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Maajid Nawaz

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The Counter-Extremist

Maajid Nawaz grew up in a predominantly white sea-side town in England. Radical Islam gave him a sense of identity as he grew up seeing racist attacks condoned by authorities — “Young men from immigrant families were radicalised; not as Muslims, but rather as rebels against the state,” he says. He joined the Hizb-Ut Tahrir, a tightly run radical Islamic group. Over the next 14 years he preached what Hizb taught him. He formed Hizb cells in Denmark and Pakistan between studying for a degree in SOAS and marrying a fellow radical. Soon, he went to Egypt as part of his academic training where the Hizb was outlawed, and he was soon arrested. In prison, meeting ex-jihadis, amazed that Amnesty International would adopt him as a prisoner of conscience — began Nawaz’s re-education. He repented those years of indoctrination, which he believes led indirectly to the 2005 London bombing. He says of Hizb, “we stoked the fires and when you keep boiling water, it bubbles over”. Today, as co-founder and executive director of non-profit organisations Quilliam and Khudi, 32-year-old Maajid engages in counter-Islamist thought-generating, social activism.

He holds a BA (Hons) from SOAS in Arabic and Law and an MSc in Political Theory from the London School of Economics and is a proud father to his young son.

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