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Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn Maajid Nawaz claims Muslims find liberalism reprehensible

PUBLISHED: 17:00 14 March 2014 | UPDATED: 17:02 14 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

The Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn has claimed that Muslims find liberalism reprehensible during a book launch.

Maajid Nawaz sparked heated exchanges with audience members at the event where he spoke about his book Radical at Waterstones in Hampstead.

It was the 36-year-old Muslim’s first public appearance since he was selected for the sought after seat.

He spoke to author Tom Holland in front of a packed audience about his memoir exploring his journey from Islamic extremist to co-founder of counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam.

Mr Nawaz, who spent five years in an Egyptian prison after being arrested in 2001 as a member of Islamist revolutionary group Hizb ut-Tahrir, was confronted by a Muslim man who accused him of “going from one extreme to another”.

He replied: “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 they find it reprehensible that somebody can be liberal. And that’s the problem.”

He was criticised by a woman for accusing people on the “far left”, such as Respect Party founder George Galloway, of refusing to acknowledge the problem of Islamism.

Saying he not agree with Mr Galloway’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict and believed in a “two-state solution”, he added: “I don’t think ‘the other side’ are terrorists.

“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 he caused outrage among some sectors of the Muslim community after retweeting an online cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

More than 15,000 people signed a petition calling for Nick Clegg, Lib Dem leader and deputy Prime Minister, to sack him from his party.

He will battle it our against Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and Conservative Simon Marcus at next year’s general election.

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