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Islam is native to the west: Nawaz

Maajid Nawaz

(9News) – If western nations recognise that Islam is native to the west, they can fully address the problem of Islamic extremism, a prominent British Muslim activist says.

Maajid Nawaz finished his Australian tour in Sydney with a Q&A session attended by several hundred people at Sydney University on Saturday.

The counter-extremism adviser and author has appeared at a series of speaking events in Melbourne and Sydney as part of his global campaign to challenge Islamic extremism.

After answering a range of questions, including on his former membership to extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir and how to prevent radicalisation in young people, Nawaz told the largely Caucasian crowd to “own” the problem of Islamic extremism.

“When we finally realise that Muslims are here to stay, that they are native to the west, their version of Islam is native to the west, we will own that conversation on equal terms,” he said.

“As we love our fellow Christian neighbours, we will love our fellow Muslim neighbours because we will feel it’s part of us.

Nawaz said Muslims have been born and raised in Australia and the Islam they follow is therefore also born and raised in Australia.

“When we look at it like that, we stop ‘other-ising’ and we will feel like we own the problem and therefore own the conversation, as we do with Christianity,” he said.

“No one sees Christianity as alien to the west. They feel like they own the debate because Christianity is viewed as native to the west.”

To the mainstream Muslim community across the world, Nawaz is a controversial figure because he calls for Islam to become more secular and for Muslims to do more to prevent extremism.

But on Saturday a Sydney Muslim woman stood up in the crowd to thank Nawaz.

“You have opened up the dialogue and I hope people who are supposed to represent mainstream Islam will take a cue from you,” she said.

Speaking later to AAP, Rizvana, who did not wish to use her surname, called on her fellow Muslims to be open to Nawaz’s ideas.

“Give him the chance. Engage with him and have some sort of dialogue with him and see how far he is actually true to his word,” she said.

Asked whether he could advise the Australian government on Islamic counter-extremism Nawaz said he met with representatives of federal Labor and The Australian Sex Party while he was in Melbourne.

His counter-extremism think tank, Quilliam, which regularly advises the UK government, has also hosted Australian officials at its offices in London.

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