After 13 years as a militant ideologue and activist of Hizb al-Tahrir in England as well as in other countries such as Denmark and Pakistan, recruiting and campaigning for the implementation of a caliphate ruled by Islamic law in Muslim majority countries , Nawaz went on to found Quilliam, "the world’s first counter-extremism think tank set up to address the unique challenges of citizenship, identity, and belonging in a globalised world. Quilliam stands for religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy." As far as his own religion is concerned, Nawaz calls for removing politics from Islam and returning to a more traditional faith and inclusive politics.
Nawaz even returned to Pakistan, a Muslim-majority state and thus a potential caliphate, to try and undo what he had achieved through his efforts as a Hizb al-Tahrir activist. He claims to have had some success in planting the seeds of democratic and liberal values among some of the youth there, but it is hard to glean any of this from the media reports we receive from Pakistan, which speak regularly of terror attacks and intimidation of entire populations, and especially women and young girls.
Further, democratic and liberal ideas are all very well in Western countries, but what happened to the liberals in Iran and Egypt who so enthusiastically supported the overthrow of the Shah and Mubarak in order to see the institution of a democratic government? What did they get for their troubles? In many cases imprisonment at the hands of a fanatic Islamic regime (or, at least in the case of Iran). The difference, perhaps, is that countries in the Middle East and south Asia have had little experience of democracy. Liberals there do not stem from the grassroots; many of them come from families of the elite or were educated abroad.
Thus, Nawaz might have the right idea – instilling the values of democracy, pluralism and civil rights at the grassroots level. And it might yet bear fruit – but in many decades to come. In the meantime, we look on futilely as extremists of all stripes tear each other apart.