A British Muslim reveals a harrowing tale of violence, imprisonment and torture.
Meeting racism head-on as a teenager in Southend in Essex, Southeast England, in the early 1990s meant that Nawaz, whose family was from Pakistan, had to fight off British thugs and began to identify with the shock value of American hip-hop music. Radicalized by the events in Bosnia and Palestine, Nawaz and his brother, Osman, were steered by a British Bangladeshi Muslim named Nasim Ghani toward the revolutionary Islamist group Hizb al-Tahrir, which aimed to unify all Muslim countries under an Islamic state. From attending meetings, which indoctrinated the young men into a fervently anti-Western, anti-Israel militancy and appealed to their anger and resentment, Nawaz grew more provocative in his overt, aggressive Islamist views; he was expelled from Newham College, alarming his parents. While studying Arabic at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, he became a leader of HT, volunteering to go to Pakistan and help with recruitment, among other places, and to Egypt, where he was tasked with secretly reviving the HT organization that had been banned by the autocratic Egyptian regime. In the aftermath of 9/11, this was perilous work: The noose was soon tightened around Nawaz and his colleagues, who were rounded up and thrown into Cairo’s notorious Mazra Tora prison at a time when “such niceties as the Geneva Convention” didn’t matter. Enduring years as a political prisoner challenged his righteous views, and bit-by-bit, he recognized the errors of his ways, supported in his legal battles by Amnesty International. Nawaz became a celebrity and a darling of the media circuit, galvanizing a new movement of Muslim tolerance and moderation.
A lively and convincing antidote to hatred.