Thursday, November 12, 2009 

Craig Murray legally threatened by Quilliam Foundation.

At the beginning of last week I wrote on how Melanie Phillips had responded to an attack on her by Ed Husain, of the Quilliam Foundation, by making the exact arguments that he predicted she would - attacking him as still being an Islamic extremist despite now dedicating himself to helping those who had became radicalised.

Mel at least didn't set m'learned friends after Husain for his piece. That is however exactly what the Quilliam Foundation has done to Craig Murray after he reported, with good faith, that the Foundation, a charity which relies on the government for funding, had not published any accounts as of yet, in this post.

It does though seem that some of those in Quilliam who have past experience with subterfuge have put it to good use. Yesterday Craig received a phone call:

A man telephoned me and said that he had been following my blog for some time and was most impressed by it, and would like to know how to make a donation. I replied truly that I was extremely grateful, but the website really was just me, and therefore I did not request donations, unless for some specific expense like an election campaign.

You may be surprised to hear that people do not generally phone me up out of the blue and offer cash, so I was a bit suspicious. I did go on and suggest that if he wanted to be helpful he could buy my books, but he lost interest in the conversation very quickly in a manner that just seemed wrong compared to his initial eagerness.

Craig continues:

So when I got a letter today from lawyers threatening libel action, I wondered if this was an attempt to get financial information on what funds they might target. So today I phoned him back. He gave his name as Ed, so I asked directly if he was Ed Husain or Ed Jagger of the Quilliam Foundation. At first he replied "I am not Ed Husain". I had to ask again before he admitted he was indeed Ed Jagger of the Quilliam Foundation.

I put it to him that he had lied when he phoned and said he wanted to make a donation. He said that he just wanted to establish my contact details for the lawyer. I said that if he had asked me openly and honestly, I would have told him. He concluded by saying that any further communication should be through our lawyers (which will be tricky as I can't afford one: Unlike Jagger I am not funded by taxpayers' money.)

I don't suppose there is any law against Mr Jagger telephoning and lying to me about wishing to make a donation. Indeed I would write it off as a harmless ruse, and amusing he had been caught. But for an organisation funded by the taxpayer to telephone someone and lie to them is quite a different thing.

Should anyone wish to make that point to Mr Jagger, the number from which he telephoned me was 07780 685592.

Quite charming behaviour, I would say. Also charming is the lawyer's letter, from Clarke Wilmott LLP, which takes Craig's initial post and reads it in the most hyperbolic fashion imaginable. Apparently, it "constitute[s] express, clear and obvious statements to the effect that The Quilliam Foundation has acted illegally, that it is engaged in financial and accounting impropriety and that ... this impropriety is directed particularly to reward the directors of The Quilliam Foundation favourably and disproportionately". A level of disproportionality equivalent to Israel's attack on Gaza, perhaps?

Not that Clarke Wilmott has actually provided any evidence whatsoever that Quilliam has filed its accounts, despite the threatening letter, although as Unity points out in the comments, according to the Companies House website they filed them on the 10th of this month, 6 days after Craig's post. Craig's post was then at the time correct; only now that it is not have they complained about it, and rather than asking for it be clarified, they've sent the lawyers in with ominous demands for recompense.

As Craig suggests, for an organisation ostensibly set-up to defend Western values, the attempt to stifle criticism only after the foundation has actually responded to that criticism is rather at odds with their commitment to free speech. Still, the uses of public money, eh?

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Wednesday, November 04, 2009 

Verbal pogroms, or the continuing jihad of Melanie Phillips part two.

Yesterday I hypothesised that Melanie Phillips has become so entrenched in her "Israel First" ideology that she could no longer separate her own persona from that nation as a whole (which was cross-posted over on Lib Con). Attacking her views was, as she wrote, a "verbal pogrom", the equivalent of actually perpetuating violence against her.

Thanks then to Flying Rodent, who brings my attention to this piece from yesterday, making clear I couldn't have been more wrong. Writing this time on the timidity of Britain's leading Jews, who are standing by while "Israel [is thrown] even more brazenly under the bus", Mel uses the exact same term for the second time in as many days:

However, I fear that his hope that British Jews get rid of these leaders and replace them by individuals who are prepared to mount a proper defence of Israel in the face of this verbal pogrom is tragically unrealisable.

Attacking Phillips herself then is a verbal pogrom, and being critical of Israel is also a verbal pogrom. I really wish I was making this up.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009 

The continuing jihad of Melanie Phillips.

At the weekend Ed Husain wrote an eminently reasonable, measured and very restrained in the circumstances attack on the more out there views of Melanie Phillips. Husain clearly feels that Phillips is a potential ally in the battle against radical Islam, although quite why judging by her record it's difficult to tell. His main concern now seems to be that rather than being an ally, she's becoming a prominent obstacle to any kind of progress, especially in the way she seems determined to see conspiracies where there are none, in this instance with Inayat Bunglawala and his determined opposition to the remnants of al-Muhajiroun. Again, this isn't anything new with Phillips: a few years back she was convinced that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction had been buried beneath the Euphrates and that Saddam's crack team of WMD experts had upped sticks and moved to Syria. Nonetheless, it was also going to be interesting to see how Phillips responded.

According to Phillips, the reason why Husain "feels so viciously" towards her is because of her support for Israel, on which Husain is "unbalanced and obsessional". This is a quite extraordinary example of projection, even for Phillips. Husain's views on Israel could hardly be much more orthodox with the average view in this country: he felt that the attack on Gaza in December and January was "disproportionate". In a press release for the Quilliam Foundation, he called for:

"The UK Government cannot seek to win hearts and minds across Muslim communities while failing to stop Israel from murdering Palestinians en masse. Gordon Brown and David Miliband have reached out to Damascus and Darfur in recent weeks in an attempt to bring peace and stand for fairness. That is commendable. And in that spirit, where is the outright condemnation of Israeli atrocities and pressure on Israel to stop its inhumane operations?

Perceived double standards from our Government and the current green light (from Washington and London) to Israel's killing machine will strengthen Al Qaeda's metanarrative and radicalize yet another generation of young Muslims.

Isolating and angering millions of Muslims by sitting on the fence will not aid the PREVENT agenda, or the moderate majority of Muslims. The FCO and Downing Street has a duty to stand, condemn, and call for immediate cessation of Israel's military operations, and end the siege".

Undoubtedly those who are as vociferous in their support for Israel as Phillips will disagree with much of that, yet to second guess someone who has dedicated himself to countering radicalisation, having himself been a major player at one time in the likes of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, doesn't seem to be the best way to deal with jihadist propaganda. The problem is, as Husain himself notes, that Phillips espouses an "Israel First" mindset, where Israel can do absolutely no wrong, regardless of who leads it or regardless of what it does. If Israel tomorrow decided to nuke Iran without any warning, Phillips would almost certainly defend it on the basis that the country had long been planning a "second genocide", another of her own obsessions, and not even pretend to cry crocodile tears for the innocent among the Iranians who hadn't been involved in such plotting.

Whether it's down to a neurosis or otherwise, what's becoming ever more apparent is that Phillips is now associating Israel and the history of the Jewish people with her own persona. If you attack her, you now seem to be attacking Israel itself. In fact, you might even, without having any way of knowing it, be advocating the very destruction of Melanie Phillips. In her latest post, headlined "Two-Minute Hate at the Guardian" (Goldstein, after all, was almost certainly modelled on Trotsky, who was Jewish, which is unlikely to be a coincidence) she even calls the attacks on her a "verbal pogrom", which, as Rhetorically Speaking points out, seems to suggest that she regards criticism of her a form of violence.

Even more hilarious, or worrying, depending on your view, was part of her initial response to Husain. Husain alleged that in Phillips' world view, if you don't support Israel in the same way which she does, then you're with the Islamists who want to see it destroyed. Phillips says this is absurd. Then, err, she says this:

A number of anti-jihadis told me from the start that my support for Ed Husain was misplaced because he had never properly renounced Islamist extremism. To begin with, I defended him as a naif. Even when he came out with boilerplate bigotry against Israel, I put it down to the fact that he had been brought up in that kind of milieu. He was on a steep learning curve, I said. Everyone can change for the better.

It was I who was naive.

Husain then still must be an Islamic extremist because um, he doesn't support Israel in the way which Phillips demands. This is a rather spectacular way to prove Husain's point, and one which Phillips must be immensely proud of. Not that she likely has any idea whatsoever of quite how she's just hoisted herself by her own petard.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009 

Butt out.

When it comes to Islamic extremism and eccentricity, few can quite measure up to such sane and well-balanced individuals as the likes of Omar Bakri Muhammad, the bearded, NHS-style spectacles wearing sheikh who went not denouncing pop songs is paying for his daughter's breast enlargement operation, or the even more zany David Myatt, or rather Abdul-Aziz ibn Myatt, who went from leading Combat 18, the violent far-right sect, to converting to the most radical shade of Islam and berating the "kuffar". Neither however seems to be as inwardly conflicted as Hassan Butt apparently is.

You might recall that Butt, along with Ed Husain, was one of the few who made the journey from being Islamists to becoming almost instant fixtures on our TV screens, giving their insights into how extremism could be tackled. Like Husain, Butt had been involved with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the Islamic political party that advocates the re-establishment of the global caliphate, but was most well known for being the spokesman for Al-Muhajiroun, itself a split from Hizb-ut-Tahrir, led by the aforementioned Bakri. Butt's claims, as time went by, became ever more outlandish and potentially serious: not only did he claim that he had sent those he recruited in this country to train with al-Qaida and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but he finally also said that he had been personally involved with the bombing of the US consulate in Karachi in 2002, an attack blamed on al-Qaida. This eventually culminated in his arrest last year, and the police demanding access to the notes behind the book that Husain was working on with the journalist Shiv Malik.

Butt however, it seems, was a fantasist, a liar who loved attention who kept ratcheting up just how deeply he had been involved within the jihadist movement. With the police investigating his potential links with the Karachi bombing, as well as his claims that he was a recruiter, he admitted to them that he made most of the stories up, going so far as to fake his own injuries to give the impression that other violent extremists wanted him dead for what he was revealing to the media. Not that this was the first time that Butt had been arrested on suspicion of his involvement with terrorism: he was also picked up in 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2007, each time being released without charge, presumably for lack of evidence.

Butt's admittance that he was a liar though doesn't even begin to answer the far more interesting associated questions. It's beyond doubt both that he was Al-Muhajiroun's spokesman and that he was a radical Islamist, familiar with the ideology and willing to chew the fat with journalists far before his alliance with Malik, as an interview in Prospect magazine shortly after the 7/7 bombings but before Butt apparently renounced his jihadist outlook shows. Are his claims then to have renounced Islamism credible at all? Could this indeed have been all a front, designed to take the pressure off him while behind the scenes he continued with his involvement with the successors of Al-Muhajiroun? In court he claimed that this was not the case, and that although he had never been an active jihadist, he could indeed be accurately described as a radical. It's also true that he had relationships with at least three now convicted terrorists; apparently untrue was that he met Mohammed Siddique Khan, ringleader of 7/7, while it's unclear whether he knew the two British men who carried out the suicide bombing in Israel, although Husain in his book suggests that he had met Omar Khan Sharif through his own involvement with HuT.

Whatever the truth, Butt succeeded in duping not just Shiv Malik, but also Newsnight's Richard Watson, with the programme featuring him heavily during its own investigations into Islamic extremism in this country. He made waves over the pond too, appearing on 60 Minutes on CBS in 2006, after which a rather prescient Adrian Morgan questioned whether Butt had genuinely renounced radical Islam, saying that his stories simply didn't add up. It will doubtless also be a further embarrassment to Husain himself, who came under fire recently from those who had been up till then highly supportive, after he warned that the conflict in Gaza was radicalising youth and that the government's position was not helping. Husain had spoken of Butt going into hiding because of his new work helping to "deradicalise" youth in Manchester, while Butt himself on Newsnight had derided the idea that foreign policy had any role in terrorism, with similar articles in both the Observer and the Mail.

At its heart, Butt's is a case of someone exploiting the media for telling them what they wanted to hear: first that he was a recruiter who wanted to send young British Muslims to fight their countrymen in Afghanistan, then that he had turned his back on his old ways and that to blame foreign policy for terrorism in this country was to "do their work for them", when the real problem was Islamic theology itself. There is of course more than a little truth in that, but to ignore completely the role of foreign policy was always madness; the madness which some, such as this government and the pro-war left wanted to hear, with their ciphers in the press also delighted by it. Butt's fantasist ways shouldn't automatically discredit the likes of the Quilliam Foundation, set-up by Husain and another former HuT leader, Maajjid Nawaz, as it's clear they are also part of the solution, but it reminds us that where there's money to made and fame to be had, there will always be those prepared to embroider their stories to get to the centre of attention.

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