On 20th March 2009, Quilliam Director Maajid Nawaz addressed a roundtable at the Washington office of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The topic of the presentation was on the UK Government’s revised counter-terrorism strategy, known as “Contest 2”.
Maajid discussed the philosophical and practical challenges that faced the first version of Contest, and identified areas where there was a lack of clarity on the part of government surrounding exactly which Muslim groups to engage with and how. It was stated that though Contest 2 is a step in the right direction, the government should not shy away from either naming the ideology or the leading ideologues instrumental in shaping the ideology behind Jihadist terrorism. The ideology referred to in this context was called Islamism by Maajid.
Maajid made clear that the solution to winning the civil society debate with Islamists did not lie in legal proscription, silencing or banning, but rather through a sustained intellectual critique of the Islamist narrative that could only be done by civil society bodies, whether Muslims or not. In this sense, the government needed to better identify credible interlocutors who subscribe to internationally recognized human rights principles and democratic processes, without compromising their Muslim religious beliefs, to engage with. Maajid also listed past examples of where the government’s “Prevent” strand of “Contest” had been manipulated by Islamist grouping to receive public funding to ultimately undermine the very values that taxpayers would like to have protected.
A cautious welcome was given to Contest 2 in the absence of any further details being known as to its content.