Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism
Radical: My Journey out of Islamist Extremism is a 2012 memoir by the British activist and former Islamist Maajid Nawaz. First published in the UK, the book describes Nawaz's journey "from Muslim extremist to taking tea at Number 10".. The US edition contains a preface for US readers and a new, updated epilogue.
|Original title||Radical: My Journey from Islamist Extremism to a Democratic Awakening|
|5 July 2012|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover, Paperback)|
Radical was described by The Daily Telegraph as a "horrifying reflection on modern Britain". The book went on to become an Amazon bestseller. It was entered for the 2013 Orwell Prize for political writing of outstanding quality. In 2014, Morten Harket, lead singer of the Norwegian band A-ha, revealed that his single Brother is inspired by Radical.
Born and raised in Essex, England, Nawaz found expression of his rebellious impulses in early life in hip hop, graffiti and relationships with girls. A crisis of identity and news of a massacre of Muslims in Bosnia led him toward radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir (which translates as "The Liberation Party"). He rose through the ranks of the organisation, and became a rabble-rousing speaker and international recruiter.
Nawaz travelled around the UK setting up cells and taking part in organisation of the party. While studying the Arabic language in Egypt he, along with other friends, was arrested by Hosni Mubarak's secret police. There he faced a five-year prison term, mental torture and solitary confinement. Mixing with different stripes of religious and liberal Muslims, Nawaz underwent an intellectual transformation. There, he sat with Islamists, Jihadists, assassins of Anwar Sadat, leaders of Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut Tahrir, liberal Muslims, men convicted for homosexuality and Muslims convicted for leaving Islam.
On his release, he publicly renounced Islamist ideology and devoted his life to countering the Islamist view of the world. This move cost him his marriage, and fellow activists abandoned him. Other sacrifices include estrangement from his family and his friends, and loss of personal security. He built a network of supporters and colleagues, and started a foundation, Quilliam, to challenge the rising tide of Islamism worldwide. He makes use of recruitment tactics that he once used in Hizb ut Tahrir to reverse extremism.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair described it as "a book for our times", and notes that such a book could only be written by someone who has lived the experience of going in and out of extremism. Tina Brown, editor-in-chief of Newsweek termed it one of the essential books to understanding the path to radicalism. According to former Islamist and co-founder of Quilliam, Ed Husain, this book is more powerful than US drone strikes because it helps to suppress the ideas on which terrorism is built. According to Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, the book charts a redemptive journey from innocence, to bigotry, to radicalism, and back. Historian Tom Holland also admired the book and termed it to be a cross between Homeland and Skins.
The Daily Mail wrote: "His book gives us a rare insight into how a thoroughly westernised teenager can so violently turn against his country - as well as a flavour of the immense courage he needed to overcome his past."
The New Humanist in its review wrote: "Nawaz's book is very much a companion piece to Ed Husain’s The Islamist (which was published in 2007), in that it is a much-needed insider’s account of Islamic extremism and, as such, it merits the description of "essential reading" for anyone seeking to understand what motivates bright, educated young men to embrace the fascist ideology of Islamism."
The Indian Express wrote: "What a life, what a compelling storyteller. In parts you’ll need to remind yourself that what reads like an engrossing, fast-paced, action-packed thriller, a piece of fiction, is in fact a real-life account".
According to American online magazine International Policy Digest (IPD), Radical is a "mesmerizing tale of personal struggle" but "does remarkably little to sufficiently articulate a comprehensive remedy to the problem" of Islamism that Nawaz described. IPD also notes how the US version of Radical is devoid of any serious discussion of the role US foreign policy might have played in fanning Islamist extremism.
- In August 2012, Nawaz presented his story at Edinburgh International Book Festival.
- In May 2015, Nawaz talked about his journey out of Islamist extremism at World Affairs Councils, Houston.
- In May 2015, Nawaz talked to Oliver Bullough at Hay Festival about radical extremism.
- In July 2015, Nawaz talked about his transformation from Essex boy into an Islamist, at Aspen Ideas Festival.
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