By Mathew Goldstein
The Quilliam Foundation is a counter-extremism think tank that was co-founded by Ed Husain and Maajid Nawaz, former activists in the radical Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir. Quilliam's argument is that the government should not only tackle those advocating terrorist violence, but should also focus on those who have the same views, even if they adopt peaceful means. Supporters say this is necessary to tackle the roots of terrorist violence for the long term. Critics of the foundation accuse it of McCarthyite smear tactics, brand its claims ridiculous, and say the foundation labels vast swathes of Muslim Britain as extremist. It can be difficult to know who is right without knowing more about the Muslim groups that Quilliam criticized. But based on what Nawaz says and writes in general, he sounds like a reasonable, moderate, guy and not at all like an "anti-Muslim extremist" that the Southern Poverty Law Center oddly rates him to be.
He is somewhat alarmist, using the adjective "insurgency" to describe the jihadist movement in Europe, which may describe how some jihadists see themselves. His foundation depends on funding, so there is a self-interest for him to promote fear about the threat that his foundation focuses on. Quilliam receives funding from the conservative leaning Templeton Foundation which spends tens of millions of dollars a year to promote the popular but dubious view that exclusively naturalistic science and supernatural theistic religions are mutually consistent and supportive. Nawaz's estimates of the overall numbers of violence prone "jihadists", and non-violent but potentially jihad violence supporting Islamists, in Britain are somewhat high but appears to be defensible. He says there are 23,000 extremists, which is the sum of the 3,000 currently under investigation plus the 20,000 previously under investigation and still listed by the government as people of interest (some of the people accused of participating in attacks are among those on this latter list). He estimates there are about three times as many sympathizers out of about "4 million" British Muslims, which is between 2-3% total.
None of this qualifies him as being an extremist of any sort. Nawaz is a secularist Muslim, his expressed views are consistently anti-extremist. People like him do not threaten the civic equality (let alone the lives) of atheists, gays, Jews, Christians, women, music band and night club attendees, or other Muslims like extremists do. Here is the recent video of Bill Maher's interview of Maajid Nawaz. Free speech protection is legally favored which makes it difficult for defamation lawsuits to prevail in the United States. Accordingly, SPLC may be exonerated under the standards set in our laws, but they are guilty of defamation regardless of the lawsuit's final outcome.