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 criticising 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.” Owen Bowcott and Riazat Butt reports.