Witnesses (Questions 45-93)
Q45 Chair: Mr Ali, Mr
Nawaz, thank you very much for coming to give evidence to the
Committee. I won't repeat my introduction. This is the very first
session in what will be a series of hearings into the roots of
radicalism. We are very grateful that you could be here right
at the start. You have obviously had the benefit of hearing from
Congressman King, and his testimony covers the kinds of things
that the Homeland Security Committee has been doing in the United
The Committee will
ask you questions. I am sure you have been through this before,
especially Mr Nawaz. They will be addressed to both of you so
feel free to chip in whenever you think appropriate. Perhaps I
can start with you, Mr Ali. What do you think are the main causes,
the roots of radicalism?
I think there are a number of things that come into mind. First,
I think people tend to look at radicalism as one process.
Chair: You may have to speak up a little
because of the acoustics.
I think a number of people look at radicalisation as a single
process, going from A to B or A to Z. From our experience over
the last two years, we have defined it as a number of pathways.
There tends to be different things that motivate different individuals.
We have put it down to four broad strokes. One is the most obvious,
which many people speak about, which is theologically radicalised
individuals, people who embrace a very specific Salafi-Jihadi
theology that justifies acts of terrorism and violence. There
are those who we have come across who don't necessarily embrace
it on theological grounds, but they have a certain political lens
by which they view certain grievances. That shapes their world
view and this makes it easier for them to embrace radical/religious
Q46 Chair: Did that cause
you to join Hizb ut-Tahrir when you first joined? We are very
interested in personal testimony.
Chair: Why did you become
a member of that organisation?
With regard to Hizb ut-Tahrir, their particular brand is a mixture
of theology, ideology and a kind of particular world view as well.
So it is a mixture of those three factors that I usually mention
that actually they have a specific ideological take; a set of
ideas regarding belief, regarding secularism, capitalism and criticism
of those things.
Chair: Is that why you
A mixture of that and also the religious motivation.
Q47 Chair: How old were
you when you joined.
I was 15 when I came across Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Chair: Mr Nawaz, would
you agree with that? Would you agree with the assessment that
Mr Ali has made. You yourself were also a member of Hizb ut-Tahrir.
Yes, I would agree with that. I would summarise it as four bullet
points. I went through this process and I think it is essentially
a process that involves an individual feeling a sense of grievance,
whether real or perceived, and thereby leading to an identity
crisis about whether one is, in my case, British or Pakistani
or both or Muslim. Those grievances and that identity crisis are
capitalised upon by a recruiter, usually a charismatic recruiter.
Finally, that recruiter sells to the vulnerable young individual,
who in most cases is educated, as we heard previously, an ideology
and a narrative, a world view.
Q48 Chair: Is that what
happened to you?
It is absolutely. I had many grievances, including experiencing
violent racism on the streets of Essex as a teenager before the
age of 16; being stabbed at in the street by Combat 18; being
falsely arrested by Essex police authorities. I saw what was happening
in Bosnia. That sense of grievance, which ordinarily one would
grow out of when one moves beyond their teenage years, was capitalised
upon by a young medical student who was also a British-born Bangladeshi
Muslim. He sold to me an ideology and a world view that allowed
me to frame those grievances as part of the Islam versus West
narrative that Islamists, and Al-Qa'ida in particular, are so
adept at propagating.
I would just like to add that there is some interesting research
that has been done that demonstrates that it is not necessarily
grievances that are the start point. There a number of perspectives.
One is that grievances themselves existthe world is full
of problemsbut it is often a lens or an ideology that makes
you feel certain grievances, which exaggerate certain perspectives
or even makes you realise things that you probably wouldn't have
in the past.
Q49 Chair: Your prison
sentence when you went to prison in Egypt, Mr Nawaz, did that
make you more radical or less radical?
I think, in referring to Congressman King's testimony, I must
say that, as somebody who has been arbitrarily arrested and detained
without charge and witnessed torture in Egypt's jails, I would
like to state for the record that I do think water boarding is
torture and I register my objections to anyone attempting to justify
torture as an efficient or even morally justifiable means. I note
that he didn't define it as torture, but I do define it as torture.
For the sake of terminology, I shall say that anybody justifying
water boarding is morally on questionable grounds.
In my own case, in Egypt's prisons, I was forced
to watch one of my co-detainees electrocuted. I wasn't electrocuted
myself. I was then interrogated and we were cross-examined together
and my answers were used to further electrocute him before my
eyes. That particular individual remains
Q50 Chair: When you say
"electrocuted" do you mean he had electrical shocks
put to him?
On his teeth and genitalia, yes.
Q51 Chair: Did he die
as a result of that?
He is alive still. He is a British citizen and he remains a member
of the group that we were accused of belonging to. I think that
is a very relevant anecdote for this Committee, because I personally
wasn't electrocuted and I spent my time in prison studying from
the original sources of Islam and coming to a conclusion that
the ideology I had adopted, known as "Islamism", is
a modern aberration, a twisted interpretation of Islam. But that
particular individual, as in the case with most people who were
subjected to torture in prisons, became more extreme.
Q52 Chair: Yes. Mr Ali,
do you think there is a typical profile for those who are radicalised?
I don't. I don't think there is a typical profile.
Chair: It could be anybody?
It actually could be anybody. I know that sounds quite
Q53 Chair: So the profile
they say that it has to be a member of the Muslim community is
I think it is not completely off the wall to suggest that it is
easier to radicalise individuals that already belong to a faith
using a specifically religious trajectory. However, there are
many individuals that we deal with that are converts. They are
people who are from mainstream society that have then taken on
board the religion and tendas converts doto have
a more zealous perspective towards religiosity, without over-generalising,
and that allows it to be easier almost to take on a more radical,
On the note on profilingyou and I have discussed this before
as wellthe question is, what does a Muslim look like? Of
course, if you are looking for a Muslim. Muslim is not a race.
A Muslim can be white, as in Bosnia. A Muslim can be black, as
in Nigeria. A Muslim can look like us. So a Muslim doesn't look
like anything and therefore there is no effective means of implementing
a policy of profiling at, for instance, airports. Also the other
point to note is that if you are looking for a devout Muslim and
therefore looking for, for example, on a man, facial hair, or
on a woman, a headscarf, then let's keep in mind that terroristsand
we can see the 9/11 hijackers as a typical example or specimen
of themdo everything possible to not look devout, so they
can get through the airports. Of course the Chechen Black Widows,
who are women wearing jeans and T-shirts, were successful exactly
because nobody expected women wearing jeans and T-shirts, with
their hair flowing, to blow themselves up. So I think it can be
counterproductive to set a profile and thereby give a warning
light to terrorists of exactly who we are looking for, so they
can go about recruiting the opposite of that profile.
Chair: Very helpful.
Q54 Lorraine Fullbrook:
I would just like to pick up on Mr Ali's point. You started off
by saying to the Chairman that there were four pathways that you
had identified as the root causes of radicalisation. You gave
us two, one being theology and one being through a political lens.
What were the other two?
The other two typically, of the individuals that we have dealt
with in the last few years, have been those who either have had
personal grievances. These are individuals who are either from
Pakistan, Afghanistan or Iraq who are now living within the UK.
They have had family members who have suffered indirectly or directly
as a result of actions that are taking place in those countries.
They have very particular emotional grievances and they don't
require a particularly political ideology or even religion to
be able to then radicalise them. They have certain emotions that
are driving them.
The other side of that is actually individuals
who have, particularly, mental health problems. It is easier for
those individuals to be then targeted, focused and separated from
their communities, their families and the environments around
them. We have seen that both in certain instances where individuals
have tried to undertake violent acts and also in individuals who
we have come across in our work, in terms of de-radicalisation
activities that we do.
Q55 Bridget Phillipson:
On the profile of those who may be radicalised, Mr Nawaz, you
touched on what I wanted to ask you. Are we talking more that
it tends to be men as opposed to women? Is there a gender split
that has been identified there? It sometimes taken as an unwritten
assumption that we are talking about men here, but I appreciate
that it may be more complex.
It is more complex. There have been many cases of female suicide
bombers, but more numerous are female extremists who don't necessarily
go on to become terrorists. There is absolutely no gender imbalance
there whatsoever. In fact, in Indonesia the particular group that
both Rashad and I used to belong to has more female members than
male members. So I think the case of the Chechen Black Widows
does demonstrate it is perfectly possible for women. In one case,
there has been a grandmother in Iraq who has been arrested attempting
to blow herself up. So I think the danger of profiling is we are
telling terrorists exactly what we are looking for, so that they
can subvert that criteria and look for somebody else. I mean they
use donkeys if they need to.
I would probably add two things. One is that, statistically speaking,
when looking at the convictions for individuals who have either
undertaken terrorist acts or under the terrorism legislation of
the UK, it is probably about 95% to 5% in terms of women and men,
but having said that we know that Al-Qa'ida is specifically launching
and targeting women for violent acts of radicalisation. So we
know that Al-Qa'ida specifically decided that one of the things
they are going to focus on is getting women involved.
Q56 Bridget Phillipson:
In terms of the UK, understanding the profileI appreciate
the difficulties of what that can lead toand if we are
talking about predominantly men who may be involved, not so much
in the groups but in violent activity, is that part of the way
to address the problem by working with those communities, understanding
the kinds of pull that those people we are talking about, perhaps,
particularly young men, may feel towards certain groups or radicalisation?
From the work that we are doing and the experience that we have,
I think that any policy must be fluid; it must address the concerns
of the day as they are. So as my colleague mentioned, the majority
of convicted terrorists are men but it must also recognise that
is very easy to change, so any CT policy, or counter-terrorism
policy, must be coupled with a counter-extremism strategy that
works to subvert the future radicalisation of potential recruits,
and in that strategy it should address men and women because of
course there is no gender imbalance in the number of women who
join extremist organisations.
The only thing I would add is probably that if you want to prioritise
resources, then statistical data is important in that regard.
If you are prioritising resources to where you are going to allocate
them then, yes, you are looking at men; you are looking at between
the ages of 25 and 38; you are looking at those 75% who have been
from an east or subcontinent background, Pakistan, Bangladesh,
and so on. From that perspective, prioritisation of resources,
I think the stats demonstrate there is this type of profiling
as such, in terms of where the majority have come from, but it
is certainly not restricted to only addressing those people.
Q57 Mr Winnick:
Would it be right to say that the process of radicalisation starts
with trying to persuade young people, teenagers, that Muslims
are being persecuted, one way or another, particularly in many
parts of the world, that it is the Western powersUnited
States, Britain, Francewho are doing their utmost to campaign
and to defeat Islam? Is that the way in which the process works
in the beginning?
That is certainly a crucial component of the beginning stages
of radicalisation, to convince the young, angry person, male or
female, that there is a war against Islam going on in the world
and to incorrectly present the West as a homogenous entity. We
have heard just in this testimony that there are even differences
between America and Britain on many of these crucial issues. The
West is not a homogenous entity, just as Muslims are not a homogenous
entity, but that simplistic narrative is certainly a crucial element
in the primary stages of radicalisation.
Q58 Mr Winnick:
When it comes to the main split, as with Christianity divided
into basically two, as I understand it, main factionsCatholics
and Protestantsso with the Islam world as it is, Shias
and Sunnis. How is it explained away that Islam, as a religion,
is so divided and has been almost from the very beginning, or
isn't that touched on?
It is touched upon. I am sure Rashad would also like to add here
something on this subject, but I
Mr Winnick: If
you could speak up a bit.
It is certainly touched upon. One of the important elements to
keep in mind here is that Islamismthe ideology briefly
defined as the desire to impose one interpretation of Islam as
state lawcrosses across the Sunni/Shia divide. So when
we see Hezbollah, a religiously Shia organisation, co-operating
with Hamas, a religiously Sunni organisation, they share Islamism
as their political ideology. We also see Iran as an Islamist state,
perhaps one of the only examples of one, propagating its ideology
and co-operating in many cases with Sunni-based organisations.
I think there are many ways to override those
sectarian differences and they generally tend to revolve around
the political debate, and that is how they can find common ground.
Q59 Alun Michael:
I want to turn it around, in the sense that you talked about the
approaches that make people vulnerable to being radicalised and
the attraction of a religious profile, and so on. You have both
referred to recruiters, and one imagines over a time they would
develop methodology in the way that recruiters in any other field
would do so. Can you say what you see as the methodology that
is being used? For instance, is there a focus on approaching people
who are subject to short prison sentences? It may well be that
mental health issues arise in that sort of area. Can you give
us a feel for the methods and the targets that are approached
I think there are a number of things that we have seen happen.
As an example, in the north-west, we have seen targeting specifically
of individuals who have a drugs culture. These are vulnerable
individuals. We have seen individuals who have been targeted that,
as I mentioned, have mental health problems. We also see within
prisons a very specific type of culture, because the prison dynamic
is very unique in that it is mainly focused around gangs, and
therefore the embracement of particular Muslim gangs has been
one of the strong ways in which radicalisation recruitment has
taken place. It is not quite the same as violent extremism in
the terrorist sense, but it is often criminality that is justified
on religious grounds. There are probably different factors looking
at it in that way.
In terms of recruitment techniques, I think
the recruitment techniques are probably divided, in the sense
that they are often around theological backgrounds of a specific
organisation that we are talking about. So groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir,
the process that Maajid outlined in terms of looking at grievances,
identity, radicalisation, in terms of political viewpoint, and
then filling in the theology to justify it. That is the set kind
of pattern of process that groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir use.
Again, looking at Salafi-Jihadi organisations,
it is much more strictly theological. So if you look at the internet-based
websites, their process is one very simplistic grievance in political
outlook and then a very heavy emphasis on this puritanical theology,
and this is the religious justification.
Chair: Mr Nawaz?
I agree with what Mr Ali said.
Q60 Alun Michael:
Could I take it on from that in terms of the reference to gang
culture. How important is that? It is an interesting one because
we found in a recent visit that in Los Angeles this was an avenue
that was being used to recruit foot soldiers. Is that important
in your experience in the UK, too?
I think what we found with prisons is that it is a very specific
social reality. In order to survive within a prison framework,
you have to belong to a particular gang to give you that, so this
is some of the problems. On top of that, there are structural
deficiencies, which are normal and to be expected. We have a situation
now where we have hundreds of individuals that have been convicted
for terrorism-related offences, and we have a prison guard that
is completely not capable of dealing with this, and they shouldn't
be expected to be capable of dealing with this, because they are
very unique in reality. They are unaware, in terms of the lack
of training and awareness of how to differentiate between religious
conversions and convictions that happen within a prison framework,
the social dynamics of joining gangs and differentiating that
and between radical extremist political preachers who are also
placed within prisons.
Q61 Steve McCabe:
You said at the beginning that some of the groups provide an ideology
and framework for people to make sense of the grievances and the
injustices, and so it develops. How much do you think foreign
powers like Iran are deliberately building and creating that sense?
I think there are certainly cases of two particular Governments
that are funding the growth of two very different types of Muslim-based
extremism in the world. The Salafi-Jihadi brand is being funded
by one particular Government and Islamismthe political
form of this ideologyis being supported by the other. That
has a significant impact on the growth of these organisations
around the world, and even where they are not funding organisations,
it has a significant impact on the mood music or the environment
that is created from which these organisations stem. That is particularly
pertinent to the Home Affairs Committee here because by comparison
we have a completely, I suppose, incomparable level of non-funding
going to the alternative counter-message. That is a serious problem
because there is no real investment, whether from the third sector
or from Governments, that I am aware of at leastand I run
one of the main organisations in this fieldgoing to organisations
that are attempting to promote the counter-message.
Q62 Chair: That
It does indeed.
Q63 Chair: Do
you get funding from the Government?
No, we don't at the moment, and we are struggling.
Q64 Chair: Did
you get funding in the past?
We did until last December. Austerity measures and many other
matters that come to the
Q65 Chair: Why
did they stop your funding?
Chair: Yes, why did they
stop your funding?
Oh, why? What we were told is a combination of austerity measures
and priorities in the Government's CT strategy. Now, what I would
be very interested in, again stating for the record, is the revised
Prevent Strategy that the Prime Minister has devised, one of the
key questions I have is, that is all well on paper, but where
is its implementation? That is something I would urge the Select
Committee to look at very closely.
Chair: We will.
Can I just come back to the question regarding Iran for a moment?
Chair: Yes. Very quickly.
There are organisations that are operating within the UK. One
specifically is the so-called Islamic Human Rights Commission.
This is an organisation that is funded primarily through Iranian
sources. It acts both to deflect attention away from activities
that are happening in Iran and downplay them, but also politically
to agitate so as to try and further this narrative of: West versus
Islam; the UK has an anti-Muslim agenda. Even given the ironic
name, they have articles as to why human rights aren't universal.
That is just one example of organisations that are furthering
the extreme narrative.
Very briefly, sorry, may I add that Pakistan is a country, in
particular, that suffers from this geopolitical struggle with
two Governments in particular using Pakistan as a playground?
Q66 Chair: Which
If I may name them I would say Saudi Arabia and Iran, using Pakistan
as a playground for sectarian warfare on the streets of Pakistan.
Q67 Dr Huppert:
Both of you sat back and became de-radicalised. Can you tell us
a bit more about what were the critical steps in that happening
for you, and hence what we can learn to try to encourage other
people to take the same steps?
I think for myself it was a number of things that I think are
important. First, there was a kind of moral realisation that with
regards groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, and all extreme Islamist groups,
they are built on an amoral framework, which is to take away your
natural sensibilities of right and wrong, good and bad, and replace
them with a very extreme theology, which is, "There is no
such thing as good and bad; it is only what God says." So
if God says, "This is good," then this is good. If God
says, "This is bad," this is bad. That, coupled with
a political point of view, you realise is quite ludicrous and
unrealistic, so the idea that we should establish a global supreme
leadership for a caliph to run the whole world at his disposal,
according to his religious proclivities, it is not easy to convince
somebody of that idea unless it is religiously grounded, so unless
it is absolutely grounded on religion. The third thing is, as
you can probably imagine, it is only tenuously linked to religion.
When you can break the link to the religious proclivities to say,
"Hold on a second, you can be a Muslim, you can maintain
your religious convictions, even conservative religious values,
in terms of mores and ethics. This has nothing to do with the
idea that you need to impose your brand over the whole world through
a political system. It is ahistorical." So, once you realise
that it is ahistoricalit wasn't even the case in Muslim
empires, which were more kind of communalist in their outlook;
they had different religious trajectories, different religions,
even had their own courts and so onthat actually this is
something that is a modern hybrid of politics and mediaeval theology.
Chair: Mr Nawaz?
Nothing to add to that.
Q68 Dr Huppert:
If I may, Chair, I am just very interested because, in the answer
you have just given, there was a very intellectual analysis. I
am not sure it gives me a comfort that I would know how to take
what you have just said and use it to persuade other people. Could
you perhaps say a little bit more about how one could persuade
other people emotionally?
Chair: Basically translate
that into street language.
I think in the submission I gave I tried to break it down. It
does depend on the individual. Just to give one example to elaborate.
I had one individual who we were working with who had again this
kind of political narrative and a religious justification for
it. So the first part of our engagement was not talking about
theology; it was talking about the politics, making him realise
that, "Hold on a second, fine, you are against the Iraq war.
Half of Parliament, more or less, was against the Iraq war. There
was a final speech that Tony Blair gave and then this swung the
Parliament. Actually, millions of people in Britain marched against
the Iraq war. So when you are looking at it, it is not simplistically
that all the people are against, it is just the West who are against
the Muslims. Similarly, Tony Blair and the Government went to
war in Serbia against the Serbian Christian Orthodox people on
behalf of the Kosovans, who were Muslims."
Over a gradual process you start to break down the
political narrative, and if life is a bit more nuanced, it is
then easier to say and your religion is a bit more nuanced, too.
Your religion also differentiates between those people who are
anti-Muslim, anti-Islam, those who are anti-Muslim and violent,
those who just have this ideological point of view and how do
you engage accordingly. Over a period of time, you can then build
in the theology to start addressing all the details.
Although the presentation I gave you is just to encapsulate,
these are the key things, I think when you break it down on an
individual level it really depends on the individual, but it can
be broken down accordingly.
Q69 Lorraine Fullbrook:
I have two completely unrelated questions. Has your safety, each
of you, been in jeopardy since you left Hizb ut-Tahrir?
I do a lot of work in Pakistan on the grassroots. In fact, we
founded a grassroots social movement in Pakistan called Khudi.
Its aim is to challenge extremism and promote the democratic culture
through civic engagement. In that country, we are very worried
about not just my safety but the safety of everybody who challenges
extremism. There have been assassinations and kidnappings of very
high-profile individuals who have had the audacity to speak out
against discrimination of the minorities in Pakistan, for example.
In that country there is a serious concern, but I must emphasise,
not just of myself, anybody who speaks out is in danger.
Q70 Lorraine Fullbrook:
Have you had that in the UK?
Yes, we have had threats, but I think that, again, I would underplay
the seriousness with which threats coming from Hizb ut-Tahrir
supporters should be taken because Hizb ut-Tahrir is not a terrorist
organisation; it is an extremist organisation. The real danger
would come from those on the peripheries who support their view.
We have had bomb threats; we have had physical intimidation. I
have been attacked; I have been punched, but again I want to take
the focus away from myself, because I think that many others have
suffered far worse.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Mr Ali?
Yes, the same.
Q71 Lorraine Fullbrook:
My question follows on from Dr Huppert's question. Can you explain
exactly what each of your organisations do to facilitate counter-radicalisation
and what are the successful components of that?
I will try and be as brief as possible because we do quite a lot.
Chair: We have your brief
of what you do, but if you could summarise for Mrs Fullbrook that
would be great.
Sure. In essence, we believe that the model that was initiated
in America after 9/11, known as neo-conservatism, is upside down.
What I mean by that is rather than bringing in a supply for democracy,
by going in with force, into Muslim majority countries, what needs
to be done is a demand for democratic culture needs to be built
on the grassroots where the people themselves demand change. The
Arab uprisings are an early indicator of that, although it is
yet to be seen how that turns out.
On the supply side, i.e. policy, we mirror that
with policy advice given from Quilliam as a think tank. So we
have two organisations working, one addressing the demand on the
grassroots on the ground with youth in Pakistan called Khudi,
and Quilliam addressing Government policy across the West. We
are trying to tweak both the supply, i.e. policy, and the demand
for democratic culture on the ground. That is a one paragraph
summary of what we do; there is much more.
Q72 Chair: Mr
Ali, a one paragraph summary of yours.
Rashad Ali: Sure.
What have you found that has worked for you as well?
In terms of the work we do, we do a number of different things,
but basically one of the key areas of our work is de-radicalisation
efforts with prisons, probations, police, community-based organisations,
and through channel referrals. This involves working with individuals
who are either very close to terrorist organisations, people who
have been caught up with individuals who have been monitored,
and therefore we seek to remove them from them and engage with
them and de-radicalise them, and also work with those who are
convicted of offences.
The other areas of work include research, which
looks at theological writing primarily and theological rebuts
towards extremist ideology. We also do a number of other activities
that fall under that kind of remit.
Q73 Michael Ellis:
What are your viewsif you can expand on theseas
to the theory that the solution to countering radicalisation lies
within the Muslim community itself, as opposed to Governments
and organisations? For example, do you think there is a role for
non-violent extremists in working with the Government and the
Muslim community to counter radicalisation? What do you think
would be the most effective methods of countering radicalisation?
In terms of radicalisation, if we recognise that it is caused
by more than just Muslims, meaning policy affects radicalisation,
whether it is foreign or domestic. Wars affect radicalisation,
although may not be the only cause or perhaps even the main cause,
but there are factors more than just policy, more than just ideology,
more than just Muslims and more than just theologythen
our solution must also be as holistic as the causes are.
In that sense, it is dangerous to just look
at Muslims, though we must look at Muslims as part of the overall
strategy. I think that historically, with the UK strategy, and
the UK is far ahead of many other Governments in this regard,
that the reaction of Muslims has been not looked at well enough,
so of course there does need to be more focus there.
With regard to the second part of your question
on non-violent extremists and their role, I think we need a more
nuanced approach to this. I think it is dangerous for Ministers
and for Government to legitimise those who say, for example, that
homosexuals should be killed, although they don't take action
themselves; in their Utopian state homosexuals should be killed
or that Jews are an inferior race or that women can't be heads
of state or that adulterers or those who have sexual intimacy
before marriage should be stoned to death. If they aspire to these
aims and they are physically recruiting people from the armies
of Muslim majority countries to initiate coup d'état, so
they can bring these aims into power, that is not strictly terrorism
but it is certainly extremism.
Q74 Michael Ellis:
You think those people with those views should be treated as pariahs?
No, absolutely not.
You don't think so?
Coming back to the beginning of that sentence: nuance. What I
would suggest is we need to distinguish between counter-terrorism,
disengagement, de-radicalisation, counter-radicalisation and integration
and, if I may, what I mean is CT is clear. Counter-terrorism is
clear for everyone, what that means. It is the actual law enforcement
operations to stop the next bomb going off. Disengagement is to
convince serving terrorists that they should put their arms down.
Now it is a very narrow and limited objective that occurs in,
for example, cases of terrorists who are serving in prison, to
convince them simply of a ceasefire. In that context, in a very
low-profile way, it may be okay to use extremists. I say "may",
we have to be very careful as to who is used and we have to be
very careful as to how they are used and what level of public
legitimacy they are given.
De-radicalisation, the third element, is to
convince them to disavow the theory of violence, not just to put
down their arms
Q75 Michael Ellis:
How do we convince them of that?
Again, those who are well-versed with the extremist narrative
could be utilised in this process. They have been in Egypt; they
have been in Libya. Where I was serving time in prison in Egypt,
al-Gama'a al-Islamiyya, the largest terrorist organisation in
that country, went through a process of de-radicalisation. It
is shocking to this day that their literature and the literature
that came from Libya in this regard still has not been translated
into English and distributed in our prisons.
Chair: Thank you.
Can just comment on that?
I think the differentiation of violent and non-violent is somewhat
arbitrary. As an example, we describe groups, like the Muslim
Brotherhood, commonly they are described as "non-violent
radicals", which is just completely false.
Q76 Chair: Is
that the Muslim Brotherhood here or in Egypt?
The idea is differentiating the organisations and separating them
as where they are.
Q77 Michael Ellis:
Do you see them as one?
They are one. As an example, Hamas in its charter describes itself
as a part of the Muslim Brotherhood. So effectively what they
have done is they separated out which activities which organs
of the same body do. We are seeing this alignment taking place
now within Egypt, with Hamas and so forth, and some of the problems
that are accruing.
Similarly, we see individuals who will be supportive
of Hamas violence in the UK. Just to give an example, Azzam Tamimi
who will quite openly speak about why he supports suicide bombing,
why he supports the actions of Hamas, which are terrorist actions.
We are talking about killing children, women, and targeted actions
against hospitals, and so forth. Essentially, it is not a non-violent
organisation; it is an organisation that does not believe in domestic
violence. If you like, "We want to talk about people who
don't particularly want to kill us, but Jews in Israel; perfectly
fine. Americans in Iraq is an example; perfectly fine," and
I don't just mean American soldiers, these people talk about
Q78 Michael Ellis:
So it is impossible to do business with those people?
I think it conflicts with our laws and statutes that dictate where
terrorism is illegal abroad and at home; it conflicts with our
objectives in context, which state very clearly we are not just
talking about domestic terrorism; we are talking about terrorism
across the world. I think on a moral basis it is fundamentally
flawed. On a strategic perspective, I can't see how moving somebody
from not undertaking violence here to only undertaking violence
abroad; okay, from a tactical point of view, it may lower the
risk element for domestic violence and it may contain them but
it is not de-radicalisation. They have the same radical point
of view, which leads to violence in
Q79 Michael Ellis:
Just to go back to the initial premise of the question. What do
you think is the solution?
I think what we have seen in our experience is that, first of
all, you have to analyse specifically on individual cases what
are the motivating factors, what are the cognitive factors, what
are the environmental issues. On the individual case-by-case basis,
you can then develop, alongside the administering authorities,
how to engage with those individuals, groups or organisations.
That is on the kind of grand level of de-radicalisation.
On a societal level, we just have to define
what it means and then stick to what it means as to how we view
individuals. If we turn this around and we look at a right wing
organisation with far right, because this is another area we work
with, we would never send in somebody like Nick Griffin or somebody
from the BNP to go and convince them that, "You know something,
these blacks, Pakistanis, Muslims, they are really bad, but maybe
undertaking some violence against them is not a great idea. We
should take power and then once we take power we can deal with
them." I mean that is probably not the best de-radicalisation
strategy, but, ironically, this is what is suggested.
To give one final example, when looking at some
of the literature of some of the Salafist organisations, you have
them quoting scholars, like Shaikh Uthaymin, who say, "Britain,
France and America are too strong for us to launch Jihad against.
So once we're strong enough, and the leadership declares jihad,
then we can." That is not a de-radicalisation message. That,
at best, is a containment message, but you still have a massive
risk that you are containing there.
May I add very quickly we simply don't have the capacity? One
of the bigger problems to implement this is we don't have the
capacity on the ground, or enough people that are working in this
field, for a national grassroots strategy implementing what Mr
Ali has just said, and that is one of the key issues that this
Committee should look at. Secondly, I think another point is,
as well as a lack of strategy, in the new Prevent document there
appears to be no criteria for engagement as to who should be engaged
in this agenda, and this is an area that requires some serious
Chair: We are coming on
Q80 Nicola Blackwood:
I was interested that you said, Mr Ali, that there are four pathways
to radicalisation; theology, politics, personal grievance and
mental health issues. I believe the Communities and Local Government
Committee were of the opinion that the previous Prevent Strategy
placed too much emphasis on theology as a pathway. I wonder if
that is your opinion. I was also interested, Mr Nawaz, that you
said that it was a particular study of the Qur'an that de-radicalised
you personally. I wonder if your opinion is that there should
be more emphasis on other pathways for de-radicalisation and whether
the emphasis in the new Prevent Strategy is correct in this.
I think there are some dangers exploring theology as Government
policy. One of them is that we are in danger of subsidising sectarian
conflict within Muslim communities by supporting one religious
sector over another, and we need to be aware of that. I think
also, again, there is simply no capacity in Government to understand
the theology. It simply does not exist on a capacity level.
I think that there is a way around that to avoid
both of those dangers, and that is not to address theology insomuch
as to address a pluralism within theology. One does not need to
be a qualified theologian to be trained by those who have that
knowledge to say, "Look, what you are insisting is the only
way to interpret texts. I have it as a matter of record it isn't
correct because here are 10 other ways to interpret texts that
are in these books that you also respect and that are grounded
in historical study from traditional scholarly sources."
So it is simply displaying the level of pluralism that does exist
within theological contest. But that does require training and
it is not a theological discussion. I suppose that is simply a
science of interpretation that needs to be explored.
Q81 Nicola Blackwood:
Yes, but I suppose my question is more, do you think there is
too much emphasis on a theological cause of radicalisation rather
than other causes of radicalisation within Prevent in the new
I am in danger of disagreeing with my colleague. I am not sure
if he would agree, but let's see. I think there is too much emphasis.
I think that it was correct to shift away from theology and focus
more on political narratives, which of course use theology to
justify themselves, but I think the key thing is the ideology
and the narratives as distinct from religious theology.
Q82 Nicola Blackwood:
Do you think that the new strategy has a better balance and is
getting the emphasis right, or do you think we are still not getting
the analysis right?
There is room for improvement, but it is good to move away from
theology and look towards ideology and political narratives, of
course. But there is much room for improvement in the current
What do you think, Mr Ali?
No, I agree. In the submission I have given, there are a number
of cases where theology is primal and there are many cases where
theology acts as a reinforcement for the political narrative.
So the political narrative comes first and then the strands of
theological justification have come to rebuild on that. They are
the two things that I think.
Similarly, I think in the de-radicalisation
process, often it can be just merely demonstratingas Nawaz
has mentionedthat a number of alternatives, just to demonstrate,
so you don't have to embrace this narrow point of view, but you
have to motivate someone to abandon that narrow point of view
first, which often is the political de-radicalisation after the
ideological aspect has been moved away.
Where there is theology, though, you can't replace
it with something else. So where it is the case if someone has
embraced a Salafi-Jihadi theology, you have to tackle that theological
strand. Should Government be doing that? Obviously not; Government
is not in a position to be able to do so, which is why I think
in the past what Government has done is started to embrace a certain
theology as a countermeasure. For example, the previous Governmentsthe
Home Office at least, if not the Governmenthad taken on
board a very distinct brand of Saudi Salafism as a means of de-radicalising
Salafi-Jihadism without realising that is one half of the theological
framework of Salafi-Jihadists.
Q83 Mark Reckless:
Could you explain to us what role, if any, you believe there is
for the policy of proscription of particular organisations?
Maajid Nawaz: Yes. I have
been quoted by the previous Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, in Parliament
when this question was asked of him by the then Leader of the
Opposition, Cameronwho had promised to proscribe Hizb ut-Tahrir
and has since not done soabout proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir.
But I am glad the current PM has
Q84 Chair: Would you
remind us of the quote, because some of us may not have been there.
Maajid Nawaz: He was asked
why the Government has not fulfilled Tony Blair's promise to proscribe
Hizb ut-Tahrir and he responded, Mr Brown, as Prime Ministerwho
was asked by David Cameronso Mr Brown, as Prime Minister,
responded and said, "We have taken stock of the views of
people like Maajid Nawaz, who have advised that it is counterproductive
to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain, and therefore we will not do
so." I am pleased to say the current PM has come to this
view, or seems to have come to this view, himself and has not
gone through with proscribing Hizb ut-Tahrir in this country.
I would agree that Hizb ut-Tahrir should not be proscribed.
Q85 Chair: Sorry, has
he come to this view? When did he come to this view because, the
last time he was asked in the Commons, he said he was still of
the view. He is communicating with you?
Maajid Nawaz: I think,
yes, he has.
Chair: He has?
Maajid Nawaz: Yes.
Chair: Oh right, when did he tell you
Maajid Nawaz: I think that
I probably quoted something that is not on official records, at
Chair: That is all right; it is now.
The Prime Minister has now come to the view that Hizb ut-Tahrir
should not be banned?
Maajid Nawaz: May I retreat
somewhat and say that he is veering towards this view and is
Maajid Nawaz: And is inclined
not to ban Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain, may I say as caveated as
Chair: Don't worry.
Maajid Nawaz: I am sorry?
Chair: Don't worry; we will write to
him and ask him.
Maajid Nawaz: Yes, please
do, but I have to add that I support the ban on Hizb ut-Tahrir
in Pakistan, and the reason I make the difference is that in Pakistan
they are actively seeking to recruit Army officers to overthrow
the democratic regime. It is illegal to overthrow a democratic
regime via a military coup by Pakistani law as well as international
law. The organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir inside Pakistan makes it
clear that it is their objective to instigate a military coup,
so I think there they should be proscribed.
Q86 Mark Reckless:
Just to clarify briefly, please, what is it that makes you think
it is a bad thing to proscribe this organisation?
Maajid Nawaz: Right, so
I think legally and practically it is not workable. So legally,
if we were to proscribe organisations that operate in this country
with no direct provable involvement in illegal activities abroad,
then we would have to also look at banning the BNP just for their
extremism, because Hizb ut-Tahrir's form of extremism, though
slightly incomparable to that of the BNP, would fit within that
category of extremism that does not directly advocate the use
of violence within Britain. So it would cause us legal problems,
but also I think practically the level of support that this organisation
has had in the UK has been on the decline. In the early 1990s,
they were able to muster somewhere around 12,000 supporters for
a conference. This year, at their annual conference, they struggled
to gather 3,000, so they have been in decline in this country.
Chair: Yes, Mr Ali.
Rashad Ali: If I could
just add, first of all, in terms of proscription, obviously with
groups like Hizb ut-Tahrir, there isn't a legal basis to do so.
It has been looked at exhaustively by various other people.
Q87 Chair: But moving
away from Hizb ut-Tahrir to the whole issue of proscription, do
you think this makes people more radical when they are proscribed
or less radical?
Rashad Ali: Well, this
is the point I was going to make. I think the proscription practice
we have has been, for want of a better word, ineffective. So for
example, we had Al-Ghurabaa banned initially. Al-Ghurabaa was
the group which was part of al-Muhajiroun. Al-Muhajiroun was not
banned and then it was banned.
Chair: Sorry, could you
repeat the name of the group?
Rashad Ali: It is Al-Ghurabaa.
Then we had al-Muhajiroun banned. Al-Muhajiroun then reformed
as Islam4UK and then Islam4UK was banned. They have now reformed
as Muslims Against Crusades and there is nothing there to ban
Q88 Chair: So we need
to look at the proscription issue and see why they are banned
and in what form.
Rashad Ali: I think, despite
the promises of the Home Office and the Government in the past
to make sure that they will ban them, irrelevant of the change
of name, that has not been done. The second thing is what is probably
more effective is prosecuting individuals for violating laws.
As opposed to just merely putting a ban out, which then allows
them to reform, reshape, what we should have done is prosecute
individuals who have violated laws and have the law be effective.
Chair: Mr Winnick and Miss Blackwood
have a quick supplementary.
Q89 Mr Winnick:
Yes, on radicalisation, which I asked you previously, but because
of time, the Chair was rather understandably keen to press on,
but just one question. Is anti-Semitism an essential element of
radicalisationthe Jewish conspiracy to take over the world,
Jews dominate and control America? Is that absolutely essential
with trying to indoctrinate people?
Maajid Nawaz: It is a key
part in what I call the narrative. The world view that is propagated
is a war between the West and Islam, and the West is defined in
most cases as being controlled by the Jews. It is a key part of
that narrative and then Israel is put at the pinnacle of that
conspiracy. Even the Sunni/Shia divide, by the way, is blamed
on the Jews.
Q90 Nicola Blackwood:
It was interesting to hear the evidence of Congressman King that
in the United States they do not proscribe any extremist groups.
I wonder if any analysis has been done, by either of your organisations,
to look at the impact which that has on counter-terrorism or any
of the extremist activity in the US and whether we could look
at a comparative study between the UK and the US?
Rashad Ali: I think the
only conversations I have had is with American researchers, and
from their perspective, it is just something that culturally is
so unfathomable for them to even consider banning an organisation.
Q91 Nicola Blackwood:
But does it cause more problems for law enforcement that they
cannot proscribe organisations, because we proscribe these organisations,
but it obviously doesn't quite work if they reform and reform,
so is it an effective means of enforcement in the UK?
Rashad Ali: I think what
they do is they will mention organisations which they wish to
proscribe, but not on the basis of banning their ideas, but those
who are taking part in funding or organising terrorist activities.
So in the past, they have prosecuted organisations like the Holy
Land Foundation group for funding Hamas, and what they will do
is they will take legal measures, stop their funding, disrupt
their activities, and so forth.
Q92 Chair: Very quickly,
30-second answers to this question. Who funds you now if the Government
no longer funds you, Mr Nawaz?
Maajid Nawaz: Quilliam
is struggling. It is funded by one or two non-third-sector foundations.
We have had to lay off 80% of our staff and reduce 80% of our
costs, and are currently, I must admit, inefficient.
Chair: Mr Ali?
Rashad Ali: We have private
donations of individuals who wish to support us in what we do.
We also engage in research alongside academic institutions.
Q93 Chair: In terms of
radicalisation, very quickly, is it on the increase or decrease,
Maajid Nawaz: I think non-violent
extremism is on the increase, ie the ideology of Islamism, and
in many cases it is in danger of trying to hijack the Arab spring
in some of those countries. I think the appeal of Al Qa'ida is
on the decline, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it has
Chair: Mr Ali?
Rashad Ali: I think it
is on the increase, and it is not that Al Qa'ida is on the increase,
because I think as an organisation we have fairly come to the
conclusion it is less influential, but we are having is a growth
in lone terrorism and also further radicalisation.
Chair: A brief, very quick final question
from Lorraine Fullbrook.
Lorraine Fullbrook: Thank you,
Chairman, but you asked my question about funding anyway.
Chair: Okay, excellent. Mr Nawaz, Mr
Ali, thank you very much for coming in to give evidence to help
us begin this very important inquiry. We will be in touch with
you again, and if you have any other areas you think we should
look at, please do let us know. Thank you.
1 Note by the witness: The comments on funding were
made with regards to government grants from the Prevent strand
of funding. Quilliam did not receive any Prevent funds from the
Home Office or Foreign Office, and these are the funds that were
terminated last December. Quilliam have received one grant from
the Department for Education to fund a series of linked projects
investigating schools' experiences of extremism and how they are
responding to the challenges created by those experiences. Back
Note by the witness: For the sake of clarity, I was praising the
new prevent strategy's shift away from theology and criticising
the old strategy's emphasis on this aspect." Back