The current climate of fear being whipped-up against Muslims in Britain by two right-wing think-tanks: the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) and Policy Exchange represent a reversion to the failed counter-subversion strategies of the past.
Official countersubversion was stepped-up in the wake of the explosion of popular protest in the late 1960s. Under pressure from ministers, MI5's Director-General agreed "to stretch the [Service's] Charter as far as it would go', which in practice led to increasingly spurious security justifications for political surveillance. While ostensibly aimed at Communists and the "far and wide left', this surveillance covered a whole generation of Labour activists, including Jack Straw, Peter Mandelson, Peter Hain, Patricia Hewitt and Harriet Harman. Hewitt and Harman were targeted because of their work with the National Council for Civil Liberties, whilst Ruddock and Ashton were monitored because of their links to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
In July 2006, the same month Policy Exchange published its first report on Islamism, it hosted a book launch for Gove's neoconservative polemic Celsius 7/7 who was the chairman and later became education secretary in the cabinet. In the book Gove argued that what he called "fundamentalist terror' had been facilitated by the "sapping of confidence in Western values encouraged by the radical Left since 1968."
He thanked a number of people for helping to shape his thinking on Islamism, among them were Douglas Murray of the Centre for Social Cohesion and Dean Godson, who that year was appointed head of Policy Exchange's Foreign Policy and Security Unit. Godson, who comes from a family with a history of involvement in propaganda and covert action, had worked as a Research Fellow at the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies in the late 1980.
Under his leadership Policy Exchange's major preoccupation has been with a perceived need to reassert "Western values' against "extremism' and the liberal political climate in which it is thought to thrive.
Godson's Foreign Policy and Security Unit has published a number of reports calling on the government to sever its links with particular individuals or groups and to expand its surveillance of Muslim communities. The most notorious of these reports was published in October 2007 and entitled The Hijacking of British Islam. The report was written by Denis MacEoin, an author of crime thrillers and ghost stories. It claimed to "demonstrate unequivocally that separatist and hate literature, written and disseminated in the name of Islam, is widely available in the UK,' and called for mosques to be made to clean up their act.' It was subsequently removed from Policy Exchange's website after the BBC discovered evidence suggesting that its findings had been fabricated.
The Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) was founded in 2007 as a project of the Conservative think-tank Civitas. Its emphasis was in line with Civitas previous work on the subject. A key example was The West, Islam and Islamism: Is ideological Islam compatible with liberal democracy? , a 2003 pamphlet whose authors Caroline Cox and John Marks would later become directors of the CSC. They argued that Islamist terrorism was only part of a broader ideological challenge comparable to communist propaganda efforts during the Cold War.
After the publication of Hate on the State, Douglas Murray joined with local conservative councillors in launching a petition calling on Tower Hamlets to remove all Hate Books identified in the Centre for Social Cohesion's Report.
In November 2007, the Government announced that it was working on new guidance to deal with the extremist material that some seek to distribute through public libraries. However, the initial guidance was revised after the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals warned of a possible "chilling effects on libraries."
In August 2009 it's director Douglas Murray met with leading counter-jihad activist Robert Spencer and Martin Mawyer of the US Christian Action Network. The event would later spark controversy because of the attendance of three members of the English Defence League.
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