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No. 10’s Preferred Anti-Muslim Hatred Advisor Worked with Anti-Muslim Hate Groups in the US

The second anti-Muslim hatred advisor proposed in a week has problematic connections to the Quilliam Foundation and the Gatestone Institute

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The UK Government is planning to appoint a new advisor on anti-Muslim hatred to replace its previous candidate, Fiyaz Mughal, who was abruptly withdrawn by No. 10 following revelations of his involvement in suppressing a report on Tory ties to far-right networks in Europe. 

Sources confirm that the Government’s new preferred option for the appointment is Haras Rafiq, the former CEO of controversial counter-extremism think-tank the Quillian Foundation. Quilliam received funding from pro-Trump Republican donors and worked with US-based anti-Muslim think-tanks that promoted the far-right ‘Great Replacement’ conspiracy theory.

Rafiq was CEO of the Quilliam Foundation from 2016 until 2021, when the organisation collapsed after its founder, Maajid Nawaz, began promoting far-right conspiracy theories about Donald Trump and Covid-19 linked to the QAnon movement. Neither Rafiq nor any of his fellow Quilliam directors condemned his statements at the time or attempted to disassociate the Quilliam Foundation from them. 

Both during and prior to his work with the Quilliam Foundation, Rafiq has a long history of working with leading promoters of anti-Muslim hatred in the United States.


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In 2015, Haras Rafiq gave misleading answers in his testimony before a parliamentary Home Affairs Select Committee inquiry. When asked about his organisation’s work with Republican political networks, including a notorious anti-Muslim think tank with ties to the Trump administration which promoted white nationalist, racist and anti-Muslim conspiracy theories, Rafiq simply denied knowledge.

Members of Parliament asked Rafiq why Quilliam, under his leadership, had signed a joint statement with the Gatestone Institute – whose publications claim Muslims are taking over the West and ‘replacing’ the indigenous white population through population growth and immigration.

In 2015, Gatestone repeatedly published articles stating that Europe was replete with Muslim ‘no-go zones’ which are “off-limits to non-Muslims” functioning as “microstates governed by Islamic Sharia law”. Gatestone authors also repeatedly endorsed Dutch Freedom Party politician Geert Wilders’ demands for a wholesale ban on the Qur’an, a shutdown of all mosques, the end of all Muslim immigration to Europe, and “fewer Moroccans” in the Netherlands (for which he was later convicted of inciting discrimination).

At the time, Gatestone was chaired by John Bolton, who in 2018 was appointed Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor. The group became notorious for promoting anti-Muslim fake news, including articles claiming that a “jihadist takeover” of Muslims in Europe would lead to white populations to be wiped out and become a minority: a ‘Great White Death’. 

Rafiq denied knowing anything about the Gatestone Institute and promised he would “look into” the issues. 


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Rafiq was also asked why one of Quilliam’s US directors was Chad Sweetman, then campaigner manager for Senator Ted Cruz. Even at the time, Cruz’s extreme views were well known – he was a supporter of white racist politician the late Jesse Helms; campaigned against LGBTQ rights; and aligned himself with anti-Muslim bigotry. 

Rafiq’s response was to claim that the American branch of the Quilliam Foundation was a “completely separate” organisation to the UK organisation that he was running. Yet this was false. In 2011, Maajid Nawaz established a US non-profit entity for the Quilliam Foundation to receive American donations. The entity’s corporate filings revealed that it did not pay US tax on these donations because the money was funnelled directly to support Quilliam’s London-based operations. Through its US non-profit Quilliam received approximately $3 million from pro-Trump Republican donors. 

Its US entity also had direct ties to the Trump campaign. The office was incorporated at an address hosted by Gen Next Inc., a US pro-Republican lobbying operation. One of Gen Next Inc.’s directors was long-time Republican donor Yuri Vanetik, a major donor on a ‘super PAC’ that backed Trump’s 2016 presidential candidacy. 

Haras Rafiq had also worked with other leading anti-Muslim hate figures. From 2006 to 2007, Rafiq was founder and director of the ‘Sufi Muslim Council’ (SMC). Two SMC representatives in the US supported well-known anti-Muslim extremist Frank Gaffney by speaking at a screening of his anti-Muslim film ‘Islam vs Islamists’, which claimed falsely that fundamentalist Islam was dominating mosques across the US. Gaffney has been described as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes” by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the civil rights law firm tracking extremist activity in the US.

And in 2010, Rafiq was hosted by the Middle East Forum run by Daniel Pipes, identified as one of America’s leading “misinformation experts” on Islam by the Washington-based Center for American Progress and described as a “racist hate-monger” by the Australian Jewish Council. The SPLC also lists Pipes as a leading “anti-Muslim figure” who defended the idea of mass internment of Muslims in North America.

Rafiq told his audience at the Middle East Forum event that “most of the literature on Islam disseminated in mosques has been sponsored by extremists”, and that this has been “further exacerbated by taqiyya, or doctrinal deceit, which permits Islamists to dissemble their true beliefs…”

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.

The Department of Levelling Up and Communities and Haras Rafiq have been approached for comment.

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