Ex-radicals challenge UK Muslims to shun Islamism

Former Islamist radicals in Britain launched a “counter-extremism think-tank” on Tuesday, saying they wanted to reclaim Islam from the violent ideology of al Qaeda. The Quilliam Foundation, named after a 19th century English convert to Islam who established Britain’s first mosque, says it aims to expose Islamism as a false ideology and help Muslims develop a tolerant modern brand of Western Islam. Its director Maajid Nawaz is a former international recruiter for Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir who spent four years in an Egyptian prison for membership of that organisation. “We need to criticise the Islamist ideology and demonstrate how it’s inconsistent with traditional pluralistic and tolerant Islam,” he told Reuters. “For the first time we have former Islamists, who trained people in the Islamist ideology, who are at the forefront of this movement to say: ‘We can critique this ideology, we understand it and can refute it.'” Ed Husain, Quilliam co-director and a former student radical Islamist, said people tempted by militant ideology could be pulled back from the brink by family and peer pressure and by exposure to new ideas. Mark Trevelyan reports.