Britain: Who and what is the Policy Exchange think tank? By Richard Tyler

Dandelion Salad

By Richard Tyler
World Socialist Web Site
16 January 2008

The welcome failed prosecution of Foreign Office civil servant Derek Pasquill under the Official Secrets Act has inadvertently shed light once again on the Policy Exchange think tank. (See: “Britain: Prosecution of civil servant under Official Secrets Act fails”)

Pasquill had leaked government documents to the Observer newspaper concerning links between the Foreign Office and various Islamic groups. Journalist Martin Bright, who moved from the Observer to the New Statesman magazine, had used these documents in his pamphlet, “When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries: The British State’s flirtation with radical Islamism,” published by Policy Exchange.

Bright applauded “the Tory progressives at Policy Exchange” for publishing his work, which was billed as a denunciation of the government’s alliances with “a reactionary, authoritarian brand of Islam,” in favour of looking to “real grassroots moderates as allies.”

In fact, the modus operandi of Policy Exchange follows a well-trod path. Ever since the 9/11 attacks, sections of the British political establishment and the media (like their counterparts in the US) have followed a sustained, and at times virulent, Islamophobic campaign that has demonised Muslims. Conducted under the banner of opposing Islamic extremism, its political objective has been to defend the neo-colonialist policy of pre-emptive war and occupation embarked upon by the American and British ruling elite.

The recent controversy involving Policy Exchange and the BBC’s flagship current affairs programme “Newsnight” is instructive in this regard.

Towards the end of last year, “Newsnight” broadcast a story casting doubts on a Policy Exchange report that claimed to have uncovered the widespread sale of extremist Islamic literature at mosques in Britain.

In “The Hijacking of British Islam,” the think tank asserted that its researchers were able to purchase radical Islamic writings that were “anti-Semitic, misogynistic, separatist and homophobic,” and were said to be available at about a quarter of the mosques and other Islamic organisations they visited.

When it was published in October 2007, on the eve of a state visit by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah, “The Hijacking of British Islam” received front-page coverage. According to the Guardian newspaper, “Tory leader David Cameron pledged to raise the revelations with King Abdullah, because much of the literature was said to have been sourced from Saudi Arabia.”

Earlier that same month, Policy Exchange had offered “Newsnight” an “exclusive” deal to report the publication of its report, also supplying the programme with copies of receipts it claimed evidenced the purchase of the extremist literature.

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