Counter-extremist Maajid Nawaz criticizes the Guardian’s ‘flirtation with religious theocrats’

Maajid Nawaz – a former Islamist extremist who’s now advising David Cameron on counter-extremism strategy – penned an op-ed at The Daily Beast on Aug. 8th titled ‘The British Left’s Hypocritical Embrace of Islamism‘.  The piece is a truly a must-read for anyone concerned about the disturbing phenomenom of putatively progressive forces defending, if not outright embracing, decidedly reactionary political movements. 

Of special relevance to readers of this blog, Nawaz devotes a large percentage of his polemic going after one specific media group: The Guardian.

Here are some excerpts:

The desire to impose religion over society is otherwise known as theocracy. Being veterans of the struggle to push back against fundamentalist Christians, American liberals are well acquainted with the pitfalls of the neoconservative flirtation with the religious-right. How ironic, then, that in Europe it is those on the left—led by the Guardian—who flirt with religious theocrats. For in the UK, our theocrats are brown, from minority communities, and are overwhelmingly Muslim.

Islam is a religion like any other. Islamism is an ideology that seeks to impose any version of Islam over society. When expressed through violence, I call it jihadism. It is obvious to an American liberal that Christian fundamentalism must be made to respect personal choice. Likewise, it is as plain as the light of day to me—a Pakistani-British liberal Muslim—that any desire to impose any version of Islam over anyone anywhere, ever, is a fundamental violation of our basic civil liberties. But Islamism has been rising in the UK for decades. Over the years, in survey after survey, attitudes have reflected a worrying trend. A quarter of British Muslims sympathised with the Charlie Hebdo shootings. 0% have expressed tolerance for homosexuality. A third have claimed that killing for religion can be justified, while 36% have thought apostates should be killed. 40% have wanted the introduction of sharia as law in the UK and 33% have expressed a desire to see the return of a worldwide theocratic Caliphate.

…on July 20 the British Prime Minister David Cameron mustered the political will to deliver a comprehensive speech setting out the UK’s approach to tackling the long rising tide of theocratic extremism in our communities. At last, Cameron named and shamed the Islamist ideology as a major factor behind the rise of such extremism


The Guardian, it seems, was not happy. Rather than react by providing much beleaguered feminist, gay or ex-Muslims with a crucial platform—as one would expect from a progressive newspaper—they featured a doting interview with the UK front-leader for the Islamist extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) complaining about the Prime Minster’s speech. HT wishes to resurrect a theocratic caliphate, in which—according to its draft constitution available online—they would execute “apostates.” They also believe in ISIS-style medieval punishments, such as stoning, amputations, punishing homosexuals, and approving of slavery in principle. I should know, for 13 years I was on the leadership of this group, serving five of those years as a political prisoner on its behalf in Egypt. 

But this is not new for the Guardian. As the UK media industry magazine Private Eye later noted, over the years the paper has provided column space to supporters of al-Qaida, including Bin-Laden himself. On 23 February this year, the paper published a column by the leader of HT’s Australian branch, Uthman Badar, in which he makes it clear that though HT does not support ISIS, “neither will we condemn them,” for to do such a thing would be “morally repugnant.” Indeed, 10 years ago the Guardian even had a member of HT on its staff as a trainee journalist. Dilpazier Aslam’s affiliation was exposed on the blogosphere after he wrote an equivocating piece on the 7/7 terrorist attacks in London. Amidst public outrage, the paper was forced to pay him £30,000 as severance, probably to avoid a hearing at which editors may have had to admit that they knew about his HT affiliations all along. Like the Daily Mail of old, which to its eternal shame appeased the rise of Nazism, the Guardian is blinded by its infantilizing approach to minority communities, promoting the most regressive of theocrats, simply to “stick it to the man.”  

Read the rest of the essay here

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