Reformed radical turned counter-extremism activist Maajid Nawaz is opening up about how he saw tortured Islamist prisoners turn violent after enduring horrific abuse and explains the importance of having a government that defends human rights on “Tucker Carlson Today.” 

As a young man in the United Kingdom, Nawaz witnessed unspeakable violence that inspired him to seek out a sense of belonging and protection in Hizb ut-Tahrir, an Islamist organization that sought to impose a caliphate over the world.  

His ideas and organization participation, though not violent, led him on a journey to recruit others. He arrived in Egypt a day before the 9/11 attacks where he studied Arabic and set up group chapters. After a government clampdown, his house was raided and at 24-years-old in Egypt, he was jailed for his thoughts. What he witnessed changed his life. 

“To get to that prison, you first have to go through the torture dungeon,” he said. “…We were tied with rags around our eyes and our hands, and my number was 42…What they would do in that underground torture dungeon is they’d go through a roll call … Number one is called. The guard leads him off to the torture facility and everyone else hears the screams of number one…” 

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Nawaz, who was forced to watch his friend be tortured after Nawaz only answered for his name and organization, detailed how officials electrocuted prisoners’ teeth and genitalia, among other horrific practices. 

His charge was “propagation by speech and writing for a banned organization.” In Egypt, all organizations were banned because you needed a permit to operate and suspension of the country’s constitution allowed people to be tried for their beliefs.  

“We were put into solitary confinement for four months in cells that had no bed, no toilet, no sanitation (with) 15 minutes break a day,” he shared. “The toilet was the floor.”  

Many prisoners who he met had been in jail without charge for as long as he had been alive. After being charged, Nawaz was able to “mix with the political wing” of the prison where he met assassins of Sadat, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and the founder of Egypt’s then-largest terrorist group. He soon realized how the prison served as an incubator for radicalism. 

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“If you torture somebody’s 17-year-old child in front of them by electrocution to force them to confess, which is what happens… then the father…will go mad and so violence… it’s a mad response. It’s a response born of sheer instinct, reaction.” 

Amnesty International eventually adopted his case, among others, as prisoners of conscience and after he was released from prison, he renounced the ideology and founded Quilliam to challenge extremism and work in public policy. Now, he explains why it is so important to have a Constitutional government that upholds human rights. 

“The minute you can chip away at the sacred nature of (the Constitution), the easier it will be to start adapting it, changing it, amending it for your purposes,” he said. 

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