Tuesday, April 27, 2010

This Guy's On To Something

Maajid Nawaz. You've probably never heard of him. I hadn't until Sunday night when Lesley Stahl of the good outstanding CBS news program 60 Minutes interviewed him and asked him about The Narrative, an ideology that since 9/11 has spread particularly among Western Muslims and says the United States has declared war against Islam. In the interview, Nawaz says subscribers to The Narrative believe that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were waged because the US hates Muslims, US foreign policy around the world is purposely, directly counter to Muslim interests, and the Muslim faith is in a fight to the death against annihilation by the West, with the US leading the charge against it. If you have been looking for a unified source of Islamic extremist ideology, this may very well be the closest thing to it.

Something even more interesting about The Narrative is its constituents. Many are born in Western countries, speak English, are well-off, and highly educated. Links between Major Nidal Malik Hasan, perpetrator of the Fort Hood shooting last November, and The Narrative have been proposed; the same with Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Christmas Day underwear bomber.

Maajid Nawaz has particular authority to speak on the subject because he was once a true believer himself. A former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, a pan-Islamist political movement that is "firmly anti-Western and deeply committed to The Narrative," according to the interview, Nawaz was recruited while attending the University of London (Adbulmutallab attended the University of London as well) and eventually arrested in Egypt for promoting Islamic extremism. And here is where the story takes an interesting twist:
During his trial, Nawaz remained defiant. He would walk in and out of court shouting out radical slogans. After he was convicted and sentenced to prison for five years, he was locked up with the assassins of Anwar Sadat and leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood.

"Boy, if you weren't radicalized up until then, you certainly would've been then," Stahl remarked.

"Well, the interesting thing with these guys is that, in the 20 or so years since they've been imprisoned, they'd gone through a process where they had abandoned their jihadist views," he said.

"They did?" Stahl asked.

"Yeah. And my initial reaction was, 'Oh, my God, you've sold out.' And so, I approached them with an idea to try and actually convince them they were wrong," Nawaz said.

Nawaz believed he could "re re-convert" them. "And what ended up happening was through the discussion process, I began doubting the strength of my own convictions," he explained.

They were able to persuade him that today's radical ideology is closer to fascism than true Islam. So after four years in prison, he returned to England in 2006 and soon left HT...

He decided he wanted to make amends for the 13 years he had spent as a radical, so now he devotes himself to rebutting the very narrative he once passionately promoted.

"Frankly, Lesley, I think it's 'the' key factor in solving the problem we're experiencing in the world at the moment," he said. "Countering The Narrative is the core of the solution, making this narrative as unfashionable as Communism has become today."
Fascinating. The rest of the interview walks through Nawaz's campaign against The Narrative. He debates Islamic leaders on BBC news channels, holds discussions with students in his native Pakistan, and, at every turn, speaks against the ideology to which he once devoted his life. Absolutely fascinating. The whole interview is here; it is well worth the 15 minutes it takes to watch it, especially the rest of it after the above quoted section.

After watching the interview, I couldn't help but compare Nawaz to the Apostle Paul (once persecutor of Christians turned evangelist and writer of over half of the Bible's New Testament). Could Maajid Nawaz be Islam's modern-day Paul (in terms of Islamic extremism and the West)? Maybe. Personally, I think this guy's on to something.

Policy Recommendation: If the US is ever going to effectively secure itself against Islamic extremism, everyone in charge of our national security should be required to sit down and watch this interview. That would be Step One. Hopefully after that, Step Two would be in the right direction.

1 comment:

quotha said...

Great story, thanks for the post.
Nawaz certainly has some (dangerous) work to do in convincing believers to abandon "The Narrative." Interestingly, an argument he didn't bring up here is that if the US truly wanted to rid the world of Islam (starting in 2001), there really wouldn't be very many Muslims left by now.

Also, to answer the Pakistani student's question about a single reason to like America: well here's a couple billion reasons.