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David Cameron’s ‘counter extremism’ experts work with far-right Donald Trump sympathisers

Nafeez Ahmed
Dec 17, 2015 · 17 min read

By Nafeez Ahmed

Last week, leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump provoked global outrage with his call for a ‘temporary’ ban on all Muslim immigration to the United States.

His remarks also sparked enthusiastic support from neo-Nazi white supremacists, triggered a spike in campaign donations, and maintained his 35% lead in the Republican campaign race.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron described Trump’s proposal as “divisive, unhelpful and quite simply wrong.”

Since then, over half a million Britons have signed a petition demanding the government to ban Trump from entering the UK, making it the most signed UK government petition ever.

But Trump has unlikely allies in Britain — some with close links to the Tory government.

Far from simply popping out of nowhere, Trump’s ideology of hate has been incubated by a trans-Atlantic network of rightwing lobby groups and think-tanks, members of which have advised David Cameron himself.

Two influential organisations in London that stand out are the Quilliam Foundation and Henry Jackson Society (HJS): Quilliam is part of the Prime Minister’s new anti-extremist Community Engagement Forum; its founding director, Maajid Nawaz, claims to have fed into Cameron’s speeches on extremism; and a HJS report, ‘Preventing Prevent’, authored by HJS fellow Rupert Sutton, was plagiarised by Downing Street in its October statement on extremism on UK university campuses.

“This isn’t a presidential candidate,” declared Nawaz on CNN about Donald Trump, “this is a presidential troll.” He warned, rightly, that Trump’s exclusionary politics could pave the way for “fascist or far-right groups… taking matters into their own hands against the eight million Muslims in the United States.”

But Nawaz didn’t admit his own role in mainstreaming people who promote exactly that form of fascism.

Frank Gaffney

The link between these two organisations and Donald Trump is Frank Gaffney, who was the chief inspiration for Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the US. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which monitors hate speech, Trump’s proposal “turns out to be based entirely on the thoroughly un-American proposals of Frank Gaffney.”

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Frank Gaffney

Trump justified the ban using statistics from Gaffney and his Center for Security Policy (CSP), which conducted a survey showing high levels of support for violence among American Muslims.

But the Washington Post described Gaffney’s survey as “a very shoddy poll,” replete with numerous methodological flaws, while SPLC lists Gaffney as a “notorious anti-Muslim extremist.”

Although he denies having formally advised Trump, this year Gaffney organised three ‘National Security Action Summits’, each of which hosted Trump, as well as other Republican candidates, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson.

Gaffney’s CSP was also a co-sponsor of an anti-Iran rally on 9th September 2015 hosting both Trump and Cruz.

That month, Gaffney hosted white supremacist Jared Taylor on his ‘Secure Freedom’ radio podcast show, where he praised Taylor’s anti-black, anti-Latino website, American Renaissance, as “wonderful.”

Gaffney began his political career as an aide to the late right-wing Democrat Senator Henry Jackson, before serving in Ronald Reagan’s Department of Defense under arch-neoconservative Richard Perle. He was forced out of the Pentagon due to his rabid opposition to arms control talks with the Soviet Union.

Since then, through his Center for Security Policy, he has promoted all manner of bizarre anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, including the idea that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim and wasn’t actually born in America; that the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the highest levels of the US government; that American Muslims are deceptively working to install a parallel system of “Shari’ah Law” in the US; that Saddam Hussein masterminded the Oklahoma City bombing; and that Hillary Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, is a secret Brotherhood agent; among other crazed ideas.

Gaffney’s links with Quilliam

Frank Gaffney’s craziness has bought him surprising friends in Britain.

One of them was the now defunct London-based Sufi Muslim Council (SMC), whose executive director at the time, Haras Rafiq, is managing director at Maajid Nawaz’s ‘counter-extremism’ outfit, the Quilliam Foundation. The SMC had been launched in 2006 under Rafiq’s leadership with support from the Labour government. Rafiq now sits on the UK government’s Community Engagement Forum Task Force.

In 2007, two US representatives of the Sufi Muslim Council, Sheikh Hisham Kabbani (SMC’s chairman) and Hedieh Mirahmadi (SMC’s political advisor), shared a platform with Frank Gaffney after the screening of his anti-Muslim documentary film, Islam vs Islamists.

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From the right, Sheikh Hisham Kabbani of Haras Rafiq’s Sufi Muslim Council (SMC), then Frank Gaffney, then SMC’s Hedieh Mirahmadi at the Heritage Foundation screening of Gaffney’s film

PBS, which had originally commissioned the film, decided not to broadcast it after determining that it presented a “biased, inaccurate view of the subject,” and failed to meet PBS editorial standards.

PBS staff had criticised Gaffney and his team for adopting an “editorial slant by being overly alarmist and demonising imams.”

But Haras Rafiq’s colleagues at the SMC apparently disagreed with PBS. Rafiq’s advisor Mirahmadi, who had spoken alongside Gaffney at the Heritage Foundation screening of the film, told the Chicago Tribune that “fundamentalist” Islam “has spread across the US.”

Rafiq has eagerly courted other anti-Muslim bigots. In January 2010, he provided a briefing to the Middle East Forum (MEF), run by Daniel Pipes — who was listed as one of America’s leading “misinformation experts” on Islam in the Washington-based Center for American Progress report, ‘Fear Inc.’

Below is an image of Pipes besides Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who openly calls for the banning of Muslim immigation and depopulation of Muslims from Europe.

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Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders (left) offering a Trump-like proposal during his speech in Denmark, beside Middle East Forum’s Daniel Pipes

The Institute for Policy Studies’ RightWeb similarly notes that “Pipes often espouses extremist views, some of which border on racism.”

Instead of challenging Pipes’ racist and extremist bigotry, Rafiq told Pipes’ MEF that “many mosques in the West are being funded and run by extremists,” a matter “further exacerbated by taqiyya, or doctrinal deceit, which permits Islamists to dissemble their true beliefs… most of the literature on Islam disseminated in mosques has been sponsored by extremists.”

Rafiq’s promotion of the myth of ‘taqiyya’ as a way that Muslims practice systematic deceit to conceal their extremist beliefs from wider society is a longstanding false trope put out by anti-Muslim bigots.

“Taqiyya is the honored practice of lying for the faith,” claimed Gaffney in 2011. “It’s not considered lying, it’s telling non-Muslims what you want them to know in order to protect the faith. Taqiyya is both an authorised and a mandatory part of Shariah law. It fits a pattern of what we have seen various MB [Muslim Brotherhood] organisations and front groups engage in.”

Gaffney also sits on the advisory board of the Clarion Project, alongside Pipes and other far-right extremists, which showcases anti-Muslim and anti-Islam videos, including one featuring racist Dutch politician Geert Wilders “arguing that Muslim immigration has become such a major problem in Europe that millions of Muslims may have to be deported.”

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One of Clarion’s funders is the William Rosenwald Fund, controlled by Nina Rosenwald, described by The Nation as the “sugar mama of anti-Muslim hate” due to her funding of far-right groups.

Quilliam’s Usama Hasan was, nevertheless, happy to be featured by the Clarion Project in a detailed interview in June 2015.

Also on the Clarion board beside Gaffney is Zuhdi Jasser, who starred in Gaffney’s 2007 inflammatory anti-Muslim film. Gaffner presented Jasser with a ‘Defender of the Home Front’ award at the CSP’s annual Keeper of the Flame Dinner.

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Dr. Zuhdi Jasser (left), Daniel Pipes (right)

Last year, Jasser demonised Muslim communities in the US wholesale when he claimed that “The bigger threat is the quiet majority” of American Muslims “that hates America, that doesn’t feel a bond to this country, would be horrified if their kids became military officers, and don’t feel an affinity for America.”

This June, Jasser demonstrated his credentials as America’s very own ‘Muslim Trump’ by endorsing the very same bogus Gaffney ‘survey’ cited by Trump.

No wonder Trump wants to cleanse the US of its Muslim population — that was the implication of his response a few months ago at a campaign rally in Rochester, when someone asked:

To which Trump said:

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Friends for Tea

Gaffney is not the only link between Quilliam and Trump.

Before he became Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign manager, Corey Lowandowski was New Hampshire director at Americans for Prosperity (AFP), a rightwing political advocacy group functioning as the “main political arm” of the billionaire Koch brothers.

AFP is a major force behind the Tea Party movement, and has poured staggering quantities of money into political campaigning to promote the Republican Party.

AFP’s former chief technology officer, now vice-president for strategic initiatives, is Adam Stryker. Since 2013, Stryker has been a paid-up member of the Exclusive Executive Network of Gen Next Inc., an invite-only group closely aligned with the Republican Party — helping to raise money for a range of hardline political candidates from Mitt Romney to John McCain.

Since 2011, Gen Next has provided the Quilliam Foundation with office space for its US incorporated nonprofit, and funded Quilliam to the tune of $1 million. In the same period, Gen Next’s CEO, Michael P. Davidson, has sat on the Quilliam Foundation’s US Board of Directors.

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Michael P. Davidson, praised by Ann Coulter as a pioneer of “new McCarthyism”, is on the Quilliam Foundation’s US Board of Directors, and CEO of Gen Next, a pro-Republican group

Davidson is a longtime Republican Party activist. Over a decade ago, he was former political director of the Republican Party in Los Angeles, before standing as a candidate for chairman of the College Republican National Convention (CRNC).

His candidacy was endorsed by notorious racist and anti-Semite, Ann Coulter, who hailed him as a pioneer of “the new McCarthyism.”

Gaffney and HJS

Another UK organisation that courts Frank Gaffney is the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), whose event on youth radicalisation Haras Rafiq spoke at in May 2015, alongside HJS’ head of Student Rights, Rupert Sutton.

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Quilliam managing director Haras Rafiq (far left), Henry Jackson Society fellow Rupert Sutton (far right)

In September this year, less than a week after organising a rally with Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, Gaffney interviewed HJS associate director Douglas Murray on his radio podcast show.

Gaffney described Murray as “an old and dear friend,” whose work is “truly indispensable”, particularly his output “at the Henry Jackson Society” which is “so critical and so valuable.”

Gaffney asked Murray about the threat to Britain posed by Muslim “no go zones” — a concept that earlier this year caused David Cameron to ridicule FOX News ‘terror expert’ Steve Emerson as “a complete idiot.” This did not appear to sway Gaffney, however, who prefaced his question with the following diatribe:

“As these Muslim populations move into Europe, and in some measure into the United Kingdom, we see that they have become increasingly dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamic supremacists, ghettoized, in some cases — some people call these things ‘no go zones’ — but whatever one calls them, they have become sort of incubators of an increasingly radical form of Islam and therefore a threat of jihad in these countries.”

Murray’s response was equally instructive. Far from chiding Gaffney for proselytising the conspiracy theory of British Muslim ‘no go zones’, Murray poured scorn on those who criticised Hungary for contemplating a moratorium on Muslim immigration:

Murray then subtly questioned the “Britishness” of ethnic minority communities, particularly Muslims:

Gaffney asked Murray about so-called “population enclaves, for want of a better term, which seem to be increasingly, exclusively Muslim, as I say, more and more at odds with the native society and culture.”

HJS associate director Douglas Murray (left) speaking to his “old friend” Trump-inspirer Frank Gaffney (right) at a conference organised by bigot Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum (MEF)

Murray’s extraordinary response was, effectively, to agree that Muslims are “different” to ordinary Britons, part of which involves failing to visit pubs and churches:

The Henry Jackson Society did not respond to questions on whether Murray’s statements indicate HJS’ support for Trump’s proposals. The Quilliam Foundation also failed to respond to similar questions concerning the relationship between Quilliam staffers and the US-based network of far-right extremists around Frank Gaffney.

Counter-jihad tag-team

According to a new report by the British anti-racist organisation, Hope Not Hate (HnH), Gaffney and Pipes are nodes in a transatlantic network of far-right extremists that has successfully mainstreamed anti-Muslim hatred across the West.

Maajid Nawaz was outraged when he discovered that Zuhdi Jasser, a colleague of Donald Trump’s idol Frank Gaffney, was included in HnH’s report.

Nawaz chose not, though, to admit his own connection to Jasser in spite of the latter’s bigoted witch-hunting of the “majority” of American Muslims. Just two weeks ago, Nawaz’s senior theologian at Quilliam, Usama Hasan, was in Washington DC to participate in Jasser’s latest PR initiative, the ‘Muslim Reform Movement.’

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Quilliam Senior Researcher Usama Hasan tweeted this photo out from the Zuhdi Jasser’s December event hosted by the neoconservative Heritage Foundation

They produced a declaration which was then nailed on the front door of one of the oldest mosques in the US, Washington DC’s Islamic Center.

“Some of us went to a place founded by the most diabolical country in the world which funds terrorism and is the root of our problems: the Saudi-funded mosque in Washington DC,” explained a declaration signatory via Frank Gaffney’s Clarion Project. “Here, we posted the first declaration on the door — despite threats and intimidation.”

Contrary to Jasser’s bigoted fantasy, the mosque was founded with support from the US State Department, and funds “from the diplomatic missions of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, Aramco oil officials, and budding Muslim and Arab communities in Los Angeles, Detroit, and New York City.” Inaugurated by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1957, the mosque frequently featured in State Department literature highlighting religious pluralism in the US, and the unity of “East and West.” In 1977, the mosque even fell victim to a terrorist hijacking plot when a Nation of Islam offshoot took 149 people hostage at the Islamic Center.

That senior staffers at the Quilliam Foundation and Henry Jackson Society would work with and endorse such figures and organisations promoting hatred of ordinary Muslims raises serious questions.

The Quilliam Foundation recently came under fire for these working relationships during the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee’s inquiry into counter-terrorism.

At a hearing on 1st December 2015, Haras Rafiq was asked by British parliamentarians why senior Quilliam staff had signed a statement published by the US-based Gatestone Institute, whose president is the same Nina Rosenwald who has funded the anti-Muslim Clarion Project.

The parliamentary Committee’s grilling of Rafiq drew largely on my own previous journalism on the Quilliam Foundation’s far-right connections, and even read out an extract of this article on Maajid Nawaz’s appointment of Ted Cruz’s campaign manager (Chad Sweet) to his US board from 2011 to 2013. Let’s not forget here that Sweet is also a paid-up member of Nawaz’s US funder, Gen Next.

Gatestone has hosted Geert Wilders in the US, and published articles promoting his racist bigotry. It has also published far-right extremists like Robert Spencer, banned by the British government from entering the UK to address an event organised by the racist English Defence League (EDL).

Labour MP Chuk Umunna told Haras Rafiq during the hearing:

Rafiq’s response was to deny any knowledge of Gatestone’s extremist publications and affiliations, promising to “look into” the issue.

He didn’t.

Gaffney collaborator Zuhdi Jasser sits on the Gatestone Institute’s Board of Advisers. Two days after Rafiq was grilled by parliamentarians, his colleague Usama Hasan was in Washington under the auspices of Jasser’s ‘Muslim Reform Movement’.

The Henry Jackson Society’s Douglas Murray is another Gatestone stalwart. He was previously on Gatestone’s Board of Directors, before stepping down last year to become a Distinguished Senior Fellow.

When Umunna’s colleague, Naz Shah MP, asked Rafiq why a former US director of Quilliam, Chad Sweet, was simultaneously a campaign manager for Ted Cruz, Rafiq pretended that the American branch of Quilliam was a completely “separate organisation,” for which the UK organisation has no responsibility whatsoever.

Yet Quilliam’s own corporate filings show that the funding it receives every year from Gen Next through Quilliam’s American nonprofit goes directly to supporting Quilliam’s London-based operations.

Rafiq was also asked about Quilliam’s relationship with former EDL head, Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka ‘Tommy Robinson,’ whose organisation reportedly had “strong links” with far-right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who massacred 77 people in Norway in 2011.

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Usama Hasan (left), Tommy Robinson (middle) and Maajid Nawaz (right) at Quilliam press conference on Robinson’s EDL resignation

In October 2013, Robinson declared his EDL resignation at a press conference organised by Quilliam. White supremacist bigot Pam Geller had given Robinson $10,000 in 2013 — she also happens to have been repeatedly praised by Breivik in his manifesto.

A Hope Not Hate report from July exposed that Robinson was involved in a fanatical white supremacist plot to use street demonstrations and a cartoon exhibition insulting Prophet Muhammad to “ignite race riots”, provoke ISIS sleeper cells into committing “terrorist attacks”, and thus lead to a “civil war.”

HnH chief executive Nick Lowles said that the report exposed “a group of political extremists, as dangerous as the Islamists they claim to dislike, who are seeking to bring society to its knees and drive Muslims out of Europe through fear, violence and murder.”

“First of all we never claimed that Tommy Robinson was deradicalised,” Rafiq told the parliamentary committee. “We merely facilitated his leaving the EDL… We’ve never had any formal business relationship with Tommy Robinson.”

Days after the hearing, it emerged that contrary to Rafiq’s lie, Quilliam did have a “formal business relationship” with the former EDL leader. Robinson claimed he had been paid around 8,000 pounds by Quilliam as part of a “deal” to let Quilliam take credit for him leaving the EDL.

In an official statement, Quilliam admitted:

But the statement added:

“Quilliam never claimed to ‘deradicalise’ Tommy, nor ‘reform’ him, only that we facilitated his departure from the EDL.”


At a Quilliam press briefing, Maajid Nawaz and his colleagues repeatedly tried to convince journalists that Tommy Robinson and his cousin, Kevin Carroll, had genuinely reformed.

The Independent added that Robinson refused to renounce or denounce his past inflammatory statements about Muslims, including demands to limit mosque-building in the UK, and claims about “links between Islam and paedophilia.”

Nawaz made a similar claim in a Twitter exchange with another former EDL member, dated 12th October 2013. The ex-EDL member @deanbcfc challenged Nawaz on whether Robinson had really changed.

Nawaz responded with:

“if u can’t accept Tommy’s apology, why should anyone accept yours for leaving the EDL?”

The ex-EDL member stated:

“he hasn’t changed his stance, and you and ‪@quilliamf are giving his narrative legitimacy!”

Nawaz insisted:

In other words, two years ago Nawaz cited Robinson’s actions — his departure from the EDL, his apologies and his agreement to work with Quilliam — as evidence that Robinson had “changed”, and that people should “accept” his apologies at face value; a claim that HJS’ Douglas Murray also made.

In hindsight, this appears to have been merely evidence of their willful gullibility. Robinson has gone on to use the publicity facilitated by Nawaz to mainstream his narrative of hate.

Such ‘gullibility’ is not surprising, given that both Quilliam and HJS, while loudly trumpeting their opposition to extremism, remain shamelessly embedded in a network of far-right extremists who sympathise with Donald Trump’s white supremacist American Dream.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is a weekly columnist for Middle East Eye.

He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work, and was twice selected in the Evening Standard’s top 1,000 most globally influential Londoners, in 2014 and 2015.

Nafeez has also written and reported for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, Counterpunch, Truthout, among others.

He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Anglia Ruskin University, where he is researching the link between global systemic crises and civil unrest for Springer Energy Briefs.

Nafeez is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

This exclusive is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding. I’d like to thank my amazing community of patrons for their support, which gave me the opportunity to work on this story. Please support independent, investigative journalism for the global commons via, where you can donate as much or as little as you like.

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