Reflecting on a post Bin Laden world


Executive-Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Greer welcomes Maajid Nawaz to St George’s Hall

Quilliam Foundation Chairman, Maajid Nawaz, warned that the activities of extremists groups will continue to grow in a post-Bin Laden world.

Speaking at the second of the University’s ‘Security and Conflict’ lectures at St George’s Hall, Maajid spoke about how the issue of identity plays an important role in how extremist views arise. He discussed his own personal struggle as part of a global Islamist group and his shift in beliefs after being ‘adopted’ by Amnesty International as a ‘prisoner of conscience’.

“Inspired by post-world war European fascism”

Maajid said: “Four years of study in prison, looking at the original sources of Islam and coming to the conclusion that what we now call Islamism, which has been inspired by post-world war European fascism, has little to do with the traditional faith of Islam.”

Discussing the difficulties of setting up Quilliam, during George W Bush’s campaign against global terrorism, Maajid explained that although many activists from within Muslim circles were outspoken on the dichotomy that the former US President presented – ‘with us or against us’ – the alternative they presented to the Muslim community was exactly the same – ‘us or them’.

Maajid said: “Some of the people we speak to are unable to see that you can be critical of neo-conservatism and you can be critical of Islamic extremism and agree with neither.”

“Some of the people we speak to are unable to see that you can be critical of neo-conservatism and you can be critical of Islamic extremism and agree with neither”

He warned that the death of Bin Laden does not mean the death of an ideology and therefore it is important to continue to work hard at educating young people that division between societal groups only increases mistrust and suspicion.

He said: “We have taken our eye off the ball after US President Obama, said we need to move on following the death of Bin Laden and put it behind us.  But when young men in Birmingham are joining groups to plan to recreate the atrocities of the London bombings, the cycle of extremist behaviour begins again.

“These groups are highly educated and organised; they have ideas, a narrative to communicate them, leaders and symbols to promote themselves.

To listen to the webcast visit:

Extremists fill the void

“If we look at the democratic movements, however, in Egypt for example, they did not have the skills to create their own narrative or promote a recognisable face in the fight for freedom.  In the absence of this, extremists fill the void.

“Until we realise that policy needs to promote other narratives, the agenda of terrorism will not go away.”

The Security and Conflict series, ‘What Does 2020 Look Like?’, also features David Milliband, British Labour Party politician and former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs; Colonel Tim Collins, the military commander best known for his speech on the eve of the Iraq war; General The Lord Dannatt, British Army Chief of General Staff from 2006-2009; and Rageh Omaar, the Somali-born British writer and world affairs correspondent. Book tickets here.



One thought on “Reflecting on a post Bin Laden world

  1. Alexis Makin

    I missed this seminar, so I perhaps I shouldn’t comment. But it does seem to me that the language, and the emphasis of this summary, might unintentionally reinforce what I believe to be a distorted world view common in the British media. The following isn’t intended as criticism of the speaker, just a few relevant points.

    Many terrorist atrocities are conducted by western power against others (often Muslims, who happen to get in the way of strategic goals sometimes). A tiny minority of deaths from terrorism are westerners on the receiving end of Islamist extremism. The best way for the UK government to stop terrorism would be to stop perpetrating terrorist acts!

    Many ‘Islamist’ groups have been supported at some point by the US/UK intelligence for various secretive reasons which change quickly over time and often backfire. (see Mark Curtis, British Collusion with Radical Islam, 2010). This is also a bad policy.

    ‘Bush’s campaign against global terrorism’ = ‘The ongoing American dream of controlling middle eastern energy reserves and funding the military industrial complex, misleadingly and opportunistically re-sold to western audiences as a “war on terror”‘

    ‘Death of Bin Laden’ = Murder of Bin Laden. Its still murder if you kill a bad person right?

    Dr Alexis Makin (Psychology)

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