Two former Islamists are to launch a Muslim thinktank aimed at improving relations with the west by challenging extremist ideologies.
The Quilliam Foundation believes Muslims should shake off the "cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent" and the "political burdens of the Arab world".
Its director is Maajid Nawaz, 30, who was adopted as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International after being jailed in Egypt for membership of Hizb ut-Tahrir. Since returning to London he has written pamphlets criticizing the party.
His deputy is Ed Husain, 32, the author of The Islamist, which details his youth in east London moving through radical groups including Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The policy institute, to be launched next month, is named after Shaikh William Henry Abdullah Quilliam, an English solicitor and convert, who founded the UK’s first mosque in Liverpool at the end of the 19th century.
Nawaz insists the foundation is independent. "[The money has come] mainly from Middle Eastern businessmen and Muslims who are concerned about how Islam is being abused."
Its aim was to "revive a western Islam" by removing certain "obstacles". "We consider these to be scriptural literalism, extremism, Islamism, and foreign ideological influences and interferences with western Muslim communities.
"Western Muslims should be free from the cultural baggage of the Indian subcontinent, or the political burdens of the Arab world. We were born and raised in a milieu that is different from the Muslim east. Our future and progeny belong here."
It is likely to generate controversy within Britain’s two million Muslim community. Past counter-extremist initiatives have been condemned by Islamists as the work of apostates – those deviating from traditional interpretations of Islam.
Usama Hasan, director of the City Circle which promotes a British Muslim identity, said: "It is a positive venture. They have to be careful not to be too strident. They don’t want to lose too many friends."