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  • Islamicide: How the Mullah Mafia Is Destroying Pakistan

    The Daily Beast Logo

    2 February 2016

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

    A boy cuts off his own right hand because it offended God. Pedophilia is holy. To question is to risk execution. Welcome to a nation in thrall to suicidal fanaticism.

    Somewhere in the world there is a Muslim-majority country in which a 15-year-old boy accidentally raised his hand to answer the wrong question at a religious sermon. The boy said yes, when he meant to say no.

    His religious instructor, his mullah, had been asking, “Who among you loves their prophet?” All present raised their hands. The mullah then followed with another question: “Who among you doesn’t believe in the teachings of the Holy Prophet? Raise your hands!”

    The boy thought he was answering the first question again. He stuck his right hand up in pride. Yes. Yes, I love my prophet, he thought. But to the poor boy’s horror, the mullah had asked the question in the negative. Upon realizing his mistake, which I remind you was raising his hand too quickly, the boy was told before 100 worshippers that he had committed blasphemy. He was mortified.

    The boy promptly departed that day and walked home. All along the way he must have been thinking about his mistake. Had his hand exposed him as an apostate by bearing false witness against his soul? How could he ever regain his lost status as a believer?

    In his utter depression, perhaps the boy recalled the passage of the Quran that describes the Day of Reckoning in which believers’ own limbs will testify against them, betraying their misdeeds.

    He may even have recalled a traditional saying ascribed to the Prophet Muhammad, “Even if my own daughter Fatima stole, by God I would cut off her hand.”

    In this spirit, hadn’t a member of ISIS just executed his own mother for apostasy? Whatever was on his mind, this boy, who wanted so much to be considered a true, fearful believer, decided that he must take action to fix his terrible mistake. What happened next has alternately shocked, embarrassed, infuriated, and depressed me. It has come to symbolize the collective suicide—let’s call it Islamicide—of this boy’s country.

    The boy went into his father’s workshop, placed his right hand inside the grass-cutting machine, and chopped it clean off.

    That’s right. He cut off is own hand in the name of the prophet. “When I raised my right hand unwittingly, I realized I had committed blasphemy and needed to atone for this,” he told the BBC. “I came back home… but found the place dark, so I took my uncle’s phone to point some light at my hand. I placed it under the machine and chopped it off in a single swirl.”

    Bleeding profusely, the boy then walked all the way back to the mosque, and found his mullah. As atonement for heresy, he then presented his severed hand to the mullah. “The hand that commits blasphemy should be chopped off,” the boy later said.

    The boy was promptly hailed by his mullah as an ‘aashiq—a true lover of the prophet—and his extreme act of expiation was celebrated throughout his village and surrounding villages. Neighbors are appearing at his home, kissing his left hand, and placing some cash in his pocket.

    “I heard that a boy sacrificed his own hand for the love of our prophet. I came here to meet him,” one said.

    All he wanted to do was please his mullah.

    Meanwhile, across this boy’s fervent and restive country, in his capital city, a bill had been proposed that would outlaw pedophilia, euphemistically called “child marriage.” But there’s an entire mullah mafia in the big city with attitudes much like that of the small-minded village cleric who celebrated his student’s self-mutilation. And that mullah mafia thanks heaven for little girls.

    Marvi Memon of the ruling Muslim League party was attempting to introduce harsher punishment for those who “marry” minors, while also raising the legal age of marriage to 18.

    Relatively uncontroversial in 2016, you would think. But such is the fear of being accused of committing blasphemy in this country, such is the power of the accuser, that all one has to do is threaten. And that is exactly what happened.

    The country’s Council of Islamic Ideology declared that to outlaw pedophilia would be an insult to the Prophet Muhammad, for hadn’t he married a 9-year-old girl called Aisha?

    Unanimously rejecting the proposed Child Marriage Restraint (Amendment) Bill 2014 on “purely religious grounds,” the mullahs pronounced any representatives who supported this reform to be blasphemers.

    Chairman of the Council Mohammad Khan Sheerani said, “Parliament cannot create legislation that is against the teachings of the Holy Quran or Sunnah.”

    In May 2014, the Council repeated its earlier ruling that girls as young as 9 years old were eligible for marriage if “the signs of puberty are visible.” The legislators—from the ruling party I remind you—were forced to withdraw their bill immediately.

    The mullah mafia had won once again. A great “victory for Islam.” Pedophilia was “Islamic.” And to question it was blasphemy. Which is punishable by death, in case you were ever in doubt.

    That boy lived just outside Lahore. That capital city was Islamabad. Welcome to Pakistan 2016. A country committing Islamicide.

    How I mourn you, Pakistan. You were once the pride and hope of South Asia. Muhammad Ali Jinnah fought to found you, to build a country in which “Muslims will cease to be Muslims, and Hindus will cease to be Hindus, not in the religious sense, but as citizens of the state,” and yet today your Sunni terrorists would murder Jinnah as a “heretical” Shia.

    Like all rotten gangsters seeking power through intimidation, with every new victory Pakistan’s mullah mafia extends its clutches further. Their definition of blasphemy gets broader and broader, starting with a direct insult; yet now encompassing “heretical” sects such as Shia and Ahmedis; and, wider still, being deployed to protect pedophilia.

    Everyone is petrified. The mullah mafia seem invincible. To offend them is obviously to offend God. And to offend God, the Most Merciful, apparently deserves death. But of course, this has got “nothing to do with Islam.”

    Perhaps it was all over when the progressive leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, the late Benazir Bhutto’s father, gave in to this mullah mafia and introduced legally sanctioned sectarianism to Pakistan’s laws in 1974, declaring the Ahmedi sect to be infidels. Perhaps it was the end when Gen. Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq came to power in 1977, using Islam to crush his opponents, and introducing strict medieval-era penal codes such as public flogging.

    Perhaps it was finished when former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated by a jihadist terrorist in 2007.

    Or maybe I should have lost hope in 2011 after the governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was gunned down by his own bodyguard amid accusations of “blasphemy.”

    Or likewise when Minorities Minister Shahbaz Bhatti was killed that same year, for the very same reason.

    Maybe those of us desperately clinging to the memory of a secular Pakistan that was, that could have been, should just call it quits now.

    But then I think of this boy. And I think of the child “brides,” and the acid victims, and all the brave voices—military and civilian—who have given their lives to fight this madness; and I think of the assassinated Governor Salman Taseer’s son, Shahbaz Taseer, and former Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani’s son, Ali Haider, both still missing after terrorists kidnapped them hoping to ransom them. And it wrenches at my gut.

    When I see the protesters lighting candles at Liberty Chowk after every major terrorist attack, when I hear of brave new Pakistani voices boldly proclaiming their counter-extremist message from within, when I behold the slightly paralyzed left side of Malala’s face looking back at me in her photograph, I am forced to remind myself, amid all the depression: Pakistan Zindabad, Pakistan Lives.

    To view the original article as published on The Daily Beast, please click here.

  • What David Cameron Gets Right About Terrorism

    The Daily Beast Logo

    21 January 2016

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

    “Where in the world do you think the following things are happening?” British Prime Minister David Cameron asked. “School governors’ meetings where male governors sit in the meeting room and the women have to sit out of sight in the corridor. Young women only allowed to leave their house in the company of a male relative. Religious councils that openly discriminate against women and prevent them from leaving abusive marriages. The answer, I’m sorry to say, is Britain.”

    And then he raised the question of language. “New figures show that some 190,000 British Muslim women—or 22 percent—speak little or no English despite many having lived here for decades,” Cameron said. “Forty thousand of these women speak no English at all. So it’s not a surprise that 60 percent of women of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage are economically inactive.”

    Assuming Cameron got his facts and figures right, all of this should disturb anyone who truly cares about the welfare of minority communities, and the under-empowered voices within them.

    One might well question the motives of a Conservative Prime Minister pushing female empowerment, supporting a progressive agenda, condemning far-right anti-Muslim bigotry in the same speech; and even at one stage referencing the advancement of “liberal” values in his remarks. And, indeed, plenty have questioned his designs.

    Cameron couched his remarks in terms of countering extremism. His idea is that if mothers are better integrated into British society, which presumes they speak English, then their angry young sons will be as well. But I cannot recall any first-generation British Muslim immigrant mother, struggling with English, who has gone on to become a jihadist.

    Within the first generation of my own family there are close female relatives for whom learning English remains a challenge despite being here for decades. It is true that this is unrelated to extremism, for these same family members are—bless them—superbly supportive of my family’s ethnic and religious diversity.

    But state support for English classes and skills development would help such women financially. Importantly, such a financial status and developing better language skills would aid women to connect authoritatively to their often-alienated second-generation offspring, who have proven more susceptible than the first generation to extremist recruitment.

    It is this authoritative connection, which comes from having one’s own financial and educational standing in the community, that is most important, and relevant not only to Muslim immigrants in Europe, but to immigrants in the United States and many other countries as well.

    If a parent is seen to be isolated from life generally, he or she will stand little chance of acting as a moral or intellectual role model for any children who may be vulnerable to extremism. In my own life and journey through extremism, the one voice that kept nagging at me throughout, and eventually helped pull me from the brink, was my own British-educated and fully integrated mother’s.

    Of course, Muslim immigrants aren’t the only ones who struggle with integration and the English language. But it is futile to ignore that a high proportion of traditional immigrants to the U.K.—from Pakistan and Bangladesh—and recent migrants to Britain from war zones—Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria—all hail from countries that are disproportionately affected by Islamist extremism. And like in Cologne, it is dangerously unprogressive to pretend there is no cultural element to community enforced patriarchy.

    Nor is it useful to deny that though the world has many problems—all of which need to be addressed, mind you—there is an acute global problem with Islamist extremism at present. Any policy that encourages further integration and skills development for minorities, something all progressives have traditionally argued for, can only help to treat the sort of disenfranchisement that leads to extremism. Once the rot of self-segregation settles in, it not only aids Islamist recruitment but it also helps the far-right radicalize mainstream society against minorities. For this reason, we must overcome the obfuscation, denial and politically correct paralysis that prevents us liberals from addressing these issues. It cannot be progressive to allow this to continue.

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

  • Why We Can’t Stay Silent on Germany’s Mass Sex Assaults


    The Daily Beast Logo

    8 January 2016

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

    It took several days for the news of hundreds of sexual assaults in Cologne to make headlines. As progressives dither over what to say, the far right has already seized the opportunity.

    It reminded us all of the beginning of the end of the Arab Spring. In 2011, the celebratory crowds in Egypt’s Tahrir Square began giving way to organized street gangs who targeted and raped women out in the open. Perhaps this was a bad omen for things to come in the region.

    Germany’s welcoming euphoria at receiving 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015may have just turned a similarly dark corner. More than 120 criminal complaints have been filed by women in Cologne who say they were subjected to public sexual assault or robbery, including at least two alleged street rapes, all in one night. The 400 men accused of being behind this mass attack formed coordinated rings around the women. They have been universally described as being of North African and Arab appearance. Police are examining Internet forums and chat groups on the working assumption that it is unlikely 400 men just met by accident.

    Though this all occurred on New Year’s Eve, the absolute scandal is that we only found out about it five days later. Amid accusations that it deliberately covered the incident up in order not to spark panic, the public broadcaster ZDF was forced to issue an apology for failing to include the assaults in its main evening news broadcast. It appears that, as the authorities and the media were choosing between stirring up racial tension and these women’s rights, we were faced with a conspiracy of silence.

    Eventually, this was bound to happen. Recent mass migration patterns across Europe have meant that misogyny has finally come head to head with anti-racism, multiculturalism is facing off against feminism, and progressive values are wrestling with cultural tolerance.

    Yes, it is racist to suspect that all brown men who look like me are rapists. It is bigoted to presume that all Muslim men who share my faith advocate religiously justified rape. It is xenophobic to assume that all male refugees are sexual predators awaiting their chance to rape. But let me be absolutely clear: What will feed this racism, bigotry, and xenophobia even more is deliberately failing to report the facts as they stand. Doing so only encourages the populist right’s rallying cry against “the establishment.”

    If liberals do not address such issues swiftly, with complete candor and courage, the far-right and anti-Muslim populist groups will get there first. They have been doing so for a while now.

    The far-right street protest group Hogesa, or Hooligans Against Salafism,continues to cause consternation on the streets of Cologne, while the populist-right Pegida has already responded to the New Year’s Eve attacks by announcing a protest in Cologne on Jan. 9.

    No, my fellow liberals, these issues cannot be brushed under the carpet or simply willed away. They are not going anywhere, anytime soon. So how can we address this sensibly, without bursting a blood vessel in our Right eye, or missing the blind spot in our Left?

    Let’s start by looking at the evidence. Official figures in Germany suggest that, currently, refugees are no more likely to commit sexual crimes than other sections of the population. “Refugees commit just as few or as many crimes as groups of the local population,” says Germany’s interior minister, Thomas de Maiziere. That’s good news. Bank it.

    Street sexual violence is also—obviously—not exclusive to Arab and Muslim-majority countries. Indeed, among the worst offenders is Papua New Guinea, where two-thirds of women are subjected to some kind of physical or sexual violence, and rapists from “raskol” gangs are happy to pose for photos after their latest rape.

    Having said that, what is infuriating and totally counterproductive is to deny that a specifically cultural problem around immigration patterns and European sexual norms has been steadily rising across the continent. To pretend this is not the case only further stigmatizes us brown Muslim men. That the problem requires attention is clear.

    German police unions and women’s right groups have recently accused authorities of underplaying cases of rape at refugee shelters. “There is a lot of glossing over going on. But this doesn’t represent reality,” police union chief Rainer Wendt told Reuters. Henry Ove Berg, who was a police chief during Norway’s recent spike in rape cases, said, “people from some parts of the world have never seen a girl in a miniskirt, only in a burqa…when they get to Norway, something happens in their heads.” He added that “there was a link but not a very clear link” between the rape cases in Norway and immigrants. Hanne Kristin Rohde, former head of the violent crime section of the Oslo Police Department, was criticized in 2011 when she went public with data suggesting that immigrants committed a hugely disproportionate number of rapes. “This was a big problem…but it was difficult to talk about,” sheremarked. There was “a clear statistical connection between sexual violence and male migrants.”

    This is all controversial, but it must be said. Anecdotal attitudes point to the same conclusion. Abdu Osman Kelifa, an Eritrean asylum seeker to Norway, recently told The New York Times that in his home country, “if someone wants a lady, he can just take her and he will not be punished.” He confessed that it was still hard for him to accept that a woman could accuse her husband of rape.

    Between denying the problem and using it to fuel bigoted far-right rhetoric, an approach grounded in data and a level head is vital. Any solution to this emerging issue must simultaneously seek to deny the far right the ammunition it desires while preserving—not reneging on—Europe’s hard earned progressive social values.

    With that in mind, Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker’s comments after the mass attacks in her city were terribly unhelpful. When asked by a journalist how women could guard against such attacks, Reker shocked many around the world by suggesting that women should remain at “arm’s length” from strangers in the street and that she would soon be issuing a “code of conduct” for women “so that such things do not happen to them.”

    Others have made the same error. Martin Thalhammer, the headmaster at Wilhelm-Diess-Gymnasium, a school in Pocking, Bavaria, sent a letter home to parents advising them that “Syrian citizens are mainly Muslims and speak Arabic. The refugees are marked by their own culture. Because our school is directly next to where they are staying, modest clothing should be adhered to, in order to avoid discrepancies. Revealing tops or blouses, short shorts or miniskirts could lead to misunderstandings.” With men accounting for about 70 percent of asylum seekers, some groups across Germany have demanded gender-segregated accommodation and safe zones for women.

    No. European progressive and feminist groups have toiled over centuries to educate us all that rape victims are not responsible for the actions of the rapist. Victim-blaming and demanding that women change their behavior are the worst way to respond to rape culture. They only sexualize the victim more.

    The fetishization of the female body has not led to a decrease in cases of sexual violence in societies where women cover their entire bodies. If Taliban- and ISIS-held areas are anything to go by, violence against women only increases the more women are asked to conceal and segregate themselves. This would make sense, because accompanying such attitudes is the notion that women are sexual objects to be owned and controlled, and not human beings to be respected and loved. What is infuriating is that for centuries progressives have made these very arguments against white Christian fundamentalists in the West, yet—displaying an incredible cognitive dissonance—those progressives easily abandon that position when confronted with the problem in a minority community.

    The case of Cologne tells us that we can no longer afford this Regressive-Leftdouble standard. The only person to blame for rape is the rapist. Employment and education among migrant males will be a more conducive and far more consistent approach than asking European women to change how they dress or when they go out.

    Norway has led the way here, offering voluntary nationwide classes that expand upon Norwegian social and sexual norms to newly arrived migrant men. The German border town of Passau in Bavaria, has already started a similar program for male refugees, while Danish politicians aim to approve the same measure after a string of attacks in Denmark. Among other measures, it is my view that such classes should be mandatory for new arrivals across the continent. These classes should form part of a citizenship, integration, and employment course, before residency permits are provided. In any case, they would help refugees come to grips with the strange new world they have just fled to, and can only make their job prospects better.

    Former Israeli prime minster Golda Meir may have done and said many things people disagree with, but one of her stances is difficult to argue with. When there was an outbreak of nighttime assaults against women in Israel, a minister in the cabinet suggested a curfew to keep women in after dark. “But it’s the men who are attacking the women,” she retorted. “If there’s to be a curfew, let the men stay at home, not the women.”

    The alternative would be to lay the seeds of the very same cultural attitudes in Europe that many migrants have been fleeing from in counties like Syria and Afghanistan. That would be sheer madness.

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

  • Saudi Arabia’s ISIS-Like Justice

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    2 January 2016

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

    The country executed 47 people on Saturday, for crimes all too similar to those cited by ISIS.

    Most countries ushered in their new year by hosting increasingly beautiful displays of fireworks. Others, by increasingly archaic displays of public execution.

    Today Saudi Arabia executed 47 people, which is the biggest mass execution in the kingdom since the early 1980s.

    This follows a blood-soaked 2015, in which the country executed 158 people, the highest number in two decades and a 90 percent increase from the year before. Despite that staggering sum, with their actions today the second of January 2016, Saudi Arabia is already almost a third of its way to beating last year’s abysmal record.

    Indeed, this strict Sunni-Wahhabi religious kingdom, one of the few absolute monarchies left in the world, still stages public executions, crucifixions and floggings. The death penalty is applied in a wide range of cases, including apostasy, terrorism… and witchcraft. Though most of those killed today were accused of terrorism, one must remain incredibly skeptical about the justice system of a country in which even atheism is deemed a terrorist offense by law.

    Among those killed today was Ayatollah Nimr al-Nimr. He was a vocal Saudi-Shia opposition cleric who publicly criticized the ruling al-Saud family and called for elections. In 2011 Nimr said that he favored protest over violence, “The weapon of the word is stronger than bullets, because authorities will profit from a battle of weapons.” The Saudi interior ministry however, accused him of being behind attacks on police and allying with another regional theocracy, Shia Iran.

    In fact, Saudi Arabia’s regional tension with Iran has reached such levels that it is prepared to countenance the execution of minors. A 17 year old relation of al-Nimr has been sentenced to crucifixion—his headless corpse to be displayed in public for several days. And Abdullah al-Zaher, who was 15 when he was arrested, also awaits beheading. This makes him the youngest person so far to be sentenced to death.

    Beyond executions, Nobel Prize nominee Raif Badawi, a blogger who started the “Free Saudi Liberals” forum in 2008, has been convicted of “insulting Islam” and given a 10-year prison term with 1,000 lashes. And as Lujain al-Hathloul’s and Maysa Al Amour’s imprisonment shows, women still can’t drive in Saudi Arabia. Nor, apparently, can they use social media to complain about being unable to drive. Meanwhile, neighboring Yemen has been carpet-bombed to oblivion by the House of Saud.

    That one of our closest allies could maintain such an appalling human rights record should be a matter of deep shame to America and Great Britain. In today’s Information Age this barbaric track record can no longer be hidden from view. Under increasing pressure, the UK Ministry of Justice dropped a large contract to train Saudi prison staff. This decision was initially opposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, who only reversed track after facing a sustained human rights campaign. To his credit, Justice Secretary Michael Gove backed the move.

    And here’s the rub. While Iran is no better, through Saudi Arabia the absurdity of our global alliances are laid bare. This medieval throwback of a regime—our ally—believes in and enforces many of the same punishments as those they are helping us to fight: ISIS. As this graphic shows punishments for apostasy, blasphemy, homosexual acts, treason—which could mean anything from organizing political opposition to acts of militancy, adultery, fornication, highway robbery and banditry are identical under Saudi law as well as under ISIS rule. In both cases, these punishments are justified by a medieval take on Islamic scripture.

    Just as ISIS does, a Saudi interior ministry statement issued today began with passages from the Quran and cited Prophetic tradition in order to justify the mass executions. The Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh appeared on television soon after to describe the killings as just and Fawzi al-Zafzaf, a scholar from Egypt’s highest Sunni authority Al-Azhar, welcomed the executions bysaying “Saudi Arabia has applied the law of God.”

    Among the Prophetic traditions cited by Saudi’s interior ministry was one from the books of Sahih Muslim: “whoever comes to you while your affairs are united and wants to disunite you, sowing dissension amongst you, kill him.” How funny, just like ISIS, I had used this same hadith during my days as a committed Islamist, arguing for the necessity of forcibly unifying all Muslims behind a global Caliph, and overthrowing the Saudi regime as an obstacle to such unity.

    And here’s the rub. The Islamic State group seeks to enforce a totalitarian version of Islam over society. The Islamic Republic of Iran claims it already enforces Islam, and fights the ‘Islamic State’ by supporting the Party of Allah—or Hizbollah, to do so. Saudi Arabia claims that the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Party of Allah, and the Islamic State group have got it all wrong, and that they enforce the true version of Islam in their kingdom. Monty Python’s Judean People’s Front would be bitingly proud.

    Until we recognize that the ideology calling for any version of Islam to be imposed over people is wreaking havoc in the region, and holding entire societies back from progress, the Middle-east stands little chance of recovering from the turbulence it currently faces. Saudi Arabia just happens to be one of the wealthiest, most organized, and most active proponents of this idea. And like homophobes hating their closet gay side, the Saudis have threatened to sue anyone who compares them to ISIS. So sue me.

    UPDATE: On Saturday night, January 2, Iranian protesters ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran, throwing Molotov cocktails and trashing furniture before police finally cleared them out. According to The Independent, Shia demonstrators in Bahrain were tear-gassed while Riyadh send “hundreds of armored vehicles” to Qatif, inside Saudi Arabia, to contain protests there. Former Iraqi Prime Minister and current Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, of the theocratically oriented Dawa Party, declared that the execution of al-Nimr will be the death knell of the Saudi government.

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

  • From Star Wars to Islam, The Force Is With Nostalgia

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    2 January 2016

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

    What makes us who we are? In that question lies the key to understanding not only the past year, but the many troubled years to come.

    This article contains spoilers about the Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens andCreed movies.

    As another year eclipses our last, we begin to reminisce about our memories, moments, occasions and celebrations gone by. In this spirit, I recently went to see the latest version of two movies that captured my imagination as a child: Star Wars—revamped as Episode VII, and Rocky—retold as Creed.

    That I went to see these two movies over the course of as many days, gave me pause to think. Was I seeking the lost enchantment of my youth on the silver screen? Did I really hope to relive that first moment I beheld in wonderment the X-wing Fighter, and revered Rocky’s resilience?

    Ultimately, of course, nothing ever feels as good as the first time it is experienced, especially as a child, so I left the movie theater reasonably satisfied, but not blown away.

    Despite near universal praise, by critics and consumers alike, the Star Wars plot was the biggest letdown. I found the story line to be an unimaginative rehash of Episode IV (the original movie), almost to the letter. It featured the same cat and mouse search for the last Jedi, complete with a droid that possessed a message to unlock the secret. And so on. No need to rehash the rehash.

    Creed was also nothing but a repeat of Rocky I. The entire movie unimaginatively relived the best moments from the original movie we loved, when Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) was eye-of-the-tiger hungry.

    So, why did I still leave both movies happy that I’d been to see them, and relatively pleased with my evening? Apart from the quality family time they afforded me, the makers of these two movies understood something essential to human nature: nostalgia is a powerful force.

    I am known to be somebody who challenges Islamist extremism and applies a lens of introspection to my own Muslim communities and culture. Many of my non-Muslim supporters, surprised at the level of resistance I face, wonder why I don’t just quit Islam and give up on my fellow Muslims. Understanding the answer relies—in part—on understanding why I keep returning to disappointing movie prequel after movie sequel.

    We humans are emotional creatures. And as there is something familiar with my fellow Brits, my fellow Englishmen, my fellow Essex Boys, in which I rejoice, there is something familiar with my fellow Muslims, my Arab friends, and my fellow Pakistanis.

    Just like in movie sequels, nostalgia and a fondness for the familiar cannot be denied. There is something beautiful in the Arabic language of the Quran, its precise recitation being an art in which I excelled, and half of which I memorized. There is something intimate in knowing the Prophet Muhammad’s life inside out. There is something rooted in knowing one’s history and in understanding why your family and your friends think the way they do.

    There is something logically satisfying in studying the scholastics and jurisprudence of medieval Muslim thought. Yet as the ancient Sufi mystic Ibn ‘Arabi taught, this path is not the only way to knowledge, for that would be incredibly arrogant to assert.

    For me, this happens to be the path that I was bestowed, the road that I am familiar with, the way I know inside-out, and the trajectory that brought me to where I am today, and built the man presented before you. To know this man, you must accept how he was forged.

    To abandon this history would be to abandon myself, and my sense of self. For me that would mean extinction.

    This may be a sentimental answer. Of course it is. As the Arthur Koestler wrote in his novel Darkness at Noon, sentimentality may be the only thing standing between us and absolute tyranny. Sentimentality may well be our saving grace.

    I put it to my fellow liberals and my atheist supporters: This path of reforming Islam today from within may seem unrealistic to you; it may seem like a lost cause.

    But what sounds more impractical to you? Reforming Islam from within? Or expecting 1.6 billion Muslims to apostatize en masse?

    I can assure you that the latter will not happen.

    We human beings cannot even give up our movie sequels, how could mass apostasy ever be a realistic option? No, what struck me this last week—and as I usher in the new year of 2016—is that nostalgia is a powerful thing. And for bloody good reason. It is quintessentially human. And if you care about humanity, that has to be taken into account.

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

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  • Maajid Nawaz talks to Fareed Zakaria, 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…)

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