Imagine my surprise and delight yesterday to turn on Fresh Air (the NPR interview show) and find that the guest was Maajid Nawaz. It’s a terrific interview, in which he covers a lot of ground and says valuable things. That’s one thing about Fresh Air – it gives people a lot of time.
At age 16, Nawaz was transformed from a disaffected British teenager to an Islamist recruiter when he joined the Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir. Nawaz continued his college studies and spent a year abroad in Egypt, where he continued his recruiting. As a result, he was imprisoned for four years, starting in 2002.
It was while in prison, surrounded by several prominent jihadist leaders, that Nawaz realized he wanted to take a different path. He was reading George Orwell’s Animal Farm and came to a new understanding of “what happens when somebody tries to create a utopia.”
“I began to join the dots and think, ‘My God, if these guys that I’m here with ever came to power, they would be the Islamist equivalent of Animal Farm,” Nawaz says.
Yes. They would create a hell on earth.
He says he began to see that it’s “impossible to create a utopia.”
“I’m living up close and seeing [the radicals’] everyday habits and lifestyle, I thought, ‘My God, I wouldn’t trust these guys in power,’ because when I called it, back then, and said, ‘If this caliphate, this theocratic caliphate, was ever established, it would be a nightmare on earth,'” Nawaz says.
Yes it would – especially for women, gays, apostates, atheists, secularists, people with a sense of humor. Life in a system that treats that many people like shit is a nightmare even if it treats everyone else well – which a theocratic caliphate wouldn’t.
One of the things they talk about is the anger and threats he faced a year ago for tweeting that he wasn’t “offended” by the Jesus and Mo cover in which Jesus says “Hey” and Mo says “How ya doin?” In order to explain that he told about being on that Big Questions in which he supported the woman in the niqab and her right to wear it even though he disagrees with it, and about Chris Moos opening his shirt to reveal the Jesus and Mo T shirt underneath, about Chris’s asking the niqab woman if she supported his right to wear the shirt and her saying no she did not. That’s why he tweeted what he did – he wanted to clarify that Muslims don’t have to try to impose their rules on everyone else and that they don’t even have to be “offended” when people don’t obey their religious rules.
I recommend listening to the whole thing.