Well done to Nick Clegg for becoming the first major party leader to take on Policy Exchange over its unscrupulous approach to Islam. (hat-tip Sunny Hundal)
In a statement carried by the PoliticsHome website on Friday, Clegg criticised the think-tank over for a privately circulated briefing against the Sunday's Global Peace and Unity event in London.
The Policy Exchange briefing I have seen seeks to raise alarm over a number of the speakers planning to attend the conference. The accuracy of the allegations is variable, with a notable lack of evidence to support many of the claims.
In particular I was appalled to see ‘evidence’ quoted from the Society for American National Existence, an organisation which seeks to make the practice of Islam illegal, punishable by 20 years in prison. I need hardly point out how illogical it is to attempt to criticise one set of extreme views by citing another.
My concern is not limited to the facts in the document, however. Your attempt to raise a boycott of this event by privately briefing against it is bizarre, and underhand behaviour for a think-tank supposedly interested in open public debate. The information you are disseminating is extremely narrow in focus and as a result tars with the brush of extremism the tens of thousands of Muslims who will be in attendance.
This looks exactly like the kind of activity which led the Charity Commission to identify 'a need for greater transparency' from Policy Exchange earlier this year.
One point worth making is that the Society of Americans for National Existence are not just some bunch of marginal crazies. SANE is actually a project of the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. IASPS was where key neoconservatives like Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Doug Feith worked out the clean break strategy, which many believe formed the basis of the Iraq War agenda they went on to pursue in the Bush administration.
The public forum, underwritten by the Ohio Humanities Council, the Ohio Council of Churches and Muslim groups, is sponsored by the Interfaith Association of Central Ohio to promote religious understanding.
The event is billed as an exploration of the diversity of the Islamic faith in the U.S. and how each sect reflects an American perspective -- not as a dissection of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Poole paints it as something sinister: a gathering of terrorist sympathizers who are being granted "legitimacy" by state officials by being allowed to speak in the "political epicenter of Ohio."
After talking to Poole and event organizers and receiving eight e-mailed complaints, the executive director of the Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board asked the State Highway Patrol to investigate the speakers' backgrounds.
But the patrol declined, saying no crime was suspected or had been committed, said spokesman Lt. Tony Bradshaw.
Meanwhile, the terrorism analyst for conservative evangelist Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network has been poking around Columbus for a story on the "radical views" of some Muslims.
Poole's methods sound a lot like Policy Exchange's own. Over at Blood and Treasure, Jamie K reckons that the briefing 'looks like an attempt to launder far right extremism in a privately circulated briefing for politicians.' Not surprisingly perhaps, I tend to agree.
As the Guardian noted recently:
Another aspect of Policy Exchange's interest in Islam that concerns the MCB and others is that it has been overseen by Dean Godson, the thinktank's research director for "terrorism and security" and "international" subjects. His politics are considerably more hard-edged and dogmatic than those usually associated with Cameron's Conservatism.
The latest episode could be, literally, straight out of the Roy Godson playbook.