Jump to: News | Media

News

  • Here’s How Islamists and the Far Right Feed Off Each Other

    The Daily Beast Logo

    20 June 2016

    This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.

    Whether it’s the horror of Orlando or the murder of British MP Jo Cox, our attempts to understand tragedy fall prey to our own prejudices and political constructs.

    While the world was still reeling from the self-starter jihadist atrocity in Orlando, and as people everywhere were still trying to process one of America’s worst-ever mass shootings, a far-right extremist accosted, shot and stabbed British Member of Parliament Jo Cox, who tragically succumbed to her wounds later that same day.

    Jo Cox was a mother of two, a tireless campaigner for refugees, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group “Friends of Syria,” and the former head of policy at Oxfam. In other words, she cared a great deal about vulnerable people. One of Parliament’s brightest lights has just been extinguished by nothing but hate.

    Her suspected killer, whose name is Tommy Mair, has been arrested, swiftly charged and put on trial in one of London’s highest courts. Mair had been a supporter of various far-right extremist groups. Eyewitness accounts state that the suspect shouted “Britain First”—the name of a far-right direct action group in Britain—as he attacked Jo Cox. He had also been a longstanding member of the white-supremacist group, White Rhino, and according to documents obtained by the U.S. far-right extremism watchdog Southern Poverty Law Center, Mair was a longtime supporter of the neo-Nazi group, National Alliance.

    In 1999, Mair bought a homemade weapons manual from the National Alliance, and in total sent $620 to their publishing arm for titles including“ Incendiaries,” “Chemistry of Powder and Explosives,” “Improvised Munitions Handbook” and Ich Kampfe, published by Hitler’s Nazi party.

    On Saturday, Thomas Mair was asked to confirm his name in court for the charge. He replied only to say “Death to Traitors, freedom for Britain.” Not much more can be said of this man, for a trial is ongoing, but what has already been reported appears to suffice.

    It has been a terrible travesty of a week. But what the two cases—the attack on Orlando and the attack on Jo Cox—come to symbolize is what worries me more.

    The 1930s have returned. The world seems to be sliding into a repeat of that grim decade before World War II: a decade that beheld the ascendance of Italian Fascism, Soviet Communism and German Nazism; a decade in which “the establishment” was to blame for everything, the status quo was rejected and radical change was demanded.

    It was the age of identity politics, conspiracy theories, dehumanizing rhetoric and total solutions— the age of populist demagogues and competing extremes. And while nationalist populism hasn’t gone away, the ideological project of Communism has given way to the theocratic project of Islamism, supported today by the regressive left.

    The one common ingredient that all of these “total solutions” require is for their partisans and recruits to identify themselves primarily as “victims.”

    The feeling of “victimhood” is one of the most blinding, counter-productive, human soul-destroying and degenerative conditions to afflict society, and all political discourses. Once it has consumed its host, “victimhood” immediately renders anyone outside of its group as the aggressor. It leaves no room for human empathy for the “other,” because that “other” is seen to be locked in a competition for rights with the “victim.” And by definition, there can only be one “victim.”

    This is why “victimhood” demands a “special status,” and whispers to its host that hers is a “special people.” The Nazi Aryan race, the Communist international proletariat, the Islamist global ummah, none of these “special” people, requiring a “unique” state for which they must agitate through a “historic” revolution would thrive if not for first and foremost seeing themselves as “victims”.

    The duplicitous response by today’s populist right, Islamists, and the regressive left to last week’s atrocity in Orlando and to the murder of Jo Cox showcases the problem well.

    Let us begin with Orlando. Immediately, ideological talking points became the predictable standard response from both sides to the tragedy.

    For Islamists, the regressive left and some of their supporters among liberals, Omar Mateen was judged a madman, a loner, a traumatized Afghan angered about American foreign policy in his ancestral home, a confused and a closeted gay man in denial. Of course, they insist that he also should not have had such a ready access to guns.

    Many also focused on the fact that Mateen did not appear devout in the traditional religious sense, thus arguing the slaughter had nothing to do with Islam. As well as resting on a fundamental misunderstanding of the process of radicalization, this approach contained serious logical errors. We liberals cannot simultaneously oppose profiling as I do then say Mateen couldn’t be radicalized because he “didn’t fit the profile.” Likewise, we can’t also claim that jihadism has “nothing to do with Islam” if suspects must be devout for us to consider them jihadists in the first instance.

    It was, for this camp, anything but a problem of Islamist radicalization, of religious fundamentalist shame around gay sex, and of deeply entrenched cultural intolerance. To dare suggest such a thing would be seen to be aiding the narrative of the opposing conservative camp, and that would be akin to scoring liberal and Muslim own-goals against our “victim” scorecard. President Barack Obama even entered the fray, making remarks to reassert why he would not be naming the ideology Islamism.

    And for the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and some of their populist-right supporters among conservatives, the problem in Orlando was not mental health, the problem was not the very same homophobia promoted for years by some within their own ranks, and the problem was certainly not gun laws. No, Omar Mateen was nothing but a Muslim terrorist and to suggest anything else was to apologize for jihadist terror.

    Neither camp stepped back from their own dogma to consider that mental health, poor social integration, closeted homophobia, Islamist radicalization and the ability of civilian extremists with all the above problems to access assault rifles after they are already suspected of links to terrorism, are not mutually exclusive. Far from it. Individual radicalization cannot be boxed into neat fitting ideological categories. It was probably always a mixture of all those reasons. But to concede such a thing would be to concede some points to the “other,” and a “victim” must never do that, for it lets the side down. It betrays the tribe.

    Orlando would have been sufficient to make the point. But by serving as its mirror opposite, the brutal killing of Jo Cox in Britain hammered the same lesson home in a way that is too poignant to ignore.

    Here, Islamists, the regressive left and their liberal sympathizers, in an eerie and Orwellian backflip, traded places with the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and their populist-right supporters. Suddenly, the same group among Muslims and the Left who had argued so vociferously that Omar Mateen had been nothing but a loner with mental health problems, were arguing that Thomas Mair was a neo-Nazi ideologue and pointing to why the ideology of white supremacism must be challenged wherever it is found.

    Talk of mental health problems and foreign policy grievances gave way to pious pronouncements about the scourge of racism and xenophobia, and questions around why “white people” are never deemed terrorists by mainstream media, as if our entire history of Irish Republican terrorism and many other such examples, hadn’t happened at all.

    Not to be outdone, in the case of Thomas Mair the far-right, anti-Muslim bigots and many of their populist-right supporters developed overnight a newly discovered yet profound awareness of mental health problems, social isolation and the economic grievance narrative around jobs being lost “to foreigners.” For them, it was anything but white supremacist ideology.

    Of course, as in the case of Omar Mateen, the truth probably lies in a mixture of all of these factors. As I’ve been arguing for years, radicalization occurs due to a combination of perceived grievances, an identity crisis, charismatic recruiters and an ideology, and in all cases probably involves mental trauma.

    There is a negative symbiosis between Islamist and far right extremism.

    It is no revelation that jihadist terrorists use far-right posters in their own propaganda to prove that the world is at war with Islam. And it is no surprise that the Norwegian far-right terrorist Anders Breivik cited al-Qaeda writings in his own manifesto to validate his murder of 77 innocent people. Each faction relies on the other to exist. Each needs the “other”—the enemy—to point to as the cause of all its ills.

    But the world of politics has become—quite horrifically—like a football game. Each of us cheers for our own tribe and disparages the opposing team even when they have a reasonable point to make. We are always the “victims”; they are always our oppressors.

    People are playing politics with evil while human lives are lost to hate. We must take stock, and recognize that by raising our political pompoms every time an event appears to confirm our narrative, and by playing up our own victimhood, we are only feeding into the recruitment narratives of all terrorist groups. The first stage to the emancipation of any community is to shed this perpetual state of victimhood, and begin to take responsibility for our own actions, and our own advancement.

    We have reentered an era of competing extremes. The 1930s never looked so close, from so far. It didn’t have to be like this. Islamists and far-right extremists, a plague on both your houses.

    To read the article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.

  • Admit It: These Terrorists Are Muslims

     

    The Daily Beast Logo

    14 June 2016

    This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.

    There’s a lot of special pleading about Orlando from Muslims and liberals. It’s time to do away with that. If not, we give the issue away to Trump.

    The atrocious attack in Orlando, Florida, was an act of ISIS-inspired jihadist terrorism that targeted gays. It must concern us all.

    Before any of our assumed multiple identities, we are human beings first and foremost. You don’t have to be black to condemn racism, nor Jewish to condemn anti-Semitism, nor Muslim to condemn anti-Muslim bigotry, and you certainly don’t have to be gay to condemn the evil that just descended upon Orlando.

    A puerile response by some of my fellow Muslims is to ask “why should we apologize for something that has nothing to do with us.” But this entirely misses the point.

    Just as we Muslims expect solidarity from wider society against anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, likewise we must reciprocate solidarity toward victims of Islamist extremism. Just as we encourage others to actively denounce racism wherever they see it, so too must we actively denounce Islamist theocratic views wherever we find them.

    Enough with the special pleading. Enough with the denial. Enough with the obfuscation.

    The killer of Orlando was a homophobic Muslim extremist, inspired by an ideological take on my own religion, Islam. In just the first seven days of this holy month of Ramadan, various jihadists have carried out attacks in Tel AvivBaghdadDamascusIdlibBeirut, Orlando, and now Paris.

    This global jihadist insurgency threatens every corner of the world and has killed more Muslims than members any other faith. So why pretend it does not exist? Why shy away from calling it by name?

    So far do many of us liberals go in denying the problem, that we’re happy to stigmatize other vulnerable minorities in the process. “He was not a Muslim, he was nothing but a mad lunatic,” we cry in exasperation. As if those with mental health issues are somehow automatically predisposed to murder, or immune to manipulation and exploitation by cynical Islamists and jihadists.

    Then there’s that other old tactic to try and avoid discussing the Islamist ideology. “He wasn’t from the Muslim community,” we proclaim. “He was acting in isolation, a lone wolf.”

    Apart from the fact that research highlights how incredibly rare it is for jihadists to act in a vacuum, we need look no further than the Orlando attacker Omar Mateen’s father, whopraised the Taliban as “warriors” to realize this avoidance tactic for what it is. Clearly Omar Mateen had moved in an atmosphere that glorified jihadist ideology.

    “But it must be foreign policy in Afghanistan,” we naively protest. Albeit better than China’s, Russia’s, Saudi Arabia’s, Iran’s and most other undemocratic countries in the world, yes our foreign and domestic policies have their flaws. But what did gays in the Pulse nightclub have to do with any of that? Or the gays that ISIS regularly throws off the tallest buildings in Syria, for that matter?

    It is time that we liberals took the fabled red pill and accepted reality. Just as this clearly has something to do with outdated gun laws, and just as those laws need reform, this also has something to do with Islam, which also needs reform today. No other stance makes any sense.

    Poll after poll of British Muslims has revealed statistically significant levels of homophobic opinion. A 2009 poll by Gallup found that 0 percent of Britain’s Muslims believed homosexual acts to be morally acceptable. Despite polling methodology, what previous polls have shown us time and again is more of the same. In a 2013 Pew poll Muslims overwhelmingly say that homosexual behavior is morally wrong, including three-quarters or more in 33 of the 36 countries where the question was asked.

    The latest ICM poll from April 2016 asked a slightly different question about whether being gay should be legal. Over half of British Muslims surveyed said they supported making homosexual acts illegal. It did not used to be like this, so what happened?

    Liberals who claim that this has nothing to do with Islam today are being as unhelpful and as ignorant as conservatives who claim that this represents all of Islam. The problem so obviously has something to do with Islam. That something is Islamism, or the desire to impose any version of Islam over any society. Jihadism is the attempt to do so by force. This ideology of Islamism has been rising almost unchecked among Muslims for decades. It is a theocratic ideology, and theocracy should no longer have any place in the world today.

    But it is as if we liberals will stoop to anything to avoid discussing ideology. We will initiate state sanctioned presidential kill lists and launch unaccountable targeted assassinations. Yet, no amount of drone strikes under Obama—at a rate that far exceeds Bush—will ever solve the problem. We cannot shoot our way out of an ideology. We cannot arrest our way out of an insurgency. Yes, law and war have their own place, but they will never solve the problem.

    In the long run, only reducing the local appeal of this ideology will solve the problem. Whereas Islam today requires reform, the Islamist ideology must be intellectually terminated. To do so requires first acknowledging it exists, isolating it from Muslims, devising a strategy to challenge it, and then backing the voices that do.

    As I argued in a TV debate with Fareed Zakaria, the danger of not doing so is twofold. Within the Muslim context, it is a betrayal of those liberal reforming Muslims who risk everything daily. These are feminist Muslims, gay Muslims, ex-Muslims, dissenting liberal and secular Muslim voices, persecuted minority sects among Muslims, the Ismailis, the Ahmedis and the Shia—all these different minorities within the minority of the Muslim community—they are immediately betrayed by our silence.

    By shutting down the conversation about Islamist extremism we deprive them of the lexicon to deploy against those who are attempting to silence their progressive efforts within their own communities. We surrender their identity of Islam to the extremists.

    The second danger is in the non-Muslim context. What happens if we don’t name the Islamist ideology and distinguish it from Islam? We leave a void for the vast majority of Americans—who are unaware of the nuances in this debate—to be filled by Donald Trump and the Populist Right. They will go on to blame all versions of Islam and every Muslim, and their frustration at not being able to talk about the problem will give in to rage, as it has done. By refusing to discuss it, we only increase the hysteria. Like “he who must not be named”—the Voldemort Effect, I call it—we increase the fear.

    So this is my appeal to President Obama, Hillary Clinton, and to all liberals and Muslims, for humanity’s sake let’s stop playing politics with evil. Just as this so obviously has something to do with lax gun laws, it so clearly has something to do with Islam. Hillary Clinton nearly conceded as much after these recent attacks. But liberals must own this debate, not merely appear to be defensively reacting to Trump’s agenda.

    This September will mark 15 years since the 9/11 attacks, and we still haven’t devised a strategy to address Islamist extremism, let alone identified voices who can do so globally. Not al Qaeda, not ISIS, nor any other theocratic jihadist group that may emerge in the future, but a strategy that recognizes we are in the middle of a Cold War against theocracy. If we refuse to isolate, name and shame Islamist extremism, from fear of increasing anti-Muslim bigotry, we only increase anti-Muslim bigotry. If the rise of Trump has not convinced us of this yet, then nothing will.

    To read this article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.

  • Don’t Let Madmen Like the Orlando Shooter Hijack Muhammad Ali’s Legacy

    The Daily Beast Logo

    12 June 2016

    This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.

    By the end of his life, Muhammad Ali had embraced Islamic beliefs that opposed everything the jihadis and Islamists represent.

    The terrible massacre at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, in the dark early hours of Sunday morning was an act of lunacy—one might say yet another act of lunacy—carried out by a man of Muslim background. What his real motives were, we will be a long time learning. But one sad aspect of this tragedy is that, in a 24/7 news cycle, the horror of Orlando risks erasing in the public mind the positive legacy of Islam and tolerance that Muhammad Ali left with us.

    Ali was not only the Greatest as a boxer, he was one of the first and greatest counter-extremists, a man whose wisdom embraced faith and humanity in a way that should be an example to all of us.

    He had died on the Muslim holy day of Friday, and it was on a Friday in holy Ramadan that he was buried. Muhammad Ali left behind him an awe-inspiring life. But on the subject of his political and spiritual views many will now try to hijack what he stood for, while ignoring the wisdom he gained over the years, and the conclusions he came to as he neared the end of his journey in life.

    Already, Turkey”s “mad Sultan,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tried to ride just this bandwagon, going to Ali’s funeral only to be snubbed by Ali’s estate. Erdogan then left early in a sulk before funeral proceedings had even been completed.

    Those who favor the divisive language of racial and religious identity politics, the populist-right, Islamists and the Regressive Left alike, have traditionally monopolized the narrative around Malcolm X in this same way.

    By erroneously defining Malcolm by his earlier years, while ignoring his later repudiation of those very views, race-baiting activists do a gross injustice to the memory of this inspirational leader. Indeed, no mention of Malcolm X is complete without open acknowledgement that it was precisely those racial and religious tribalists Malcolmaccused of trying to kill him after he had criticized them, a threat they eventually carried out.

    Like his mentor Malcolm X before him, Ali too came to reject the divisive, racialized and religiously fuelled nature of his earlier views.

    For much of the 1960s, Ali had been “outside the mainstream civil rights movement,” placing himself on the “radical fringe” of the struggle for equality. Alongside Malcolm X, Ali moved in militant and divisive circles that were borne of no-less militant and divisive times.

    The boxing hero once proclaimed: “Put a hand on a Muslim sister, and you are to die… [likewise] a black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman.” And when asked, “What if a Muslim woman wants to go out with non-Muslim blacks—or white men, for that matter?” Ali defiantly replied, “Then she dies, kill her, too.”

    But to remember Ali solely by the extreme views of his earlier years is like painting Nelson Mandela primarily as a militant engaged in armed struggle. Fortunately for Mandela, he lived long enough to achieve his reintroduction to the world as a peacemaker.

    In their book Blood Brothers, Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith write about how Malcolm first recruited Ali to the Nation of Islam sect. But when Malcolm left that group and adopted a more inclusive world vision, Ali mocked him and broke their friendship irrevocably.

    Years later, after Malcolm’s assassination and Ali’s own change of heart, he came to regret his brashness toward his late mentor. Alas Malcolm’s murder deprived him of the chance to popularize his change of views, and Ali’s infirmity in later years sometimes made it more difficult for him to get the message across.

    But Ali did eventually follow the counter-extremist footsteps of Malcolm X. So far did Ali travel in fact, that his last and very recent public statement called on my fellow Muslims to reject extremism.

    The boxing hero encouraged us by saying, “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.” Ali also asked our “leaders” to “bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

    But even at this late stage in life, Ali’s evolution as a counter-extremist Muslim was clouded. The network he released his statement to originally gave it a title suggesting it hit out directly at Trump. And that’s the story that seems to have stuck.

    Already, Turkey”s “mad Sultan,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, tried to ride just this bandwagon, going to Ali’s funeral only to be snubbed by Ali’s estate. Erdogan then left early in a sulk before funeral proceedings had even been completed.

    Those who favor the divisive language of racial and religious identity politics, the populist-right, Islamists and the Regressive Left alike, have traditionally monopolized the narrative around Malcolm X in this same way.

    By erroneously defining Malcolm by his earlier years, while ignoring his later repudiation of those very views, race-baiting activists do a gross injustice to the memory of this inspirational leader. Indeed, no mention of Malcolm X is complete without open acknowledgement that it was precisely those racial and religious tribalists Malcolmaccused of trying to kill him after he had criticized them, a threat they eventually carried out.

    Like his mentor Malcolm X before him, Ali too came to reject the divisive, racialized and religiously fuelled nature of his earlier views.

    For much of the 1960s, Ali had been “outside the mainstream civil rights movement,” placing himself on the “radical fringe” of the struggle for equality. Alongside Malcolm X, Ali moved in militant and divisive circles that were borne of no-less militant and divisive times.

    The boxing hero once proclaimed: “Put a hand on a Muslim sister, and you are to die… [likewise] a black man should be killed if he’s messing with a white woman.” And when asked, “What if a Muslim woman wants to go out with non-Muslim blacks—or white men, for that matter?” Ali defiantly replied, “Then she dies, kill her, too.”

    But to remember Ali solely by the extreme views of his earlier years is like painting Nelson Mandela primarily as a militant engaged in armed struggle. Fortunately for Mandela, he lived long enough to achieve his reintroduction to the world as a peacemaker.

    In their book Blood Brothers, Randy Roberts and Johnny Smith write about how Malcolm first recruited Ali to the Nation of Islam sect. But when Malcolm left that group and adopted a more inclusive world vision, Ali mocked him and broke their friendship irrevocably.

    Years later, after Malcolm’s assassination and Ali’s own change of heart, he came to regret his brashness toward his late mentor. Alas Malcolm’s murder deprived him of the chance to popularize his change of views, and Ali’s infirmity in later years sometimes made it more difficult for him to get the message across.

    But Ali did eventually follow the counter-extremist footsteps of Malcolm X. So far did Ali travel in fact, that his last and very recent public statement called on my fellow Muslims to reject extremism.

    The boxing hero encouraged us by saying, “We as Muslims have to stand up to those who use Islam to advance their own personal agenda.” Ali also asked our “leaders” to “bring understanding about the religion of Islam and clarify that these misguided murderers have perverted people’s views on what Islam really is.”

    But even at this late stage in life, Ali’s evolution as a counter-extremist Muslim was clouded. The network he released his statement to originally gave it a title suggesting it hit out directly at Trump. And that’s the story that seems to have stuck.

    To read this article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.

  • Isolation is not the answer to EU incompetency

    JN

    08 June 2016

    This article was originally published on Jewish News, authored by Maajid Nawaz.

    Quitting European information sharing structures would be a dangerous experiment that might have lasting effects on our intelligence and, ultimately, our safety.

    Of course, there is little point in arguing about the quality of Britain’s intelligence services. Despite this week’s revealed divisions between MI5 and MI6 during the “war on terror”, it is undeniable that our spy agencies are among the best and most efficient in the world.

    Thanks to a combination of first-class capabilities of both the Secret Intelligence Service and GCHQ and remarkably close inter-agency cooperation British intelligence has achieved better results than any other European intelligence service.

    While I agree with my friend and Quilliam’s managing director Haras Rafiq, who has written supporting Leave, that Britain’s intelligence cooperation will and should continue to take place bilaterally and with the Five Eyes alliance, efficient information sharing with continental Europe will be absolutely crucial in the years to come.

    As Quilliam researcher Julia Ebner and I outline in our report The EU and Terrorism: Is Britain Safer In or Out?, there are various reasons why it would be a bad idea to leave EU structures from a security perspective.

    We may shake our heads at poor intelligence gathering capabilities in Belgium or complain about the ridiculously inefficient information sharing between their many uncoordinated agencies.

    Yet, isolating ourselves to escape their incompetency will not help us fight the full-blown jihadist insurgency that is underway on our continent and across the world.

    We need to make sure that our partners on the other side of the Channel get better at whatever they are doing because their safety ultimately translates to our safety.

    Whether we close our borders to EU citizens or not, Brussels will still be only two hours away.

    Our Jewish communities know only too well the historic cost of turning a blind eye to a murderous ideology rising on the continent. The last time we faced such a continent-wide threat – for Nazism too was fully prepared to justify killing anyone in its way – intelligence cooperation was crucial in bringing it to heel.

    Indeed, the genesis of an ever-evolving European Union was born from precisely this bitter experience.

    While in terms of mentality and function we might be closer to our partners in the US, geographically we have always shared immediate security threats with our European counterparts before the Americans.

    With the decline of al-Qaeda and the emergence of ISIS we have seen a new threat landscape evolve that has thrived more on European ground than it has anywhere else.

    Former Head of Global Counter-Terrorism Operations at MI6 Richard Barrett told our researcher that as terrorists today are “more likely to be Francophone than Anglophone” cooperation with French and the Belgians has become much more important than a decade ago when most threats were emanating from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    In recent years this has translated into more cooperation with Europe; in particular GCHQ has engaged more actively with European partners.

    Adding to our existing cooperation with the US and Five Eyes countries by diversifying our intelligence sharing partners can only be a good thing. Continental European agencies have different geographic expertise that we can tap into.

    For example, the French, Spanish and Dutch have better visibility in North Africa and the Sahel and the Polish have good insights when it comes to Russia.

    The same is true for thematic specialisations: the EU and in particular Europol is already our primary reference when we deal with cyber threats and weapons of mass destruction.

    It is true that bilateral cooperation can continue outside of the EU but to leave would be a waste of existing structures and relationships that we have tirelessly built up since that last common ideological foe that arose before the Second World War.

    Automatic sharing of bulk data on passengers and vehicles allows us to track back suspicious individuals and check their DNA against European databases, which is crucial for the work of our law-enforcement bodies and can significantly accelerate crime investigations.

    It is only from within the EU that Britain can actively shape the development of these important information sharing agreements and can push for the reforms that are desperately needed to make Europe safer.

    Our German and French sister agencies will be everything but delighted at our departure from the European family. Even if they will still want to continue sharing information with us, we should bear in mind that intelligence is as least as much about trust as it is about capabilities.

    If we violate their trust, our European partners will think twice before providing us with data. This hesitation in itself can lead to dangerous gaps and time lags in intelligence sharing.

    The lengthy, tedious renegotiation process that will likely follow a Leave vote will not only be accompanied by high transaction costs but also lead to temporarily discontinued or uncertain access to data sharing mechanisms.

    This ‘discontinuity of leaving’, as we call it in our report, could leave us more exposed to Paris-style terrorist attacks.

    Terrorists are good at sensing and exploiting gaps that arise.

    Concerns regarding the security of information are understandable and although intelligence should be a team game it is important that we keep playing according to our rules.

    EU law does not oblige us to commit to any information sharing arrangements that we not want to be part of.

    Intelligence is never self-sufficient. Taking for granted that our expertise will stay among the best, is risky and irrational in the light of the rapidly moving and complex challenges that the intelligence world is confronted with today.

    In times like these, where threats can move from the offline to the online space and from one country to the next within a matter of seconds, it is indispensable to strengthen rather than weaken cooperation both internationally and regionally.

    For all these reasons and more, I declare my position for us to Remain in the EU. Although we may perceive our secret agents as indestructible James Bonds, in reality they have limited resources and capacity.

    And they certainly do not drive Aston Martins.

    To read this article as originally published on Jewish News, please click here.

  • Tunisia Started the Arab Revolts, Now It’s Beat Back the Islamist Tide

    The Daily Beast Logo

    01 June 2016

    This article was originally published on The Daily Beast, authored by Maajid Nawaz.

    Faced with voter dissatisfaction and the threat of ISIS next door, Tunisia’s leading Islamist party has chosen to embrace secular democracy over theocracy.

    Something great is afoot in Tunisia. Having sparked the consecutive Arab uprisings that began over five years ago across the entire Middle East, the country is now proving itself a pioneer once again in the region.

    Last weekend, Tunisia’s once-Islamist Ennahda party officially declared that it will separate its religious activities from its political ones. It now insists on the absolute political neutrality of mosques. In other words Ennahda, Tunisia’s version of the Muslim Brotherhood, just approved an internal reform that acknowledged the primacy of secular democracy over Islamist theocracy.

    Amid all the dictatorships and destruction, the turmoil and turbulence, the extremism and extermination, finally some good news from the bitter politics of the Arab world. Such is the dearth of political progress from the wider Middle East today that only a fool would not seek to exploit the opportunity such an pronouncement presents.

    Ahead of last weekend’s party congress that formalized this change, Ennahda’s founder and leader, Rached Ghannouchi, who once supported enforcing an interpretation of Islam as law, told the French daily Le Monde that “political Islam” no longer had a place in the Middle East.

    “We want religious activity to be completely independent from political activity,” Ghannouchi said. “This is good for politicians because they would no longer be accused of manipulating religion for political means and good for religion because it would not be held hostage to politics… We are leaving political Islam and entering democratic Islam. We are Muslim democrats who are no longer claim to represent political Islam.”

    Ghannouchi’s reforms were overwhelmingly adopted by a jubilant conference that saw over 13,000 party activists packing a stadium. An overspill of 2,000 more waited in anticipation outside. Non-religious songs filled the conference hall, young girls without headscarves were given the stage, and Ghannouchi’s secular political rival Nidaa Tunis leader President Beji Caid Essebsi—yes, the man who ousted Ennahda in the last election—was the guest of honor for the evening.

    Surprisingly, the party remained highly unified despite the unprecedented reforms: 80.8 percent of delegates voted in favor of separating the political from social work, and 87.7 percent voted in favor of Ghannouchi’s new intellectual vision for the party. Ghannouchi himself easily regained his presidency with a whopping 75 percent of the delegates’ votes.

    None of the above should imply that Tunisia’s journey towards secularism will be without its challenges. Many Tunisians— and others who follow events in the region—will remain wary of a resurgent Ennahda. They may believe this to be nothing but a ruse in order to gain power in local elections next year, ahead of the 2019 general election.

    But between the Egypt that didn’t even try, and the Turkey that tried and failed, there are reasons peculiar to Tunisia that may just allow this brave experiment to succeed.

    In Egypt, when that great mothership of global Islamist groups, The Muslim Brotherhood, was confronted with a similar opportunity for reform in 2013, it chose to cling arrogantly to power in disbelief that a Muslim people could ever reject “the rule of God” once given a chance to “enjoy” it. It took a military coup to oust them, and Egypt is suffering the consequences of that coup until today.

    In Turkey, the world gave Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party a chance to pioneer a post-Islamist era, known enthusiastically as the “Turkish model,” only to be terribly disappointed by Erdogan’s recent delusions of grandeur, and neo-Ottoman pretense to the resurrection of a Sultanate.

    Many may wonder what guarantee we have that Ennahda won’t revert back to the stubbornness of its Egyptian mothership, or even develop a chronic case of Erdoganitis many years down the line.

    Of course, these are valid concerns. Only vigilance can guard against them. But unlike in Egypt and Turkey, the advantage Tunisians have is that Ghannouchi has already been in a position to try and cling on to power, but instead he voluntarily ceded it.

    The identity of the person making this announcement for reform is as important as what has been said. Ghannouchi founded and led what remains the largest political bloc in Tunisia’s Parliament today. He was sentenced to jail under the pre-revolution regime and lived in exile for 20 years, only returning after the 2011 uprising that ousted former strongman Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

    After Ghannouchi returned home, he went on to win the post-revolution election in October 2011 with 37 percent of the vote, forming the first Islamist government of the Arab uprisings.

    Two years later, and about a month after Gen. Abdel Fattah al Sisi ousted Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, Ennahda faced large-scale popular protests demanding an end to its rule. This second wave of popular Arab street protests, this time against Islamism, rendered Ennahda’s government untenable.

    But instead of resisting the will of his own people, Ghannouchi had the foresight to help approve a new secular constitution++, before retreating from power and agreeing to a government of technocrats to avoid political confrontation.

    By 2014, the secularist Nidaa Tounis party of President Essebsi had beaten the by-now scandal-ridden Ennahda in a popular vote. To collective sighs of relief everywhere, Ghannouchi’s Islamists had the political wherewithal to step aside and allow a peaceful democratic transition.

    That moment set Tunisia apart from the political disasters that have beset the rest of the region since.

    Ejected from power, and coming to terms with the ideological shock of having been rejected by the ummah, or Muslim community (ideologically this should not have happened, for God promises victory to the “true” believers) Ennahda began a process of deep introspection.

    It was this process that Ghannouchi commented on during last weekend’s annual party congress: “We are a party that never stopped evolving… from an ideological movement engaged in the struggle for identity—when identity was under threat—to a comprehensive protest movement against an authoritarian regime, to a national democratic party devoted to reform.”

    Shocked into action by the scourge of ISIS that arose to subjugate entire cities in Syria and Iraq, and is on the rise in Libya, Tunisia’s neighbor, Ennahda initiated a serious process of soul searching.

    Ghannouchi told the congress: “We reaffirm Ennahdha’s absolute support for the state in its war against ISIS and the extremists who excommunicate others… We are keen to keep religion far from political struggles and conflicts, and we call for the complete neutrality of mosques away from political disputes and partisan exploitation.”

    Enter post-Islamism. These are Muslim democrats. They are akin to religiously conservative Republicans in America. Not quite liberal, but certainly not theocrats. They may be religious in their personal lives (so what), driven to public service due to their religious conviction (again, so what), but they do not seek to impose their religious views on others. They represent religious people in politics, instead of politicized religion.

    Crucially, they surrender any claim that only their manifesto represents Islam. Instead, they acknowledge that politics is a matter of man-made policy, as Ghannouchi elaborated: “A modern state is not run through ideologies, big slogans and political wrangling. It is guided by social and economic programs and solutions that provide security and prosperity for all.”

    Yes, there will remain challenges. Of all countries globally, Tunisia has sent the highest number of foreign fighters to join ISIS. But this is why it is so important to seek a way out of the civilizational disaster that is Islamism.

    As I suggested in my dialogue with the atheist thinker Sam Harris, the process of Islamic reform begins by a cessation of monopoly claims to truth, giving rise to democracy, which in turn leads to pluralism, necessitating secularism, which can eventually give rise to liberalism.

    No matter previous failures, success for post-Islamism in just one case offers irrefutable proof that Islam can be reconciled with secular liberal democracy by Muslims themselves. Thus proving both Islamist theocrats and anti-Islam doomsayers wrong. For all our sakes, if it can be reconciled, it must be.

    The best part of this is that Ennahda’s sincerity, or lack of, is not relevant. Declaring the separation of Islam from politics requires an articulation of the case for it, if merely for survival reasons.

    Among Islamist circles, arguing this case will spark a fierce debate. Once started, such debate takes a life of its own. And debate is all one can ever really hope for in achieving a Muslim Renaissance. The alternative is more violence.

    Already, Ennahda’s move has had an impact on it’s Egyptian counterpart. A week later Gamal Heshmat, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood Leadership Council in Egypt, expressed a desire to separate politics from religion.

    History is made by a series of long marches. Only ten years ago I too was an Islamist. In fact, so strident was I in my misguided desire to resurrect a “caliphate” that I even argued with Ghannouchi’s own son Baraa, while overlapping time with him at my undergraduate college in London.

    I recall insisting that his Ennahda version of Islam was simply not revolutionary enough. But time changes us all. And as the Arab uprisings have shown us, it is evolution not revolution that is best placed to settle the political disputes of the wider Middle East. It was, after all, my own slow political evolution that brought me to these very views today.

    Last week I wrote in disappointment that the “Turkish model” is dead. This week, I write with optimism: long live the Tunisian model.

    To read this article as originally published on The Daily Beast, please click here.

  • Read all news stories

    Media

  • Maajid Nawaz talks to Fareed Zakaria, CNN

    CNN

    16 November 2015

    This video was originally shown on CNN.

    Maajid Nawaz spoke with Fareed Zakaria on CNN following the Paris attacks in which 130 people were killed.

    In the interview, Maajid explained why some individuals are susceptible to extremism and how they are radicalised. He also discussed how governments and civil society can work towards countering extremism.

  • Quilliam Chairman Maajid Nawaz talks to Anderson Cooper of CNN.

    Click to see Maajid Nawaz reflect on the Boston terrorist attacks & how Jihadism has now become now a brandwith Anderson Cooper of the AC360 show

  • Maajid Nawaz speaks about journey from ‘extremism to democratic awakening’

    In his newly-published autobiography, “Radical: my journey from Islamist extremism to a democratic awakening”, Maajid Nawaz, chairman of the British counter-extremism think tank Quilliam Foundation, recounts his transformation from being a member of an extremist party to founding one of the world’s first counter-extremism organisations.

    Nawaz began as a member and leader in Hizb ut-Tahrir — a party calling for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate — then abandoned his radical ideas in an Egyptian prison before returning to Britain to combat the same ideology he had previously worked to spread.

    Al-Shorfa spoke to Nawaz about his personal journey and his views on al-Qaeda, the Taliban and extremism. (more…)

  • Saving a Revolution: Maajid Nawaz at TEDxBrighton

  • First Wednesday: Defending Islam and free speech with Maajid Nawaz at Frontline Club

  • View all videos