 2009
  19. Jeffrey Imm, Quilliam Foundation and Misdirection on Egypt's Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa, Counterterrorism Blog, 18 August 2009
  20. Andrew Cochran, Summary of Statement by Maajid Nawaz, Former Hizb ut-Tahrir Official, at Senate Hearing, Counterterrorism Blog, 10 July 2008
  21. Jeff Stein, Red Tape Nearly Stops Testimony by Top Former Islamic Radical, CQPolitics, 9 July 2008
  22. Frequently Asked Questions – A Candid Response (Accessed, 28 July 2009)
  23. Press Release: Quilliam Foundation challenges Geert Wilders to a debate on Islam 12 February 2009
  24. Call to ban Islamic meeting, Bradford Today, 3 March 2009
  25. Muslim Women and Unemployment, IslamOnline.net, 21 July 2009
  26. BBC Newsnight, 9 May 2009. The video is archived on Quilliam Foundation's own Youtube channel Part 1Part 2
  27. Ed Husain, Can we befriend Pakistan?, The Guardian, 31 July 2009
  28. Pakistan Universities' Tour and Student Leaders' Conference, April - July 2009
  29. Ayesha Siddiqa, An Alternative Discourse, Dawn, 2 October 2009
  30. Anti-terrorism fatwa launch in London, Quilliam Press Release, 1 March 2010
  31. Brian Whitaker, Fatwa wars aren't the solution, The Guardian, 2 March 2010
  32. Allegra Mostyn-Owen, Is this a triumph for the Islamic peacemakers?, Evening Standard (London), 26 February 2010
  33. Douglas Murray, Why this fatwa for peace matters so much to us all, Evening Standard (London), 26 February 2010
  34. Martin Bright, Denham challenged on Prevent, TheJC.com, 1 October 2009
  35. Press Release, Quilliam Alert: Islam Channel and the promotion of extremism, 30 April 2009
  36. Ed Husain, Beating the Extremists, The Guardian, 8 September 2009
  37. Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert LambertQuilliam on Prevent: the wrong diagnosis, The Guardian, 19 October 2009
  38. Vikram Dodd, Government anti-terrorism strategy 'spies' on innocent, The Guardian, 26 October 2009
  39. Vikram Dodd, Spying morally right, says thinktank, The Guardian, 16 October 2009
  40. Douglas Murray, Quilliam's toxic take on liberty, The Guardian, 23 October 2009
  41. Admin 1 (George Reading), Bungles continues comical crusade against Quilliam, The Spittoon, 15 June 2009
  42. Yossarian, Bob and Bungle – Forget the BNP, let’s attack Quilliam, The Spittoon, 20 August 2009
  43. Susannah Tarbush, 'The Quilliam Foundation', Al-Hayat, 26 May 2008
  44. Richard Kerbaj, Government gives £1m to anti-extremist think-tank Quilliam Foundation, The Times, 20 January 2009
  45. Preventing Violent Extremism: Sixth Report of Session 2009-10, House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee, March 2010, Ev 4 - accessed 25.04.10
  46. Susannah Tarbush, 'The Quilliam Foundation', Al-Hayat, 26 May 2008
  47. FOI REQUEST 1121-09 - COPY OF PREVIOUSLY RELEASED INFORMATION. Ref 0967-08 Questions on the use of the Quilliam Foundation by the FCO in the last twelve months: FCO Visits by Quilliam Foundation and FCO funding for Quilliam Foundation - Release date of information: 22 January 2010
  48. FOI REQUEST 1121-09 - COPY OF PREVIOUSLY RELEASED INFORMATION. Ref 0967-08 Questions on the use of the Quilliam Foundation by the FCO in the last twelve months: FCO Visits by Quilliam Foundation and FCO funding for Quilliam Foundation - Release date of information: 22 January 2010
  49. Lucy James, What Muslim women want, The Spittoon, 17 July 2009
  50. Screengrab of Waybackmachine highlighting changes to Quilliam Foundation website regarding Advisors. Captured on 21/02/10 using ‘Way back machine’ on www.archive.org. Original available at http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://quilliamfoundation.org/advisors.html
  51. Screengrab of Quilliam Foundation Advisors Note. Captured on 21/02/10 using ‘Way back machine’ on www.archive.org. Archived date – 27 May 2008
  52. Advisors, accessed 21 February 2010.
  53. Quilliam Announces New Head of Advisory Board, 19 January 2010 accessed 21/02/10
  54. Jemima Khan Speech at Quilliam Foundation Launch Youtube, 4 June 2008, accessed 23/02/10
  55. Mohammad Ali Hee Speech at Quilliam Foundation Launch, 4 June 2008, accessed 23/02/10
  56. Arsalan Iftikhar Speech at Quilliam Foundation Launch 4 June 2008, accessed 23/02/10
  57. Martin Bright, Denham challenged on Prevent, TheJC.com, 1 October 2009
  58. Press release, Quilliam and Policy Exchange fringe event at Conservative Party Conference 2009, 7 October 2009
  59. Press Release, Quilliam and Progress fringe event at Labour Party Conference 2009, 28 September 2009
  60. Ed West, An Ed Husain v Geert Wilders debate would be great for democracy, Telegraph Blog, 15 October 2009