Sorry I’m a little late with the March book. I read one at the first of the month that I thought I would probably use (and am!), but I wanted to see if there were other possibilities…and I let the time get away from me.
I was listening to NPR one day when they did a review of a book titled Radical: My Journey Out of Islamist Extremism by Maajid Nawaz.
Nawaz was a pretty typical teenager, living in London…listening to American hip-hop music. At the same time, he was trying to figure out what his identity was as a Pakistani…and how to protect himself and his friends in a part of town where they was strong anti-foreigner feeling.
He began to learn about the radical Islamic movement, and by the time he was 16, he had begun rising through the ranks of a radical London-based Islamist group. Before long, he was a top recruiter, setting up groups in Pakistan, Denmark, and Egypt.
However, after 9/11, he was picked up in a roundup and sent to an Egyptian prison. Among his cellmates were the men who had assassinated Anwar Sadat. They had changed their perspectives on Islam and violence…and those lessons were shared with Nawaz. He went in determined to convert his fellow prisoners to Islamist violence, but four years later, he was released with a totally different understanding. He determined that his former belief system was wrong, and he decided he was going to do anything he could to undo the damage he had done.
After meeting with other activists and heads of state, he eventually started a foundation called Quilliam to work to reverse the growing Islamist violence. He knew the tools he had used to recruit individuals…and he now began to use them against the Islamist narrative.
It’s a fascinating look at how a young person can get sucked into this kind of extremism…and an incredible journey out. It’s an important book in understanding the path to radicalism that seems to be so inviting to so many.