There has been an interesting blog piece written by Marko Attila Hoare, who was formerly a section director at the Henry Jackson Society before he resigned earlier this year. In his blog, Hoare expresses his dismay at the manner in which the HJS has moved from promising beginnings as “a centrist, bipartisan think-tank seeking to promote democratic geopolitics” to what he describes as “an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge”.
“Earlier this year, I resigned from the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) and requested that my name be removed from its website. The HJS is a UK think-tank frequently described as ‘neoconservative’. It includes among its Trustees Michael Gove, the current Secretary of State for Education, and it is alleged to have influenced the foreign policy of David Cameron and William Hague. It currently serves as a secretariat, at the House of Commons, to the All-Party Parliamentary Groups for Transatlantic and International Security and for Homeland Security. I had held a senior post within this organisation for seven years, first as Greater Europe Co-Director, then as European Neighbourhood Section Director. However, I reluctantly had to face the fact that the HJS has degenerated to the point where it is a mere caricature of its former self. No longer is it a centrist, bipartisan think-tank seeking to promote democratic geopolitics through providing sober, objective and informed analysis to policy-makers. Instead, it has become an abrasively right-wing forum with an anti-Muslim tinge…The story of the HJS’s degeneration provides an insight into the obscure backstage world of Conservative politics.
“There are three factors that define this degeneration. The first is that almost all the people who founded and established the HJS have either left or been edged out of the organisation.
“The second factor is that there is absolutely no internal democracy in the HJS, nor any transparency or rules of procedure. Absolutely none whatsoever. Less than in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Probably less than in the Syrian Arab Republic… Sole power is held by one individual – Executive Director Alan Mendoza. He was not elected to the post and is not subject even to formal or technical restraints, nor to performance review and renewal of contract.
“The third factor is that, although the HJS was intended to be a centrist, bi-partisan organisation, its leadership has now moved far to the right, and abandoned any pretence of being bi-partisan or pro-European … Most of the people who left or have been purged are of a broadly centre-left outlook and background.”
Hoare goes on to detail the lack of democratic governance in the organisation, its move towards a right wing outlook, and the paucity of credible analytical output- a product of the loss of academics from among its staff. He goes on to detail two mergers and acquisitions by the HJS. The first is in the form of absorption of staff from the Israel-advocacy organisation Just Journalism, such as Michael Weiss, who was the executive director at JJ, and Robin Shepherd. The second case is the appointment to the post of Associate Director, of Douglas Murray from the Centre for Social Cohesion and the HJS’s subsequent merger with the CfSC. Hoare argues that “Thus, four of the six top posts in the HJS are now held by former managers of Just Journalism. They have ensured that the HJS’s political goals have departed radically to those with which it was founded.”
The CfSC, alongside Policy Exchange, was examined in the Spinwatch report on The Cold War on British Muslims, which detailed the counter-subversive strategies used by the think tanks in their ‘research’ on multiculturalism, Islam and Islamism, as well as the political interests and orientations of those financing the organisations. On the appointment of Murray, Hoare states, “Murray’s interest lay in opposing Islam and immigration”. This is clear in some of his previous statements on Muslims and Islam, such as his Pim Fortuyn lecture of 2006 in which he said:
“Conditions for Muslims in Europe must be made harder across the board: Europe must look like a less attractive proposition.”
“It is late in the day, but Europe still has time to turn around the demographic time-bomb which will soon see a number of our largest cities fall to Muslim majorities… All immigration into Europe from Muslim countries must stop”
“We do have a problem; we have a problem when the failures of Islam throughout the world; the failures of all Islamic societies come here into Britain.”
Murray is also quoted as stating his ‘respect’ for the notorious American Islamophobe, Robert Spencer and the article contains a picture of Murray posing with Spencer. Hoare continues explaining that Murray’s appointment led to a fundamental shift in the output of the organisation:
“By appointing as his ‘Associate Director’ a pundit known primarily for his polemics against Muslims and Islam, Mendoza signalled a change, not only in the HJS’s political orientation, but also in its tone. Since then, instead of sober analytical pieces providing analysis and suggesting strategy, the HJS website has been filled with republished op-eds of a more polemical nature, seemingly calculated not so much to influence policy-makers as to pander to the HJS’s increasingly right-wing readership.
“The HJS’s coverage of more serious international political issues has been less copious. For example, it has made virtually no attempt to provide any strategic analysis, or suggest policy, regarding the Eurozone crisis … The HJS has effectively given up on analysis of most parts of the world… the HJS has given up on covering sub-Saharan Africa, except in relation to the Islamist threat… The ‘France’ category of the HJS contains, at the time of writing, seven articles: four on the Islamist perpetrator of the Toulouse killings; one in support of the jailing of a French Muslim woman for violating the burkha ban; and one attacking President Sarkozy for his hostility to Binyamin Netanyahu. And the seventh doesn’t say much about France either.
“In exchange for abandoning its geopolitical, policy-making focus and its coverage of most global regions, the HJS has inherited Murray’s obsession with British Islamism and Islam generally. But it has shown no equivalent concern with white or Christian extremism; there are no articles on its website concerning groups like the British National Party or EDL. It has published at least four articles on the Toulouse killings by a lone Islamist, but none on the massacres carried out by Anders Behring Breivik in Norway in July. Actually, as European Neighbourhood Section Director, I did publish an article on Breivik and the European anti-Islamic far-right, in which I concluded that ‘The Islamophobic, anti-immigration far-right is the no. 1 internal threat in Western Europe to European society and Western values today.’ This article was immediately removed from the website and resulted in me having my right to post articles directly to the HJS website revoked.”
Hoare’s article provides invaluable insight into the workings of the HJS and its transition to an outfit for fervent Islamophobes pandering to a right wing agenda. His mention of Murray’s appointment and the HJS’s accommodation of his anti-Muslim views is notable. Only recently, Murray gave us another taste of his anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiments in a comment piece on polygamy in the UK, published, not surprisingly, in the Daily Express. Robin Shepherd has expressed similar opinions- he complained last year for example that an article on honour killings published on BBC News last year did not mention Islam or Muslims. The opinion that honour crimes are a ‘Muslim issue’ has been frequently regurgitated on websites such as the Daily Mail (see here, and here) and the Daily Express. Since the Association of Chief Police Officers’ Honour Based Violence Strategy document notes ‘honour’ killings to be a cultural and not religious phenomenon cutting across all cultures, nationalities, faith groups and communities, how else is the framing of the issue as a Muslim one to be understood other than as instances of anti-Muslim prejudice?
Hoare’s exposition of the turn the HJS has taken and the spouting of anti-Muslim opinions by its staff raise pertinent questions over its suitability as secretariat to not one, but two All Party Parliamentary Groups. Perhaps Hoare’s revelations on the goings-on at the HJS, and the lack of internal democracy, will provide MPs sitting on the APPGs on Homeland Security and Transatlantic and International Security, an opportunity to scrutinise their validation of the HJS as suitable to post of secretariat.
You can also raise the issue with the MPs and challenge their choice of engaging with such an openly bigoted anti-Muslim organisation. You can find the names of the MPs on the APPGs here and here, and details of how to contact them here.
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