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Lib Dem candidate Maajid Nawaz tells Hampstead audience: ‘Muslims tend to find liberalism reprehensible’

PUBLISHED: 15:49 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 10:52 17 March 2014

Maajid Nawaz at Waterstones in Hampstead. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

Maajid Nawaz at Waterstones in Hampstead. Picture: Nigel Sutton.

© Nigel Sutton email pictures@nigelsuttonphotography.com

Maajid Nawaz sparked heated exchanges with audience members at his first public appearance as Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn.

The 36-year-old, who will battle against Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and Conservative Simon Marcus to become Hampstead and Kilburn MP at next year’s general election, appeared at Hampstead Waterstones to speak about his book Radical on Tuesday.

Mr Nawaz spoke to journalist and commentator David Goodhart in front of a packed audience about the memoir exploring his journey from Islamic extremist to co-founder of counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam.

Audience members were able to put questions to Mr Nawaz who was confronted early on by a Muslim man who accused him of “going from one extreme to another”.

The parliamentary hopeful, who spent five years in an Egyptian prison after being arrested in 2001 as a member of Islamist revolutionary group Hizb ut-Tahrir, responded by thanking the man for attending the meeting.

He explained: “It’s a sad indictment of where we are today that the sentence, ‘You’ve gone from one extreme to the other’, can be said without anyone really realising how strange that is.

“It tells us where the Muslim debate is. For the Muslim debate, the other extreme is liberalism.

“When actually the truth is, the other extreme is actually anti-Muslim, fascist violence – Combat 18 or formerly the EDL, which I happened to have a hand in dismantling in this country by convincing their two leaders and two co-founders to leave that organisation.

“Liberalism is respect and tolerance for everyone. The reason why Muslims tend to assume that liberalism is the other extreme is because for them they find it reprehensible that somebody can be liberal and that’s the problem.”

Responding to the man, he added: “Liberalism attempts to bring everyone together on a table and discuss and respect each other.”

Mr Nawaz was then criticised by a female audience member for accusing people on the “far-left”, such as Respect Party founder George Galloway, of refusing to acknowledge the problem of Islamism.

He said he did not agree with Mr Galloway’s stance on the Irael-Palestine conflict and believed in a “two-state solution”.

“I don’t think ‘the other side’ are terrorists,” said Mr Nawaz. “I think that also disempowers the other side which is the genuine Palestinian democrats.

“Having been and spoken to Fatah, also having known the Muslim Brotherhood and lived within a prison for five years with al-Qaeda members, I know all the sides.

“I think Fatah would take particular offence at Hamas being described as ‘the other side’. Palestinians are not a homogenous entity.

“There is no reason for us to choose a terrorist organisation among Palestinians as the representatives of the Palestinians.”

In January, Mr Galloway denounced Mr Nawaz as “rancid” and pledged to put up a Respect Party candidate to contest the election in Hampstead and Kilburn.

Mr Galloway said at the time: “No Muslim will ever vote for the Liberal Democrats anywhere ever unless they ditch the provocateur Maajid Nawaz.”

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