A FORMER Westcliff schoolboy turned to Islamic extremism after he was targeted by racist thugs.
Maajid Nawaz, now 33, believes it was the racism he experienced as a child at Earls Hall Junior School and the violence he suffered as a teenager which led him to join radical political party Hizb-ut-Tahrir.
He will reveal the truth about the journey he took to leaving the group and becoming an anti-extremist speaker in his new book, Radical. The personal account is split into three sections, with a third of it focusing on Nawaz’s upbringing in Southend.
Mr Nawaz, also a former Westcliff High School for Boys pupil, said: “Southend has changed so much. People don’t know how it was for us and what I experienced growing up.
“It has become a lot more diverse, which I think is great, but that obviously comes with its own problems. Racism is nowhere near as common as it was in the early 1990s, especially with the level of violence I experienced.”
In his twenties Nawaz travelled the world spreading the message of radical party Hizb-ut-Tahrir and recruiting other impressionable young men.
He spent nearly four years in an Egyptian prison, where he claims he was tortured, after being convicted of spreading extremist propaganda.
It was whilst in Mazar Tora that Nawaz began to study Islam properly and changed his mindset.
Fourteen months after his release from prison in 2006, he co-founded the Quilliam Foundation, a think tank which fights against the radicalisation of young muslims and promotes religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy.
Mr Nawaz is amazed how much the world has changed in the past six years.
He said: “It is really surreal. The Muslim Brotherhood, who have just been voted in to power in Egypt, are people I spent time in prison with.
“I don’t agree with some of their ideas, but at the same time I hope everyone can have a voice.”