Muslims and modernity: ‘Jihadi danger is from the elite, not the poor’

Published: May 16, 2012
" When imposing
Sharia, a society
chooses a particular
interpretation of
Islam and closes the
door on ijtehad,"
Founder of Khudi Majid Nawaz. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

" When imposing Sharia, a society chooses a particular interpretation of Islam and closes the door on ijtehad," Founder of Khudi Majid Nawaz. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


Most global jihadis are not illiterates raised in poor slums, but from well-off families and with advanced education degrees.

“Most of the danger comes from us,” said Majid Nawaz, founder of Khudi, at a seminar titled ‘Muslims and the Modern World  The State of the Muslim Ummah’. Young people being educated at “elite” schools and colleges were joining the extremists, he said.

“Terrorists are not just from slums – statistically, a disproportionate number of global jihadis come from a higher education background,” said Nawaz, who was formerly a member of the Hizbut Tahrir (HT). He quit the group to found Khudi, which works to counter extremism.

Nawaz said there was a difference between the political and the religious definitions of the word ‘ummah’. He said there was no contradiction between being a Pakistani and being a Muslim. Pakistanis could carry multiple identities, he said, owing to religious or social affiliations. “People themselves organically determine who they are, as a group or a nation,” he said.

He said it was “politically naive” to demand the implementation of the Sharia, the main aim of the HT. He said that when imposing Sharia, a society chooses a particular interpretation of Islam and closes the door on ijtehad. “Islam must be kept free of political interference,” he said.

He called for a comprehensive national strategy to counter extremism. All political and religious factions should agree on “basic social principles”, he said.

He said that the National Counter Terrorism Authority needed to be activated. He said that the government had not even started the “de-radicalisation of society”.

Science and religion

“Science requires free thinking, a mind that questions,” said Pervez Hoodbhoy in his talk on ‘The intellectual decline of the Muslims’. He said that Muslims had moved away from progressive scientific approaches over the last 700-800 years.

Hoodbhoy, a physicist, said that religious and scientific studies should be kept separate. To a question, he said that scientific and technical education would be more effective in advancing the interests of the socially and economically deprived than religious education. “People need to earn bread before being enlightened,” he said.

Hoodbhoy said that discrimination on the basis of religion was unacceptable in any democratic society. He said that while Muslims living abroad were quick to raise their voices against the social victimisation and injustices they faced, they stayed silent when minorities in Muslim societies faced similar situations. “First it was the Ahmedi and now it is the Shia community facing discrimination and violence, but are we as a society bothered enough to raise a voice?”

Moiz Amjad, former editor of monthly Al-Ishraq and a protégé of Islamic scholar Javed Ghamdi, argued that divine revelations were just reminders addressing the intellect and the conscience of every individual.

He said that only when “understanding” and “conscience” were kept alive did a person become capable of understanding divine revelations. “Religion is the most dangerous sword in the hands of a person who has no conscience,” he said.

He said definitive interpretations of Quranic verses limited room for deliberation and tolerance. He said that the rules for the rise and fall of nations were “developmental and not religious in nature”. “Being born a Muslim does not make one naturally destined for progress in this world,” he said.

Amjad said it was a misconception that Islam was a code of life. He said Islam taught moral values which defined the course of life, but it did not comment on specific worldly affairs. “Islam came to us for a specific reason to remind us that we will be accountable before God after our death,” he said.

The seminar had to be shifted at the last minute from the basement to another hall in the Ambassador Hotel because it received a bigger audience than expected. Some 65 people attended the event.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (30)

  • Nabeel
    May 16, 2012 - 6:48AM

    Majid Nawaz, Pervaiz hoodboy, Javed Ghamdi.

    Aik he thaali main khanay walay sub.

    The funny part is when the reporter says ” The seminar had to be shifted at the last minute from the basement to another hall in the Ambassador Hotel because it received a bigger audience than expected. Some 65 people attended the event.”

    65 people. hahaha koi nahn aey ga tumhain sunain. :)


  • Naaz
    May 16, 2012 - 7:55AM

    Very impressive very convincing I wish we had more bright minded people in Pakistan like Hoodbhoy I request all those who want to know the facts behind so call race for Sharia law Pls visit this site


  • Basit
    May 16, 2012 - 8:10AM

    The blind leading the blind.


  • sick of this nonsense
    May 16, 2012 - 1:32PM

    @Basit & Nabeel
    You guys should really attend their conference before putting them down like that :)


  • shadman
    May 16, 2012 - 2:27PM

    Wouw, great job by khudi, pakistan. The youth of pakistan really need to get educated to eradicate the rootcause of extremism from our homeland, which has caused a big havoc to the muslims all over the world particularly pakistani,s. I would like to say a few words about Nabeel coment above. Is it too funy to make fun of a great cause. Iam susupicious about ur mindset soo. Look we all youth of pakistan must work together to try to eradicate extremism which is the rootcause of terrorism.Recommend

  • Laila
    May 16, 2012 - 2:46PM

    Maajid is right when he says “Most of the danger comes from us,”. He his the one putting Muslims who want to bring Islam back into peoples lives in danger, funded by the real terrorists Britain and America who he himself says “come from a higher education background”. He is taking Muslims away from practising their Deen. Maajid Nawaz has become another puppet of the west. May Allah bring him to the straight path. @sick of this nonsense we have been hearing his theories for years now and we now are how you put it “sick of this nonsense”.


  • May 16, 2012 - 4:26PM

    “You can chain me, you can torture me, you can even destroy this body, but you will never imprison my mind.” – Mahatma Gandhi… It doesn’t feel good to quote Gandhi when it comes on Muslim/Pakistani issues but it appears fitting very well whenever, there is a discussion about Muslims/Pakistanis. The reason is simple and that is quite opposite to what Gandhi’s conviction, Muslims minds are successfully imprisoned by distortion of history, hoaxed promises and fear :(


  • Zaheer
    May 16, 2012 - 4:50PM

    Oh Majid nawaz, the man who takes his pay from the goverment of Britian! lecturing pakistanis on jihad and sharia (no doubt dirty words to him). He has been rejected in the UK so now he is doing the international circuit.
    By the way muslims made their best progress in the scientific fields when they studied islam and science together. What is stopping us today is corrupt, immoral, pro-western elites who rule us today in the ‘muslim’ countries.


  • unbeliever
    May 16, 2012 - 5:14PM

    PERHAPS, sack of baghdad in 1258 not only ended with it the scientific temper of muslim community, it placed in power those blood hungry mongols, whose intention was to bring more and more land, kill more and more people. after that they got to power in almost the entire world.
    Mughals, timur lane, and all such people did create a large empire but a fragile one. once the era of muscular man gone and thinking man came, muslim intelligensia has went into recession.

    and will continue until it comes to realisation that the era of their dominance is long gone, and before thinking of how to capture newer lands, they must think of how to bring up the existing ones.


  • Ansari
    May 16, 2012 - 6:36PM

    People like Majid Nawaz are beholders of defeatist mentality and they want a westernised version of Islam. They want to interpret stuff to make Islam compatible with reality, they should work to make reality compatible with Islam. I also don’t agree his statement about Ijtehad. In fact, I am strong supporter of Shariah law and when you talk about implementation of Shariah law, it is actually incomplete without Ijtehad. I think, either he is seriously naiive or knowingly try to defame the idea of implementation of shariah by passing such comments about Ijtehad. Even, Hizb ut tahrir, the largest islamic political party in the muslim world working for implementation of Shariah law, lays really heavy emphasis on Ijtehad. I have no idea from where Majid is getting all these ideas. Recommend

  • Ali khan
    May 16, 2012 - 6:57PM

    @sick of this nonsense: oh my god. How can you defend him when he is funded by British government??? And if young on Quilliam website, you will find out whom do they give training…


  • Tariq
    May 16, 2012 - 7:11PM

    Majid Nawaz the defeatist giving lectures on Islam. Read all his writings etc and you will feel as if a British or US representative is talking rather then a Muslim.


  • faraz
    May 16, 2012 - 7:37PM

    The Islamists are telling only the truth; Hizb ut Tehrir is also funded by UK government.


  • Tariq
    May 16, 2012 - 7:46PM

    @ Faraz, Do you know anything about HT? Please don’t write anything which you can not prove, as it show you rely on false propaganda then authentic information.


  • Najma
    May 16, 2012 - 8:32PM

    Thank God there exist people like Majid Nawaz and Perez Hoodbhoy- the last voices of sanity in a pool of nuts like the majority of the commentators above. We will win – for truth and rationalism cannot be subdued by notions of Sharia that suit a bunch of crazy men.


  • faraz
    May 16, 2012 - 8:33PM


    I find the Khilafat model extremely funny, but that’s a separate issue. Here is the proof:


  • Saifff
    May 16, 2012 - 9:39PM

    @ Faraz

    You want to say that the Caliphate Model given to us by Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w) and then followed by Four rightly guided caliphs was joke??/ If this is what you are trying to say and your comment means that then you are a loser ,

    2nd Quran and Sunnah have a complete model of Govt and it’s structure If you can see with open eyes. It is not democratic because democracy means that 51 fools can screw 49 intelligent.

    Quranic verses have been misunderstood regarding being democratic, In Quran we are obliged to do Shura only with those who are expert in p particular matter not with any1, see Hazrat Abu Bakar also went against the decision of majority of companions when fighting Murtadeen, and sending Army of Osama (r.a)….

    All the Alooms that were founded by Muslims (round about 3000) were on the basis of Quran and came when Muslims started thinking with the glasses of Islam, not because they left Islam …

    look at US and NATO they are deploying there military where ever they want and when we talk about those verses of Quran which order us to be perfect and powerful militarily then these people like majid comes and start to give version of Islam which is according to west and peoples own desires …

    In Quran it is said in one of aiyah that if you follow the will of majority of people they will lead you astray …..

    Khilafah is Islamic form of govt and Democracy is nothing but projection of declined mentality


  • Ahmad Khan
    May 16, 2012 - 9:53PM

    Since Majid is an Ex-Hizb ut Tahrir member and British citizen and became the CIA agent when he was member of HT in the Egyption prison, he probably can answer to Faraz.


  • faraz
    May 16, 2012 - 10:28PM

    There is no concept of Khilafat in Quran. The four righteous Caliphs were selected/elected by four different methods; hence there is no system. I am not going into detail of first 4 caliphs; it’s quite uncomfortable. After 2 major civil wars which resulted in over 70,000 deaths, the Caliphate (of 4 caliphs) culminated into a monarchy. Umayyad monarchy faced dozens of rebellions and major civil wars in its 90 years rule. Finally the Umayyad family was massacred by the Abbasids. The Abbasids family established its rule which on paper lasted for 5 centuries, but in reality for just 2. It was taken over by Buyids, Seljuk and Fatimid. Similarly, Ottoman Empire was a Turkish monarchy. These monarchies were no different from any other monarchy of any part of part of the world or religion. It was a family affair; father appointed son/brother or any other male member of the family on his own will. Since 3rd caliph, there has been no united ummah. There is no khilafat. The entire idea of khilafat is an illusion. Monarchs were arbitrary rulers and mullahs were subordinate to them. The sect that the monarchy followed thrived. Sultan Mamun imposed Mutazlites who lasted for a century, but later they were declared heretics because subsequent rulers became Asharites. The same formula was applied in every Muslim sultanate Mughal, Fatimid, Safavid etc.

    Do you know that most of the Muslim scientists were Mutazalites and declared heretics by mainstream mullahs and persecuted? Actually Prophet (pbuh) said that the majority of Muslims cannot be wrong. Aloom has nothing to do with Quran. There is no Islamic form of governance; there are just broad principles. Btw, in democracy, people elect rulers; they don’t form policies and undertakes decisions. In khilafat/monarchy, even a mental patient can become ruler if he is son of the king.


  • faraz
    May 16, 2012 - 10:32PM


    Living in UK and reaping the benefits of secular democracy, don’t you see any contradiction when you propagate religious totalitarianism?

    The wife of Taji Mustafa is part of the foundation that receives money from UK government. It’s a fact.


  • True Muslim Paki
    May 17, 2012 - 1:41AM

    @faraz: plz do not distort history & Islam. You are not a pure Muslim. Khilafat was never a illusion or myth. If the Holy Quran exists so does the khilafat. Did you ever try to k ow the holy quran


  • David Salmon
    May 17, 2012 - 1:45AM

    Those of you laughing at the low turnout should instead weigh the value of the ideas. A free press gives you the opportunity to consider those ideas and to adopt or improve upon them. I don’t know anything about these people, but I applaud their appeal to reason, and their courage and optimism in hoping that reason can prevail.


  • Imran Con
    May 17, 2012 - 6:09AM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    Definitely a Paki Muslim. Sit there, drool, playing with your beard like a flirty girl does her hair and say “your facts mean nothing to my delusions.”


  • Faraz
    May 17, 2012 - 10:20AM

    @True Muslim Paki:
    Who are you to say somebody is a true Muslim or not?? Is it not Allah only who judges?? a bunch of religious extremists/delusioned commenting here. And to those who think Islam and Science are linked? can you please enlighten us how? Islam teaches us morals NOT science!! those who claim this, the Japanese, Germans, Americans are they Muslim?? they are the greatest modern day inventors, what has Quran possibly to do with Science? It is a book that teaches us morals. Come out of your delusions that Science and Islam are linked otherwise we will be stuck in the madressahs that produce suicide bombers and nothing else.


  • Ali khan
    May 17, 2012 - 10:57AM

    @Imran Con:
    I met Maajid nawaz personally many times. There is no doubt that he was recrutied by British intelligence when he was in Egyptian prison…


  • Mwaqar
    May 18, 2012 - 6:40AM

    I don’ know why muslims are still stuck ”mentally” in 7th century.


  • Mwaqar
    May 18, 2012 - 6:43AM



  • Mwaqar
    May 18, 2012 - 7:16AM

    “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary.Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” –Albert Einstein !!!


  • mansoor
    May 21, 2012 - 7:32PM

    Anasari wants to male Reality compatile to islam and not making Islam compatible to Reality; what a statement, toattly irrational and devoid of logic.
    Reality preceeded all religions, we must make all religions compatible to the reality of our times and not the other way around.


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