The Blog

Former Islamic Radicals Denounce Jihadism

11:41 AM, Dec 12, 2008 • By ULF GARTZKE
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Earlier this week in Washington, I had the opportunity to listen to Maajid Nawaz, Co-Founder and Director of the London-based Quilliam Foundation, which describes itself as "the world's first counter-extremism think tank". Both Mr. Nawaz and Co-Founder Ed Husain are former activists of the radical Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) who rejected their ideology of hatred and set up Quilliam Foundation in an effort to promote a pluralistic, open, and non-violent interpretation of Islam. Mr. Nawaz, who spent more than four years in an Egyptian prison, was in Washington for meetings with senior U.S. government officials, including Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

The striking thing about Quilliam Foundation--which also advises the UK government on anti-terrorism issues--is that it involves former Islamists who are now openly challenging the very intellectual foundations underpinning al-Qaeda's all-out attempt to establish a global Islamic caliphate:

The Quilliam Foundation openly challenges Islamist groups to public debates. Our first challenge is to Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the group that influenced Syed Qutb in prison and is thus the ideological inspiration to al-Qaeda. While HT may disagree with Osama bin Laden's methods, they both aspire to the same end: the creation of a theocratic, expansionist dictatorship. […]

Islam, like other world faiths, is a religion, not a political ideology. As such, it makes no specific, monolithic prescription of an ‘Islamic state', ‘economic system', or ‘foreign policy'. Hizb ut-Tahrir, and by extension al-Qaeda, have rejected mainstream Muslim tradition and are an aberration of global Muslim discourse. Their neo-Wahhabite Islamism is the backbone of jihadism, as illustrated by the history of Islamist movements in Algeria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and other countries.

It is clear that, ultimately, the world's on-going struggle against radical Islamists cannot be won without the active involvement and public support of moderate Muslims. The Quilliam Foundation is off to a very good start, and hopefully Maajid Nawaz and Ed Husain will convince more Muslims to follow their path and go after the intellectual godfathers of the jihadist ideology.