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.