By Maajid Nawaz, April 2012

 

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During the late 1980s and early 90s, I would have described myself as non-religious, and not politically active in any shape or form. I did have many grievances with society, especially the way I was discriminated against, but these were mainly framed in race relations terms because I had been a victim of racial violence and armed racist attacks. But Bosnia changed everything for me. I saw the persecution of white, blond-haired and blue-eyed European Muslims, solely on account of being Muslim, and my views were completely shaken up.

 

It made me realise that it did not matter if your skin colour was the same, you could still be discriminated against on the basis of your religion. I protested against this injustice by becoming radicalised, which led to me taking on identity politics in a reactionary way that overemphasised my own Muslim identity. This was a conscious shift on my part—I had gone from British Asian to becoming a British Muslim, and had joined a group that supported Islamism, or Political Islam, to express this.

 

In those days, there were no mobile phones, let alone smartphones, so we had two ways of finding out about what was happening in Bosnia. The first was mainstream news, where we were told a vague story of the events that were unfolding, and the second was video recordings from people who had gone out to Bosnia to join the guerrilla forces and fight against the genocide. This would fill in the details that the mainstream media could not provide, and we would play these very graphic recordings of the mutilated bodies of Bosnian Muslims to young Muslims in order to engage them and persuade them to join our cause. In a way, we were using Bosnia as a catapult to self-segregate Muslims, in order to make them more aware and reactionary. 

 

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