[ssf] Policy Exchange Exposed

ruhul ruhul at blink.org.uk
Thu Dec 13 22:02:10 GMT 2007

Policy Exchange exposed
By Soumaya Ghannoushi
Last night, Newsnight broadcast a disturbing film on the recent
report issued by the influential rightwing think-tank Policy Exchange
entitled 'The Hijacking of British Islam: How extremist literature is
subverting Britain's mosques
. The study, which hit the headlines when it was published back in
October 2007, purported to "reveal the worrying extent of extremist
penetration of mosques and other key institutions of the British
Muslim community".

The report was introduced as "the most comprehensive academic survey
of its kind ever produced in the UK... based on a year-long
investigation by several teams of specialist researchers into the
availability of extremist literature". Over a hundred mosques were
surveyed. Of these, 25 were said to have been found to be
"disseminating extremist literature". But Newsnight's examination of
the evidence that underpinned these findings exposed a string of
shocking irregularities.

The think-tank produced a number of receipts implicating mosques in
the sale of extremist literature. Some of these appear to have been
fabricated. There was a receipt from a non-existing mosque book shop
(North London Mosque bookshop), receipts printed entirely on inkjet
-when usual procedure for such pieces of paper would be mass printing,
as well as a receipt for one mosque (Euston Mosque) with the address
of another (North Gower Street). Forensic tests found two separate
receipts from two mosques 40 miles apart with the same handwriting.
The writing on one receipt had been done on top of another for an
entirely different mosque. 

Edinburgh mosque was one of the mosques allegedly surveyed. A stash
of leaflets calling for the killing of apostates was said to have been
found on its premises. The story topped the BBC's news bulletins
across the UK. A few days later the mosque was vandalised. However, an
investigation by the mosque authorities revealed that the material in
question appears to have been dropped inside the doorway to the mosque
a week after the report's publication

Policy Exchange http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/About-Us.aspx
 defines itself as a think-tank "committed to an evidence-based
approach to policy development. We work in partnership with academics
and other experts and commission major studies involving thorough
empirical research of alternative policy outcomes". Newsnight's
findings cast serious doubts on such claims, unless, of course, for
its directors -headed by the controversial Charles Moore- requirements
of honest, transparent, scientific research can be dispensed with if
the subject is the Muslim minority. 

On the basis of the evidence presented by Newsnight, what we appear
to be dealing with here is not flawed methodology, errors or
inconsistencies, but wilful distortion and fabrication committed not
against an individual, or an institution, but against an entire social
group. The consequences go beyond the community in question to the
wider society, given the report's exploitation by the media and
political class, and aggravation of the existing climate of tension,
anxiety and suspicion. 

Given their associations with Policy Exchange, the conservative party
is heavily implicated in this scandal. The Tories seem unable to shake
off their traditional hostility to ethnic minorities, in spite of
their recent attempts to recycle their discourse and assume a more
liberal appearance. The report raises serious questions about the
Conservatives and their positions and policies towards the country's
1.5 million Muslims.

Coming on the heel of another report on on extremism among British
Muslim youth http://www.policyexchange.org.uk/Publications.aspx?id=307
, the report is yet another attempt to erase distinctions between
mainstream and extreme Islam. Targeting mosques is no coincidence.
With the majority of Muslims associated with one mosque or another,
the implication is that all Muslims are hateful, fanatics, xenophobes,
and anti-semites and that every Muslim is a threat or potential threat
to society.

Islamic bookshops are a far cry from Waterstones or Borders. Some of
the books on sale on djinns, angels, dreams, signs of the day of
judgement, and hellfire often make me laugh/ cringe/ both. I'm sure
similar titles can be found in Jewish and Christian bookshops. Just
like other religions, Islam boasts a vastly diverse library, covering
myriad tendencies, areas, and subjects at all levels of culture high
and low. Each has its audience. I may be repelled by some of the
volumes on the shelves, but does this give the government the right to
police what gets published and what people read and do not read?
Unless we want a return to the Reconquista and its terrifying
interventionism, the answer should be a resounding no. 

In the lead-up to the Iraq invasion the powerful network of rightwing
think-tanks led by the American Enterprise http://www.aei.org/
 issued one report after another on the Iraqi chemical danger. All
turned out to be little more than lies and fabrications. Policy
Exchange seems to be engaged in the same dirty game of distortion and
falsification, this time on the home front and against an internal
enemy. No longer should its findings be taken for granted; no longer
can it be allowed to hide behind the cover of objectivity, expertise,
and academic research.

 The newsnight program can be viewed on the BBC Newsnight website.


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