CHESTERTOWN, MD—A scholar and journalist who now works to combat the Islamic radicalization he once actively embraced will share his personal journey in a talk Tuesday, April 3, at Washington College.
Shiraz Maher, a visiting lecturer in Political Science at the College, will deliver his talk, “My Journey through Radical Islam: A Personal Account,” at 5 p.m. in Hynson Lounge, Hodson Hall, on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue. Sponsored by the Goldstein Program in Public Affairs, the talk is free and open to the public.
Now a senior research fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR), based at Kings College, London, Maher works to counter the cultural, economic and political forces that lure young men into religious extremism and violence.
He knows first-hand what he’s up against. A native of England who spent much of his childhood in Saudi Arabia, Maher didn’t think much about his Muslim identity until after 9/11. He returned to the mosque and was soon drawn into a controversial group called Hizb ut Tahrir, which advocates for a single Muslim state ruled under Shiria law by a Caliph. Invited to join a Hizb ut Tahrir study group, he fell into friendship with its leaders and became increasingly a believer, leader and recruiter himself.
It was at Cambridge University, where he began examining Islamic texts on his own while earning an M.Phil. in Historical Studies, that his devotion to fundamentalism began to wither. The defining moment was the bombing of the London Underground, or subway, on July 7, 2005—what the British refer to as 7/7. Seeing so graphically where radicalization could lead, he resigned from Hizb ut Tahrir that night.
After finishing at Cambridge, he worked as a journalist, reporting on the Middle East for print and broadcast outlets that included the BBC, Sunday Times, New Statesman and Wall Street Journal. Before joining the ICSR, he worked for Policy Exchange, where he published an influential study examining the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy among Muslims.
Maher is in Chestertown for the semester at the invitation of Washington College president Mitchell B. Reiss. The two met last fall in London when Reiss took part in a debate sponsored by the ICSR.
For more on Maher’s background and career, visit his Kings College web page, http://icsr.info/page/Shiraz-Maher---Senior-Research-Fellow, and watch a BBC report on his experiences with Hizb ut Tahrir at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLSlh5P0UPc.