Manwar Ali on TED.com

The idea of jihad has been hijacked, perverted and turned into terrorism by fascistic Islamists says Manwar Ali. His TEDxExeter talk “Inside the mind of a former radical jihadist” from April this year has just been selected to feature on TED.com – an honour that only a tiny proportion of TEDx talks achieve (five of them now from TEDxExeter). Needless to say we are all excited and proud that Manwar’s brave and moving talk will reach a global audience. It has already been watched by nearly 7,000 people since it went online in May and now it will reach millions more.

Manwar Ali, who is also known as Abu Muntasir, has more than 30 years experience teaching Islam and is one of the few scholars in the UK who has been directly involved in jihad. He was a committed pioneer of jihadism in the UK who fought in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Burma.

“For a long time, I lived for death,” says Manwar Ali, a former radical jihadist who participated in violent, armed campaigns in the Middle East and Asia in the 1980s. In this moving talk, he reflects on his experience with radicalisation and makes a powerful, direct appeal to anyone drawn to Islamist groups claiming that violence and brutality are noble and virtuous: let go of anger and hatred, he says, and instead cultivate your heart to see goodness, beauty and truth in others.

Manwar Ali also says: “I thought violent Jihad was noble, chivalrous, and the best way to help. At a time when so many of our young people are at risk of radicalisation by groups like IS, AQ and others, when those groups are claiming that their horrific violence and brutality are true jihad – I want to say – their idea of jihad is wrong. Totally wrong. As was mine, then.”

He believes that “there are no circumstances on earth today in which violent jihad is permissible, because it will lead to greater harm”.

“I am absolutely delighted that my talk has been chosen for TED.com,” says Manwar Ali. “I am forever grateful to everyone responsible for making this happen. I am thrilled that a much wider audience will benefit from my humble admissions.

“It is vital for us to understand the poison of the ideology of Islamism which is necessarily supremacist and do our best to protect and cure humanity from its pernicious effects on the hearts for peace, compassion and understanding. For it to be hosted on TED.com is simply a dream come true.”

TEDxExeter organiser and licensee Claire Kennedy adds: “At a time when stories of young people being recruited to violent jihad overseas are regularly in the headlines, this talk is very timely. We are delighted that Manwar’s wise and thought-provoking words will reach a global audience.”

Manwar Ali is chief executive of Muslim educational charity JIMAS. He is also a specialist interventions provider for the Home Office’s Office of Security and Counter Terrorism working with people who are at risk of radicalisation and those convicted of terrorism. He is chaplain for University Campus Suffolk, Suffolk New College, and the Ipswich Hospital; a member of the local scrutiny & involvement panel for the Crown Prosecution Service in East England; a member of the police crime panel for the Suffolk Police & Crime Commissioner; and a member of the Suffolk Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education.