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Speaker Events - Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Ed Husain: “You Do Not Tolerate Intolerance—You Challenge It”

Ed Husain, an English-born Muslim of immigrant parents, spent five years of his life as a radical Islamist in Britain but now heads a think-tank on countering Islamic extremism. In addition, he has written a book called The Islamist: Why I Joined Radical Islam in Britain, What I Saw, and Why I Left, and he is the co-director of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremist think tank in London that seeks to “promote pluralism.”

Husain came to IPI on June 22 to talk about his life, his book, his foundation, and his effort to make sure that other young Muslims in Britain don’t follow the early path he did.

He theorized four reasons for youths becoming radicalized and intolerant of others who don’t share their extreme beliefs—a quest for a comforting identity, the lure of ideology, the exploitation of grievances, and the power of the Internet to disseminate this sense of victimization and need to gain cultural dominance, even if it requires violence.

He said that Britain’s “patronizing” policies towards immigrants isolates them from the mainstream and breeds extremism.

“I think there’s a lot of imperial guilt in Britain—there still is—that we went around, sort of creating empires, and now we should bend over backwards to make sure the children of empire aren’t in some way subjugated. Maybe from my father’s generation that was bright, but I think for my generation, that’s patronizing.”

He said that before the July 7, 2005 bombings in London, Britain was “exceptionally tolerant of the intolerant” and cited examples from his student days, including one incident where his college management agreed to facilitate a mosque on campus for radical students.

“You do not tolerate intolerance—you challenge it,” he said.

The event was moderated by Warren Hoge, IPI Vice President for External Relations.

 Read transcript

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