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Maajid Nawaz    

Counter-Extremism Activist

Maajid Nawaz is co-founder and chairman of Quilliam, a globally active think tank focusing on matters of integration, citizenship and identity, religious freedom, extremism, and immigration. He is also the founder of Khudi, a Pakistan-based social movement campaigning to entrench democratic culture among the nation's youth.

Human rights and a respect for individual liberty are matters close to Nawaz's heart. His work is informed by years spent as a leadership member of a global Islamist group and his gradual transformation towards liberal democratic values. Having served four years as an Amnesty International adopted "prisoner of conscience" in Egypt, Nawaz is now a leading critic of his former Islamist ideological dogma, while remaining a Muslim. He encourages inclusive citizenship-based participation of Muslims in the West, while seeking to synergize a respect for human rights with the civic liberal imperative to defend those in danger of being stigmatized by extremists due to their personal choices.

Nawaz has become a prominent counter-extremism consultant and a regular writer, debater, and public commentator. He has been called upon by heads of state, statesmen, and international bodies for his professional opinion. Nawaz has spoken at platforms internationally ranging from universities across Pakistan to the US Senate in Washington, DC. He has been profiled on 60 Minutes, Larry King Live, and BBC Newsnight; has spoken at a TED conference; and is regularly interviewed by prominent journalists across the world. His work has been published by The London Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, India Times, Dawn Pakistan, The Independent, The Telegraph, The Guardian, and The New Statesman among many others.

As a British-Pakistani born in Essex, Maajid Nawaz speaks English, Arabic, and Urdu, and holds a BA (Hons) from SOAS in Arabic and law, and an MSc in political theory from the London School of Economics (LSE). He is personally interested in Arabic grammar and morphology; Muslim medieval jurisprudence, scholastics, and poetry; and emerging modern political trends.

Speech Topics

Personal Reflections from Egypt's Prisons: Anecdotes from My Time as an Amnesty International Adopted Prisoner of Conscience in Egypt 2002-2006

This talk is a summary of Maajid Nawaz's experiences as an Amnesty International adopted Prisoner of Conscience in an Egyptian jail. It consists of his reflections about thought crime, why he believes it is disingenuous to criminalize thought, even thought we may disagree with, and proposes an alternative called "civic challenge" as a means to reform ideas we disagree with. Nawaz also relates the effects of human rights campaigning can have on a prisoner and shares personal anecdotes from prison and stories from those he served time with including former Islamist Presidential assassins, leading Islamist ideologues, and leading Liberal reform voices in Egypt.

Pakistan: Identity, Ideology & Beyond

This talk aims to explain the intricacies of nuclear armed Pakistan by addressing the key fault lines that divide the country: identity and ideology. It assesses the reason why Pakistan was created and the relevance of this reason today, the reasons for the further divide of East Pakistan into Bangladesh, the impact of this on the founding vision of the country, the ongoing identity crises the country suffers from, the view of the country's religious clerical forces that there is "unfinished business" to complete in the nations character, and the army's use of this view to create domestic stability and to aid its geo-political struggle with India.

The Need for a "Democratic Intimidation" & the Arab Uprisings

In this talk Maajid Nawaz explains his views on what makes societies strong, stable, and prosperous. The "fabric" that binds societies is not a political one, but sits above politics, a "civilizational" fabric. If no such "fabric" is agreed upon, and there are a few to choose from, societies will tear themselves apart. For years, Islamists have been working in Muslim-majority societies on the grassroots in order to lay the foundations of their own civilizational fabric, and have been succeeding. Conversely, Nawaz believes that democratic forces have not been working on the grassroots, with the people, in order to create genuine grassroots buy-in for the civilizational choice of a democratic political culture. As a result, rulers (even secular ones) of Muslim-majority societies have been pandering to a level of "Islamist intimidation" in society, gradually succumbing to demands to Islamist society. However, imagine if there was "democratic intimidation" in Muslim-majority societies? What would that look like? And how could that reshape the civilizational direction of 1.2 billion of the world's population?

A Global Youth Culture to Fight Extremism

This talk aims to articulate the effects of globalization on extremist rhetoric, and why in many cases globalization has in fact increased rather than diminished the appeal of extremist brands across the political spectrum. Maajid Nawaz explains the way in which the basis for societies evolved from being religious to being nationalist to being citizenship-based, and how societies are now evolving to bond around ideas and narratives. Nawaz then outlines what is needed in order for democrats to regain lost ground in this new reality, and elaborates on the ingredients and strategy needed to re-popularize democratic culture across the world.

Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening

Maajid Nawaz shares his life story—from being born and raised in Essex, UK, to the violent racism and discrimination that contributed to his joining an extreme Islamist group at the age of 16. Nawaz narrates his journey through the ranks of this group—being on its leadership in the UK, and helping to found it in Pakistan Denmark, and Egypt—and his eventual arrest, torture, and imprisonment in Egypt. He elaborates on how, during his time in prison, he underwent a radical yet gradual change in beliefs that fundamentally affected the course of his life, and others after him. After his release from Egypt, Nawaz went on to become one of the most visible and vocal critics of the Islamist ideology globally, while remaining a Muslim and campaigning for democratic change.

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