Following the Newsnight interview with the former HT member Maajid Nawaz, several Muslim bloggers have written about his departure from the organisation from both theological and political perspectives. In response to Nawaz’s first article outlining some of his reasons for his sudden departure, Abu Ibrahim and Ibn Adam have penned their thoughts on his arguments. Sister Sumayyah Evans, who accurately predicted Nawaz’s close relationship with Ed Husain, has now meticulously analysed Nawaz’s activities and statements since his release from prison, and somewhat worryingly asks whether Nawaz has been “double-faced”. Brother Salman, who knows Maajid, also questions Maajid’s 180 degree about turn.
However, to date no one has paid much attention to those surrounding Nawaz, aside from Ed Husain. Nawaz himself has been somewhat coy about even his association with Ed Husain and apart from making vague references to “traditional” Muslim scholars, he has not revealed the identities of those surrounding him. Before penning his first article, Nawaz posted regularly under the named “Toppled Pyramid” on a blog that appears to have been set up by Waleed al-Nuaimy, a lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Electronics at Liverpool University. Interestingly, Nawaz’s views from that blog have been compiled by one of his supporters at another blog.
Upon examination, after “Toppled Pyramid”, the most prolific poster on the Thought for the Day website goes by the name “Rashad Zaman Ali”. I decided to undertake some basic research to determine who this character is. The first thing I found on a simple Google search was a posting by a sister called Zahraa in response to one of Ed Husain’s article on Comment is Free. She writes, “Dear Brother Mahbub, I am surprised that you make no reference to Brother Rashad Ali who I have heard from numerous sources is the Islamic authority/scholar from which both you and Majeed derive authority from. There are many unanswered questions on his blog about his suitability/qualifications/character to be an Islamic reference point. I am surprised that you have not clarified your relationship with him and that you have not answered these serious concerns about him. Your Sister.” Two days later, the same sister posts the following comment in response to another article, “I watched Newsnight and was surprised that the Islamic scholar (mujtahid) who both Maajid and Ed make reference to, was not mentioned. He is a guy from Sheffield called Rashad Zaman Ali (http://rashadzamanali.blogspot.com). Many Muslims have raised questions about his Islamic credentials/qualifications and I think either Maajid or Ed should address these concerns.”
In this post she made reference to Ali’s blog which I duly visited. There were only 3 articles on this blog – one announced that Nawaz would be appearing on Newsnight, another described the caliphate as an “expansionist, totalitarian state” and another talks of the necessity to fight ‘Islamism’. Ali’s blog links to Nawaz’s blog, Husain’s blog, British Muslims for Secular Democracy and the Center for Islamic Pluralism, amongst others. In his profile, Ali says that he is from Sheffield and is interested in ‘Islamism’, ‘Extremism’ and the ‘Fiqh of marriage and divorce’. He cites Al-Shatibi’s Al-Muwafaqat as his favourite book.
However what was more revealing were some of the comments posted on his blog. One reader asks, “Is it allowed to try to destroy the hizb , after they did not let you back in after being suspended for dodgy stuff?” The suggestion here being that Ali was associated with HT but was suspended for some reason or another. Another reader describes Nawaz as the student of Ali. On another thread, Sayful Islam, asks, “Rashad – why is it that you are avoiding the limelight and allowing Ed and Maajid to take all the interviews and publicity. We all know that you are the man behind the scenes but why are you so worried about coming out in public?” It is interesting that this reader suggests that Ali is the “man behind the scenes”.
In a much more detailed comment an anonymous reader asks Ali a series of questions concerning his character and asks him to “clarify the shubha concerning your personality”. This reader then asks Ali a series of as yet unanswered questions about identity fraud, dealing in stolen cars, his views on lesbianism, his views on wife beating and outstanding debts.
Another reader, Ifti, draws attention to what he alleges is Ali’s plagiarism of another author. A search on sunniforum.com reveals that Ali had posted on there. In one post, Ali posts a large chunk of an article that he says was part of his “masters in Islamic law”. The reader, obviously a former personal acquaintance, contests that Ali has never completed a masters and alleges that the article was in fact written by HT member Kamal Abu Zahra. In another post, Ali makes reference to Sheikh Taqiuddin an-Nabhani al-Azhari (the founder of HT), adding weight to the earlier suggestion that Ali had some connection with the group.
Given all of these allegations about Ali, it is probably not that surprising that Nawaz has not publicly associated himself with him. However, I have uncovered evidence that Ali is in fact a “contributing editor” on Nawaz’s website. On the “Thought for the Day” website, Ali posts a comment that is almost identical to an answer given by a “contributing editor” on Nawaz’s website. When Nawaz is asked by a reader who this contributing editor is, Nawaz answers rather vaguely, “There is a team of people who are senior ex-HT and have now left the Islamist ideology. They will become public when they so choose.”
Given my connections to HT in the early/mid-1990s, I have also been able to establish first hand that Ali was a young HT member of Bangladeshi origin who resided in Sheffield. His current whereabouts are unknown although one source said that he had been to Qatar but had been recently been deported from there. Several brothers who know Ali personally explained that Ali had been expelled from HT a couple of years ago but they did not want to comment on whether this was a result of the allegations of criminality made by some on Ali’s blog. One of them said rather vaguely that HT expelled members if they were engaged in activities that were not consistent with “Islamic values”. These brothers also confirmed that Ali views himself as the spiritual leader of Nawaz and Ed Husain, and that he has been frequently seen accompanying them.
I was also able to unearth further evidence to corroborate Ali’s former connection with HT. An old article that appeared in Muslim News was jointly written by Ali and a HT member. In the article, Ali, argues that “Tyrant rulers have been appointed by the Kuffar who promote the secular democratic and autocratic systems in our land. We are therefore required to work to establish the Khilafah and give Bayah to a Khaleefah so that this right of selecting the ruler can be returned to the Ummah.” In a thread on the MPAC discussion forum, a forum member suggests that Ali had claimed to be a “mujtahid member of HT”! Ali also wrote an article entitled “Jihad: The Highest Peak of Islam” for HT’s Khilafah Magazine. In it he writes, “Jihad is continuous and will always be so. This is an obligation imposed on Muslims by Shari’ah. However, this is not the Jihad that is carried by the nation whose intention is to open land to the justice of Islam. Practically speaking this is not going to take place until the Ummah can perform this Jihad and make the Call to Islam as a nation, and that nation must have a state that implements Islam i.e. Dar al Islam. Once this State has been established we can (Inshallah) carry on the work commenced by the Companions of our Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam), which is, to spread the Deen of Allah (Subhanahu Wa ta’ala) to all corners of the earth. The Prophet (Sallallahu Alaihi Wasallam) stated, “This Deen will never cease to exist. A party of the Muslims shall always fight for it until the Hour comes to pass” [Al Jami us Sahih of Imam Muslim].
So will Ali now emerge from the shadows to give us yet another “kiss and tell” account of his time with HT or in the light of the allegations made about him, will he prefer to stay out of the limelight, allowing Nawaz and Husain to bask in the adulation of the neocons? Only time will tell.