16 March 2011
On 15 March, a debate in the British parliament on the future of Quilliam resulted in cross-party praise for the valuable and unique role that Quilliam has played in tackling extremism and radicalisation, both in the UK and further afield, during the last three years. Senior Conservative and Labour MPs also joined in calling for government funding for Quilliam to be restored. All those who took part in the debate lauded Quilliam’s unique role in identifying and challenging extremism – with its work on tackling university extremism, online radicalisation and in Pakistan singled out for particular praise.
Quilliam is currently seeking £150,000 in order to continue its counter-extremism work over the next year while it transitions towards private funding. The British Home Office has said it will not provide this. Quilliam is therefore urgently appealing to private donors, foundations and other government departments to help it to survive and to continue its mission.
Without this support, Quilliam will be forced to close and the unique expertise and reputation that it has established will be lost.
Key quotes from the debate:
Paul Goggins (Labour MP, former Minister of State for Northern Ireland):
‘The money given to Quilliam by the Government has had an immediate and visible impact. Quilliam is one of the few Muslim-led organisations willing to confront extremism directly, to name and shame extremist organisations, and to remain unequivocal in its defence of British values, including free speech, freedom of religion, gay rights and respect for others. Quilliam has been the most vocal Muslim-led organisation to condemn, without equivocation, suicide bombings and acts of terrorism, and to challenge extremist groups in the United Kingdom … no other Muslim-led group in the UK does that more effectively.’
Patrick Mercer (Conservative MP, former Shadow Minister for Homeland Security):
‘The Quilliam Foundation is based on not just common sense, but the historical precedent of using those who were opposed to spread the message back to our opponents. That is a very valuable tool; it is not unique but it is an extraordinary tool. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman would agree that that must not be allowed to perish.’
Pat McFadden (Labour MP, former policy advisor to Tony Blair):
‘To combat terrorism … we must also confront and challenge the ideology that feeds such acts. Quilliam is critical in that fight. It cannot all be done by Government and Government agencies … Quilliam is an important organisation. It is important because it is unequivocal in its condemnation of terrorism. It challenges the ideology that feeds it. It condemns suicide bombings; it does not make excuses for them. It takes on arguments perpetrated by the apologists for terrorism.’
Hazel Blears (Labour MP, former minister for Communities and Local Government):
‘Government can do certain things, but the power to tackle an extremist na
rrative always comes from the community itself, which has to feel empowered, supported and backed up by Government in order to take on that task … Unless practical steps are taken by Government to ensure that there is some transitional funding for that organisation, I have no doubt that it will simply fold and not be able to conduct its activities … It takes experience, knowledge and — I come back to that word — courage to stand up and be counted, and very often to make enemies, and face personal threats and intimidation. If we lose that organisation, we will lose that enormously valuable capacity that may well be able to be built up in the future.’
Julian Lewis (Conservative MP, member of Parliament’s Security and Intelligence Committee):
‘Countering hostile propaganda is not a commercial enterprise or undertaking. It requires sponsorship and support. It is absolute nonsense to say that people who are brave enough to put themselves in the front of an ideological battle should be selling their product on a commercial basis … I know of no organisation during the cold war that fought these sorts of ideological campaigns that managed to make enough money to sustain itself as a going concern commercially. … Let us not fool ourselves into thinking that if Government funding is cut from an organisation, that organisation will somehow transform itself into a profit-making enterprise. It will not.’
Gerry Sutcliffe (Labour MP for Bradford South):
‘Quilliam’s reports have been enlightening and important. Just yesterday, it produced a considered and thoughtful report on the situation in Libya, arguing for action by the international community. It has also done important work overseas, and the hon. Member for New Forest East talked about the work that it did in Pakistan, challenging extremism and promoting a democratic culture. Although Quilliam is not universally popular, it is clear that many of its critics are apologists for radical Islamism … If decisions are not taken quickly in this case, Quilliam will be lost, and if it is, it will not be rediscovered, as Members have said. We cannot readily call on such expertise.’
Damien Green, Conservative Home Office minister, speaking for the government:
‘The Government agree that Quilliam deserved some support in the past, and we continue to believe that Quilliam is capable of useful work. However, following a review of all the organisations, projects and programmes supported as part of the Prevent strategy, Home Office Ministers have taken the decision to end funding for Quilliam’s running costs from the end of this financial year.’
Julian Lewis MP pointed out during the debate, that, ‘it is no coincidence that more than half the House of Commons members of the Intelligence and Security Committee are here making this case today’ for Quilliam’s survival. Lewis’ remark illustrates how highly Quilliam is regarded by experts in the intelligence and security field, a testament to the reputation for integrity, honesty and steadfastness that Quilliam has built up in just three years since its launch.
A complete transcript of the debate is available here:
Figures provided by the government during the debate showed Quilliam has received less government money than was regularly reported. When questioned about Quilliam’s funding, Damian Green, the spokesman for the government, revealed the following total annual amounts of Home Office funding as follows; “in 2008-09, it was £665,000; in 2009-10, it was £387,000; and in 2010-11, it was £145,000.” He also revealed that since 2008, Quilliam has received a total of only £2.7 million from the British government for all its work in the UK, Pakistan and elsewhere – far less than the “million pounds a year” that Quilliam’s detractors have frequently alleged.