Tuesday, April 22, 2008

A Think Tank with a Twist

A common refrain on the right, is to ask where are the moderate muslims or so-called quiet Muslim majority. Well, I cannot answer for all of them but apparently a group of British ex-radical Muslim hardliners have started a think tank to counter the radical Islamism of Osama et al according to this BBC online report:
The Quilliam Foundation says Muslims can discover a form of "Western Islam" by returning to the heart of the faith. Its founding members are all reformed hardliners who say British Muslims should be pioneering a renewed vision free from foreign ideology. The foundation is backed by popular progressive scholars - and is supported by a string of non-Muslim thinkers.

The foundation is the brain child of two men who have begun a battle against the Islamist political movement they once belonged to, accusing it of being part of a conveyor belt towards terrorism. The foundation's director is Essex-born Maajid Nawaz who was jailed in Egypt with two other British men for belonging to Hizb ut-Tahrir, a radical party which recruits young Muslims across the world.

Ed Husain, the deputy director, has become a key influence on government thinking after writing a controversial expose of his life as an Islamist. Both men have remained committed Muslims since leaving the movement.

The think tank is named after William Quilliam, a 19th century Liverpool solicitor who became a prominent early convert to Islam and is thought to have opened the first British mosque. The think tank argues his example of Islam through learning and reflection, rather than one dependent on "cultural baggage" from south Asia demonstrates a way forward. The founders say that they want to confront what they call a radical, intolerant ideology which has been spread among young Muslims, often from abroad and based on flawed understandings of Western values.

The launch at the British Museum will see the founders publish recommendations for government action to marginalise extremist thinking. In particular, they say they will campaign and debate among British Muslims to shift thinking back towards a centre ground of moderation and integration with the rest of society. The foundation hopes it can effectively target the debate on critical issues such as Al Qaeda's ideology by demonstrating that the Koran and other sources say the opposite to what is claimed by extremists.

Mainly the critics of radical Islamism have been non-Muslims or ex-Muslims. This frankly would hold little cache for me if I were a Muslim, so it is great to see a group of moderates ban together to stake out the higher turf on the side of moderation.

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