Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Defections from political Islam

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Much has been written this week of the defection of Maajid Nawaz from Islamist party Hizb ut-Tahrir. Nawaz was a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir UK's national executive, and spent 4 years in jail in Egypt for his membership of the party. Having returned to the UK last year following his release, Nawaz left the party two months ago and this week made his reasons public. He spent his time in jail studying Islam and reconsidering his Islamism, coming to the conclusion that the ideas and methods advocated by Hizb ut-Tahrir are invalid under Islam. As was reported last night on Newsnight during an extensive interview with Nawaz, he has now turned his attentions to persuading other members of Hizb ut-Tahrir to leave, and is publishing a series of papers on his blog arguing against the theological basis of Islamism. He told Newsnight that he takes responsibility for past recruitment of many young British Muslims to Islamism, and now wishes to speak out against it.

As our September/October cover story reports, there has been widespread debate over the recruitment activities of Islamist groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir on university campuses. Indeed, Nawaz carried out such recruitment during his time as a student at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Some have suggested that Hizb ut-Tahrir should be banned, but the experience of Nawaz, and other high-profile defectors such as Ed Husain and Shiraz Maher, does not suggest that a ban is the way forward. They each drifted away from the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir through their own studies of Islam, and now Nawaz hopes to help other members do the same. He has explicitly stated that he does not think Hizb ut-Tahrir should be banned, believing instead that "through the power of discussion and persuasion, eventually the party will fizzle out".