Liberal Democrats choose a convicted Islamist for marginal parliamentary seat

Convicted Islamist Maajid Nawaz to stand as Liberal Democrat candidate for marginal north London seat

PUBLISHED: 01:32, 20 July 2013 | UPDATED: 01:32, 20 July 2013

The Liberal Democrats have chosen a former radical Islamic to fight for a marginal parliamentary seat.

Maajid Nawaz spent 13 years inside Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), the global Islamist organisation that first spawned al-Muhajiroun, the banned Islamist terrorist organisation founded by Omar Bakri Mohammed and Anjem Choudary.

But he renounced his past and called for a ‘secular Islam’ six years ago, after serving time in an Egyptian prison.

Nawaz, who was convicted of ‘membership of a banned organisation’ and sentenced to serve five years in Mazra Tora prison, in Egypt, has now set up the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank.

And clearly he has won over the coalition party, who have selected him to contest the north London constituency of Hampstead and Kilburn.

It is a three-way marginal currently held by Labour’s Glenda Jackson – who has a slight majority of just 42.

Nawaz, who gained a law and Arabic degree from The School of African and Oriental Studies and a Masters in political theory from the London School of Economics, told The Independent: ‘I am looking forward to running for public office.

‘Quilliam will remain a priority for me because its values shape my beliefs and outlook.’

He wants to run for Parliament so he can ‘practise what he preaches’ The Times reported.

‘I though the time was right to continue the journey and become a manifestation of exactly what Quillam is arguing – that you can find people who are angry, who oppose many things in the world, but here is no substitute for democratic engagement,’ he said to the newspaper.

The law graduate was raised in Essex in what he described as ‘an educated, middle-class and well integrated family’.

But after experiencing severe and violent racism as a teenager and feeling cut off from mainstream society, the think-tank founder says he was sold Islamism in the name of Islam by a HT preacher, and sucked into a group that encouraged him to ‘spout hate’.

After reflecting on his membership during his imprisonment, the 35-year-old renounced the group.

He says that: ‘Islamism uses political grievances to alienate and then provide an alternative sense of belonging to vulnerable young Muslims’.

In a recent interview he said: ‘Preying on the grievances of disaffected young men is the bedrock of Islamism.’

Since renouncing the extreme group, he says the only way to try and prevent radicalisation is to give angry young Muslims another outlet.

He founded a youth movement called Khudi, in Pakistan, which tries to counter extremist ideology through discussion and debate.

He has called for a similar operation to be set up in Britain, to try and pull disaffected Muslims from being sucked into extreme organisations.

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