|Nawaz in November 2012|
November 2, 1978 |
|Political party||Liberal Democrats|
|Spouse(s)||Rabia Ahmed (m. 1999–2008)
Rachel Maggart (m. 2014)
Political Theory (M.S.)
|Alma mater||University of London
London School of Economics
Maajid Nawaz (Urdu: ماجد نواز, [ˈmaːdʒɪd̪ naːwa:z], born 2 November 1978) is a British activist, author and politician. He was the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for London's Hampstead and Kilburn constituency in the 2015 General Election. He is also the co-founder and chairman of Quilliam, a counter-extremism think tank that seeks to challenge the narratives of Islamist extremists.
Maajid is a former member of the radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. This association led to his arrest in Egypt in December 2001, where he remained imprisoned until 2006. Reading books on Human Rights and interacting with Amnesty International, which adopted him as a prisoner of conscience, resulted in a change of heart. This led Maajid to leave Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007, renounce his Islamist past and call for a "Secular Islam".
He co-founded Quilliam with former activists from radical Islamist organisations, including Ed Husain. He documented his life story in his Amazon bestselling autobiography Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism. Since founding Quilliam, Maajid has risen to become a prominent critic of Islamism in the United Kingdom. He is a regular op-ed contributor, debater and public commenter, and has spoken from various international platforms including TED. He presented his story and experiences in front of US Senate Committee and UK Home Affairs Committee in their respective inquiries on the roots of radical extremism.
His writings have been published in various newspapers including New York Times, The Guardian, Financial Times, Daily Mail and Wall Street Journal. He has made appearances on programmes including, but not limited to, Larry King Live, BBC Hard Talk, Charlie Rose, 60 Minutes, Newsnight, Daily Politics and Real Time with Bill Maher. He also delivered a lecture at University of Liverpool titled Security and Conflict, and has delivered successive talks at Marshall Center for Security Studies over the years. In June 2014, Nawaz became an honorary associate of the National Secular Society which was founded in 1866.
|“||What is Islamism? Islam is a religion; Islamism is the desire to impose any version of that religion on society. It’s the politicization of my own religion. What is Jihadism? The use of force to spread Islamism.||”|
— Maajid Nawaz 
- 1 Early years
- 2 Islamist activism
- 3 Counter-extremist activism
- 4 Views
- 5 Political career
- 6 Controversies
- 7 Bibliography
- 8 See also
- 9 External links
- 10 References
Maajid Nawaz was born in Essex, England to parents of Pakistani origin. He studied law at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. Later, he earned his Masters degree in Political Theory from London School of Economics. At the age of 21, he married Rabia, then a fellow activist within the Hizb ut-Tahrir community and a biology student; they have a son. On Maajid's decision to leave Hizb ut-Tahrir, they separated and divorced.
In 2014 he married Rachel Maggart.
Association with Hizb ut-Tahrir
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Nawaz cites racism whilst growing up, whether from classmates, C18 gangs or the police, and feeling divided between his Pakistani and British identities as important factors in his struggle to find his own identity. When his brother, Osman, was recruited into Hizb ut-Tahrir by Nasim Ghani (later, the UK leader of Hizb ut-Tahrir), Osman subsequently persuaded Nawaz to attend HT meetings held in Southend homes. At those meetings, recruits were shown videos showing how "European Muslims were being massacred" in Bosnia, and this became the catalyst which persuaded him to become directly involved with HT.
Determined to go to London "to be where the action was", Nawaz persuaded his parents to let him attend a design course in Barking College, East London. In London he was put in contact with one of Ghani's protégés, Ed Husain, who persuaded Nawaz to transfer to Newham College of Further Education where there were more Muslim students.
While a student at Newham and then at SOAS, Maajid very quickly became a national speaker and international recruiter for Hizb ut-Tahrir, travelling first to Pakistan and then to Denmark to export the party's ideology and set up cells from London. As part of his university degree, Nawaz spent a compulsory year abroad in Egypt.
Imprisonment in Egypt
Since political Islamist organisations like Hizb ut-Tahrir were banned in Egypt, Nawaz was arrested and interrogated in Alexandria by the Egyptian security agency Aman al-Dawlah. Later, he was transferred to the al-Gihaz, the Cairo headquarters of the agency. Like most foreign prisoners, he was not subjected to torture, but faced the threat of torture while interrogation and witnessed other prisoners being tortured. He was then transferred with fellow foreign prisoners, including Ian Nisbet and Reza Pankhurst, to Mazrah Tora. There, he was put on trial and was adopted by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience during his trial. Maajid, Nisbet and Pankhurst were each sentenced to five years imprisonment.
Disenchantment and exit from Hizb ut-Tahrir
While imprisoned in Mazrah Tora, Nawaz spoke at length with the Muslim Brotherhood leadership such as Mohammed Badie, who in his youth had smuggled the manuscripts of Syed Qutb's famous Islamist manual book Milestones out of prison (ensuring that it got published), and Dr. Essam el-Erian - the spokesman of Muslim Brotherhood. He also befriended author and sociologist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, and the imprisoned runner-up to Egypt's 2006 presidential elections Ayman Nour, the liberal head of the Tomorrow Party . Throughout this time, Nawaz continued his studies, sitting with graduates of Cairo's Al-Azhar University and Dar al-'Ulum. He specialised in the Arabic language whilst studying historical Muslim scholastics, sources of Islamic jurisprudence, Hadith historiography and the art of Qur'an recitation. He also committed half of the Qur'an to memory. In an interview to American state broadcaster National Public Radio, Nawaz explained how, other than the interactions in prison, George Orwell's novel Animal Farm played a major role in his turnaround.
Departure from Hizb ut-Tahrir's world view came slowly and gradually. One of the reasons, as he describes in his own words "was the realisation that I was abusing my faith for a mere political project. After learning through my studies in prison that Islamism was not the religion of Islam, but rather a modern political ideology, I no longer felt guilty simply for criticising a Political system inspired by 7th century norms."
On returning to UK, Nawaz left Hizb-ut-Tahrir in 2007 and completed his studies at SOAS, graduating with a B.A. (Hons). He later obtained a M.Sc. in Political Theory from the London School of Economics.
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|Criticism of Islamism|
After leaving Hizb-ut-Tahrir, Nawaz founded and has remained involved with the Quilliam Foundation, the world's first counter-terrorism foundation. He also writes regularly for UK and international newspapers and speaks at a variety of forums worldwide to spread a more moderate view of Islam and to speak out against the dangers of Islamist extremism. On July 11, 2008, he addressed the United States Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs on the subject of Islamist extremism. In January 2009, he attended the Doha Debates alongside other Muslims to debate the threat of political Islam to the West. He presented the Lent Talks on BBC Radio 4 on 10 March 2010. Nawaz has held meetings with various heads of state including George W. Bush, and advised successive United Kingdom Prime Ministers from Tony Blair onwards.
Khudi foundation for Pakistan
He has co-founded an activist group in Pakistan, Khudi, using his knowledge of recruitment tactics in order to combat extremism. In his own words, through Khudi he wants to persuade Muslims that the "narrative" Islamists use for recruitment, that Muslims will only be safe in a caliphate, and the West and non-Muslim states are determined to crush them, is false. In January 2014, he stepped down from Khudi because his candidacy for UK Parliament was "incompatible with vision and objectives of Khudi".
In 2009, with BBC Newsnight crew and security team, Nawaz embarked on a counter-extremism journey speaking at over 22 universities all over Pakistan. In 2010, he wrote a series of articles for Pakistani English daily The Express Tribune.
In 2011, Nawaz was spotted by the publishing director of Ebury Publishing at the TED stage during his talk A Global Culture to Fight Extremism who became enthused about getting his story out. This resulted in the publication in July 2012 of his autobiography Radical by Ebury's imprint W.H. Allen. The US version, Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism, was published by Lyons Press in October 2013 with a preface for U.S. readers and an updated epilogue.
Role in Tommy Robinson's exit from EDL
Nawaz played a major role in Tommy Robinson's exit from the far-right English Defence League (EDL), of which Robinson was the founder. He met Robinson in 2013 during the filming of a BBC documentary When Tommy met Mo, and subsequently met the EDL's co-leader, Kevin Carroll. Nawaz's personal story of turning back from Islamist extremism, and his counter-extremism work at Quilliam Foundation encouraged Robinson and Carroll to quit the EDL. Later, Robinson also apologised to Muslims for the fear caused by his EDL activism. The move was hailed by Quilliam as "a huge success in community relations in the United Kingdom", and a continuation of combating all kinds of extremism: Islamism and Neo-Nazism
Free Speech and Blasphemy
In his essay On Blasphemy, Nawaz notes that all prophets and reformers blasphemed against the existing orders of their time, and that heresy is the only guarantee of progress. He lamented the revival of the atmosphere of blasphemy law, and the neo-orientalist unwillingness to defend the ideals of free speech. He also criticized the term Islamophobia which, according to him, is a muzzle on free speech and deployed as a shield against genuine criticism.
Nawaz criticized Ed Miliband's UK elections campaign promise of "banning Islamophobia". At the Liberal Democrats Conference in Liverpool in 2015, he moved a motion in favour of free expression which was accepted by the house.
In the same essay which he wrote for CentreForum, Nawaz criticized cultural relativism for entrenching unhealthy taboos in U.K. just to appease the community heads. He cites the 1993 attempt by London Borough of Brent to make Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) legal among African communities, just because it was "their tradition". Although a local councillor, Ann John, was able to oppose this motion, but the subsequent torrent of abuse and threats she received created an atmosphere of fear. In that atmosphere, victims of FGM are reluctant to come out and, as a result, Britain is yet to witness a single conviction for this crime.
He also blamed misguided multicultural policies of the 90s for creating "monocultural ghettos". According to him, those policies allowed unelected community leaders to speak for the rest of the community, and shut out the voices of minorities-within-minorities. Liberalism, he wrote, should seek out the individual, not the stereotype of the community he belongs to.
Nawaz opposed the Terrorism Act 2000, under which he was himself once detained, and called for universal Right to Legal Representation and Right to Silence in all cases, and for all suspects. According to him, security should never debase citizens of their civil liberties. He has also opposed Racial profiling of muslims, and Extrajudicial detention of terror suspects. In a talk given at Marshall European Center for Security Studies, he suggested a revisit of UK Government's historical approach to deal with terrorism, and called for a more nuanced response to tackling the ideology of Islamism without breaching fundamental liberties of citizens.
Liberal Democrat candidate
With the delegation of Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (of which Maajid is not a member) he visited both sides of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. He also opposes Hamas. In September 2013, Nawaz and his Camden District team was given the Dadabhai Naoroji Award for support and promotion of BAME (Black, Asian Minority Ethnic groups) party members. The award was presented by party MP Tim Farron. In July 2015, Nawaz moderated the LibDem hustings between contenders Tim Farron and Norman Lamb on the topic "Liberalism, Free speech and Extremism".
In January 2014, after an appearance on The Big Questions TV series, Nawaz tweeted about the individual Jesus and Mo cartoon, including a reproduction of the artwork. which was briefly banned by the authorities at the London School of Economics in late 2013. Of the cartoons (Jesus: "Hey"; Muhammad: "How ya doing?") which he reproduced he typed: "This is not offensive & I'm sure God is greater than to feel threatened by it." As a result, Nawaz received death threats from Islamist activists. George Galloway, the Respect MP, called on Muslims, via a tweet, not to vote for the Liberal Democrats while Nawaz is one of their candidates. By 24 January 2014, a petition to the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg (reportedly organised by the Liberal Democrat activist Mohammed Shafiq) demanding that Nawaz should be removed as the party's parliamentary candidate had received 20,000 signatures. Petition organisers though have denied a connection to Shafiq and have condemned the incitement to murder.
On 26 January, Nick Clegg defended Nawaz's right to free expression and said that the death threats are "unacceptable".
In April 2015, the Daily Mail reported that Nawaz, who has often spoken up for women's rights, had been filmed in a strip club. The club's owner, Abdul Malik, told the Mail that he wanted to publicise the CCTV footage as Nawaz had represented himself as a “spokesman for Islam” yet, he said, visited the club during the month of Ramadan. Nawaz has said that the filmed event took place during his stag night prior to his wedding; he also questioned the timing of the CCTV footage, taken at the Charlie’s Angels strip club in East London in July 2014, being leaked so close to the 2015 election. The publicising of the CCTV footage led to death threats against Nawaz by ISIS extremists. Nawaz apologised for causing offence to fellow Muslims, but defended himself against accusations of hypocrisy: “I never describe myself as a representative of Muslims in media, and speak as a liberal, who happens to be a non-devout Muslim, with a unique experience and insight into Islamist extremism."
- Nawaz, Maajid (2012). Radical (UK edition). WH Allen. ISBN 978-0-75-354077-0.
- Nawaz, Maajid (2013). Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism (US edition). Lyons Press. ISBN 978-0762791361.
- Hizb ut-Tahrir
- Ed Husain
- Quilliam (think tank)
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- UK vote could create cross-border dynasty, "Al Jazeera", 15 January 2014, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2014/01/uk-vote-could-create-cross-border-dynasty-2014113112342206325.html
- Maajid Nawaz (Quilliam) http://www.quilliamfoundation.org/about/staff/maajid-nawaz/
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- For the date, see "1:40 PM". Twitter. 19 Oct 2014.
For the name, see "6:26 PM". Twitter. 12 Apr 2015.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 34-36.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 3-4, 56-59.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 59-65.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 30-52.
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- Nawaz (2012): p. 107.
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- Nawaz (2012): p. 241.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 250-57.
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- Nawaz (2012): p. 257.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 262-63.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 266-67; 284-85
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 285-86.
- Nawaz (2012): p. 287.
- "How Orwell's 'Animal Farm' Led A Radical Muslim To Moderation".
- "Why Leave the Radicals?". Quilliamfoundation.org. Retrieved 2012-03-18.
- Nawaz (2012): pp. 323-5.
- Nawaz (2012): p. 331.
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- Nawaz (2012): pp. 257.
- Malik, Shiv (11 October 2013). "Ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson says sorry for causing fear to Muslims". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 October 2013.
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