Gates of Vienna, by Baron Bodissey, Dec. 22, 2015:
Maajid Nawaz is a prominent “moderate” or secular Muslim and the founder of the Quilliam Foundation in Britain. His organization was featured briefly in this space two years ago, when Tommy Robinson and Kevin Carroll left the EDL and teamed up with Quilliam just before Tommy’s trial (see these three posts from October 2013 for more on Tommy Robinson and Quilliam).
The following exposé by Vikram Chatterjee examines the extensive use by Maajid Nawaz of untruths, dissimulation, evasions, and misleading statements in his writings about Islam. In these he reveals himself to be a practitioner of taqiyya, tawriya, and kitman, the time-honored Islamic doctrines of lying and sacred misdirection.
Update: Mr. Chatterjee has cross-posted this article to his own blog, where you will find his further thoughts on Maajid Nawaz.
Maajid Nawaz: Stealth Jihadist Exposed
by Vikram K. Chatterjee
Thanks in part to the help of Douglas Murray, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Sam Harris, Prime Minister David Cameron and others, Maajid Nawaz has acquired an undeserved reputation as a secular liberal. Despite his outward facade of secularism and liberalism, Nawaz is in fact a deeply devout Sunni Muslim supremacist, operating far behind enemy lines in the Dar al-Harb, the House of War. Nawaz, to fulfill his duties as a Muslim, is waging a campaign of stealth Jihad in order to further the cause of Islam by making himself appear friendly and open to the Infidels of the West while simultaneously carrying out a campaign of mass deception about Islam itself. His goal is to weaken any resistance to the conquest of the Infidel lands of the West by publicly spreading disinformation about the faith, about its many ways of conquest, and deceiving his audience about the doctrinal details of Islam itself. While this may seem like a preposterous claim to make, it merely reflects the ordinary reality of stealth Jihad.
In what follows, Nawaz’s campaign of deception will be demonstrated.
Maajid Nawaz’s not-so-subtle threats of decapitation
The first thing to be said is that Nawaz is easily shown to have deployed threatening, jihad-tinged language after he supposedly became a secular liberal. In July of 2012, Nawaz’s book Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism was published by WH Allen. The book purports to be a memoir in which Nawaz describes his youth in Essex, how he joined the Sunni supremacist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and how he became a political prisoner in Egypt where he supposedly had a revelation in which he saw that “Islamism”, or variously “Islamist extremism” was a divisive political ideology, and decided to leave it (but not, crucially, Islam itself), becoming a secular liberal. Fifteen months later, in October 2013, a year and a half after the UK publication of Nawaz’ memoir, Tommy Robinson quit the English Defense League, the organization which he started, out of fear that its ranks were swelling with neo-Nazis. He embraced Maajid Nawaz and Quilliam Foundation instead, accepting at the time their claims of secularism to be genuine. In an email obtained by Huffington Post Assistant News Editor Jessica Elgot, Nawaz described this event as the “UK’s largest right-wing street movement — the EDL — is being decapitated.” (emphasis added)
Interesting choice of words, no? Why would the “former Islamist extremist” Maajid Nawaz use such threatening, jihad-tinged language? Could his secular liberalism be a clever sham? As we shall see, turning to the book he co-authored with Sam Harris, the evidence shows Nawaz is cold and calculating in his bald-faced telling of untruths, repeatedly deploying outrageous falsehoods about Islam.
The lies of Maajid Nawaz in Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue
Published in October 2015, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue purports to be a conversation between two liberals, one an acknowledged atheist and secularist, the other a supposedly nominal Muslim. The goal of the book seems to be to find a way of talking about Islam and its attendant problems in a polite way, and search for a path for a kind of Islamic secularism. Harris, apparently convinced of Nawaz’ liberalism and secularism, entered into the “dialogue” with him in October 2014. In an article entitled “Can Liberalism Be Saved From Itself”, Harris wrote what will prove to have been a fateful sentence:
Whatever the prospects are for moving Islam out of the Middle Ages, hope lies not with obscurantists like Reza Aslan but with reformers like Maajid Nawaz.
Harris called Aslan an obscurantist, yet turning to his book with Nawaz, on page 44 we find Nawaz saying, of Sayyid Qutb, the notorious Muslim Brotherhood leader, theologian and author of Milestones, and In The Shade of the Qur’an, whose zealous career was a primary force in creating the modern Islamic movements to restore the Caliphate, that “the Egyptian regime killed him for writing a book”.
This is a straightforward falsehood. Notoriously, Qutb was executed by the Egyptian state for his alleged involvement in an attempt to assassinate Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser. By saying that Qutb was executed for merely writing a book, Nawaz portrays Qutb as a devout Muslim as an innocent victim, a tried and true tactic of Islamic propaganda. It seems highly unlikely that Nawaz is unaware of the real reason for Qutb’s execution, given that Nawaz spent four years at the same prison in which Qutb was held, Mazra Tora.
Moving on, on page 61 of the book, Harris brings up the important point of Qur’anic literalism:
I want to ask you about this, because my understanding is that basically all “moderate” Muslims — that is, those who aren’t remotely like Islamists, or even especially conservative, in their social attitudes — are nevertheless fundamentalists by the Christian standard, because they believe the Qur’an to be the literal and inerrant word of God.
Excellent question, Sam. Do mainstream Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the literal and inerrant word of God? What is Nawaz’s reply?
Well, Nawaz’s three-page reply on pages 61-64 gives no answer whatsoever to this question. He avoids it entirely, beginning with the evasive phrase “I think we have to be careful to avoid two mistakes…” and so on. Nawaz then goes on a curious series of tangents, offering up entertaining thoughts about the meaning of the term literal, which is apparently a big mystery. He then turns down a series of historical side tracks about the Mu’tazilites, Iranian philosophy, and the Council of Nicaea before telling us, in answer to the question of whether the Qur’an was created by God that he “won’t take theological stances here”.
Having done all that, on page 64 Nawaz drops the arresting phrase “because there is no clergy in Islam”, apparently confident that Harris and the reader have never heard of the ulama. Nawaz finishes by stating that “My role is to probe and ask skeptical questions about interpretive methodology, Muslim history, identity, politics, policy, values, and morality”, a job description that apparently does not include answering straightforward questions like “Do Muslims believe that the Qur’an is the literal and inerrant word of God?” The reader ends up finding no definitive answer to this salient question, which is curious, since Nawaz is supposedly an honest secularist and liberal who should be eager to answer simple questions. That Harris cannot bring himself to press Nawaz on this important point, or catch Nawaz’s lie about there being “no clergy in Islam” demonstrates his inadequacy to the task at hand.
After a further set of comments from Harris about the nature of religious moderation and the different range of problems posed by literal readings of different religious traditions, Nawaz responds on page 69 with some apparently secular-minded comments about “sad and horrendous atrocities committed against hostages in Syria by British and European Muslim terrorists.” From the context, it appears that Nawaz is referring to Islamic State beheadings and immolations of captives, but without specific definitions of the terms used in the sentence: “hostage” and “British and European Muslim terrorists”, the statement could be read in other ways. He could just as easily be referring to bombing done by the British and French states in Syria, and using tawriya to privately redefine what a “hostage” and a “European Muslim terrorist” is, so that he appears to be denouncing Islamic State atrocities, while in his own heart he actually isn’t. That may sound to some readers like a paranoid suspicion to have, but time and again we have seen Muslims appear make overtures of peace or condemnations of Muslim atrocities, employing vague language like “we condemn the killing of innocents” while not deigning to mention what is meant by the term “innocent”. Nawaz may well be up to similar shenanigans with this phrase.
On the next page, we find Nawaz saying, of Islamic reform, that “I think the challenge lies with interpretation…” In Islam, interpretation of scripture and tradition is dictated from the top down, beginning with the ulama, the clergy, who in turn are today mostly re-iterating interpretations (generally called tafsir — commentary or elucidation) that were arrived at by Muslim theologians about a thousand years ago. This class of Muslim clergy, the ulama, in turn runs the various schools where Islam is taught to Imams, qadis and the like, so that the teaching of the ulama spreads outward from the main centers of Islamic teaching, such as Al-Azhar University in Cairo, and the schools run by and for Shia clerics in Qom, Iran.
That Maajid is telling Harris that the path forward for Islamic reform is to have new ‘interpretation’ (tafsir) of scripture should be very troubling to Harris. This kind of interpretation in Islam is only permitted to the learned scholars of Islam. It is not a democratic notion, with everyday Muslims reading scripture for themselves. Rather, Nawaz’s stated position on Islamic reform is basically “let’s leave it to the ulama to give us new tafsirs. That will result in a reformed Islam.” This indicates that he is not willing to really break with orthodoxy in Islam, and make Islam open to lay Muslims to read for themselves, in their own languages, the way that William Tyndale, who was burned at the stake for daring to translate the Bible into English, insisted on for his fellow Christians.
This point of language is one that Harris appears not to understand, or doesn’t think worth discussing. Muslims don’t really read the Qur’an. Rather, they just recite it in a language they don’t understand. At no point in the book does Harris even ask Nawaz if he would encourage his fellow Muslims to read the Qur’an in a language they can actually understand, as the number of people who can actually read and understand the classical Arabic of the Qur’an is vanishingly small. Since Nawaz does not suggest this crucially important change himself, we can safely assume he does not want to break with orthodoxy and encourage Muslims to read the Qur’an in their own languages and thus be able to interpret it for themselves. From this we can see his true agenda: he wants to keep scripture, and the authority that goes with it, in the hands of the few. When it comes to interpreting the Qur’an, Nawaz is no democrat. He’s an authoritarian.