Not all extremists are terrorists, says ex-jihadist

Published: June 26, 2010

Political leaders have come down hard on the Punjab government for "ignoring the threat of Punjabi Taliban." PHOTO: AFP

“There’s a difference between an extremist and a terrorist. All terrorists are extremists but not all extremists are terrorists,” claimed a former member of a UK-based jihadist group, Hizb ut Tahrir.

Majid Nawaz explained that an extremist may impose his ideology on people through non-violent means as compared to a terrorist. However, he quickly added that both are equally reprehensible and must be condemned openly by the civil society.

The NGO Individualland organised a seminar ‘Citizens as Active Stakeholders of Peace’ on Friday, when 32-year-old Majid Nawaz, spoke on peace.

Nawaz, a British citizen of Pakistani origin was a member of Hizb ut Tahrir until 2007 and has served five years in an Egyptian jail. After resigning from the extremist organisation, he became the director of a UK-based Quillam Peace Foundation.

“There’s a dire need for members of the civil society to counter the powerful narrative of jihadists,” said newly transformed peacenik, Nawaz.

“The Islamists’ propaganda claims that since only Muslims are being attacked all around the world, Islam as a religion is under threat,” he said. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he added, admitting that he himself was involved in spreading such narratives.

He cited the recent attack on Ahmedis in Lahore as an example of how extremism can be propagated through law. Nawaz believed that Ahmedis have been facing religious persecution for decades because of the country’s laws against them.

“Such laws do not mean they are right even if they were passed by the majority in a parliament,” he stressed, “Even Hitler was elected by the majority but that did not mean that the fascist ideology he propagated was right.”

“The terms jihad and khilafat have been hijacked by these extremists and terrorists and as citizens of the world, we must not allow these terms to be monopolised,” he said.

Nawaz believed that Quranic concepts are being manipulated by terrorists for their violent causes and must be re-contextualised.

It is a myth that extremists are uneducated people and because of a lack of education they turn towards violent extremism, he said.

He gave his own example where he became radicalised during the time he was pursuing a Masters degree in political theory from the London School of Economics (LSE).

“We forget that Osama bin Laden was an engineer. His deputy Aymal al Zawahiri was a medical doctor. Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the British citizen of Pakistani descent who murdered Daniel Pearl in Karachi, studied at the LSE. Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, graduated from a business school in the US,” he pointed out.

“Every individual in the country needs to stand up and take responsibility for the situation. Else they will have no one, but themselves to blame,” Nawaz warned.

Speaking at the seminar, director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Jami Chandio said that the way forward for citizens to become stakeholders in peace was to take part in the political process of the country.

“Individuals may be flawed but the process of democracy is not,” he said, adding that people should not be disheartened with the current lot of their leaders. Instead, they should work towards improving the system through active participation. Gulmina Bilal, Director Individualland Pakistan, Amir Rana, Director Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies and Nazir Leghari from Daily Awam were among the others who spoke.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2010.

Reader Comments (6)

  • Syed A. Mateen
    Jun 26, 2010 - 8:48AM

    The culture of becoming an extremist or terrorist should be denounced by the people.

    There is no room in today’s world for a radical, extremist or for a terrorist.

    Terrorism has not given any thing to the world except death and destruction. People should follow the path of being natural and sympathetic to humanity.

    The chain of becoming radicals, extremists or terrorists should be broken so as to achieve the goal leading towards peace and tranquility.

    Parents should keep an eye on their children on which path they are going. Look at those people who become extremists and terrorists. These people are put behind the bars in every jail of the world.

    Let us not forget the very value that parents send their children to schools and colleges to become honest and noble citizens. The very purpose is defeated when a child is being radicalized or extremist or even become a terrorist.

    This not only spoils the life of a child but it also spoils the whole family.

    We should try to find ways and means so as to bring the radicals, extremists or terrorists into main stream line. It is necessary for initiating peace at home, on the streets, in our own country as well as for other countries that became targets of terrorists.

    The Osama and Taliban way of life is not a respectful life. To become respectful in the society, one should follow the path of peaceful citizens.

    The anti-terror policy should not be limited to Security Agencies. The NGO’s should also extend their helping hands to stop radicalization, extremism and terrorism.

    Problems between countries, ethnic groups should be solved through dialogue and not by pointing guns.Recommend

  • faiq ahmed
    Jun 26, 2010 - 12:21PM

    Apologists for fanatics should be exposed.Extremists may not be terrorists in that they don’t blow themselves up but all extremists cause harm & damage of severe magnitude.They are obsessed with subjugating women.They blow up girls schools so girls won’t be educated & when they can’t read n write,they will be confined & trapped in their homes and look to their ‘parhay likhay’ husbands as their saviours & accept as the universal truth every thing that comes out of the husbands’ mouth.Men in pakistan have used,are using & will use religion as a way to justify their oppression of women so their male egos are not threatened in any way.As long as pakistani girls continue to play the brainless wife agreeing to everything dear hubby says,their lot won’t improve.Recommend

  • Jun 27, 2010 - 3:05PM

    Yeah..they aren’t terrorist but they brainwash others to be one, Huh !Recommend

  • Ammar Zafarullah
    Jun 29, 2010 - 4:41PM

    Majid Nawaz rightly pointed out that while we may have counter –terrorism mechanism it is equally pertinent to have a counter-radicalization approach as we need to break the cycle if extremist tendencies. Individualland’s initiative is commendable on highlighting the plight of citizens who are being used as fuel in this war. We need to assert our power if we want to be heard at the very first place. The silence of the masses is traumatic Recommend

  • Sadia Hussain
    Jun 30, 2010 - 1:45PM

    Radicalization acts as the pre-steps to terrorism and radical elements are in abundance in Pakistan. The seminar by Individualland is indeed a commendable effort to engage the citizens as stakeholder in peace-building processRecommend

  • Shamsher singh Jatta
    Jul 1, 2010 - 11:26AM

    When ever or where ever any community is met with or faced with injustices, discriminatory treatment or oppressive measures and is not capable to fight back a frustration takes place and then grows up a radical feeling. This is not limited to Muslims only, like when Akal Takht of Golden Temple was attacked and destroyed by Indira Gandhi and Sikhs were killed in Delhi and through out India by the Hindus, Sikhs were radicalized and demanded a separate country like Khalistan and all Sikhs joined this movement whether educated or uneducated rich or poor like Sumaranjit Singh Mann was an I.P.S. officer but became radicalized.
    So when Muslims are being killed in hundreds and thousands every where in India after 1947 and their place of worship are demolished and destroyed like Babri Masjid, 2,000 Muslims were burnt alive and their property and businesses were destroyed in Gujrat by the order of the Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The Hindu Muslim riots are organized by the fanatic, barbaric and communal Hindus every where in India to terrorize Muslims and to destroy their economy, Muslims are being discriminated every where in India their employment ratio is only 2% in Government jobs. Then comes the Kashmir issue which is lurking for more than 60 years and Kashmiris are killed every day and according to Amnesty International Report more than 80,000 Kashmiris have been killed by the Indian Security Forces in Kashmir.
    Then comes Israel Palestinian issue which is not secret from any one, the economical blockade of Palestine by Israel, building illegal settlements on the Palestinian territory every day, attack on Palestine with most sophisticated nuclear weapons.
    Attack on Iraq on a wrong pretext and killing hundreds of thousands of Muslims then comes Afghanistan and Pakistan. The indiscriminate drone attacks in Pakistan almost every day. People should look both sides of the story then decide what and why radicalism is growing among Muslims.Recommend

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