Quilliam Foundation: Lies and Abuse

The Quilliam Foundation is a British Muslim anti-extremist think-tank which has been regarded with scepticism by some due to its past government funding and for a perceived affinity with neo-conservatism. Despite that, I take the view that anti-extremist efforts acting in good faith ought to be supported in general, and I’ve tended to agree with the view of one of Quilliam’s non-Muslim former advisers, Rev Giles Fraser:

Some have accused the new organisation of being a front for an anti-Islamic neo-conservative agenda… Of course, a number of conservative voices have been among its most active supporters, and some of its members have been harshly critical of multiculturalism. But what this organisation stands for is too important to hitch itself to any one political philosophy. And the leaders of the Quilliam Foundation agree.

However, I raised one concern about the Quilliam Foundation back in August, after an event involving two ex-EDL members was cancelled at short notice. One of the planned speakers, a man named Leighton Evans, announced on Facebook that although he was ex-EDL, he had objected to Quilliam’s billing of the event as an exposé of the EDL:

i refused to go along with what the quilliam wanted me to do which was renounce the edl. i wont do that and it was never on the agenda in my email exchanges with ghaffar hussain. he said i’d be asked why i joined, what i did, why i left and what i think know. he then released that load of old bollocks which i was never party to.

This could have been a good-faith misunderstanding, but there was a strange development a few days later when an article by Hugh Muir appeared in the Guardian claiming that the event had been cancelled due to threats against the speakers from the EDL. This was emphatically denied by Evans; it appears very much that the Quilliam Foundation decided to release a falsehood into the public domain as a damage limitation exercise. Whatever one’s views of the EDL, this is not acceptable.

Evans has a friend who boasts of links with the Quilliam Foundation: this is Charlie Flowers, a self-styled “activist” who spends much of his time stalking me on-line (see the notice on the top-right corner of this blog for details). It seems likely that he played a role in setting up the event, and its collapse should have been a bit awkward: on the one hand, Quilliam had been presented with an unsuitable speaker who was now abusing them (“fuckers” and “cunt” being Evans’ preferred descriptive terms); and on the other, Evans had been misrepresented as someone who was anti-EDL and who had been cowed by (non-existent) threats.

Flowers’ bizarre explanation to Evans (which I have no idea whether or not Evans believes) was that Muir must have got his misinformation from this blog rather than from Quilliam, even though I’d never suggested such a thing. Given that my name had been brought into the matter, I recently decided to write to Ghaffar Hussain at the Quilliam Foundation to ask for an explanation as to why the event had been cancelled and for Quilliam to correct Muir’s inaccurate report. I also pointed out that Flowers was lying about me, in this case apparently to divert Evans’ attention away from Quilliam.

Hussain declined to reply, although he forwarded my message to Flowers, who posted a response on Twitter claiming that I had “harassed” Quilliam and that I am (inevitably) a “cunt”.

This is a rather odd way for a supposedly serious organisation to carry on.