Charity Commission urged to investigate Policy Exchange’s ‘anti-Muslim narratives’

Two leading experts are calling for the Charity Commission to strip the think tank Policy Exchange of its charity status due to its “political propaganda and anti-Muslim narratives.”

Professor John Holmwood and Dr Layla Aitlhadj, the UK’s leading academics on the government’s Prevent strategy, have lodged a complaint outlining potential serious regulatory breaches following the release of a recent report by the Policy Exchange, which many critics called racist and Islamophobic.

The letter says breaches include poor research standards, racist and Islamophobic views, and it accuses the think tank of “promoting vilification and even hatred” towards Muslims by misleading the public.

Experts lampooned the report from Policy Exchange last month, which had a foreword written by David Cameron, who was accused of implying that critics of the government’s Prevent strategy were “enabling terrorism.”  

“As a charity, Policy Exchange must remain non-partisan and be detached from government. Yet it would appear Policy Exchange is neither, acting primarily as a vehicle for political propaganda and anti-Muslim narratives. This neither benefits the public, nor advances education, which is its stated charitable aim,” said Dr Layla Aitlhadj, who is a director at Prevent Watch.

Dr Aitlhadj and Prof. Holmwood authored ‘The People’s Review of Prevent’ earlier in the year which outlines some of the concerns and criticisms surrounding the counter-radicalisation programme.


Policy Exchange accused of targeting Muslims

The nine-page letter, seen by Islam Channel, was sent to the Charity Commission last week. It sets out the case against the Policy Exchange under six headings: being partisan; not advancing education; misusing donations; racist and Islamophobic claims; misleading the public; and poor research standards.

The letter points out that the Policy Exchange’s report singled out only Muslim critics of Prevent but failed to mention the many non-Muslim detractors.

It also urged the Charities Commission to consider the nature and timing of Policy Exchange’s report, its relationship to the current government, how potential conflicts of interest are managed, and how all this complies with its legal charitable status.

Policy Exchange openly supports the government’s independent review of Prevent by William Shawcross, himself a Senior Fellow of Policy Exchange since 2018. Many organisations have boycotted the official review due to Shawcross’s past remarks about Islam and that has led to fears the final review, expected soon, will not include critical views of Prevent.

“It’s bad enough that a charity promotes the view that some areas of government policy are above public scrutiny. But to single out and demonise Muslims by suggesting their legitimate criticisms of Prevent are not shared by others, and then accuse them of ‘enabling terrorism’, as David Cameron has, is a serious assault on our democracy, and could potentially also encourage hate crimes against such individuals,” said Prof. Holmwood.

Questions are also asked about the group’s funding. A result of a lack of transparency in its accounts, the complaint states, creates doubts about whether these are from political sources or from those with a known anti-Muslim agenda. The complaint letter concludes by stating there is “a case for investigating” Policy Exchange, and whether, given its activities and reports, “it should remain a charity”.


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