The Quilliam Foundation Is No More

The Quilliam Foundation was an anti-extremist organisation founded in 2008 by Maajid Nawaz and Ed Hussain. The goal was to challenge Islamic fundamentalism whilst promoting ‘Islamic reform’—that is to say proposing that Muslims should consider reinterpreting Islamic scripture through a less rigid lens in an effort to mesh it with modern, secular values. Today, Maajid Nawaz reported via his Twitter feed that Quilliam would close ‘down for good’.

As anyone who listens to my podcast knows, I’ve always been incredibly pessimistic and sceptical about the idea of Islamic reform. However, for a time I felt it a worthy endeavour to support a liberal Muslim organisation that would literally put their neck on the line in defence of secularism, free expression and human rights. Any pushback to Islamic fundamentalism from public Muslims is sorely needed. It’s as concerning as it is disappointing that UK individuals and groups of this sort are probably in the single digits.

It was a shame, frankly, to witness so many of those associated with Quilliam completely lose the plot over the years. Maajid Nawaz, once a dedicated champion of reason spent much of the recent US Presidential election sharing and spreading any old nonsense that suggested the election may have been illegally stolen from Donald Trump—then proceeded to threaten legal action against those that noticed his irrational behaviour. This alienated and confounded many of his long-term supporters to say the least. Since obtaining a regular slot on LBC radio, it is clear that Maajid Nawaz’s priorities have shifted away from activism in service of Islamic reform.

Nawaz cited the Covid lockdown as the main reason for Quilliam’s closure. That may well be true of course. But one can’t help the suspicion that secular non-Muslims made up the bulk of Quilliam’s support —and then lost faith in their work given the lack of tangible results and the behaviour of one of its founders. It did appear that Quilliam was not particularly popular with your average British Muslim to say the least.

Regardless of the failure of The Quilliam Foundation project and my disappointment with the trajectory of Maajid Nawaz, I’ll always consider it a worthy endeavour to support secular Muslims and ex-Muslims that publicly challenge Islamism. These people are far braver than their naysayers. They are the front line against Islamic fascism and suffer under it more than anyone.

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this in the comments.

Stephen Knight is host of The #GSPodcast. You can listen to The Godless Spellchecker Podcast here, and support it by becoming a patron here.

5 comments

  • You’re worryingly quick to classify someone as having “lost the plot” Stephen. Maajid has been a consistently reasonable guy for a decade, and then just because he entertains like 2 ideas that end up being silly you write him off?

    People are frankly justified for being a bit conspiratorial nowadays, given the deliberate shutting down of debate on all these mainstream platforms. This happened with anything election-related (including deliberately sinking legitimate stories like the Hunter Biden laptop story), and has happened on anything covid-related, including once again deliberately trying to ban completely legitimate ideas (like the suggestion that it leaked from the Wuhan lab, which has since gained a huge amount of mainstream support).

    I don’t think you have a situation of extreme censorship where you also harshly condemn conspiracy theorizing. The first almost guarantees the second.

    • That’s not an accurate summary of events. Spending weeks on end pushing & sharing baseless conspiracies/claims about ‘stolen elections’ and not bothering to publicly acknowledge their debunking or the outcomes of the court cases he hyped is not entertaining ‘like 2 ideas’. It’s a catastrophic inability to reason properly and behave responsibly. Yes, he completely lost the plot here.

      I’ve not called for anything to be banned. And ‘harshly condemning’ something is not censorship. Speech in response to speech is simply more free speech.

      Unlike say, threatening to sue people for saying things you don’t like. Like Maajid does.

  • Robin Gangopadhya

    Let us put it as bluntly as it is possible through mere words: ANY ONE- yes anybody – who even dreamt of or dreaded that the US election was stolen has had no rational thoughts left between deaf ears. Period.
    Next is – we need to live on and out of this infertile gobbledegook of Islamist this or that. It is as intelligent as spitting million words on the merits or demerits of horse bogey to go to any destination.
    Moslems can feel assuaged by knowing that this fetish applies to religions pushed by their adherents on others.
    Let us make a list of A Thousand Problems facing the Planet and its inhabitants and How Compassionate Thoughtful Collective Approach
    can be used to Restore a fully evolving System.
    Not get drawn into placating any fundamentalist collection of a billion .
    Move On.
    Secular groups need not waste time in debunking old bogeys. We have new work to do.
    Listen to Nawal Sadawi. RIP
    r

  • I really don’t know if the US Election was ‘stolen’ or not but if you expect me to believe that a man who struggles to put together two sentences without the aid of an earpiece and campaigned from his basement bar a few appearances in front of a gaggle of adoring media friends won 16 million more votes than Barrack Obama in 2012 then I think that it is you that has ‘lost the plot’. ‘Come one Man?’ as Mr Biden so succinctly put it.

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