VIDEO: Former jihadist appears with Bill Maher and explains the history of Islamic radicalism

Adding a much-needed perspective to the debate surrounding radical Islam, former extremist and current author/activist Maajid Nawaz appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher to discuss the radicalization of Europe’s Muslim youth.

Sitting on a panel with ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame, film director Michael Moore, MSNBC host Rev. Al Sharpton and renowned atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins, Nawaz tackled the contradictions that arise in radical Islamist ideology, pointing out that many terrorists don’t acquire their views from actual theologians.

“No single terrorist organization has had at its head anyone that’s studied [Islam],” Nawaz said. “None of them are theologians.”

Nawaz went on to point out that most figureheads of Al Qaeda and other high-profile groups usually fall into the categories of doctors and engineers and do not disseminate the classic teachings of Islam.

The phenomenon of suicide bombings and launching oneself into crowded places to kill everyone within Muslim-majority countries has emerged in relatively modern times. So something extra had to have happened to this 1,400 year-old religion, and that’s what I call the ‘ideological narrative.’ […]

Where did that narrative come from? Well, actually what happened was that it was used as a form of resistance in the colonial times because these — in the Arab world, they adopted post-World War I European fascism, ideas of a super state, a super people. They adopted these ideas, they first became Arab socialism, known as Baathism, which led to the Saddam Husseins and the Gaddafis, and then on top of that, they built it onto the religion and it became Islamism. And so it’s this peculiar combination of modern fascism super-imposed into religious doctrine.

And that’s what we’re up against, which is different from the Islam of my parents and my grandparents.

Watch a clip of the discussion in the video below:



  1. Avatar

    Gary Longsine

    January 14, 2015 at 2:26 am

    Well, this is the first lie: [“No single terrorist organization has had at its head anyone that’s studied [Islam],” Nawaz said. “None of them are theologians.”]

    The leader of ISIS is believed to have a PhD in Islamic Studies form the University of Bagdad. So, does Nawaz dispute this (as some do) or is he counting ISIS as a Caliphate rather than a terrorist organization?


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    K.L. Royal

    January 14, 2015 at 4:58 pm

    Gary, I found this article, it was interesting. Aside from Nawaz’s analysis of the roots of these kind of organizations, I think you hit a good point. Some of the leaders use theology from their scholarly view, for what it’s worth. Perhaps he should have said that most of the radicalized leaders were not practicing clerics.


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