Quilliam Founder Maajid Nawaz Wins Human Rights Award

Maajid Nawaz is 2018 recipient of UN Watch Morris B. Abram Award for Human Rights

  • Accepting the award Maajid Nawaz spoke out against the ‘triple threat’ of the far Right, the Islamists and the far Left.
  • He condemned the election of Saudi Arabia to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights while Raif Badawi languishes in jail.
  • He also criticised the no-platforming of UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer by Amnesty International.
  • He warned of the rising threat of Left-aligned organisations to members of minority groups who campaign against extremism within their communities.

Maajid Nawaz, the Founding Chairman of Quilliam, was awarded the 2018 Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award by United Nations Watch, the Geneva-based NGO which monitors the performance of the United Nations. The prize was awarded at a gala event attended by former French Prime Minister Manuel Valls and notable diplomats.

This honour reflects Maajid Nawaz’s contribution to the cause of religious freedom, equality, pluralism and democracy.

The Morris B. Abram Human Rights Award is named after the late founder of UN Watch. Morris B. Abram was a distinguished attorney, civil rights leader and U.S. diplomat who worked closely with Rev. Martin Luther King.

In accepting the prize, Maajid Nawaz said:

I am delighted to accept this award. It means a great deal that UN Watch – whose important work I value greatly – has honoured both me and the work of Quilliam.

In his acceptance speech, Maajid Nawaz warned against the “triple threat” of extremism presented not only “by the Islamists, and by the far-Right extremists who have always hated people like me and our presence in the West” but also by the far Left.

Raising the case of Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian writer and dissident who was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes, Maajid Nawaz said:

“How on earth could Saudi Arabia have been elected to the United Nations Human Rights Commission while they are lashing and flogging people for writing blogs?”

Maajid also criticised Amnesty International for their treatment of UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer who was “boycotted, no-platformed and had his character maligned by the same organisation which adopted me as a prisoner of conscience”. Amnesty International cancelled a public meeting in January 2018 on the UN Human Rights Commission at their London offices that included Hillel Neuer as a panelist.

Referring to the recent controversial decision by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a US-based Left-leaning civil rights organisation to list him as an “anti-Muslim extremist” because of his condemnation of Islamist extremism, Maajid said:

“Up until now, the Southern Poverty Law centre had a historic, significant and glorious track record. Then, they took it upon themselves to list myself, and my dear friend Ayan Hirsi Ali, who campaigns against Female Genital Mutilation, as anti-Muslim extremists. Now if that’s not jarring, if that doesn’t make you think that something has gone wrong with their thought process, then nothing will. Every step of their justification may make sense in their own minds. But look to their conclusions. A huge cognitive dissonance has emerged.”

 “That was an attack from a direction I wasn’t expecting. They are meant to be on the side of human rights. They are meant to be on the side of minorities. They are meant to be those who stand for the universality of human rights.”

Previous recipients of UN Watch human rights awards include Yang Jianli, Chinese dissident; Dr. Massouda Jalal, former Afghan Minister for Women’s Affairs and the first Afghan woman to run for president; Esther Mujawayo, activist for victims of the genocide in Rwanda; and Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of Caracas who was a political prisoner.

You can watch Maajid’s acceptance speech here.

Quilliam is the world’s first counter-extremism organisation and believes that extremism can only be challenged through open debate, pluralism, and the advancing of shared values and liberal democratic ideals.

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Photo [Courtesy of UN Watch]