Dear Ian MacGregor,

We write to you concerning two articles authored by Andrew Gilligan on Saturday 29th November 2014 entitled ‘Terror link’ charities get British millions in Gift Aid’ and on Sunday 11th January 2015 entitled ‘Paris Attacks: Why This Could Happen In Britain’.

The articles not only make false, sensational and misleading claims about Claystone, a not-for-profit organisation, but also attempt to malign the integrity of its research. From the outset, we would like to clarify that Claystone is a non-partisan think tank that is not affiliated, either officially or otherwise, to any other organisation or individual, including those implicated in the aforementioned articles. We are entirely independent in our decision-making and in the ultimate execution of our projects.

It is a staple part of Mr Gilligan’s journalism to label Muslim individuals and organisations as extremists. In this desperate guilt-by-association routine Mr Gilligan’s articles claim that Claystone’s press office telephone number is the same as that of FOSIS, which is a student organisation. This is false. The number in question is that of our press officer, who previously worked for FOSIS, having left them over three years ago.

It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the dynamics of any minority community anywhere, that between the various directors and volunteers at Claystone, ‘links’ to virtually all major London-based Islamic organisations, community leaders and scholars can be demonstrated to some extent. It should also come as no surprise that given the nature of our research on Islamophobia: we seek every opportunity to network with Muslims and non-Muslims of various political parties, religious sects and persuasions, in order to facilitate our research and disseminate our findings, as long as no such party contravenes the law. Regardless, we may disagree with many of these individuals on various matters that will ultimately have no bearing on collaborative ventures. Mr Gilligan clearly seeks to weave something more sinister by casting aspersions. An example of which is demonstrated in the following point.

Mr Gilligan’s earlier article claims that the address of Claystone is the same as that of a charity currently undergoing an investigation by the Charity Commission. It implies that Claystone shares an office with the charity. Our address is that of a commercial office block from which numerous organisations operate. The research we produce is independent and objective. Whilst we did not name any of the charities that took part in our research we can confirm that none that operate from this commercial office block were part of the study you reference. This assertion intended to defame the integrity of our Charity Commission report which was critical of Sir William Shawcross who is an associate of Mr Gilligan. Our report was particularly critical of his anti-Muslim comments. He said “Europe and Islam is one of the greatest, most terrifying problems of our future. I think all European countries have vastly, very quickly growing Islamic populations.” Unsurprisingly Mr Gilligan did not quote this in his piece. In fact judging by the focus of Mr Gilligan’s previous articles there are strong grounds to suggest he is very sympathetic with this view.

In the second article, regarding our report ‘A Decade Lost: Rethinking Radicalisation and Extremism’, Mr Gilligan claims that “many of the statements in the report were obvious lies”. We are amazed that Mr Gilligan can make an audacious and brash accusation regarding an extensive report without seeking to substantiate the claim with criticisms on specific points. As a think tank we welcome critique on specific points made, but this was not done. In addition, the report, authored by counter-terrorism expert Professor Arun Kundnani, was highly praised by Mr Gilligan’s own colleague and fellow journalist at the Telegraph, Peter Oborne.

To conclude, Mr Gilligan’s articles grossly misrepresent Claystone. His articles clearly insinuate that Claystone operates as a front group for ‘extremists’, for which he provides no credible evidence. Furthermore, not once has Mr Gilligan sought to authenticate any information with us prior to publication of either of his articles.

We urge immediate retractions of these unfounded accusations.

Yours Sincerely
Adam Belaon (Director of Research)